Old Moon

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Writers Circle: Writers' Circle or Writers Circle

Writers Circle: Writers' Circle or Writers Circle

What a great idea to alter the obvious meaning of those two words! This is what we all need to do: circle! I'm beginning to notice that we won't have much choice defending ourselves against the invasion of the electronic book (if we feel threatened by it), but still need the fellowship of those on the same journey. So let's form at the least a metaphorical circle and support one another against rejection and disrespect for our words.

Words are important. They're what we think with. They're also the first way we show how we feel to others we want to see it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

At Last!

I call your attention to the new link below: The Writers Circle, Glenda Council Beall's new blog. As always, she's at the front of the small army of supporters of those of us who aspire to greater skill, better instruction, encouragement from a pro, and publication. Enjoy her postings.

It's hard to believe after ten months that I can say I sent the last 25 pages of novel #3 to my editor yesterday. I found Richard Krawiec's ad on Hope C. Clark's sites for writers, and a happy day it was for me. Now, of course, I look forward (?) to the task of completing yet another draft incorporating his suggestions. To work with someone who "gets" every hint I want to include in the narrative is an extraordinarily encouraging experience. Now I discover that this novelist and teacher is also a poet. He will be heading a poetry workshop (what happens at a poetry workshop?) nearby so I can get to meet him--and perhaps learn something useful about writing poetry. I'm nervous, but I guess at my age, there's nothing to lose. [That was what my husband said to me when I was offered a contract with a POD publisher. Unfortunately, I got the answer.]

I "thank whatever gods may be" that there seems to be something challenging me almost ever day. For any readers of these notes out there, I wish the same for you.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Exotic, Frightening, Inspiring

If you're like me you can't help reading. I've got past the cereal-box-if nothing-else-is-available stage, but I always need to have a book in progress along with a dwindling number of periodicals that I'm trying to catch up with. I wouldn't have it any other way. The problem is that from time to time, one of those books grabs a hold on my imagination and emotions and won't let go in time for me to go on to the next one.

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller is one of them. It's an autobiography about growing up in some of the most unforgiving conditions on the planet in three different countries in Africa. Fuller's parents' work ethic was phenomenal, and their capacity for endurance would have made the Oregon Trail feel like a stroll to them. Because there is nothing familiar to the ordinary American reader about places, names, people, circumstances your interest is guaranteed. The author has a unique voice. Descriptions rarely include conventional modifiers, but instead depend on hyphenated phrases that do more than a paragraph of ordinary prose could to make you aware of what Fuller wants you to understand.

There is so much horror and tragedy that the opportunities for bathos and self-pity by implication are too numerous. Not one is taken up. It's clear from the beginning that the mother is an alcoholic. Before long, it's also clear why. The entire white society seems heavily dependent on drink, and the children learn early, but the sorrows and defeats facing the Fullers would drown most people. No wonder they drink. No wonder the mother succumbs to it. Everyone smokes. Every day a new misfortune seems to befall the family. Yet you come away from the narrative with the most profound admiration for what they withstood without giving in. I have a profound admiration for someone who could tell such a story while resisting any temptation (or so it seems) to reveal how many scars she must bear.

If Sophocles was right when he proclaimed that one must know himself first, Alexandra Fuller has made it difficult to tell whether she has followed that admonishment. To have written this account with so little reference to her own feelings and that reveals almost nothing of how she now views the rest of humanity is a feat.

I can't help wondering if Wyoming (where she now lives) can possibly be wild enough for her. One thing she made no secret of in the book is her enduring affection for Africa, in spite of its frustrating failings, all of them the result of the amoral greed of Europeans. This is a memoir of a stripe as different as a zebra's from a palomino's.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

What to Say?

I'm trying to decide what to say to what will doubtless be a small though sympathetic audience at a reading/book-signing tomorrow. Having been asked to "talk about the book," MaidenRun, I wonder what I can offer. A work of fiction should give hope of surprises and a story to entertain, naturally. The cover "blurb" provides as a good a hook as I could dream up, so is there any need to repeat that -- even in different words?

I look into the carton with half a dozen copies ordered for the occasion, remind myself to include a pad for taking orders (trying to take the optimistic view), and wonder if there's a way to make use of a couple of complimentary reviews. Do I really need to take so many copies? Should I have ordered more?

I left out the worry about leaving the dog behind when it's likely to storm before I return. I haven't mentioned dithering over what to wear. What if people can't hear me? I've been told I'll do this in a part of a large auditorium. There was no sound reinforcement the last time I did this in the same place for the first novel. Maybe there won't be anybody listening who is hard of hearing?

If I admit that when I write a story, what I want is to entertain, but admit that I intend some food for thought to be available along with the yarn, will that put off a potential buyer? So many people (perhaps more men than women) are proud of the fact that they don't read fiction. It's unlikely that I could launch into an apology for the non-factual in a program that no one wants to last more than 30 minutes -- less if possible. Besides, I'd only resort to quotes from writers whose names would be familiar to almost anyone present, since my qualifications to make pronouncements are virtually nonexistent. Redundant?

Then, to read the first chapter aloud will take at least ten minutes. A quarter of an hour more or less that probably should include time for questions isn't much, even for an unopposed debate. Again the need to figure out a couple of succinct but challenging remarks. What about a joke? The great speeches of recent days always include one. Why do I think I can make good speech off the cuff? Well, I hate "canned" talks. I feel cheated if I can't make snap judgements about the speaker.

If only I were "into" promotion! I envy those who have no discomfort when doing their utmost to sell something. I'm able to be persuasive if I'm convinced and committed -- but about a book I understand to be flawed -- that I've written? Not so much! It would help if the darn thing didn't have nearly 50 misprints! Do I mention that I've discounted the price on that account? Where is a mentor/publicist when I need one?