Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn, one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers, interviews me about storytelling, writing, independent editing, and the difference between literary fiction and genre, with an impromptu exercise on her own Work-in-Progress.
Editing client Stu Wakefield, author of the Kindle #1 Best Seller Body of Water, talks about our work together on Memory of Water, the second novel of his Water trilogy.
The American people have spoken. Wow, was that a mighty chorus to be a part of!
We will remember it all our lives.
So today’s post will be straight-forward and to-the-point about writing:
We write for the sheer joy of it. Don’t ever let anyone tell you any different.
We vote because we have the right, and because we have the responsibility. It’s something every eligible American adult carries on our conscience because we know our country is so massively powerful in this global village that our leader makes decisions that affect the lives of others all around the world.
In China, they don’t get to vote. Their leaders make all decisions on their behalf. Those decisions that affect our lives—even here in the Western hemisphere—have nothing whatsoever to do with the choices of the Chinese people (and China holds an entire quarter of the world’s population: all silenced).
But here in the first modern democracy we do.
We have that right.
We have that responsibility.
As President Obama pointed out last night in his acceptance speech, “Sure, we argue with each other. Sure, we each vote our own way. Because we can. And so we must. Because that’s what makes democracy great.”
On the other hand, the only responsibility a writer has is to make their reader feel blessed to have stumbled upon their book.
Other than that, this joyous work of us all is a right.
A right to express our opinions. A right to express our creativity. A right to express the depths of humanity that live hidden, unspoken, as-yet without sufficient language within us.
The joy of putting into words what has never been put into words before.
Which brings us to the second motivation to write: we writers have so much for which to be grateful.
Our work doesn’t require hundreds of millions of people to all act on the same day in unified, concerted effort—or prior weeks and months sacrificing time, energy, patience, and the effort to keep believing in us and our ability to help their lives move forward in the face of apparently insuperable odds. Our audience isn’t forced to engage in our work out of sheer fear of what would happen to their children and elderly, their families and their lives if they didn’t.
That’s an enormous toll to take upon an audience. It had damn well better be worth it to them.
Writers don’t work on that scale. Our burdens aren’t that heavy, and so our effect upon our world is much more subtle, more tenuous, perhaps much more delayed. And if a reader buys a book and hates it, well, the reader has lost their hard-earned money and the writer has sure lost a loyal follower, but that follower’s family isn’t going to lose their mortgage over it.
The granularity—the lives we writers affect—is on the subatomic scale.
One single reader at a time.
That’s how we writers change the world.
Our work doesn’t even require expensive paints and canvas and models. (I recently read the heartbreakingly beautiful autobiography-in-letters of Vincent Van Gogh, Dear Theo, in which his struggle to pay for his art is a constant, nagging source of anxiety, even as he’s painting such priceless works as “Sunflowers” and “Starry Night.”)
It doesn’t require hiring (and cooperating with!) actors or dancers and a director and a venue, which means it doesn’t require a producer to foot the bill. It doesn’t require expensive materials to shape, like clay or wood or stone, or a specialized hired studio in which to shape them. It doesn’t require expensive or handmade musical instruments or a stage or pay-by-the second recording studio in which to perform.
Just pen. And paper.
Just five senses and imagination.
Such simple things, so easily and cheaply (even freely!) obtained.
Our gratitude for the accessibility of our writing craft must always be unbounded.
And that leads us to hope.
Which hope motivated America to claim our own country back from the very grasp of raw, reckless, amoral greed late last night.
Because what has been done in literature before us—by Miguel de Servantes, the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Edgar Allan Poe, Emile Gaboriau, Mrs. Radcliffe, Rafael Sabitini, Melville Davisson Post, Mark Twain, clear up into the twentieth century—was all done with pen.
With five simple senses.
And unlimited imagination.
If they can do it—create immortal literature simply by applying long, intense, intelligent, dedicated study to this craft we all love—then we can do it.
And that makes hope our angel’s wings.
May it never leave us.
[I KNOW: I finally turned off comments because of the spam. Thank you for all your comments over the years! You're such a joy to write for. If you like this post, please feel free to click StumbleUpon and/or Facebook and/or Twitter.]
MILLLICENT G. DILLON, represented by Harold Ober Associates, is the world's expert on authors Jane and Paul Bowles. She has won five O. Henry Awards and been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner. I worked with Dillon on her memoir, The Absolute Elsewhere, in which she describes in luminous prose her private meeting with Albert Einstein to discuss the ethics of the atomic bomb. Read more. . .
LUCIA ORTH is the author of the debut novel, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop, which received critical acclaim from Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, Booklist, Library Journal and Small Press Reviews. I have edited a number of essays and articles for Orth. Read more. . .
SCOTT WARRENDER is a professional musician and Annie Award-nominated lyricist specializing in musical theater. I work with Warrender regularly on his short stories and debut novel, Putaway. Read more. . .
STUART WAKEFIELD is the #1 Kindle Best Selling author of Body of Water, the first novel in his Orcadian Trilogy. Body of Water was 1 of 10 books long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. I edited Wakefield's second novel, Memory of Water, and look forward to editing the final novel of his Orcadian Trilogy, Spirit of Water. Read more. . .
ANIA VESENNY, represented by Beverly Slopen Literary Agency, is a recipient of the Evelyn Sullivan Gilbertson Award for Emerging Artist in Literature and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I edited Vesenny's debut novel, Swearing in Russian at the Northern Lights, and her second novel, Sandara. Read more. . .
TERISA GREEN, represented by Dystel and Goderich Literary Management, is widely considered the foremost American authority on tattooing through her tattoo books published by Simon & Schuster, which have sold over 45,000 copies. Under the name M. TERRY GREEN, she writes her techno-shaman sci-fi/fantasy series. I am working with Green to develop a new speculative fiction series. Read more. . .
GERALDINE EVANS is a best-selling British author. Her historical novel, Reluctant Queen, is a Category No 1 Best Seller on Amazon UK. I edited Death Dues, #11 in Evans' fifteen popular Rafferty and Llewellyn cozy police procedurals, which received a glowing review from the Midwest Book Review. Read more. . .
LEN JOY is the author of the debut novel, American Past Time. I worked with Len to develop his novel from its core: a short story about the self-destructive ambitions of a Minor League baseball star, which agents had told him to throw away. Read more. . .
JEFF RUSSELL is the author of the debut novel, The Rules of Love and Law, based upon Jeff's abiding passions for legal history and justice. Read more. . .
In addition, I work with dozens of aspiring writers in their apprenticeship to this literary art and craft.