Coming October 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Authors Ways and Means

Okay you’ve got me. I know what this looks like. It would appear from my work area that I am a slob. What you cannot see is that I’m just a few feet from the kitchen table. What is not pictured is the refrigerator, sink, and range just out of the camera’s periphery. This is in fact my home office or where as I put it, “the magic happens.” My office also happens to be located in my home’s breakfast nook, architecturally speaking. It is part of a room with a view. I am a novelist that completed my final edits on my first novel, Soon and Very Soon in this cramped space, as well as completed my manuscript for my 2009 release, The Manual due out in October.
We moved into this house in 2006 and in a sacrificial act reminiscent of those in the O’Henry’s classic tale, The Gift of the Magi, I gave up my office space in my old house for a house that my husband (who is an equally talented chef) could have an adequate and open kitchen space in which to work. Only recently did I begin to feel claustrophobic in my chair that conveniently swivels from the kitchen to my workstation. Character sketches, drafts of blog posts and strands of my marketing plan were all overlapping with family schedules, bills and work-related stuff. A writing schedule for my next two projects that coincided with my decision to go back to teaching full time had me at an impasse. Had me in creative limbo.
This is not the writer’s life that I imagined for myself. But I Push through, like the author of that title, Sapphire, said once during The Black Writer’s Conference I attended many moons ago, “I write or I’ll die.” But you can imagine the funk I am in. There’s got to be a better way than waking up at an ungodly hour to write, teaching three classes of English Literature and mentoring a Write-A-Book club, and then trying to burn the candle at both ends by staying up wicked late to finish a line or two. Not to mention, husband, kids, Facebook and Myspace friends that all need my attention.
I don’t know if anyone else has been here. What source book shows me how to win the tussle with time and the management of it? Is there a Clean House specifically for writers? Is Discovery Health airing live footage of an author giving birth to a writing project?
It’s obvious I am wet behind the ears, and a little disorganized to boot, but it got me to thinking about other writers and their habits. Articles and interviews do a good job at getting a synopsis or inspiration behind a writing project, but some lack the time to really delve into the character behind the characters-the untold story of the ways and means of an author. Is there a process behind or just beyond the writing process we writer’s use. In the case of my W-A-B teens does J.K. Rowlings (Harry Potter series) or Stephanie Meyers (Twilight Series) write on a PC or laptop? Do they draw inspiration from Shakesphere or comic books? Do they write to classical music, folk or rock? Do they people watch or character sketch? How do they research a setting, a character’s dialect, a character flaw? Aspiring writers want to know?

Let me let you in on another vice of mine. Please don’t judge. Eric Jerome Dickey novels. Yes, I read them, specifically the ones in the Gideon series. They are fast paced and smartly written with enough sex and violence in it to make a Christian author like me blush. So, I take them in small doses. It’s my equivalent to a Soprano’s or Sex and the City DVD collection. I am that devoted, but the best part of his novels, by far to me, is in the acknowledgements which he has in the back of his books. To an inquisitive author like myself, this is worth the Canada cover price to me. He details there the inspiration for his characters, more like conversations (real or in jest) with characters. He talks about writing on tour, and how these experiences help create settings in his future novels. I’m talking London, Tijuana, and recently (Dying for Revenge) Antigua. I’m not talking about tourist maps and a Sony digital camera either. He thanks hordes of people he has supped with, spoken with, and been chauffeured around by. Suddenly I feel like I’ve been half-stepping with my internet research and playing it safe setting a scene at home here in Maryland. His bio always proclaims he lives on the road, but rests in Southern Cali. So as I’m searching the Bible for envy and covetousness scriptures to convict me for the jealousy I feel, I realize, this is the life I imagined. I want to be Eric Jerome Dickey. Sorry for any fan that may be in line behind me when I meet him, but I have a rough outline of what I would say to him like Charlotte prepared for Big in the Sex and the City movie, with less aggravation and way more admiration.

Writer’s juggle worlds and lives of characters in their minds and sometimes compromise or fumble in their own lives. More than anything I want my W-A-B teens to see the full spectrum of a writer’s life and not just that of their tortured time-and-space challenged club advisor.

I created the Ways and Means survey for Writers to discover those craft practices that have helped writers create that authentic piece of work and present it to the world. It is by no means meant to be a conclusive or comprehensive study. The survey deals mostly with the art of writing and not marketing and promtions. I'll leave that to the experts. I am looking for 100 poets, novelist, journalist and wordsmiths in general to honestly take part and I will continue to finance the survey until that goal is reached. names are optional and are not linked to survey results. Authors who leave a contact email in the name box will receive a promtional item from me for participating. I hope to publish the results on a blog near you,(cross your fingers for a blog tour) and use the findings as another vehicle to inspire those who desire to touch people with their words.
And if anyone knows Eric Jerome Dickey, tell him I have some choice words for him, and please, direct him to my survey.

Take the survey here