Saturday, November 06, 2010

Author Day 2010

Today I gathered my kit and went to the Oceanside Library to nest with the other authors and poets in hopes the mother eagle would return with a morsel by someone buying a book. Fingers plucked and pull pages open, some ah'd at the covers, but to no avail. I came home with all the books I left the house with.

Then the time came to give my 10 minute speech. My blood sugar level had flat-lined. My old fear of eyeballs staring me down rose its ugly head again. I had forgotten to bring my glasses that allow me to read at a distance where my face wasn't buried in the page. I had planned to sing a song too and the distance issue was bothering me as well. Oh well, 10 minutes go by fast.

I mounted the stage, did my talk, nose on page, and was about to sing my ditty, when the host said, "We have time, tell us about what you're doing. Do some Q&A."

Ah, okay. What to talk about...ramble, ramble... "Okay, now sing your song," came from stage left. I don't think people realized, my song was pertinent, it was about Author Day, it had a purpose, it just wasn't a random tune to fill the last 5 minutes of my time slot. Actually it was, but I though the crowd would like the irony. Problem was, the song needed to be dedicated to one of the romance novel writers to connect the meaning and allow the song to work, but alas, they had all gone home by then. Note to self: get scheduled earlier next year.

At that moment I realized my throat was as dry as the Great Mohave Desert and the sound that came out was like fingernails on a blackboard. Two bars into the song I realized the guitar's B-string was playing in a gamalon tonality about a quarter pitch off. The cacophony ended soon enough and my 10 minutes were spent, I retreated to my perch to gag down a half bottle of water.

The song was a parody on the song "Killing Me Softly" instead of "...with her song," it was "...with her book,etc." It was fairly witty. The crowd was truly appreciative and got what I was doing.

I really don't know why all of a sudden speaking in front of fellow authors frightens me so much. Maybe it's the editors that you know that are among them that are poised to criticize and ridicule to flex their superiority.

I ended the day a wreck which should have been a quiet day of listening to boring speeches about things I've heard about over and over to lull me into peaceful slumber, but instead left me wondering why I continue writing at all. I envy the proud couch potatoes that can sit for hours gazing at sport events one after the other, killing an entire day. No, I wouldn't trade places. Any anguish I might have suffered, even at my own hand, just makes me a stronger writer. So Author Day was a great day.

I feel better, much better, after a couple of beers and an ice bag on my head.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Things to Think About While Staring at the Ceiling

Deadlines do get you off the pot. The lack of mercy in editing is like a death of many small cuts. I am hoping that if I write enough and read the dictionary each night before I go to sleep, the words will spew out in a more perfect form, requiring less editing, but I doubt it. Everything in life has its dual, the Ying-Yang of it all. Editing is the evil twin of writing. It is inescapable. And that’s just the grammatical, technical side. Editing for logic, content, and dramatic effect – well, I don’t even have a clue about that. I just write what sounds good to me at the time. If I improve over time, it will reflect some kind a personal maturity, but maturity has a dark side – you lose you ability to be innocent. I am a verbal improviser, like a jazz man, playing his heart out in hopes of reaching out to someone with a riff they can dig. I will probably never write anything significant, but it will be fun to read.

The old adage of “You must be a good reader to be a good writer” makes sense, but who has the time. I do read in the background, but there are so many distractions, I don’t really make the time to be a studied reader. I have a limited repertoire of literature on the shelf. If I have time, I write instead. One area I find inspiring is short stories. They are little capsules of joy. You can get the whole plot in one mouthful. If I get writer’s block on a novel-sized project, I back off and write a short story. It seems to refresh the air and gives me a breather. Then it is easier to get back to business.

One of the curiosities of reading deeply about the subjects you plan to write about is the idea of bleeding someone else’s ideas into your own story. I live in fear of doing that, because my short term memory isn’t all that great and I am a great mimicker. There are whole species of birds that do just what I do. The last thing I want to happen is have a chunk of a project have to be rewritten because I unconsciously scribbled a bunch of ideas from someone else’s book into my plot. Have you ever caught yourself doing that?

Well, the chances are lower than you think. We are all built differently so the randomness of our interpretations protect us, but taking a great idea and revamping it into your own interpretation, well that’s a virtue not a sin. Even Einstein said it, “If I can see over the wall, is because I stand on the shoulders of giants” or some nonsense like that. You’ll have to look it up. I’m too lazy.

While I look at the ceiling, slumber finally reaches me. Maybe tomorrow I will write the perfect novel.