Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I Read This Book ...

Inspiration, Unexpected   

     It is often said that writing is a solitary endeavor. It is every bit of that and more. It’s withdrawing from the real world, taking yourself into the world you’ve created for your characters and seeing what they are up to and hearing what they are talking about. I write through a first draft ─ changing, deleting, adding as I do. I may write ten chapters and go back to chapter one and rethink it. Eventually, I complete the book, and then the hard part begins. Re-reading, re-writing, tweaking, re-thinking, staring glumly into space and asking myself whatever gave me the notion I could do this.
     Shipping the thing off to kind friends who read what I’ve done (these days “shipping off” means sending an e-mail or uploading to DropBox), and then write back encouragingly. They love it, they love the characters, they love the story. You might think about doing (fill in the blanks). And with much gratitude you accept the suggestions and consider them carefully. My readers are the best; they remind me it’s my book, and they are one reader. Not every reader loves every single thing about any book. But I trust them, and they are knowledgeable readers, and generally what they have to say makes great sense and makes my books stronger.
     Still, as I rewrite, reconsider, retweak, rethink, I wonder if what I’ve put together makes any sense at all or is it too fanciful, too romanticized, too much of a stretch. Is it too long? Too short? (Actually, I think I’ve figured that one out. The book is whatever length it’s supposed to be.) Will anyone read it and actually like it? More, will anyone even read it?
     And then. I take a break from agonizing over my book and look to read the work of another author. Maybe a book I’ve read and loved and admired. Or maybe a brand new book, by an author I never heard of: A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott Southard.
     Now, since I am self-publishing my books, I make a modest attempt to market them. Being in my “golden” years (what a misnomer that is) I have no illusions about becoming a best-seller, but since I write, I appreciate when someone reads my writing. All writers do.
     So I set up a Twitter account because I kept reading on the many “how-to” sites/blogs/etc. about marketing that it was a good idea. I still don’t quite “get” Twitter, but I do post several tweets a day; and I’ve learned to post tweets about my blog (oh, yes, I started a blog, too, having read that was also a good idea) … and it seems people go to my blog from time and time because of a tweet they’ve read. I have a modest number of followers on Twitter, and when Scott Southard “followed” me I looked him up. And loved what I read about him … his great sense of humor and his remarkable talent are all over his website. You get who he is immediately when you learn he has a dog named Bronte and writes a blog entitled “The Musings and Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard.”
     His book, A Jane Austen Daydream, looked intriguing, so I ordered the e-book and lost myself for many hours in the wonderful world he created. What I read was the most charming mixture of fact and fantasy I believe I’ve ever read and was utterly delightful. More than that, he gave voice to Jane Austen’s deep emotional feelings about writing, and reduced me to tears and inspired me at the same time. When I read this:

Writing is such a personal experience for a writer; the growth and struggle are internal, so when one’s work is acknowledged, it is a vindication of not only mind but also of soul. It says something about one that nothing else can.*

… my eyes filled with tears, and for the final three chapters of the book I kept blinking those tears away. I knew exactly how Jane must have felt.
     And after finishing Scott’s wonderful book, which I will re-read and re-re-read, I went back to my current project feeling much better about what I was doing. After a lifetime of being a musician, a teacher, and a reader, I have become a writer, and it gratifies me as nothing ever has; not all the musical theater productions I’ve directed, not all the songs I’ve sung, not all the wonderful students I’ve been privileged to help unlock their singing voices. All of that has given me experiences I will forever treasure. But nothing, absolutely nothing, gives me the sense of fulfillment that writing does. As a singer, a teacher, a director, I’ve been recreating. As a writer, I am creating.
     And to have just one person say to me “I’ve read your book, and I loved it,” gives me a tremendous thrill. So please read my books. And read Scott’s books. We writers languish without readers. Oh, I have to plug my books here: (you can buy them on Amazon)

How I Grew Up, released October 2013. Eli’s Heart, released June 2014.
You Are My Song, planned release December 2014.

*Southard, Scott D. (2013-04-23). A Jane Austen Daydream (p. 357). Madison Street Publishing. Kindle Edition.