Monday, November 22, 2010

Who I Love to Read

The list of authors I get enthralled with changes all the time, except for two permanent favorites; Agatha Christie and Mark Twain.

Christie I love for the sheer joy of only once being able to guess the ending, and that was only one chapter before the conclusion of the novel. I’ve read about 30 of her books and watched every PBS dramatization I could get my hands on at the libraries I’ve frequented. I’m determined to be like Miss Marple when I'm old; sharp and a bit of a busybody. Hercules Piorot stories I read for years without any particular fondness for him, until I saw David Suchet’s characterization on the small screen for the first time. Who could not love the vain little man’s twinkle in the eye, or his weakness for a pretty girl?

Mark Twain’s humor is timeless. When I read The Diary of Adam and Eve I realized that his description of the battle between the sexes was as current as if it was written this year. His incisive wit is a challenge, like a really great comedic movie where you have to watch it at least twice to get all the jokes;so goes Mr. Twain’s writing (as inane as it may seem to compare it to say “Blazing Saddles”).

However, for down and out belly-laughs there’s only one I’ve discovered who can really deliver and that’s Laurie Notaro. A former columnist for the Arizona Republic, she’s at her best when she’s describing her own foibles in life. Everyone’s been there, but few will admit it. While she goes for a simple nod to her hilarious escapades, somewhere along the way, her writings become an true ode to the modern female.

A mere couple of months ago I discovered Elizabeth Peters heroine, Amelia Peabody, a turn-of-the-last-century Egyptian archeologist with a hottie Professor for a husband, nerves of titanium and an incredible sense of self confidence. These adventures of Peabody’s aren't great literature but are incredibly fun, which I value as much as your basic literary masterpiece. I devoured seven of her novels in a two week period, enveloped in every spare moment in Eygptian excavations, murders, thefts and abductions and frankly was saddened when I ran out. I had stumbled on a stash of five at a library book sale! I’m on the look out for more with every visit to a Friends of the Library cubbyhole.

Then there’s Jodi Piccoulet, who presents a real-life dilemma like no other. Each novel is filled with a cast of characters who feel so familiar, so spot-on. They are always embroiled in situations that render the reader heartbroken, in part because they could be happening to any one of us.

Richard Russo tickles my intellectual underbelly with his well-defined and complex interactions between totally normal people. I often have trouble being truly engaged with a male hero, but not with Russo’s men. I feel I’m “let in” and given a special viewing of the inner workings of their mind. I go away thinking, “Oh, so that’s why they do that.”

I have no television, so I read two to three novels a week, depending on how successful I am at writing that week. So, chances are I’ll discover someone else soon.

When I do, I’ll pass their books on to friends and my sparkling insights, ahem, to you.

Friday, November 12, 2010

My Voice Hid For Years

For the longest time I had no idea what people were talking about when they said a writer needed to find their voice. Part of it was the fact that I was concentrating on screenwriting and most of a screenplay is dialog. So did that mean that everyone should sound like me?

I’m not a stupid person, but it was a lot like all those times I tried to see the image in those magic pictures. I would go cross-eyed, tilt my head, and tip the cursed thing at every imaginable angle, to no avail. Finally, one day, probably two years after I first encountered one, I casually picked a magic print at a shop and without my trying at all, the hidden object came into view. It was a kangaroo. A kangaroo nestled within a geometric swirl of colored shapes. I was instantly delighted and laughed out loud.

When I finally found my voice for the first time, it stunned me a bit, but I also felt the joy of discovery. I had written a short story for Woman’s World in 45 minutes. The romantic tale was based on something that had actually happened to me, but was so morphed that no one would have known that but me. I took one swipe at it for typos and sent it off. About four months later I got a check for $1,100 from the magazine and a couple of months later the pleasure of seeing my voice in print for the first time.

When I later became a community newspaper editor and had to do a weekly editorial, I found my voice thundering out at me from my computer screen. I suddenly saw that my expressions were folksy and straight forward. I earned an award for my editorials and because of that reinforcement began to believe in my voice.

Then recently, I had the most pleasurable writing experience ever when I found myself creating a novel in first person. Oh, the rapture of slipping into character and allowing my heroine to say the things that float around in my head, but never cross my lips. Here was my voice in its truest form.

So, like any child will tell you, when you see or hear something you tend to believe it. I now know that everyone does indeed have their own voice and it’s as precious to writers as the definition of self everyone craves. Listen to the rhythms of how you speak and the waves in which your thoughts come to you. Perhaps, try writing something in first person or fictionalizing an event that you lived through. Mostly, believe that you are unique and eventually that will appear in your writing.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Waiting Game

My novel, “Red Mojo Mama”, which I finished in July under a different title, “Full Circle”, is now out to three different agents. Two have the full manuscript; one has the first thirty pages. In the meantime, it had been out to another agent, who, after two months, rejected it. However, this was actually the best rejection I’ve ever received in my entire life. She wrote:

“There was so much to love about this story. Your characters were heart-breaking, magical, and comedic all at the same time, a difficult balance to pull off. But ultimately, we didn't feel the project was quite a right fit for our agency. We have no doubt another agent will scoop this up and we will be seeing your work on the shelves before too long.”

How could you not love that? Still, it was a rejection and I’m looking for someone who just loves the story and my heroine, Lydia “Red” Talbot, so much she (or he) just has to represent them and me.

Waiting is a tough game. I find myself wallowing in self-pity every so often. When I’m not wallowing, I seem mired in the waiting and can’t seem to progress at all in other aspects of my life and especially in writing. I’ve had such a hard time getting started again. The ideas are flowing like crazy. I’ve even managed to write the first few pages of the next one. But that’s it. I’m a writer. I need to write.

Expressing all of this is really just a way to shove myself out of the waiting cycle. I’m sure you knew this already. Now, with any luck, I’ll be able to push my alter ego into creating!

Thanks for listening…reading.