The Practice of Creativity

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I credit Marjorie Hudson, my writing teacher and friend, for jump-starting my writing life several years ago. She is a kind, wise and generous teacher and I have often blogged about lessons learned from her about the writing life.

She published a book about  her search for Virginia Dare in 2002, and this year Searching for Virginia Dare is out in a new edition from Press 53, with some new travels and research. Her ongoing obsession has taken her to Rome, London, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

SFVD Cover - 2013

One reviewer said the book was a guide to how to write a book. Another said she  had invented a new genre, one that “parted the authorial curtain” to reveal the writer’s process. In a review I wrote about Searching for Virginia Dare, I said, “This book lives in multiple genres including mystery, history, memoir, and adventure…This is a book to be read aloud to a friend on a dark winter’s night.” I love this book.

Marjorie recently decided to take another look at her book to see if there were lessons there for her and others about writing. I’m so happy to welcome her guest post here on ‘The Practice of Creativity’.

Here Be Dragons: Going off the Map to Find the Story
By Marjorie Hudson, author of Searching for Virginia Dare

Fourteen years ago I went searching for Virginia Dare.

What I found was a new confidence and freedom in my choices as a writer. I learned how to go off the map edges to the wild uncharted places beyond.

Virginia Dare was the first English child born in the New World, part of the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke Island.

Her fate is an obscure footnote in American colonial and women’s history, yet the story is so fascinating, it should be more well known. Truthfully? For me, it’s become a kind of obsession.

- by Brent Clark

 

In 1587 England sent a colony to the New World, 116 men, women, and children. Virginia was born on August 18 amid tangled scuppernong vines and live oaks on Roanoke Island. She was baptized August 24.

That’s about all the documentation there is of Virginia Dare’s life on earth. The entire colony disappeared, leaving a message carved in a tree, and nobody has ever quite figured out what happened to them.

Now, the problem for a writer about history is that you have to have documentation. You have to have expert commentary. You have to have facts.

What I had, instead, was a tapestry of extraordinary people and events that take a role in the story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island. There was John White, the governor of the colony, an English painter who turned the New World into a kind of life-drawing class, documenting the Native women, children, and villages there, and drawing exquisitely accurate maps of the coastline.

There was Elinor Dare, White’s daughter, five months pregnant when she shipped out of Portsmouth, three months’ trans-Atlantic travel ahead of her before she set foot in the American wilderness.

There was Manteo, England’s first Lord in the New World, and her first Native American ally.

If you put a compass point in a map of this story and drew a circle around it, the circle would also contain the Queen Elizabeth, the English Renaissance, the Spanish Armada, pirates and hurricanes and many more fascinating Native American people. On the corner of the map would be the mark of old: Here be dragons.

The story is rife with mystery: Why did the colonists leave Roanoke Island? Where did they go? Did they survive at all? There were also more subtle mysteries: Why did the Queen pick an artist to be the governor of the colony?  Why did John White return to England,  abandoning his granddaughter and his daughter, just days after the child was born?

English documents revealed extraordinary images – deer grazing in abandoned huts, scuppernong vines overflowing the land into the sea, abundant pearls and strange fishes, a word carved in a tree: Croatoan.

They also revealed terrible moments: a colonist found with 16 arrows in his gut; a ship’s captain with a pike through his head; a lost anchor, a great storm, and a ship blown southward, past all hope of finding the surviving colonists.

Later discoveries included stones marked with messages from Elinor to her father, left in a trail from the Chowan River in northeastern Carolina to the Chattahoochee River in Georgia—a hoax? — and sightings of blonde children living among the Indians on the Chowan River. But did anyone really know what happened?

There were dangers in this story for any writer who dared venture there. There were so many strands to this story, so many questions. I was determined to find a way to make sense of all the pieces and put them, like Humpty Dumpty, together again.

I fell back on the structures I learned in journalism school: read the background; consult the experts. I traveled around North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, talking to everyone from university archeologists to Lumbee Indian artists to guys in bars. Nobody had answers. Everyone had stories. I got lost a lot on back roads. I got lost in imagination. I got lost in memories about my own lost times.

The story of Virginia and her mother in the wilderness began to haunt me. Perhaps this girl and her mother may have felt, just a little bit, like me when I was growing up, adventuring alone in the world. My explorations took me hitchhiking across the US, squatting in derelict houses, and finally settling in rural North Carolina.

Well, it was preposterous to draw parallels, I knew. But I also knew that stories tell you their forms. I decided to trust the messiness, let all the disparate map-lines to the heart of the story be known and valued, including the dragons.

I decided to reveal my patterns of thought and feeling in response to the story, my struggle to understand, my mind’s turn toward imagination, and forays into deep memories of the young girl I once was, terrified and alone in the world, and the repeated pattern of mystery and loss that is my life. The story of Virginia Dare became a map of a writer’s mind in process.

I let the material find its own shape, like water running downhill, eroding to the bone-honest story underneath, the story that only I could tell.

One reviewer said Searching for Virginia Dare was like “a road trip with your best friend.” The story and the mystery both have been great company for me. I carry them with me, like secret treasure, wherever I go, along with a new compass in my bag of writer tools: let the story find its own map.

Marjorie Hudson writes about newcomers encountering the South and about contemporary people encountering history. She is author of the story collection Accidental Birds of the Carolinas, a PEN/Hemingway Honorable Mention, and her honors include an NC Arts Council Fellowship and two Pushcart Special Mentions for fiction. She is founder and director of the Kitchen Table Writers Workshops.

Marjorie Hudson: www.marjoriehudson.com

Buy the book: http://www.press53.com/BioMarjorieHudson.html

John White Drawings: http://www.virtualjamestown.org/images/white_debry_html/jamestown.html

John White map showing dragon: http://www.virtualjamestown.org/images/white_debry_html/debry123.html

Photo Credit: Brent Clark

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I met author Clifford Garstang a few weeks ago at Marjorie Hudson’s literary salon. His craft talk on the ‘story cycle’ captivated the audience. In listening to his journey from young writer to lawyer back to writer, I knew that I wanted to ask for an interview and share his wisdom here.

Garstang identified creative writing as one of his primary goals in college. He nurtured writing for many years while having a distinguished law career. He worked in international law in Singapore, Chicago, and Los Angeles with Sidley Austin, one of the largest law firms in the United States. Subsequently, he earned an MPA in International Development from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and worked for Harvard Law School as a legal reform consultant in Almaty, Kazakhstan. From 1996 to 2001, he was Senior Counsel for East Asia at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., where his work concentrated on China, Indonesia and Vietnam.

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Garstang received an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. His award-winning collection of linked short stories, In an Uncharted Country, was published by Press 53 in 2009. Press 53 recently published his second book, What the Zhang Boys Know. Garstang’s work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, BlackbirdVirginia Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, Cream City Review, Tampa Review, Los Angeles Review, and elsewhere and has received Distinguished Mention in the Best American Series. He won the 2006 Confluence Fiction Prize and the 2007 GSU Review Fiction Prize, and has had a Walter E. Dakin Felloswhip to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and scholarships to both Sewanee and the Indiana University Writers’ Conference, as well as residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts.

He is the editor of Prime Number Magazine and currently lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

I’m so happy to welcome Clifford Garstang to ‘The Practice of Creativity’.

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1) Where did the idea for your current collection, What The Zhang Boys Know: A Novel in Stories come from?

In previous interviews I think I’ve given various answers to that question. The truth is that the book arises from several sources of inspiration, all of them important to one aspect or another. The setting—a condominium building in Washington, DC—comes from the building where I used to live. Even though I wrote the book after I moved away, the building’s design and location stuck with me. The main characters—a Chinese immigrant family—come from the extensive travel to China I was doing at the time that I conceived the book. The theme of loss comes from a number of directions all at once, which is probably why it manifests itself in so many different ways in the stories. A secondary theme, that of witness or observation, probably comes from my previous profession as a lawyer.

2) What’s compelling to you about the ‘novel in stories’ form?

For me, the form is more organic than the typical story collection, in that it grows and builds momentum as it does so. Each story usually stands on its own, but then also adds information that may impact the reader’s interpretation of other stories. So the whole is really greater than the sum of its parts. Put another way, short stories—which I love—are limited, usually, in time and space. By using other stories to fill in the blanks, the author can let some air into the book and enhance the reader’s experience. And yet, unlike a novel, the book can be consumed in pieces that should provide their own satisfaction. Best of both worlds, for me.

3) David Long in an interview said that endings should unlock “the energy” in a story. What does a good ending, in short fiction, accomplish, and how do you arrive at your endings?

I like Long’s way of putting it. For me, a good ending resonates with the reader. That is, the reader will recognize that there is more to the story than is revealed on the page. Life goes on, and I think it’s a good thing if the reader is curious about what’s next for the characters. That said, endings are very hard. Ideally, there is a central conflict to the story and that conflict should be more or less resolved. But once that is accomplished, the story can be something of a launching pad, suggesting, but not exploring, new worlds. I’m not sure I can really articulate my own process of ending a story, but in theory I’ll have the narrator or point of view consciousness look forward in some way that suggests both an ending and a beginning, often, but not always, by having the narrative focus on a concrete detail.

4) What does your writing practice look like?

It’s a mess! But, honestly, because writing is the focal point for my day, that’s what I begin with. That may be composing or editing, but I get to my desk first thing and keep going as long as I can. I generally do first drafts on the computer but for editing I often shift to a hard copy so I can see the thing on the page. That also allows me to escape the internet during the editing phase, in theory. I generally use afternoons to do all the other things that writers also have to do—submissions, arranging readings, blogging, book reviewing.

5) You manage to pack a lot into your day! You are an editor for Prime Number Magazine, and you blog at Perpetual Folly, and are working on two novels. How do these different activities feed into each other and you?

You forgot the play I’m writing! And the teaching I do! Really, though, I’m generally only working on one writing project at a time, so I have folders on my desk that represent each one and it’s not that hard to shift gears. All the other activities—the blogging, the magazine editing, the teaching—mean that I’m always thinking about literature, seeing other writers’ styles, having to articulate what works and does not work in a given technique. And of course all of these things give me additional exposure to readers, which I like to think may encourage people to take a look at my own work.

6) What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Something that I have to remind myself of from time to time is that the writing comes first, because that’s the only thing in your control. You can’t do anything about how readers will react, or what an agent or editor will say. All you can do is write the best story or poem or book that you can. So I’ve got a little sign on my desk to help me keep this in mind: Only Write!


Clifford Garstang, Author of In an Uncharted Country and What the Zhang Boys Know

Find out more about Clifford at http://cliffordgarstang.com/

 

When someone says they are hosting a ‘literary salon’, I’m never sure what to expect. There’s always prep work to do on my end: dress well, remind myself of five recent outstanding books I’ve read, remind myself to use good posture, and, of course practice a pithy answer to the “What are you working on?’ question. I’ve only been to a few literary salons and I think of them as opportunities to practice being a writer in public. Some literary salons are more like informal gatherings, hosted in someone’s home, with a newly published author; others involve having a lively conversation about favorite works and the state of publishing.

A few weeks ago, when writing teacher and friend, Marjorie Hudson said she was hosting a literary salon with Clifford Garstang, most recently author of What the Zhang Boys Know: A Novel in Stories and inviting me–I immediately said yes.  Marjorie and Clifford know each because they are both published by Press 53, and she has been an admirer and supporter of his work for some time. Garstang is the co-founder and editor of Prime Number Magazine and is also author of the well-known blog Perpetual Folly. I knew at this gathering there would be good food, a copy of the author’s book and a chance to mix and mingle with other writers.

Marjorie Garstang3

What I didn’t know is that I was that at this salon, we were going to be treated to a wonderful craft discussion about the concept of ‘story cycles’ and ‘a novel told in stories’. Marjorie Garstang2

Clifford talked for a few minutes about his own journey as someone who wanted to be a writer right out of college, then traveled to Southeast Asia and instead became a lawyer. Even while he was a lawyer though, he never stopped thinking about writing.  Twenty years later he returned to writing. Fascinating! I’m hoping you’ll get to hear more of his story here, later this summer, in an interview.

This is a brief summary of his very substantive talk:

With an interlinked set of stories a writer can create a ‘wide angle lens’ way of telling a big story that has the feel of a novel. He provided a broad typology of
‘story cycles’:

-Stories that are loosely connected in a collection

-Linked short story collections

-A novel told in stories—linkages are tighter (you’re really telling one big story)

-a polyphonic novel (multiple voices and points of view)

He said that the linkages among and across stories can be made in multiples ways:

-using a setting that ties all stories together

-using one character that appears in each story (but not necessarily as the main character)

-using one character throughout all stories that is a main character

-using a big theme that explores a group experience or worldview.

He gave examples of each type. I’ll name just a few:

God is Dead by Ron Currie Jr. (linked short stories that begins with the premise that God came to earth and died)

Dubliners by James Joyce (stories that are linked by theme and setting)

Accidental Birds of the Carolinas by Marjorie Hudson (loosely linked stories that examine displacement and community for people who move to the South).

The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank (linked stories that follow one character)

One I would add to this list is Ursula Le Guin’s Four Ways to Forgiveness (interlinked novellas set in the future on two different worlds).

The other thing that Clifford impressed on us is that each type of ‘story cycle’ can create a different effect for the reader. Sometimes all the stories in a collection build toward the last story and a deep resolution, and in other instances with less tightly linked stories, there’s no final resolution, but the reader still senses that the “whole is greater than its parts.”

Marjorie Garstang1

Marjorie and Clifford had an engaging conversation about the process of writing interlinked short stories. Is it always intentional? Well, no… Sometimes you don’t realize that you’re writing a set of interlinked stories until you’re far along—you can discover it along the way as you ask more questions about your characters.

I loved his craft talk and now have a long list of new authors to read. The handful of writers in attendance at this literary salon ate great food and talked about the loves and labors of the writing life. A perfect day!

 

 

Steve Mitchell is doing his part to keep readers fascinated by the craft of short stories with his new collection, The Naming of Ghosts recently published by Press 53. One reviewer described his prose as “lyrical” and how his richly imagined stories in Ghosts “haunt the reader long after the final pages.” Steve has been a construction worker, cowboy, substitute teacher, chef, and has developed and managed a mental health program for the chronic mentally ill. His work has been published in the Southeast Review, Contrary, Glossolalia, and The North Carolina Literary Review, among others, and has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize.

And aside from these great credentials, I can say he’s generous and kind toward emerging writers. I met Steve while assisting my writing teacher, Marjorie Hudson (another Press 53 author), at a workshop she gave. He made me and other aspiring writers feel welcomed and encouraged. I’m so happy to connect him with this wonderful community of creative folk.

What drives your creative work?

Curiosity and doubt.

In the end, writing for me is about wonder. Even if the particular work doesn’t reflect it immediately. It’s about the wonder and mystery of living; the necessity of questions, the beauty of not knowing, the wonderful impossibility of ever understanding another person completely. Uncertainty provides a beautiful space in which to meet one another.

I pretend to be another person, pretend to see the world through their eyes. I’m searching for patterns in our experience, I guess. The things which draw us together and pull us apart, the things which make us want to reach out for another or the moments when we have no choice.

Also, I think all writers revel in a love of language. The thrill of it, the way it tastes and sounds and forms itself around the tongue. It’s a tactile, sensual obsession we share.

How do you decide what point of view a story will be in? Do you experiment a lot or just get a sense right away? Has there ever been a story you had to completely rewrite in a different point of view?

Generally, the point of view comes with the story. I write predominantly in the first person, from the point of view of the characters themselves, so that’s usually where I begin: with a particular person in a particular situation or state of mind. They form together, story and point of view, from an amorphous blob of frustrations and associations.

The voice, however, can take quite a while to develop. I do experiment a good bit with voice and I have started a piece again from the beginning with a new voice more than once. The voice requires patience.

Tell us about your new short story collection, The Naming of Ghosts. Is it held together by a set of recurring themes?

These are stories written over a number of years and the idea was simply to collect stories which held together, got along with each other somehow. It was more of an intuitive process, not around themes, more as a certain kind of ride or journey. It’s always about people, what happens within or between people and how that changes the world around them.

With that said, the themes present are those that always intrigue me. The tension between intimacy and safety, between intimacy and community, the ways in which we all constantly change shape to negotiate that tension. The way tiny moments or insights in our lives can bring about lasting shifts in who we are, changes in our world. The way the past and future are constantly sifting into our present as active forces

Robert Olen Butler, in an interview, said that developing a character is about understanding yearning. He differentiates between a fully rounded character who yearns (“for self or for connection”) versus a character “who simply has problems.” He feels that the “yearning dictates every other choice.” When you’re writing, how aware are you of the essential yearning of your main character?

I think this is the essential human condition; we are creatures who imagine, envision and yearn. It’s the foundation of empathy and empathy is the key to writing.

As a writer, I feel I must love every character. That’s my job. To love the inarticulate or the unlovable; to understand something about them which makes them human.

There may be characters who can’t articulate their own yearning. This doesn’t mean it isn’t there, it only means it isn’t spoken.

Yearning is the driver, superseding other concerns, because yearning speaks to the shadowy, ill-defined ways we actually see the world around us. Yearning is always idiosyncratic; it means we make choices which comply to an internal logic or mythology, but aren’t necessarily understandable to anyone else.

And I love the gaps which occur between our personal mythologies, between what we accept as a given which, possibly, no one else sees or understands.

What’s changed for you since being published by Press 53?

Well, it was a year and a half between acceptance and publication, during which I was always vaguely anxious, certain that some crisis or tragedy would prevent the book from coming into being. It was scheduled for 2012, so I secretly believed the Mayan calendar would end the day before publication and the universe would blip out of existence. I was relieved when that didn’t happen.

There is a sense of completion, the ability to take a deep breath.

But I’m really just beginning. It’s only been a month or so. I’m looking forward to going on the road and reading in bars, on street corners, maybe even in bookstores. I’m looking forward to meeting people and introducing them to the stories, beginning a dialogue. That should be fun.

It’s also released a good bit of energy. Suddenly I have five or six projects going at once.

What’s on your bookshelf, next to your bed? What are you reading right now?

Jen McConnell’s Welcome, Anybody. She was published in the Press 53 Spotlight Anthology 2011 with me and I enjoyed her stories.

Mindscreen, by Bruce Kawin, a theory and study of first person film. I read it years ago and hadn’t realized what an influence its been.

Roberto Bolano’s 2666, a re-read. A beautiful, mysterious, relentless book.

Final Acts, Death, Dying, and the Choices We Make, edited by Nan Bauer-Maglin and Donna Perry. Research for a novel in progress.

Just as important, I’m currently watching Alex de la Iglesia’s The Last Circus and the second season of Treme; I’m listening to Bruce Peninsula, Foals, Osvaldo Golijov, and Jon Brion.

What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Cultivate a sense of beauty. Because if the world isn’t beautiful it’s not worth saving and all writing is about saving the world, if only from the wear of time.

Be curious; not only about the things that interest you, but especially about the things that frighten you, make you uncomfortable.

Work beyond your reach.

Writing is life; life is writing. There’s no other way.

Sorry, I couldn’t stop at one.

Steve Mitchell is a writer who has also worked in theatre, film and multi-voice poetry. He is currently completing a novel, Body of Trust. Find out more about him and his cat, Mr. Zip at http://www.thisisstevemitchell.com/

Over the past two weeks I’ve had the opportunity to practice being ‘a writer in public’. Often aspiring writers write behind closed doors and without many opportunities to get publicly affirmed about their writing efforts. It’s hard to claim a writing identity if one isn’t widely published. If you’re working 9-5 and writing at night (or on the weekends), there’s little time to go to readings, writers’ conferences or open mics where you can be a writer in public. However, a bit of practicing being a writer in public provides a wonderful psychological boost, lessens isolation, helps you understand the business of writing and can form part of your writing education. You can also claim a writing identity without embarrassment and thwart imposter syndrome feelings with a bit of practice. Here are some observations and tips:

Ways to Practice Being a Writer in Public: Attend Writers’ Conferences

I attended the spring North Carolina Writers’ Network Conference. It’s a one day affair that includes craft workshops, lunch with an author, faculty readings, a panel with editors and an open mic reading. I’ve attended this conference before, but this time I was with several members of my core writing community; people who I knew well.  We encouraged each other to embody being a writer in public.

Practice your pitch before you go. Whether you’re working on a memoir or a collection of short stories, you need a 2-3 sentence description that engages the listener and that rolls off your tongue. You need this pitch not only for when you are lucky enough to bump into agents and editors at a bar or in the elevator, but  in order to talk with fellow writers that you’ll meet(who may be able to support you in a variety of surprising ways). This is your way of making a good impression on people, so don’t leave it to chance. More likely than not, you’ll feel tongue-tied, anxious and inadequate if you don’t role play ahead of time. My writing friends and I practiced our pitches on the ride to the conference. For great ideas about learning how to pitch and deal with any fears or anxiety that might arise, see Eric Maisel’s Living the Writer’s Life.

Bring a short polished piece to read for open mic. Many writing conferences feature an open mic program that you can sign up for when you arrive. A writer is always working on something and should always have something to read.  The piece that you read should be short and polished, somewhere between 5-8 minutes.  My friend and writing buddy, Santa Al is working on a memoir about his twenty year career as a professional Santa and he signed up and got to read during the NCWN conference. He received wonderful feedback from audience members and successfully peaked people’s interest in his work. This year, I didn’t read and I was annoyed with myself that I didn’t take time to prepare anything. Reading in public makes it that much easier for fellow writers to walk up to you, introduce themselves and ideally tell you how much they enjoyed what you read.

Visit the book exhibit and chat up folks, and bring mints and use them, especially at the end of the day. At a good writers’ conference everyone is tired at the end of the day. If you’ve had a successful time you’ve met other writers, learned new craft techniques, and heard heated exchanges about the future of publishing. By the end of the day you’ll probably head over to the book exhibit which is where you’ll find editors of small presses (and sometimes big presses), literary journals and magazines hanging out. You want to walk up, fresh-faced, with some energy left and have a friendly chat. The last thing you want to worry about is bad breath.

My writing friend Whitney and I made our way to the book exhibit an hour before the end of the conference. We happened upon the Press 53 booth, a unique small press devoted to publishing short story and poetry collections. Press 53 is also the publisher of the works of our beloved writing teacher, Marjorie Hudson. Kevin Morgan Watson, the publisher greeted us and immediately made us feel welcome. Full of energy, he engaged us quickly. While I was trying to talk about the finer points of speculative fiction and whether he publishes it or not, I couldn’t help but wondering, Wow, is my breath kicking it? Don’t let this happen to you! Bring mints and use them.

Ways to Practice Being a Writer in Public: Writer: Support a Published Writer

I was invited by my writing teacher, Marjorie, to drive and accompany her to a speaking event. We drove to Winston-Salem, visited the offices of Press 53 and hung out with Kevin Watson (I made sure to have fresh breath this time!), and were hosted by Vijya, a local aspiring writer and gracious host.

(Kevin Watson and Marjorie Hudson)

We had dinner, got settled and were off to the event at the public library (part of the ‘Road Scholar’ program of the North Carolina Humanities Council that helps bring writers to local communities). Marjorie’s talk focused on mosaic writing in nonfiction that incorporates historical detail, memoir, and fictional interludes as her Searching for Virginia Dare does brilliantly. We came back to Vidya’s house and got to listen to Marjorie and Steve Mitchell (a new Press 53 author) talk about the writing life and the challenges of book promotion. The next day, we were up and on the road to Barnhill’s Books, a thriving small bookstore that also sells local wine and art, where Marjorie did a lunch with author event. During this trip, I felt privileged to glimpse a working writer living the writer’s life: speaking, promoting, coaching, and book signing.

Volunteer to support a writer that you know—Writers always need more support. If you have a friend or an acquaintance who has recently published a book, offer to help them promote it in some way. Be a personal assistant or driver for a day. If they are scheduled to give readings, see if you can help carry books, set up a display, sell books, and assist with small tasks that would make their life easier. You can learn a lot from watching how other writers handle being in the public eye.

When you sell books, bring a nice tablecloth—Marjorie brought along a white tablecloth to cover the ordinary table set up for me to sell her books. That simple item elevated the feel of the room.

Chat up bookstore managers and owners. They are a wealth of knowledge! They sometimes are also writers. Ask them about their work and tell them about yours.

(Marjorie doing a book signing, and above-hanging out with the manager at Barnhill’s)

Ways to Practice Being a Writer in Public: Read Your Work to an Audience

And finally, Marjorie held a reading for her students at the wonderful McIntyre’s Fine Books. Since June 2010 writers have been meeting with her in a variety of venues to generate new writing from prompts, work on revision and make their writing dreams come true. She printed up a program, brought food, and invited the writing community. It was an elegant, professional and supportive event. Few writing teachers would make the time to support students like this and her students are incredibly lucky. I read two poems. They were both poems I read before but not to a big formal audience. I enjoyed reading and hearing the compelling work of other aspiring writers.

(me, reading my work)

If you get to read your work in public, be gracious if someone compliments you on your writing. Don’t say that you’re not really a writer because you’re not published yet (or published widely), or let any negative comments about your work leak out. Shine in the moment.

So, how have you been practicing being a writer in public?

(Photo credit Jesse Akin)


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

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