When Writers Attract Fans

 

Scripture photo hebrews ten twenty fourA writing friend, who recently signed a book contract and whose novel was published, received a note from a reader who not only loved the story, but also wanted to connect on social media. To my friend, the comment was like spreading fudge sauce and sprinkles on a banana split already loaded with ice cream. She was both astonished and pleased. “I have my first fan!”  

Over-the-top priceless. 

Fans are important to writers.  Spending several months, or even years, writing a story is gruesome work. Wading through the obstacle course of pursuing editors and publishers, which often takes more years, to finally see the project in print, is exhausting. Having someone tell the author they liked their work is often more than a weary writer can hope for.  

I am a fan. I can’t tell you who my favorite author is, because I don’t have ONE. I read many kinds of stories—those set in early America, the Revolutionary War, pioneers, turn-of-the-century, World War II, contemporary. All are considered faith-based. When someone recommends an author, I investigate. If I like their book, I say so.

 I review. I blog. I post.

 But if an author doesn’t connect with me, I remain quiet—especially if the person is writing from a Christian perspective. I know how hard that person worked to get their story out there. Just because I didn’t like it, someone else may love it. I am not willing to crush the spirit of a Christian brother or sister just because my tastes are different from theirs.

Are you a fan? Hebrews 10:24 tells us: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Consider boosting an author’s spirit by telling them you liked their story. Post a review. Attend a book signing. Reward the effort expended to give you an afternoon of reading pleasure. Some aspiring author out there needs to hear from you.

 

Writers–Keepers of the Story

In my home cupboard, I have a collection of things handed down through my grandmother from her grandfather’s family—a pioneer fork, a glass Easter egg, salt cellars, a butter stamp.  heirlooms 004 heirlooms 017 heirlooms 010All my childhood years I heard tales of my great-great grandfather who crossed the plains on horseback and settled on a donation land claim on the Willamette River. Over time the property was divided until only five of the original acres remained and on which my family home was built.

I’ve always loved my ancestral legacy, and despite a short, non-fiction documentary one of his daughters wrote about my grandfather’s adventures, no one I know has ever written his story.  A park memorial dedicated to those who helped rescue the Lost Wagon Train mentions him, and his history fills a museum in a nearby city. I’ve always believed his experiences needed telling, but aside from dabbling in a little personal research, had never done more about it than watch from afar.

Until this summer.

I heard popular historical novelist Jane Kirkpatrick speak—once at a local venue which featured guest authors and again at a summer heirlooms 015writing conference.

Jane’s writing style is unique. She creates stories about people who once lived, and through meticulous research recreates the world in which those individuals existed.  The reader not only enjoys a look at a specific period of time, but is allowed to glimpse the life of a person who actually existed.

On both occasions in which I heard Jane, she mentioned how many times she had been approached by someone with an idea for a story involving a relative from that person’s past. Jane said she resisted taking on the projects because she believes we who write are keepers of our own stories.  The story burning in your brain, she explained, is the one given to you to tell. Both times, what she said poked at my subconscious and took root.

Listening to Jane, I asked myself—am I the keeper of my great-grandfather’s story?

I decided to find out. I’ve delayed this project quite a while. I wanted to learn as much as I could about fictional writing before I dove in. I also wanted to get a handle on the process of publishing. Now that I have my feet wet, I believe I’m ready to go forward.

Don’t be surprised if future posts include historical facts I’ve uncovered.  After all, that’s what a keeper of the story does. Hope to see you along the trail.

Ecclesiastes 9:10a “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.. .”

When Writers Create Dialogue

old computer files 055The woman sat up straight in the restaurant booth, head pressed against the cushioned back. As her companion approached, she lifted a pointer finger to her lips, and gestured for her friend to sit. On the table a notepad covered with scribbles rested beneath her palm, the pen in her hand busily writing notes. “Juicy conversation behind us. Great for a scene in my book.”

Writing dialogue is tricky and takes practice to make it real. All of us would like to pen words like the ones spoken by Jane in Jane Eyre when she confronts Rochester:“Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?”*

Consider Elizabeth Bennett when she refuses Mr. Darcy’s proposal of marriage in Pride and Prejudice: “I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”*

Ouch!

Books abound on how to create meaningful discussion in a novel. But getting it right may require field research. The conversation of a group of ladies wearing purple jackets and red hats will not sound the same as a mob of teens dressed in black. Men don’t talk like women—I heard that “amen”. The speech patterns in a historical novel won’t work in a contemporary tale.

I know one writer who spends mornings at coffee shops studying customers while she sits at her laptop, considering how they might talk as meaningful characters in her book. Another friend listens in elevators. Long rides to the top floor can yield rich vernacular. Public restrooms are also great places to eavesdrop. Women before a mirror can be quite chatty while they re-apply their makeup or coif their hair.

The next time you lunch with a writer friend and she lists a little too far to the right over her latté, take it in stride. She’s merely researching the next memorable line for her best-seller. Applaud her efforts to get it right. She might even include you in the credits!

*Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Bronte

*Pride and Prejudice, written by Jane Austen

 

 

When Writers Become Icons

 

kesey 004 Authors celebrate successes in many different ways. Debut writers take pictures of their books on shelves of libraries and bookstores. Award-winning novelists hang their plaques alongside framed novel covers. Others attend the movie premiere of their story. Some are honored by citizens of the city or setting the author used to tell the tale.

Such was the case last weekend when residents of Springfield, Oregon honored their hometown literary hero, Ken Kesey, with a block party and the unveiling of a two-story mural. Mayor Christine Lundberg said the idea to embrace and recognize the man’s accomplishments had been in the works for a while, and received widespread support from the community as a project whose time had come.

Kesey is the author of Sometimes a Great Notion and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, two novels which were both made into movies. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest released in 1962, the material related to Kesey’s time as a volunteer in a study of psychoactive drugs and his work at a state veterans’ hospital. Both experiences were said to have inspired the novel. He published Sometimes a Great Notion in 1964, using a small Oregon logging town as a backdrop for the story.

Kesey attended Springfield High School and wrestled for the University of Oregon before an injury ended his career. He then went on to write. Kesey’s allegiance to his hometown was evident in the way he nostalgically described landmarks like the Springfield Creamery, an enterprise still operating today. He also made reference to days of picking beans in the summer, and swimming in local rivers, as well as flavoring his settings with scenes from the timber industry which supported many Oregon laborers for years.

In the mural Kesey leans against a bookcase, which holds dozens of classic titles, and stares into the distance. A model of his historic bus, FURTHR, and license plate, occupy the bottom shelf. Probably most telling of Kesey is a plaque of Job 5:7 in the corner: “But man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” In scripture the verse is followed with “But as for me, I would seek unto God. And unto God I would commit my cause.”

According to Kesey’s daughter, Sunshine, who attended the festivities, Kesey’s greatest wish was to inspire people to read. They might not only learn his story, but also the classics. This may have been his greatest contribution. Kesey has made quite a splash in this modest Oregon community. He leaves big shoes to fill.

Author’s note: If you are ever in town, drop by Fourth and Main for a look.