Ripping off the Labels

I say: “I’m a self-published author.”  “I write chick lit or you know, women’s fiction, or whatever.”  “My novel is more commercial than literary.”

Which sounds a lot like: “I’m not ready.” “I don’t believe in my story.” “My book isn’t worthy.”

Outside the writing/publishing industry issues about  traditional publishing, self publishing, chick lit, women’s fiction and the never-ending battle between commercial fiction and literary fiction aren’t particularly hot topics.  I’ve  never understood their divisiveness and command of debate within the industry.  I still don’t.

What I have come to understand is my role in perpetuating the power of these labels.  Every time I qualify something I write in one of these ways it sounds like I am making an apology.  Which I most certainly am not.

So instead, I will say: “I am an author.” “I write.” “My novel is awesome.”

I encourage you to do the same.

My Love Affair with TED

I’m totally in love with TED.  It’s true . . .

So when I found out that TED was coming to town, the anticipation was nearly more than I could handle.  March 22 is the magic date for Richmond’s very first TEDx conference. I filled out my application to attend more than a month ago, and March seemed so very far away.  But now March is here, we’re  10 days in and in less than two weeks TED and I will finally meet face to face.

Here are just a few of the reasons I love TED:

Susan Cain – I’ve sung her praises before and I’m sure I will again.  Her book is phenomenal.  A must read for introverts and those that love them (so, you know . . . mostly everyone).

Neil Pasricha – I have shown this video many, many times in various classes that I teach.  I have never gotten tired of it and the message always catches me at just the right moment (which is . . . awesome!).

Amanda Palmer – Connection, respect and authenticity as the new commodity for promoting one’s art. Beautifully simple.  Perfectly conveyed.  There’s also a really nice breakdown of the theme of her talk as it relates to publishing over at Huffington Post Books.   (Amanda Palmer can sleep on my couch any time . . . seriously).

What about you?  What made you fall in love with TED.  Let me know in the comments below.

The Happenstance Effect

Aside from having a story burning inside of you that demands to be told, I believe the desire to understand how other people go about setting free their stories is the mark of a true writer. The process. We’re fascinated by it. And rightly so; there are hundreds of means to the same end. Ask ten writers about their process and there won’t be a matching answer among them. One will describe her elaborate outline, another will wax poetic about storyboards. Another will proclaim he starts with the ending and writes backwards while the person sitting next to him can’t imagine starting anywhere but the beginning. The fascinatingly beautiful thing about process is there is no right way, only the right way for each individual.

I don’t outline and I can’t imagine starting anywhere but the beginning. I have a general feeling about how I want the story to end and about the themes that are important to me. I take the rest a page a time. There are always surprises along the way. Some of them end up on the “cutting room floor” while others alter the shape of the story in lovely and amazing ways I never could have planned.

When I began writing Neverending Beginnings, I knew that I wanted my main character to be working through a fear of committment and that I wanted her to learn something about the importance of taking risks. When I presented the first chapter in my writing class, someone expressed concern about, Kate, the main character’s drinking and wondered if she was an alcoholic. Since this was the furthest thing from what I intended to portray, I decided that I needed there to be a motivation for Kate to dislike weddings and seek an escape. Enter her recently deceased mother. This one little shift in the story made the plot richer and refined the theme into something deeper, more existential (full living in response to acknowledgment of the brevity of life).

So what exactly was my process? I had an idea. I wrote a bit. Someone had an opinion. They shared it. It shaped my story. A classic tale of right place, right time. Serendipitous coincidence. The ability to trust in the happenstance.

And therein lies the magic of it.