Friday, June 16, 2017

Minding My Muse 13: Private Writer & Public Author

I began this blog series four months ago. I decided to share my raw journal entries, my responses to Priscilla Long's end-of-chapter writing prompts in Minding the Muse: A Handbook for Painters, Composers, Writers, and Other Creators, in hopes of inspiring others to explore their creative processes. With this final post, I end this series. Thanks for reading!
April 2, 2017 Journal Entry
“Can you look at one or another public figure you see in the arts and choose one or two models—people you admire for their values and presentation?” (Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 98)

The first name that pops into my head is Barbara Kingsolver, not because I know anything about her or have ever seen her speak or even visited her website (if she has one). But I’ve read her work, and I recently read the interview at the back of The Lacuna. She strikes me as a very private woman and writer who puts years of research and work into her novels. This I admire. Some may suggest I learn more about her, but I prefer to know her through her art.

June 3, 2017 Journal Entry
“If you had to speak to an audience, whether of fourteen or four thousand, what are the three most important things you would want them to know? Can you get someone to give you feedback on  your teaching or talk or radio or TV interview?” (Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 98)

In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Barbara Kingsolver stated, “A novel can educate to some extent, but first, a novel has to entertain—that’s the contract with the reader: you give me ten hours and I’ll give you a reason to turn every page.” I believe the same is true whether I am writing fiction or memoir. I want my audience to know that I believe my work is worthy of their time.

I also want to convey my belief in the importance of knowing people and worlds beyond those of our birth culture. Through the characters in books, we experience new realities and perhaps that experience will influence our behavior when we encounter others different from ourselves. Through positive encounters, we all benefit.

Finally, I would want my audience to know, perhaps even come to share, my belief that writing and reading of the realities of others, whether fictional or factual, can heal. Whether we have faced traumatic or mild challenges on our life journey, it can be comforting to know we are not alone, that others have survived the same or worse, that we will be okay.

“Practice presenting your work or giving a talk using a video or audio recorder. What do you see as your strengths? What could use work?” (Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 98)

I have seen and heard myself, and I find it mortifying! I move too much and use too many facial expressions and hand gestures. The more nervous I am, the more animated I get. I start too softly and get too loud. Reading aloud is a pleasure, but I’m uncomfortable speaking without a script.

Strengths? I enjoy reading aloud and sharing the words, the narratives, I’ve crafted. What could use work? All the rest of it!

“Do you treat others with respect and kindness? Do you honor other creators in your community and pay attention to their work? Can you improve in this endeavor by 5 percent?” (Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 104)

Some folks speak of competition and jealousy among writers. I have neither experienced or felt either. I’m pleased to learn a fellow writer has landed a contract or made the decision to self-publish. I do what I can to promote the work of others on social media. Because I will only promote works I’ve read or viewed personally, I could improve by trying to give 5% more of my time to reading and reviewing the works of local, emerging writers. Knowing that reviews are the lifeblood of writers, I try to always post on Amazon and Goodreads when I read something I enjoy.

“Do you have very high self-esteem? If this is an area that needs work, what work can you do? If you feel you need help, the time to research and access that help is now.” (Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 104)

Writing is a pleasure, challenging at times, but for me it is always rewarding—even when it feels like crap. When I’ve finished a manuscript, I’m eager to share it with the world and that’s when it gets tough, that’s when self-esteem and perseverance are essential. The submission process, the rejection inherent to that process, can be heartbreaking. They can convince you very quickly that what you’ve spent months, even years, to create, what you have poured your heart and soul and just plain hardworking into, is worth little more that fodder for a summer bonfire.

I know. I’ve been there. I’m there now. Persistence is key. I know I can’t give up. I know I need to believe the world will be a better place with my work in it. For me confidence and self-esteem took years. At first I wrote only for myself, for understanding and healing. When my mentors convinced me I had a manuscript worthy of publication, I collected close to a hundred rejections from agents and small presses before landing my first contract. When The Thirty-Ninth Victim sold over five hundred copies, when readers wrote to thank me, to share their own stories, to ask for more, my confidence grew. I wrote three novels and again readers responded and my confidence continued to grow. I am finally at a place where I do not need an agent or publisher to validate my work, not because it is earth-shattering but because it is me.

Posts in the completed Minding My Muse series:

Minding My Muse 13: Private Writer & Public Author


Sheri Nugent said...

I too love Barbara Kingsolver. You really should read her memoir "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." I love it so much I read it twice. This book I like MUCH more than her novels. It is the perfect example of why I love memoirs - a peek into someone else's experience and a new way of looking at how people choose to live their lives. Fascinating!

I have enjoyed so much the "Muse" series that you did. I love your writing, Arleen. Please keep sharing.


arleen said...

Thanks for reading my work and sharing your thoughts, Sheri. It's always a pleasure to hear from you.

BetsybellAuthor said...

Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer was a delicious, sensuous, warm, scent filled read. Poisonwood Bible, so gripping, it followed me for years until I read it again and marveled all over at how she crafts a historic moment with such insite. I was sure the book was an autobiography until I researched it. She is wonderful. Thanks for writing about her. I started with the The Bean Trees back when it was first published. So good.