Friday, September 12, 2008

Messages to Me with a Post Stamp from Heaven

In the last week or so I have interviewed half a dozen authors and while speaking to each one it was like in the background, behind their voice, God-or somebody- said EXCUSE ME, VALLEY- LISTEN TO THIS!! THIS PART IS FOR YOU!! I will now share experts from our esteemed panels of heavenly messengers that came down to comfort the soon-to-be-jobless woman struggling to write her first book, yours truly.

My students are worried about their profession and I say you know, this is going
to sound unrealistic, but what I wish for you is not a career or your
profession, what I wish for you is that you connect with your calling. Whether
or not you ever become famous, spend your life doing what you love, what you
feel passionate about. There's a wonderful Mayan weavers prayer that they pray
before they start, because each [blanket] is different: Grant me the patience
and the intelligence to find the true pattern. And that's part of being a
writer. Being patient and honest to the process and giving it all you've got,
again and again. Without a stopwatch in your hand. Every piece of writing wants
one more revision than you want to give it. If you love the work, that's bigger
than your own ego. Julia Alvarez, author of "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent" and "In the Time of the Butterflies"

I think of infusing the book with emotion rather than inspiration. Inspiration seems to suggest that you’re hit with a lightning bolt and angels come out of the sky and music plays, but for me it’s much more about the hard work and putting one sentence after another and developing it and working at it. Kate Jacobs, bestselling author of the novels, "The Friday Night Knitting Club" and "Comfort Food."

I always wanted to be an artist ever since I was a kid. I was
always drawing in the margins of my school books. Eventually I did a Graphic Design course then got a job in advertising. I hated it! They didn’t like me much either – I was sacked for incompetence (hard to do a good job if you have zero interest in what you are doing). I started to do freelance illustration for some publishing companies, doing pictures for
other people’s texts, then decided to have a go at writing a story myself. It was a poem called ‘My Grandma Lived in Gooligulch’. It was published in 1983 and I’ve been writing and illustrating my own books ever since. Graeme Base, the internationally bestselling children's author of "The Watering Hole," "Animalia" and the most recent, "Enigma: A Magical Mystery"

(Sorry Matt, your picture would NOT post!)

Question: Do you start with a word or an image?
It’s almost simultaneous and I don’t mean it for it to sound mystical because it’s the
opposite of that. It’s a lot of literally stumbling through and putting
words on the paper. Stammering around and trying to determine what I want to
say, a tug at the sleeve that this is what I want to write about.....
I’m constantly grappling at whatever it is I want to say. I’m astonished
by these polished poems after a dozen drafts. I would guess I write around 100
drafts a poem, because I’m such a slow learner. It starts with 12 pages of notes
and doodles that gradually get pared down and evolves into a poem. It feels like
sailing in the dark every single time I put pen to paper for better or worse.
There are lots of periods of confusion and exhaustion. Matt Donovan, author of the poetry collection "Vellum" and winner of VCU's 2008 Larry Levis Poetry Prize.
Each of these authors is coming to Richmond in the next few weeks or months and none of the articles I've written about them have yet been published. Email me if you want to know when and where they're coming. These are just examples of the words of wisdom I have inadvertently received as I step out of the workaday world and begin to more persistently grind away at my book!

1 comment:

  1. I want to know about Julia Alvarez. She is one of my favorite authors.