The weather here in Western New York is at that point where Thursday it was 80, yesterday it was 40 and rainy. Guess that means that snow isn’t that far away. Of course that doesn’t take into account “Frankenstorm” that all of the meteorologists are watching as hurricane Sandy is making its way up the coast. What this all means is that right now I am torn between working on my novels, short stories and other writing projects or trying to get things winterized. It’s been a hard call.
However, yesterday I was looking forward to doing something that I planned for for better than a month. The local library has a program here called “One Book, One Community”. The basics of the program are simple: a book is chosen then activities are planned around the concept of the book. This year the book that was chosen was THE WINTER SEA, by Susanna Kearsley. The activity that I was most looking forward to was the author talk that she would be doing at the library here.
So, yesterday I went to the library, armed with three copies of the book (my mom and sister had other commitments) to attend her talk. I noticed several interesting things while I was there waiting for the talk to begin. Everybody had brought something to do while we waited. There were several small pockets of people who had copies of Susanna’s other books, and were discussing them. Several people sat alone using either their smart phones or e-readers reading, and some, heaven-forbid, sat in the library reading paper books. As I looked up from my notepad where I was working on synopsis for my next DREAMS novel, I realized that I was the only one there that was writing.
Susanna’s talk about her research for THE WINTER SEA was eye-opening. She writes primarily historical romance, but she differentiates herself by being as historically accurate as possible. For example, while researching the locales for this book, she actually went to the towns where the main characters were based. Okay, that’s not too uncommon. But add to that that she spent days in the historical archives over in England and Scotland researching the lives of people who would make either a main showing or even a cameo in the book. How about when she wanted to take a character from Scotland to Russia, she traced the steps of the actual person. It made me look at the way that I’ve researched some of my locals, and determine that I am a true slacker in that department.
But, the thing that most impressed me yesterday was that Susanna was very open to questions and discussion– on any topic that related to writing or reading. As the line formed for her to autograph her book, I lagged behind in the room where the talk had been given. I intentionally wanted to be the last person in line. Why? I wanted to be able to ask Susanna for a bit of advice. No, I didn’t have a copy of one of my books tucked away hoping to have her read it. What I was wondering, was what words of advice would she give to an aspiring writer?
When I finally got to the table, I asked her my question, and her answers were simple, but powerful. First, she said that I needed to begin by referring to myself as a writer. It helps the mind set. Second, I had to keep at it; the only thing that will kill a writing career is giving up. That was it.
As I drove home in the rain, I pondered her sound advice and internalized it. I am a writer. I have one book and a novella that have been published, and this is my day job, albeit a poorly paying one. I can’t say that either of my two published works have received any acclaim or are having financial success, but I write every day (yes, I do write 7 days a week) and I am constantly trying to learn new things to improve my craft. By the time I got home, I was very pleased with my time that I had invested, and had revitalized my energy for getting into the next projects. I still have a long way to go, but as it has been said by others; a writing career isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.
I’d like to thank Susanna for the time that she took to speak with me yesterday, wish her a safe trip home to Canada today and the best of luck on her future books.