The Overprotective Writer

I’m preparing to “workshop” my novel.  I’ve only had informal readings of my manuscript (which was early in the process) by a couple of people whose opinions I trust; and a review of several chapters by one of the faculty of the Johns Hopkins Masters in Writing Program.  All the feedback was complimentary and useful, and two of the reviewers gave me specific guidance on structural problems of the novel–invaluable.

If selected for this workshop, I’ll join a small group of writers, all with works-in-progress, and we’ll offer up our “baby” for critique by strangers.  On the face of it, each work will start with equal appeal, but as the group reads manuscript excerpts and gets to spend a lttle time with each work, the little bundles of joy will begin to reveal themselves as ‘having a good temperament’ and invoking smiles and baby talk or-God forbid-as ‘fussy’, prone to ear infections and tummy aches…this metaphor grows old and I know you get it.

I have to submit the first 30-pages of the manuscript with my application so, I’m tweaking the start of the story…again.     In Stphen King’s book on writing he observes that writing needs time to age and advises the writer to put his/her manuscript away for six weeks at a time and then return to it–I’ve already had this trial separation with my novel a few times.  But, I’ve returned to Homefront and it’s been very revealing how much more differently I see the writing after time away from the work.  

If I’m lucky enough to participate in the workshop, I want to be particularly attuned to comments about pacing, story coherence and structure.   The first 30 pages of my manuscript don’t place my characters in the primary setting of the book,–and that could be a problem.   I’ll try not to be too overprotective and, closely monitored by me, let my novel interact with strangers.

How Tweet It Is!

Social Media is like a needy lover–at once a tantalizing attraction and a burden.   If you have a Twitter account there is some compulsion to tweet.  Same thing with Facebook postings; and then there’s blogging.

I heard someone say recently, “it is good to be social in your social media”.    I admit that as a bit of an introvert, I am not the first to share photos or talk about what I’m having for breakfast, and I’m not adept at making pithy quips.   But, I’m perfectly happy to do research or get caught up in random, search-engine optimized, stream of consciousness googling, or watching 24-hour news and political talk shows, or listening to Broadway showtunes on satellite radio and then writing about the ideas that emerge from those activities.   I have what it takes to tweet, blog, and engage my FB friends and, besides,  I’m very curious about the technology and psychology of these new forms of communication–but it is one, big, fat diversion from actually writing.

Today’s writers need platforms.   Since I’m a writer coming to this work in a non-traditional way, I probably need scaffolding.    So, I’ll continue to retweet, repeat and recite things I think about or see and hear on the Sunday talk shows, on YouTube, in the Washington Post and New York Times or even the occasional conversation with a real person.

It’s Always a Mystery

Walter Mosley @ Politics and Prose.

I adore a good mystery and I really enjoy reading Walter Mosley.    I saw him at a recent book signing at the cherished Washington, DC independent bookstore Politics and Prose.  Mosley read from his new work and was peppered with questions from a large and appreciative audience.     

 I’d become a fan of Mosley while reading my first Easy Rawlins mystery and I was one among many at the reading that evening who loved the characters in this series.  Someone asked Mosley if he missed the charismatic Easy and the sociopathic “Mouse” Anderson and Mosley answered emphatically that he did not.  He must have seen the collective sag of our soldiers so he admitted that he had not intended to “kill off” Easy, it just seemed to happen and then decided to leave Easy’s demise as written.  That revelation confirmed what we already felt-Mosley may have created Easy Rawlins for the page, but Easy is such a strong force he has created a life of his own.  

Just a week ago, I watched Devil in a Blue Dress, based on the first novel in the Rawlins series.    The film has a very cool Denzel Washington playing Easy and the inimitable Don Cheadle as Mouse.   I’ve seen this film several times and I’m always amazed at its brilliant design.   Carl Franklin directed and wrote the screenplay for this cinematic gem that is at once raw and endearing.  It’s not often the case that a movie version of a novel can satisfy the way the book does.  That this film succeds, is a tribute to Walter Mosley’s authentic voice and his genius at developing vivid and enduring characters. 


p.s.  I am always happy when reading a well-written mystery.   In future blogs, I’ll give tribute to Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series; Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone mysteries; the brilliant Blanche White series by Barbara Neely; and, of course, there’s Agatha Christie.

Book Summary

I’ve been writing Homefront for several years.   At its essence, it is a story of discovery of self.  Set in the middle years of World War II, Homefront introduces two main characters: 20-year-old, Georgette Lillian Newton from rural North Carolina and a member of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, and LeRoy Dowdell, an 18-year-old Army enlistee from a small town in Georgia.   We follow these two, young southerners as their dreams and ambitions propel them to join the Army where they meet and fall in love.   Along the way, the reader also meets Private First Class, Pit Turner and his nemesis Staff Sergeant, Robert Moses.  The four cope with the tensions and indignities of a segregated army experience on a base near Tucson, Arizona and, ultimately, find truth and acceptance in their separate acts of courage.

WAACS at Ft. Huachuca in Arizona

More to come…