I’ve never been one for borrowing books from the library. Admittedly, the major reason could be my complete inability to ever return a book on time. But, that’s not exactly it. I’ve never been one for borrowing books from the library for the same reason I’ve never been one for used bookstores: I like the feel of a brand new book. I like knowing that I am the first one to crack it open. The first one to fold down the pages to mark my place. The one to make those creases in the bind. The one whose handwriting lines the margins where I had to note an exceptionally beautiful line. But as I’ve ventured into the writing world, I’ve become an even bigger proponent of buying my books new because that’s the best way to support the writers I love. (more…)

As I’ve meandered along (ok, scraped, clawed, & tortured myself) through this novel-in-progress of mine, I’ve never seriously expected to make a living from it. Of course I’ve had the occasional daydream of such a life & of calling myself a working novelist. But what I’ve come to realize is that I’d be happy just being a full-time working writer. Admittedly, I’d like all my future writing to be spent on work I love, and not on work I need; but still, I’d just like to be able to answer that inevitable What do you do for a living question by saying I’m a writer.

Writer Steve Almond, author of (Not That You Asked): Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions and The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories, has an funny/interesting essay in Sunday’s LA Times Books section, Can’t Say No: Why One Writer Can’t Turn Down Any Assignments, about what it means to be a working writer & why being considered a writing “slut” isn’t such a bad thing.

It really wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Bright-Shiny-MorningLucky for me, work got canceled tonight. So, I was able to go to a reading by author James Frey instead. I’ve never read any of his work. Of course I knew about the A Million Little Pieces debacle. My opinion of that had always been that it was blown out of proportion. I don’t consider memoir non-fiction. Are our memories or interpretations of any event ever 100 percent accurate? Even if a story I write is 90-percent real, I will always call it fiction. I don’t like the idea of a reader judging the reality of my world, how I need to interpret my world, or how I need to write about it. I read a Vanity Fair article last June about the whole affair & the aftermath. Something about it, & the description about his new book Bright Shiny Morning made me add the book to my to-read list.

So, things just came together this evening for me to go hear him read. I’m so glad I went. He stated up front that no questions were off limits. He has an incredibly refreshing candor & bluntness. More specifically, I appreciated what he said about his writing process. When he’s writing a book, he sees it as a full-time job. He “goes to work” 7-10 hours a day, 7-days a week. And when he writes he just plows through it beginning to end, and essentially keeps off the filter. Yes, this is all stuff I’ve heard before, but it was just interesting to hear him say it & to see how much writing is a part of him despite the hell it brought upon him. I also loved hearing that he didn’t write when he was younger or in college. He came to writing in his 20s. So often, I hear writers say how they have been writing since they are children as if that makes them more of a writer. Yes, I wrote when I was younger, but never with the conscious idea of being a writer. I didn’t decide that I wanted to write a novel until I was in my late 20s.

So, I have my autographed copy of Bright Shiny Morning & will start it as soon as I finish Revolutionary Road–which I should be done with by this weekend. The last couple months I’d been reading a lot of non-fiction. On the way back from DC last week I was craving fiction. During my stop-over in Salt Lake City, I purchased Revolutionary Road. So, the fiction kick is in full-swing. Part of me doesn’t like to really get pulled into any kind of fiction when I’m trying to really focus on my own work, but I realize I need that outlet. Non-fiction doesn’t fill the void.

So, if you ever have the opportunity to hear James Frey speak, go.

Mood: Hesitant to admit this, but I might as well put it out there

Currently listening to: L’Interprete by Brazilian Girls

During Saturday’s writing group, we got to talking about writing conferences & next steps once I have a decent draft. The Southern California Writers’ Conference in San Diego next February 13-16 was brought up.

With a probably unrealistic dose of optimism, I’ve decided I want to have the first 20-30 pages in good enough shape to submit for author/agent critique at the San Diego conference. The author critiques look at craft, while the agent critiques look at salability. I need a goal to keep me on track & I think this is it. It’s the logical next step.

I’m stating this goal publically (although with hesitation) because I need to put it out there, I need to see it in print, I need to be held accountable. This blog has proven incredibly effective in keeping me on track. When you’re being watched, it’s much harder to let yourself fall flat on your face. Yes, there will be plenty of those moments, but they’re just part of the road that will actually get me wherever it is I’m going with this thing I’m writing.

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By the way, if you’re looking for a good list of writers’ conferences & book festivals in southern California, check out Barbara DeMarco-Barrett’s article, “The Write Stuff: A Guide to SoCal’s Literary and Book Festivals,” in the September issue of Westways magazine (put out by the Automobile Club of Southern California). DeMarco-Barrett is the author of Pen on Fire, a book I recommended here. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a online link to the article. Westways posts the articles online once the next issue is published. So, I would assume sometime later this month/October that the article should be available online.