I attended the San Francisco's Writers Conference for the first time this year. It was incredible. I learned a lot about things like plot, setting, social media, and the art of pitching my novel idea to an agent. Along the way I also met some interesting people.
Kemble Scott shared with me his insight on pen names and encouraged me to avoid an alter ego. With that encouragement, I burst out of the shadows and onto the writing scene as yours truly. I learned about the importance of social media and “purchasing my name” from Rusty Shelton. His teachings were excellent, to the point, and fairly easy to get on board with. –After I read a how-to website on the intricacies of Twitter.
And then I met Trina Robbins. She is equal parts grace and spitfire. Her passion for research is inspiring. She makes it sound so simple and fun. But honestly, research freaks me out. You mean I have to pick up the phone and ask someone to tell me all about brain surgery? Or fossils? Or how a crime scene is processed? What if they ask me why I want to know? Do I dare tell the person on the other end of the line that I’m writing a book?
I imagine the outcome following that utterance will be the expert dissolving into a fits of laughter at the very idea that I, of all people, can even begin to write the next great American novel. Can you hear it too? “What are you Ayn Rand?” Click as the phone call is ended.
Thanks but no thanks. I’d rather not write.
I can’t believe I just wrote that down. Because it’s not true. Really it’s not. And now you probably think I’m a chicken and a liar. But I’m not! I swear! In the words of my daughter, I pinky promise.
I’m a brave person actually. Spend a day with me and you’d see that. I’m not mountain climbing, lion taming brave by any stretch of the imagination. But I engage in small acts of bravery daily. And I’m not a liar. Really I’m not. I’m just…prone to hearing voices.
You know. The kind that are entangled in one’s past that ensnare innocent hopefuls (like me) into believing all the negative things ever said about her are true. That “not knowing” something doesn't mean I’m still learning but that I’m stupid. Can you relate?
When the truth –the real truth – is that we are learning every day. All of us are.
I’m intent on honing the craft of writing. On improving my skill and writing/selling the next great novel. First though, I have to banish this inner critic who is intent on belittling me and chipping away at my courage and hope and belief in myself with a hammer that is tiny yet sharp with hateful words. If I don’t banish this character once and for all, then I’ll do it regularly and harshly so that his voice doesn't impede my learning, my researching or my writing.
I think I will choose a small topic to start with and work on accomplishing a small act of research. I will shore up some inner grace and spitfire, the likes of Trina Robbins, and forge ahead as I learn about something. Any suggestions?
By the way, my first interaction with Trina was great. Seated around an elegantly set lunch table in a beautiful hotel on Valentine’s Day 2014. Each person’s table setting was lovely and directly in front of the soup bowls sat a small and prettily decorated chocolate cupcake. Several of us were still chatting and hadn't begun eating yet while Trina picked up her cupcake and ate it. As the meal continued, soup bowls were removed and replaced with the main entree. Shortly after, coffee was poured and still there were several chocolate cupcakes sitting on the table in front of those of us who were fortunate to be seated by Ms. Robbins.
At one point, just before the keynote speaker for the day was introduced, Trina casually mentioned “None of you ladies are eating your cupcakes”. A few replied they were saving theirs for later. I said nothing as I was debating whether or not I wanted to eat mine at all. I love chocolate but am not a fan of frosting and was mentally wondering how it would look in such a setting if I were to scrape the offensive frosting off of the pretty dessert.
Trina then asked a question: Is anyone not going to eat their cupcake? –It was a fine example of research and one I don’t think I’ll forget. A woman to her left said that she was not going to eat hers. To which Trina replied, “I’ll eat it if you don’t want it then”. The woman handed the treat over. –And the research paid off in spades.
After observing this and then chatting with Trina about the art of research, she encouraged me to not be afraid of mining the world for the information that will help my writing stand out and to attend the breakout workshop she was teaching the next day on the subject. I knew I had to go (and I did!) –how could I not? Research is a serious weakness of mine and it would surely pay off to learn from this expert who shares with me a love of writing and chocolate.