Saturday, June 14, 2008

Writers Group and Stealth Editor

Second week of Summer Program down, seven to go. (Summer Program is like day camp.)

The days being busy and long, I've written little, so when I listened to the answering machine Wednesday night, I was unprepared for the news there was a writers meeting the next day. I had nothing to share--not nothing written, just nothing ready or copied to pass out to the group. I went anyway, because I rarely have a chance to gather with friends, and these people are a rowdy bunch, known to laugh too loud in the library or at restaurants. Party animals. (laugh)

One person shared the final chapter of her first book -- whoo hoo! -- another read a short essay she's entering in the latest Guideposts contest, and yet another read the first draft of a poem.

When asked if I had something to share, I dug in my briefcase-like bag and found the small spiral-bound notebook in which I'm writing a short fantasy book for kids, and read the first four or five handwritten pages.

It was well-received, except by one writer. I should know by now: Never read my work unless 1) it is mainstream, or 2) a particular writer is absent. This person has no complaints about my style, characters, dialogue, or the basics of storytelling, just about the subject matter or the fact that I don't dump a bunch of details right at the beginning. My work ends up irritating both of us.

* * *

Several weeks ago, I wandered through the local site of national chain bookstore, and looked for certain titles that I had helped edit in some way, either as a proofreader or as a down-and-gritty, find-all-the-weaknesses-I-can editor. I felt like a stealth contributor to the literary world. Kinda cool.

Yesterday, after working late at the Club, I had to stop by the post office, purchase stamps from the vending machine, and mail forty-five letters out to baseball players. I heard a door open on the other side of the building and then the distinct sound of my mother's footsteps down the row of boxes where she receives her mail. I almost called out to her, but then thought better of it, just in case I was wrong. This is a small town, but--

She cruised around the corner, smiling, and we talked while I stamped envelopes then checked my post office box.

Inside was a key for a parcel box, and inside the box was a package. It had the distinct hard, heavy weight of a book. I flipped it over, and looked at the return address: a writer whose mystery/thriller I'd edited a year or two ago.

He included a letter, but Mom wished he'd signed the book. I'm happy that he's at work on book number two--and you can bet I'll be looking for it on the bookstore shelves.


Louis la Vache said...

"Louis" saw your comment about Flag Day at "Pappy's Balderdash". "Louis" also posted this at San Francisco Bay Daily Photo.

Eaglewing said...

That's very cool that you can see your work up on the bookstore shelves. Like an unseen hand guiding the book out to the world.

As for the group thing, guess you can't please everyone. What people like is totally subjective, so just keep writing what you like. People are too quick to pull things apart these days anyway.

Keanan Brand said...


Earlier in that same meeting, we (the whole group) tore into the last chapter of one person's novel, and then we built it back up again, never in an ugly spirit, but with the intent of making good work stronger.

I wish that same thing could happen with my stuff, rather than outright dislike and nothing constructive coming back my way. But I'll try not to whine too much!