My mother (Dianne Hartsock) and I have both been writing since we were young girls. Now, at almost 50, my mother has published three short stories and one full-length novel as e-books. Her dream is coming true. As for myself, I’m still learning the mechanics of the publishing world, ready to absorb the skills and vital contacts in which past poets and authors received through writing. As part of my research, we attended this year’s non-profit, volunteer-run writing festival, celebrating Terroir- the nuances of place and time, the experiences and the influences that imbue a writer’s work.
Introductions started at 9 a.m. with Christian Kats (author of the forthcoming Writer’s Digest book, and others). She spoke for an hour on self-promotion smarts for every writer. She didn’t waste any time saying, “I can provide you with the tools, but you have to do the hard work.” First, you create a long-time name. Make it creative– “John Doe” is very universal, and won’t stand out in a Google search. Next, what is your identity? She said, “We’re not corporations, so don’t brand yourself. We are creatives.” She then says to create an audience and interact with them. She uses the example of an arm, saying that Opera was once in the pit, but she extended far up to the hand. This is our goal. Once you have readers and a mission, you also need dynamic. “I get more out of representing my work than retiring to my ivory tower of creation,” she says, sending chills down my spine. Marketing and feedback offers more than actually writing the piece.
Lex Runciman (author of four books of poems), talked about voice and point-of-view. From our seats, we asked us to write five things we could see. He explained how we each see a different room that overlaps what others can see. This is sometimes not only literal, but something we carry in our heads, as well. He also described the difference between reading from a writer’s point-of-view, instead of reading from a reader’s point-of-view. When you read from a writer’s point-of-view, it is an engaging process that takes patience. You find interest at every step. From a reader’s point-of-view, you have high standards, seeking excellence (like “swallowing four cups of water after four days without it”).
Mom and I also listened to Anne Zimmerman (author of a bibliography of M.F.K Fisher) on getting to the root of the story. She mostly spoke about her personal unrealistic experience of landing her agent, which was interesting, but not very helpful for the rest of us who could never fly down toNew York to have lunch with an agent who happened to accept our random phone call seeking to open an archive in a library in another state. However, I enjoyed her enthusiasm for writing her work. She encouraged me to always seek the best for my own work. Never give up. Never settle.
Jean Auel (author of the Clan of the Cave Bear series) was my biggest inspiration. She said, “Creative writing teachers say to write what you know about. I say know what you write about.” Her books are romantic novels of Neanderthals (not my cup of tea), but the content of her lecture proved to the audience that she was in love with her work, the journey, and with researching for her novels.
At 2 p.m., a panel of editors from local literary magazines answered questions on the market place. Two of my favorite quotes were: “A successful query letter came to us on a ripped off paper bag,” and, “Maybe we won’t have paper towels in the future, but at least let us keep books”—in response to most novels going onto Kindle.
As a writer and a reader of literature, I feel fortunate to be going down the same road that many of our past poets and writers went down: the road to publication and to sharing our culture with others.