Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Future of Writing

Last Thursday, while you were enjoying my blog of new books, I attended a book signing. Not an ordinary signing by a single author but a mass signing by a group of Palm Beach County students who had taken part in a special class sponsored by a company named Oce.. The class, which too place in June, was devoted to the art of writing. Oce calls it the Future Authors Project and is one of the great examples of what corporate sponsorship can do in partnership with public schools. Several authors including me, Jonathon King, and Barbara Parker, took turns speaking to the students on all aspects of writing for a living. They were the most attentive of audiences and I enjoyed the experience to no end.

They worked together to produce a book of short stories and poetry, which was produced by Oce for sale. The launch was at the Barnes & Nobles in Boca Raton and attended by a great crowd and several media outlets.

This was one of the most enjoyable events I have ever attended. Not only was there a group of kids who are smart and enthusiastic about the art of writing, a huge support system was there as well. One of the Palm Beach County School Board members, Mark Hansen, was present throughout the entire event. Teachers, administrators and Oce representatives turned out to show these young people that writing is still relevant and important no matter what the surveys show about readers and book sales.

I like to teach classes on writing, talk about writing, read about writing and write. It may have taken me much of my adult life to identify what was important to me but now that I’ve settled on writing, I deeply enjoy pursuing it. You can imagine how gratifying it is to see young people so interested in the same thing.

The title of the book met with my approval. No Such Thing as Writer’s Block. This a recurring theme among many of the authors in the area and Jon King and I mentioned it in the class. King hit the subject hard and it looks like it made an impact. I’ve heard everyone from Carl Hiaasen to Stuart Kaminsky scoff at the idea of writer’s block. Hiaasen told a crowd at the Miami Book Fair a few years ago that no professional writer suffers from the alleged ailment because writer’s block equals paycheck block. That comment has stuck with me.

During the class the young writers showed interest in understanding the underpinnings of fiction. We talked about conflict and character development using not only novels but popular TV shows as examples of good characters and elements of suspense. One thing I noticed that was very different form the weekend workshops I’ve taught is that the focus was on writing and not on finding an agent or which publisher is taking on new writers. I know how vital those things are but too often authors try to “put the cart before the horse” and lose sight of why they started writing in the first place.

As I settle in for another round of editing on a novel I thought I finished eight months ago I have to give a nod of thanks to these kids who have given me so much hope for the future of writing.

10 comments:

  1. Terrific, Jim.

    School and library events are the best. The future of writing...and reading are dependent on our young people.

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  2. patty smiley10/25/2007 8:37 AM

    Great work, Jim. And I totally agree. Writer's block doesn't exist, at least for me. I can always think of stuff to say. Is is always good stuff? Nope but the words are on the page. I can fix them later.

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  3. James O. Born10/25/2007 9:45 AM

    Patty,
    That's exactly right. Editing is so vital.

    Thanks,
    Paul

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  4. I MUST agree with both Paul and Patty [aka Go-Lo].

    I think it's like the Field of Dreams adage,"if you build it they will come." Perhaps it is naive of me, but I believe the key to being a writer of real quality is about honing your skills/craft. I could not agree more with your philosophy:"the focus was on writing and not on finding an agent or which publisher is taking on new writers. I know how vital those things are but too often authors try to “put the cart before the horse” and lose sight of why they started writing in the first place."

    I guess too, that Carl Hiaasen's scoffing admonition regarding writer's block essential equates to "necessity being the mother of invention." But you have to be a genuine writer in earnest to begin with.......not a hack.

    My hat's off to you, Jim. Thanks for having an impact on the youth in your community--- whether or not any of them become acclaimed novelist, the project impacted their lives....... got them to really THINK.

    Jon

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  5. whether or not any of them become acclaimed novelist, the project impacted their lives....... got them to really THINK.

    Good call - even if all these kids ever do is 'write for themselves', it's having positive experiences like this that can make a huge difference in a young person's life. I've seen many kids fall through the cracks, so kudos to you all for not only giving a shit, but actually doing something.

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  6. James O. Born10/25/2007 2:27 PM

    Very nice comments and I appreciate them.

    Perhaps this will counter the interview I gave over at http://www.good-girls-kill.com/ that will post tomorrow.

    Tasha Alexander asked if I'd answer a few questions and I may have said a little too much.

    Jim

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  7. Jim, this is so great! What a wonderful thing to get involved with.

    And I'd have to say I had writer's block for about twenty years, so it does exist. I just hope it never comes back again now that there's a paycheck involved.

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  8. I wish you could do that event in every major metropolitan city, How fantastic!!! And so cool that you took so much time to nurture our future. Bravo, Jim!

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  9. Lori G. Armstrong10/26/2007 5:56 AM

    Great post, Jim. Inspiring.

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  10. Amen, Jim!!

    You did a wonderful thing for those kids. I hungered for mentor input when I was in my teens - anything to fuel my creative urges - but there was so little around. These kids will appreciate the creative boost in years to come. How wonderful. :-D

    Yep. Writers block. If I need to clear it, I just open a blank page on the computer or my notebook and write the first thing that comes into my head. Lately, it's dreams about scenes for characters of my own, and 'finding homes for dinosaurs' that have kept me awake at night. Sigh. And the re-editing.

    You guys always seem to write about the right thing when I need it. Ta.

    Cheers
    Marianne

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