Archive | June, 2013

My first book reading and signing.

7 Jun

I attended my first author book signing and reading this week. I really enjoyed it, and of course it make me realize a few things. I’m a sucker for “learning something” from each and every experience, no matter how trivial. Even when I get lost driving somewhere (which is less frequent than the old days, thanks to GPS), I think, well at least I drove through a new part of town and now I know what’s around here. I will definitely forget most of this newfound information soon after, but that’s another topic for another blog.

So, sitting in the audience at the Schlafly Library in the Central West End, I listened to Anton Disclafani provide the premise of her new book, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. She read a few passages and then opened up for questions. I learned about this signing and reading the day-of through one of my writing groups, so I have yet to read the book, but I definitely think it’s in my wheelhouse. You can check out the premise here:

Disclafani teaches creative writing at WashU and she has already received a favorable review in the New York Times from Michiko Kakutani. Remember her from Sex and the City? Hmm, I think that’s my second Sex and the City reference in my blog. Maybe I should broaden my horizons just a bit…

Anyway, so what did I learn?

Writing historical fiction is challenging.

Disclafani’s book takes place in the early 1930’s and one audience member asked about the research process and her answer definitely resonated with me: the hardest part is in the small details. My book switches between the late 1950’s and early 1980’s, and while I actually enjoy the research, it is pretty time-consuming. It’s not hard to get a sense of the basics: significant historical events, pop culture, statistical information, but the tiny details can be much more elusive. What brand of perfume would a middle-class St. Louis woman wear in 1958? Did mothers use high chairs when feeding their infants in 1959? What would someone’s office cubicle look like in 1982 Los Angeles? What happened in an emergency before the days of 911 and CPR? What was a typical cocktail a woman would order in 1983 in Los Angeles? These things may sound trivial, but it is the small details that can seamlessly weave information into a story and create the feeling that you are actually in that time period, instead of simply reading some well placed factoids to signify that this is the 1950’s or 1980’s.

When you finish writing a book, the work is far from over.

Disclafani said the process from start to finish was over four years. Sigh. So, you finish your first draft, only to revise, revise, revise. When you have decided it’s as perfect as you can get it, you begin submitting to agents, which will apparently lead to much rejection. After the tears (I’m only guessing, since I’m kind of a crier), you finally find that agent who wants to represent you (and you want them to represent you)! But wait! They will likely have their own edits for you. So, more revise, revise, revise. Okay, then that agent needs to convince a publisher to actually publish you. Insert more rejection here. OMG! You found a publisher, but they have new changes. Revise, revise, revise. And finally, your book is for sale. And you want to sell more than like ten copies, so time to help promote your book! Book tours, website creation, press releases, social media promotion, conferences, networking, etc. etc. etc.

Then, you start a new book and it all begins again. Good thing I like writing or this would be torture.

The last thing I learned is that I can’t wait to one day hold my own book signing and reading. I also definitely already thought about what I might wear and say. Too soon?

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