a weblog for readers and writers

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Got a Novel in You?

Do you have a novel in you, struggling to get out? Now's the time to give birth. November is NaNoWriMo! NaNoWhatHuh? you ask. It's NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month.

The goal of National Novel Writing Month is to write a novel -- at least 50,000 words or about 200 pages -- in one month. To writers who lament that they never have time to write the novel within them, NaNoWriMo offers the motivation to do it.

Perhaps the biggest deterrent of would-be novelists is the fear of not getting it right, not writing it perfectly. Even professional writers don't get it right in a first draft. NaNoWriMo is a way to erase the weight of needing to write perfect prose and to plunge into pecking out a first draft without inhibition. Of course, the rewrite might take a little more than a month.

Last year, 42,000 registered NaNo-Novelists around the world wrote their hearts out. Close to 6,000 of us crossed the finish line.

To learn more about the madness -- or to register for it -- visit the NaNoWriMo website.


Friday, October 21, 2005

The Story Chooses the Writer

According to novelist John Irving, a writer does not have the luxury of deciding on a story; the story chooses the writer. "I've always felt my subject chooses me. Even if I don't like the subject, don't like what I'm writing about."

He offers his current novel, Until I Find You, as a perfect example. "This novel, I didn't like writing. It was painful." But as Irving has said before, you don't put a story aside just because it makes you feel uncomfortable -- a writer does not get to choose his obsessions. A story seeks out a writer, gets under his skin and insists on being written. "The subject chooses you."

Irving admits that the writer is not off the hook. Novels don't write themselves. "I choose the tone, the names, the language, the structure -- but not the subject or the story. The story chooses the writer; the writer chooses the structure."

Learn more about Irving on writing by returning to Writeful. Learn more about Irving at the link below.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

E.L. Doctorow: Historical Novel? No Such Thing

E.L. Doctorow is sometimes pegged a historical novelist. His Ragtime visits the intertwining lives of immigrants in the early twentieth century. The Waterworks is set in the dark corners of 1871 New York City. Billy Bathgate takes place in the New York of the 1930s. And his current bestseller, The March, follows General Sherman and his army of 60,000 troops as they march through Georgia, destroying homes, demolishing entire towns and displacing former slaves and slave owners alike who attach themselves to the serpentine march of 1864.

But, according to Doctorow, there's no such thing as a historical novel. There are just novels set in history. "I don't consider myself a historical novelist. I write novels that are sometimes set in other times."

Doctorow uses Nathaniel Hawthorne as an example. "His novels were set in times 50 years before he lived, but they are not remembered as historical novels. Just novels."

Doctorow holds his copy of The March in hand. "When the book is written, the history falls away and there's really only the book."

For more from Doctorow, Irving, Wolfe and other writers, visit Writeful again soon. In the meantime, here's a story on Doctorow from The Washington Post.


Friday, October 14, 2005

John Irving & Me

John Irving rarely does book signings, I'm told. I hauled a couple of his hardcovers to the National Book Festival -- The Cider House Rules, The World According to Garp -- only to find out that he was exclusively signing his newest book, Until I Find You.

Irving says his eleventh novel, Until I Find You was, emotionally, the most difficult book he's written. "It was painful," he admitted. "But you don't not write something because it makes you feel uncomfortable. As a writer, you don't get to choose your obsessions."

I got out of line, went to the official bookstore tent and purchased the new Irving. I got back in line for the signing.

"I use details from my own life," Irving said. "It, like anything of mine, will have more imagination than autobiography to it. But there are always elements from my own life. Childhood is the basis of a character."

In person, Irving did not appear to be in the pain his books suggest. He came across calm, cool, comfortable, in his casual shirt and jeans, with his gum-chewing smile, basking in a long line of dedicated readers. He greeted me with a smile and signed my book. Having met Wolfe and Irving in the same day, I can see why their books gravitated to opposite ends on my bookshelf. Still, I wish I'd convinced Irving and Wolfe to join me for a drink after the festival.

As a reader, you don't choose your obsessions either.

For more on Irving, come back to Writeful. In the meantime, check out Irving's biography at the National Book Festival website.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Not Too Late to Meet Merwin

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, essayist and environmental activist W.S. Merwin will appear at Goucher College's Kratz Center at 8 p.m. tonight. The reading is free and open to the public, but tickets must be reserved in advance by calling 410-337-6333.

Known for his honest and warm reading style, Merwin is respected as one of the most important and widely-imitated poets of the post World War II era. For more information about tonight's reading, visit the link.


Friday, October 07, 2005

Washington Write-a-Story Day

This Saturday, October 8, hundreds of writers -- from novice to professional -- will gather to write their DC stories. Each story is to center around an encounter in a DC public place -- on a street, at a monument, in a subway, even at the National Mall.

Sunday at 8 p.m. will see the celebration of these stories in a free, city-wide reading at George Washington University.

For more information on Washington Write-a-Story day, check out the link.


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Writers: Meet an Agent

This Saturday there is a program for writers in the Baltimore-DC area: "Buy This Book."

Join Graybill & English literary agent Jeff Kleinman and Simon & Schuster editor Brenda Copeland in a program about how major publishers choose manuscripts for publication. Following their discussion, Donna Moreau, who was recently published by Simon & Schuster will give an insider's view on "After the Book is Bought."

The event takes place at The Writer's Center this Saturday, October 8, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, and to register, visit the link.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Quality Time with Darth Vader & Lacy Underall

I spent the weekend with actor Dave Prowse (Darth Vader) and actress Cindy Morgan (Lacy Underall in Caddyshack). My good friend, Gary Wood, invited me to participate in a weekend of filmmaking as he directs his second film, Open Mic'ers.

When I arrived on the set Saturday, Gary had an assignment lined up. "Can you take Dave to lunch?"

A fan had won a charity auction to have lunch with David Prowse, the man behind the mask of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. I escorted Mr. Prowse to the restaurant where we all met for a nice lunch at C.R. Heroes.

After taking Dave Prowse back to his hotel, I returned to the set. That evening, Gary, his son Taylor, Dave and I went to a screening of Gary's first movie "Saving Star Wars" where Dave and Gary spoke. Between the two screenings we had hours of down time, just Gary, Taylor, Dave and me in a conference room with food, drink and conversation.

The next day, on the set, there was a birthday picnic for Gary. Dave Prowse and Cindy Morgan joined us. Then it was back to filming. Cindy shared a Baby Ruth (see Caddyshack) and David filmed an interview about his involvement with Monty Python members, The Goodies and Benny Hill. Incidentally, David was in the most famous of Benny Hill skits, the "wishing well" scene.

After shooting wrapped for the weekend Sunday night, seven of us went out to dinner -- including Gary, Dave and Cindy.

So I didn't just meet Dave Prowse and Cindy Morgan -- I actually spent the weekend and had quality time with them! Most importantly, I was able to help out Gary on his latest film, and we had the opportunity to catch-up ... and work on the feature-length screenplay we're writing.

For more about Gary's award-winning first film, featuring Dave Prowse, visit the movie's website.