I can’t remember where I read it, but I have this really distinct moment of realizing that going to watch authors speak, of both listening to what authors say as well as reading what they write about their craft, was really important to my future as a writer. The post that I read said something along the lines that we will drive hours to see different bands play in concerts, but we won’t drive to see authors speak. I thought about it and realized the truth of the matter. I had driven from Conway to Kansas City, almost a six hour drive one way to see a band play, but I had never done the same for an author. I have no ambition to be a musician, but I have always wanted to be a writer. My priorities needed to be checked.
From the time that I read that, I have made it my mission to support the writers that I admire by going to their talks. Whenever I have the opportunity, even if I have to take a personal day from work, I take it. In the past two years, I have seen Geraldine Brooks, Jack Gantos, Mike Mullin, Matthew Quick, and Tim O’Brien, and today I am seeing Christopher Paul Curtis. On April 11, I will be lucky enough to see Maya Angelou speak.
Each time I see an author speak, I am able to take something different away about the art and craft of writing. Jack Gantos was hilarious, weaving tales of his childhood fluidly with stories of his own writing life. One thing that I took away from his talk was how to organize my journal in a way that I could find things.
Tim O’Brien taught me to always walk around with at least two heads. We don’t live in a black and white world, and our novels need to reflect that.
Geraldine Brooks was the most serious speaker I’ve seen, but her presence taught me how to control a room. Her words were beautifully written, and her commitment has not faltered.
Mike Mullin taught me that sometimes you have to go after your dreams, and it isn’t always easy.
Matthew Quick showed me that it was okay that I wasn’t a successfully published author yet, I still had years left to grow and gain experience. He also taught me the power of a simple, engaged conversation.
Like Jack Gantos, Christopher Paul Curtis was one of the funniest speakers I’ve ever heard, and now that I’m thinking about it, they both write for middle grade students. Funny is the name of the game.
While listening to Christopher Paul Curtis and Tim O’Brien, I wised up and started tweeting some of the advice that they gave that stood out to me. Here are some of my tweets:
Rules for writers:1.Write every day!2. Have fun!3.Have patience with your writing,4. Ignore all rules. #christopherpaulcurtis
**Unfortunately, I was so busy laughing with CPC that I forgot to tweet a lot.**
Story simply stands, the way life does and we draw from it. -Tim O’Brien
One mans lie is another mans truth, one mans freedom fighter is another mans terrorist. -Tim O’Brien on the heart of The Things They Carried
Certain blood was being shed for uncertain reasons. But the widows were still widows and the orphans were still orphans.-Tim O’Brien
Story is a force in our world that keeps us moving forward. – Tim O’Brien
There were more tweets, but you can find them by following me on twitter @ccriley. I wouldn’t have had these experiences if I hadn’t taken a chance and made visiting writers my priority. I think it comes down to finding what you love and going after it. The successful ones are the ones that work, and if that’s the case, I am definitely pulling my own weight.
Have you seen any authors speak? What was your take away?