Tonight I attended a really cool event at the county library headquarters.
Although the reading/signing/socializing was at the library, the event was sponsored by Borders and Starbucks. That meant that Borders had a table in the back, selling books by the authors on the panel, and Borders supplied complimentary treats and coffee afterwards. How cool is that?
The readings were great; I got to listen to 3 authors I'd never heard of before, all of whom were fantastic. Megan Abbott, in particular, is someone I'd never pick up off a bookstore shelf - early-to-mid 20th Century mob/noir not really being my thing - but WOW. Her prose sings and she's obviously worth reading, no matter what she's writing.
Scott Phillips was a fascinating mix of disgusting, very smart, and funny, a combination I found very appealing.
Susan McBride was who I went to see, and she delivered all I'd hoped (and more). Plus, I got to talk to her husband, who's an old friend of mine, or at least someone I played hockey with a long time ago. (I'm awkward in social situations - and OK with that, generally).
Paul Harris did a very good job hosting. Ridley Pearson and Michael Kahn didn't attend (bummer, since I really wanted to hear both of them).
Reed Coleman initially tried to talk over Susan too much, but she held her own and he turned out to be a really great guy. Also, the most useful advice of the evening came from him.
In response to several people asking the usual questions like, "where do you get your inspiration?" and, "What it you tell the story and it's only 120 pages?" he said: New writers tend to fall in love with what they write. More experienced writers learn to fall in love with the writing itself.
Beautiful advice. (And very true for me as a beginning writer.)
The answer to the first question, by the way, was consistent across all the panelists and true of me as well: writers are often people who aren't fully in the moment; they are sitting on their own shoulders, observing every situation they're in. Everything is inspiration; the magic part is in the writing.