Thursday, June 5, 2008

Suspense Night

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.


  1. What'd they say about the 120 page thing? Wish I could have gone. They mentioned it at my RWA meeting.

  2. I saw the notices about that in the library, and had considered going. I actually thought it was tonight (Friday). Oh well. I was kind of bummed to miss Mary Higgens Clark & Carol Higgens Clark last month, too--I've been reading MHC since I was probably 10 (and beginning to get into my mom's book collection). Again, oh well.

    Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. The general consensus was that they were all professional writers and while none used outlines (because they like to be "surprised") they do have a general idea of the structure and how long it will take to tell the story, especially under contract!

    But they did admit that sometimes you start and then realize that you don't care anymore, or it's just simply not a novel-length story. (One author worked and worked and worked on a "novel" that ended up as a short story, and was a disappointed.)

    Then there was some of that general confused talk about where the industry is right now: some agents and publishers are saying that they want shorter novels because that's what's hot right now, but books you see on the shelves always seem to be longer (if customers are paying $23.95 for a hard cover, it better be at least 300 pages for perceived value).

    Genre fiction has its own guidelines, of course.

  4. Hi--
    I clicked over to your blog after reading your quite cool story on
    Rachelle Gardner's blog.'s commonality time. I'm a mom of a daughter with Down Syndrome. Sarah, now 25, has a twin sister, Shannon (who had no identifiable syndrome except drama queen). The girls have two older siblings, Michael, 30 and Erin, 27. And, then there's the "baby" who's now 22. I frequently tell people that, with so many kids, we didn't have time for Sarah to be retarded.

    Your daughter is precious.Glad to have a new blog to follow!

  5. Oh, you can find me at...
    well...that's assuming you're looking for me!

  6. Christa, thank you for the compliments! Thanks for coming over, and I'll definitely be checking you out, too! (But first this mama needs to get some sleep.)