Writer, Author, Student

The Fabulous Four: my book group
The Fabulous Four: my book group

I passed a quiet weekend with my writing. This morning, it occured to me that I experienced my writer’s life from three distinct vantage points.

As Lisa the Writer, I, as you might expect, wrote. In fact, on Saturday I officially finished Act I of the new novel. I call it a step in the right direction that I wrote toward the first dramatic point, instead of winging my way toward it.

As Lisa the Author, I received a sweet surprise from my book group. After discussing Sue Milller’s The Senator’s Wife, my friends thrilled me to pieces by pulling out the Elizabeth George anthology that contains one of my short stories. They’d bought copies and insisted I autograph them–oh my! I was tickled to pieces, and, of course, froze up at the thought of signing the books. What was I supposed to write?

I wrote personal bits to them, but this fun experience got me thinking about practicing my signature and about coming up the quick autograph statement. “Enjoy!” is a common one. “Best thoughts!” “With every good wish!”

It’s fun to dream.

As Lisa the Student, I began a 10-week writing workshop. A writing buddy happened to mention the class, and within five minutes I railroaded him into emailng the instructor for the both of us (since we were at a coffeehouse and he had his Mac). We nabbed the last two spots. The author, April Henry, is a NYT bestseller who writes thrillers; and the class focuses on suspense, mystery, thriller, crime; and since I need to amp up my plotting and pacing skills; and since I’m starting something new…Serendipity!

Today’s Friday?

Current mood: industrious
Current mood: industrious

I call it a dandy sign that I turned down dinner with friends tonight. It’s not that I’m pathetic or antisocial, it’s that I floated around in fiction mode all week, lost track of the days, and figured tomorrow for another weekday.

Has that ever happened to you?

I also forgot that my book group is meeting on Sunday to discuss The Senator’s Wife by Sue Milller. I haven’t started the book yet…

All this forgetfulness is fine by me; it means I’m finally immersed in a long fiction project. I’m a little fearful that the next round of work deadlines (started to heat up this week) will derail me from the writing. I need to figure that one out, for sure.

But, meanwhile, working from home, you’d think the weekend distinction wouldn’t matter, but the notion is instilled into my hardwiring. Usually anyhow. Since I already declined a dinner out, I’m pretending tonight’s a typical Thursday night, or maybe Wednesday. I’ll start the next scene tonight before bed and continue it tomorrow morning.

Silly sidenote: What am I doing as I write this post, specifically this sentence at exactly 9:42 p.m.? I’m watching the new Melrose Place pilot episode! Yee gads, I know, I know! So far, this episode features murder, bribery, cougar action, adultery, financial ruin, a shaky marriage proposal, sexual proposals (for $$s), and depraved ambition. Maybe I am a little pathetic and antisocial, after all?

(P.S. Was the old Melrose Place that I watched with addictive glee as silly as this one?)

My Book Group | Enjoying Novels Versus Appreciating Them

(Loitering at World Cup Coffee today.)

This morning my book group discussed Anne Enright’s The Gathering. I like my book group. We’re a feisty, fabulous fivesome, and we discuss our reading picks before veering into the usual usual. (Cosmetics — as in wearing them at all, pros, cons — was a hot topic for two minutes.)

I’m the only writer, so I approach the discussion from a different perspective than my friends. Just today, one of the fab-five commented, “I’m so glad you’re in the group; I like the book so much better now that we’ve discussed it!”

During our book chats, I’m reminded that we fictioneers read novels the way I imagine filmmakers watch movies — with detached analysis murmuring in the background.

Let’s take, for example, Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children, which got great reviews. Won’t go on my 2008 favorites list, yet I appreciated it. Craft-wise, I respected what Messud accomplished with her omniscient voice and unlikeable cast of characters. However, if I weren’t a writer, I would have given up on the book because, frankly, I didn’t enjoy the story. (The rest of the fab-five detested this novel.) 

For me, enjoying a book and appreciating a book are separate acts. The appreciation comes from my inner-writer. So, for example, when one of the fab-five complained that she felt distanced from Messud’s characters, I responded from the appreciation space — pinpointing the omniscient voice as the likely culprit and explaining why I thought Messud’s novel couldn’t have been written in anything but omniscient voice. From the enjoyment space, I agreed with my friend: I could have cared less about the characters.

These days, I can’t enjoy a novel without my inner-writer observing from her squeaky soapbox. Sometimes, she annoys me. Sometimes, I just wanna read.