Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Janet Evanovich in the NYT

There's a piece in today's New York Times about mystery author Janet Evanovich, and how she went from being a writer who once burned her rejection letters on the curb to a very successful author.

She's not just a writer--she's an industry. She hired a co-author and they turn out books often--too often in my view. Yes, she's found a way to be successful as an author and that is admirable. But what about the writing? She admits her writing is formulaic, but she says that's what readers want.

I suppose it all comes down to the standards we set for ourselves. My standards make me constantly trying to improve my writing (and constantly depressed about it).

Years and years ago, before I ever had anything published, my brother tried to talk me into writing romance novels--mostly because he thought they would sell. Of course romance is the hottest selling genre. But I couldn't do it. I didn't read romance and the thought of spending time on a genre that I wasn't personally invested in ... well, I couldn't.

That's not to say if you can, you shouldn't.

But the writing I'm interested in, that fascinates me, is writing that the author has crafted, spent time on--not just churned out.

I'd have more money and live in a better house if I was more commercially-minded. But money has never been my primary goal in life, in art, in anything, really.

What do you think?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Forget about MFAs and consider voice

Now, I don't have an MFA and so maybe that's why I especially like the article I'm about to talk about. MFAs are okay--especially if you want to teach or if you want to be in a writing environment for a couple of years--but they are just not necessary if you want to be a writer. I known so many writers who, when they don't get into the MFA program of choice, believe, if only for a little while, that they've failed, somehow, as a writer. What is necessary for a writer is not an MFA but the cultivation of that esoteric thing called voice.

In the July August issue of Poets & Writers, James Frey, author of My Friend Leonard, talks about voice.

Writer Daniel Nester says, "One thing that occurred to Frey was that most of the wriers he loves--Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Celine, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Kerouac and Bukowski--taught themselves how to write. 'They didn't go to school for it, they didn't have mentors who explained to them how to do things or now,' he says. 'They just sat down and started working. They kept working until they were able to do what they wanted to do.'"


"But Frey didn't want to be just a writer--he wanted to be unique. 'I read all these people and I started thinking about what they all had in common,' he says. 'And the most obvious thing was that, when their books came out, there was nothing like them that had preceded them'.... And so Frey reasoned, he needed to find a style of writing that was new, fresh, unlike anything that had come before. It took years to find that voice, he says."

Check out the entire article. It's a good one. I'd post the link to the piece if there was one, but it's only excerpted at You gotta go out and buy the magazine, or stand in the bookstore and read it.

He's coming on my show on 6/30 at 5:30 p.m. PT. In my view, he's a writer's writer. You can listen online at (The side panel on this page has a link that connects to the KUCI-FM Web site.)

Monday, June 13, 2005

One more thing about Harriet Doerr

Here is the other thing about Harriet Doerr's work and why I'm a fan: As I read Consider This, Senora, I found myself appreciating life more--the things which might be considered the simple things. Laughing with my son at comedians--George Carlin, Henny Youngman, Joan Rivers--on vintage Johnny Carson tapes from the library. The sun on the magenta bougainvillea. The morning air filled with a misty rain. The Mexican seller of vegetable plants, flowers and cacti at the Farmer's Market down the street. The bamboo wind chimes hanging outside our front door. Loyal friends. A ball of violet yarn. The UPS man dropping a package--most likely a book--on my front stoop. My husband.

And the title, Stones for Ibarra, has always puzzled me. What could it mean? I love that I had to reach the end of the book to find out.

Yes, I am a major Harriet Doerr fan.

Curious who strikes y'all that way, what author(s) illuminate your life in some new way.

One dead author I'd like to have on my show: Harriet Doerr

I've been studying Spanish (I'm in a little private class with three others) and it's made me seek out novels that have to do with Mexico or something Spanish, and so I came across one author's books on tape whom I've known about for years and have even written about in my book, but never read.

Harriet Doerr didn't even get a BA till after she was 60 and she was around 73 when she won the National Book Award for Stones for Ibarra. In the library I found Consider This, Senora on tape, which came after Stones and I checked it out. Such beautiful writing, and with a third person, omnicient narrator, which I tend to find too distant. But Doerr pulls in close and has just the right touch.

The book is made up of several connected stories about American ex-pats living in Mexico. The book is worth her metaphors and similes alone. (It's so hard coming up with fresh ones...)

Then I picked up Stones for Ibarra, her first novel, and again, such great writing, and that close third person omnicient narrator. Which is another reason to check out this book: Omnicient can be done well, which Doerr proves in this book. No wonder she won a major award for this book.

She's also proof that, in the world of letters, age matters little, if any. In the end, it's the writing that counts. I love that.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

It's been so long

It's been so very long since I posted anything here, and lest you think I'm disinterested, I thought I had better. It's just that I have so very much on my platter (a plate no longer fits it all) and, on a daily basis, it seems, I try to imagine giving something up. But what? I'm saying that too much: But what?

Last night, as Travis warmed up with his soccer team before the game, I sat in the Sienna in the parking lot and I wrote in my Moleskine. Take your own advice! The words careened about my skull. So I wrote a couple of pages, then a minute before the game began, joined the other parents.

When I have too much to do, so much I'm committed to, it's hard to do any one thing well. I imagine I'd be a better_____ fill in the blank: parent, writer, teacher, blogger, deluxe gourmet veggie chef, knitter, artist, friend, if I didn't do so much. But I like it all, is my continual refrain.

What's a girl to do? If anyone out there has some good advice, send it my way. (And please, smart alecks...don't bother. I'll just hit "delete," anyhoo..... ; }

Coming up on this blog will be more Q&A's--soon by literary agent John Ware and author Amy Rosenthal Krouse, so do come back and visit often. I promise I won't be so lax and let my bloggie poo wither away.