Saturday, October 2, 2010

Lisa Moore, Kingston WritersFest. Up, down and all around

This is a pic of Lisa Moore, not me. I like it. It seems to say something interesting without any words.

I showed up a little late for Lisa's talk on "Novel Architecture" at Kingston's WritersFest, Saturday, September 25th. It's a bad habit. One I need to change.

The room was small. Too small I thought for the 40 other people who showed up on time. I was looking for a spot to sit and saw one at the very back of the room near the door. It looked like it was already saved for one of the festival's many volunteers. They always sat at the back of the room and kept the door quiet if someone needed to leave during a session.

"Is this spot for me," I asked one of the volunteers. She didn't answer fast enough. Someone else did from one of the big round tables in the middle of the room. She smiled, "This spot is for you." "Sweet!", I thought. I'm so lucky sometimes. "Thanks!" And it was a really good spot. The best spot in the room at the point of the round table that left me pretty much dead center and in full unobstructed view of Lisa Moore.

The host introduced Lisa and the class she was giving, (the one in which she was soon going to tell us how to structure a novel and then begin the lecture with: "I don't know how to structure a novel. Nobody does." And later relate something about Virginia Woolf's work to multiple orgasims."), by reading off a long list of her literary awards and even had to cut it short. I always love this. It makes me feel in awe and so small all at once.

Published authors have some kind of power. The unpublished never seem to feel like they've made it, no matter how many unpublished novels they've written, yet the journey the author takes to get there, to being published, and the more they struggle is always the most interesting part of the story. At least for me.

And no one wants to hear, "Ya, I sat down one day and wrote this piece, no problem, and the first big publisher I sent it to bought it, it made the best seller list in a week, and I didn't even need an agent."

I'm here as a blogger for WritersBlogque, taking a look at what writers do when they aren't writing. 

Writers attend conferences and festivals. They network. They listen and ponder. And they get out of their own studio and do something different. It can be the best way to inspire your work as a writer. Whatever type of writer you are. Published, unpublished, on a path to somewhere, or completely lost.

What surprised me, and I love surprises, was that I was listening to a renowned and successful writer read a speech from her written notes and I didn't seem to hear one word. I caught myself judging her delivery style instead, and noticed her neatly tied up bun. She reminded me of a school teacher.

The more she read from her notes, the more I was thinking of something else. Even Lisa had questioned her delivery style. She told us she was wondering how to deliver this "lecture" on how to order your essay or structure your novel. She said it would be easier if someone would just interview her. So, she began by interviewing herself, "So Lisa, how do you structure a novel? I don't know how to structure a novel. Nobody does. The story informs the structure and the structure informs the story. Every writer works differently.”

I guess, then that we’re just stuck with ourselves and who we really are, I thought. Am I going to be bored with all this literary name dropping and talk about structure? I’m not a fan of formal lectures. I’m a blogger. We’re a bit like rebels to structure and rules. That’s why we blog. We want editorial control, and we want it whenever we want it. We usually don’t have an editor, and our publisher pretty much lets us do whatever we want for free. Sometimes we don't even have an audience other than ourselves! But still, blogging is cool. People like bloggers. “You have a blog! Nice blog. You have two blogs! Maybe I’ll start one too! What will my blog be about? I don't know about the writing part . . . !”

As Lisa continued reading from her notes, my mind and pen wandered away at breakneck pace. And I seemed to be the only one doing it. I was writing my own stuff during the lecture! How cheeky is that! How foolish! I should be listening to the famous, successful writer. I felt guilty, but inspired, so I kept right on going. Wherever and whenever you find or feel inspiration. Go for it! Everyone else probably thought I was just taking copious notes. At least that's what I hoped. I wouldn't want everyone to know what I was really doing and thinking! (See . . . it's great to be a blogger.) Being in a room filled with writers is just plain good writing energy. I need to do this more often, I thought. It's a real deal!

As the lecture's words kept bouncing off me, and I couldn't seem to relate, I started to classify the delivery styles of the other authors whose classes I had attended earlier. One had the style of a creative writing teacher, another was a real entertainer and a stand up comedian. My favorite presenters were the natural born storytellers and animators: Judy Fong Bates and Mary Louise Gay! Let's see, I guess Lisa Moore's delivery style for presentations is lecturer. She looks a bit the part.

Suddenly, with the one ear I still had turned to the lecture, trying to pull something out, I heard Lisa relate something about Virginia Woolf's work and multiple orgasims. The crowd was engaged and laughing and I saw that Lisa's bun had come loose. Her hair was flowing free. She was expressing her thoughts and knowledge with her whole body and hands. She was becoming passionate and expressive, and she wasn't reading from her notes! I started to wonder what inspired that interesting outburst and how she knew about multiple orgasims. And now I wished I had been playing closer attention to what she had been saying! Memories must be powerful things. They live in your body and can be reproduced at any moment.

Lisa became more and more interesting as she continued to speak. She was on a roll as she became her passionate, natural writer self. She shared a lot. I especially enjoyed listening to her tell us about different ways to structure novels and methods and techniques for putting them together. When she was writing her novel, Alligator, she said, "It was a BIG mess!" She had written it in bits and scenes. One day she called her editor and said, "I'm coming to see you! I don't know how to put this thing together." When Lisa arrived, her editor had printed out all the scenes of the novel and spread them out on the floor. When Lisa walked into the room, her novel looked like one big square, and they started to put the scenes together.

I liked Lisa Moore. If you get a chance, go listen to her speak and share what she knows. And pay attention! You never know what you're missing!

Happy reading and writing!
Peggy Varner
Publisher of WritersBlogque

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