Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Everything Is Material


In the 1990’s my client Karen Plunkett Powell had to be plucked from the fury of a New Jersey hurricane. She and her young son Jason crawled onto the porch roof to reach the rescue rowboat.

She carried two things with her wrapped in a black garbage bag – a copy of the manuscript that was on deadline to her editor and a notebook.

I’d been on the phone with her before the rowboat arrived. She was understandably agitated. When I eventually saw the rescued notebook I discovered that throughout her agitation she’d been recording observations.

She wrote down what she saw and what she heard and especially what she was feeling. As water rose through the basement and ground floor beneath her she persisted with two things – comforting her son and taking notes.

Karen understood that everything is story material. And that this is several times true for the Intense Dramatic Powerful events of our lives.

Many of us have been dished a giant helping of Intensity and Drama and Power in the path and wake of Hurricane Sandy. We have also been dished a giant helping of story material.

Two extraordinary authors knew just what to do with that powerful plateful in the path and wake of Hurricane Katrina seven years ago. Each made bitter lemons into lemonade with its own unforgettable bitterness in distinctly different ways.

Journalist Chris Rose created stark and resonant New Orleans Times-Picayune columns that became the stark and resonant book One Dead in Attic – a riveting read if there ever was one.

Novelist James Lee Burke created an equally devastating Dave Robicheaux story in The Tin Roof Blowdown. Both made Katrina so real on the page it is almost too much to bear.

What amazing work will emerge from the winds and storm surge of Hurricane Sandy? If you were not in Sandy’s path what devastating event have you endured in your life? I will wager there has been something.

Have you filled your notebook yet? When do you plan to do so? I suggest you get to that as soon as possible. Your work will be intensely dramatically powerfully enriched by the effort.

Our dear Karen was carried away on the winds of mortality a few years after that other storm. I shall never forget the image of her being rowed down her deluged street carrying her writer’s treasure to safety as I imagine her carrying it still.


Monday, October 22, 2012

A Whole Lot of Being Nice


“What it takes is a whole lot of being nice to people.”

Once again I am inspired by Sabrina Jeffries’ uplifting breakfast talk at the New Jersey Romance Writers Conference.

Her advice was about finding reader fans. Mine is about moving even closer in and finding each other. We writers are our own most natural allies. We understand one another from the inside.

We understand what it is really like to be here now in this formidable publishing marketplace. We understand what it is really like to struggle at getting our work published and keeping it published.

We also understand how much we all need support in these hard struggles we have chosen. We understand because we need that same support ourselves.

With this understanding comes something of an obligation. That obligation is to reach out and give what is needed – a little bit of niceness to our writer friends.

All it takes is a few words in a few sentences of encouragement and kindness. Over a career these few words at a time will add up to what Sabrina inspires us toward – a whole lot of being nice.

Social media makes it easier than ever to undertake this worthy pursuit. Writer colleagues and acquaintances are right there among your Friends family and mine.

It’s as easy as one two three. One – go on Facebook. Two – find a writer. Three – message a bit of kindness especially from you.

I try to practice what I am preaching with my own one two three. One – put a smile in my words and mean it. Two – listen and care. Three – help out when I can.

Tidbits of advice tend to be my personal form of niceness shared. What is yours? Find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter and let me know the answer to that.

More important – take a moment today to touch another writer with your own whole lot of being nice. I guarantee you will experience a whole lot of feeling good in return.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

One Reader at a Time


“You find your fans one reader at a time.”

Author Sabrina Jeffries said that Saturday morning as breakfast speaker at the annual New Jersey Romance Writers Conference. Those words jolted me fully awake.

First of all they struck me as absolutely true. Second they prompted me to wonder. “How do we do that?” I’ve contemplated that question for three days now. Here is my conclusion.

We must each turn the question toward ourselves individually. “How do I do that? How do I find my readers one at a time?” Which prompts other questions we must each ask ourselves.

#1. What is the special gift I have to offer others – one potential reader at a time?

Maybe it is humor. Maybe it is telling memorable anecdotes. Maybe it is expertise. Maybe it is setting folks alight with inspiration.

Open your kitbag and examine the contents closely. What is in there that others might need? What is in there that others might want? Now resolve to give it away.

#2. What access can I create for giving my gift away – one potential reader at a time?

When searching for resources – first step out your own front door and look up and down the street. Start local. Cultivate that ground. Plow on from there.

Your own front door includes your rolodex. Remember those? The repositories of information about people we actually know – or almost know – firsthand.

#3. What if someone says this is too slow to go – one potential reader at a time?

Personally I do my best to fight back this fear. Because I know full well that in this internet place I am a single voice among a thundering avalanche of voices.

But as a giver of my gifts to each single soul I am singular as well. And that single number counts.

So keep on facebooking and tweeting and all the rest. Do that at least in part because it’s fun. But don’t forget how much fun it is and effective also to reach out and touch someone.

One reader – one person – at a time.