The Means For Sharing

Author Margaret Atwood’s wise words say it all:

   “Anybody who writes a book is an optimist.

    First of all, they think they’re going to finish it.

    Second, they think somebody’s going to publish it.

   Third, they think somebody’s going to read it.

    Fourth, they think somebody’s going to like it.

    How optimistic is that?”

        Seven years ago I took a week-long novel writing class through the Iowa Summer Writing Festival hosted by The Iowa Writer’s Workshop every summer. The topic of the week-long session was: The First 10 pages of Your Novel. I was excited. I had about 40 pages of my first-ever novel manuscript in the works and I’d been enjoying the road to discovery with it.

        After our group had gathered into the classroom that we’d share for the week and gone around the table introducing ourselves to each other, the instructor asked—what to this day I consider the most important question any writer should ask themselves–“Do you know why you want to write your novel?”      

     And then we went around the table again sharing our answers. Not one person said anything about becoming rich and famous. One person said she enjoyed light mystery and simply wanted to try and write one. Another was exploring the depths of a character that was stuck in her head, and she needed to see where that was going to lead.

     I knew the minute the question was out in the room what my answer would be. “I simply want to give people a break.” He nodded at me, listening. “There’s so much crap going on all the time in this world, and I think people need something to escape with,” I remember explaining. (So terribly gallant and optimistic sounding, don’t you think? But I still believe it.)

     I’m drafting a new novel during this National Novel Writing Month Challenge this November. By November 30 I will have 50,000 words in place. I have no idea what the heart of the story is about yet.

     One of my protags, a lady named Margarite, in this November writing is a woman who has received some disquieting medical news. This was her closing thought before I shut the computer off Saturday night:

     “She didn’t want to give up—dry up—and be blown away like this. Alone, sick—maybe dying—and be tossed out like some crumpled up candy wrapper whose contents had been savored and devoured, and was now supposed to just disappear quietly into the trash bin.”

       Something tells me there might be plenty of people who could identify with Margarite.

        If I could be lucky enough to write something that allowed someone to step away from some of their daily pandemonium, and maybe—just maybe—find a bit of common ground through some of the non-fiction stories, or even a fictional character’s thoughts—for even a little while—I will have done my job as a writer.     


6 thoughts on “The Means For Sharing

  1. Yes, I do have one of two dates in CR. June 11 for a book signing at the History Center and then June 14 at the Prairie Light Book Store in Iowa City.

    We’re waiting for Beth Miller, now in Davenport, to help us work out the details with Tanager Place for the reunion of former residents AND employees of the Home. In the meantime, Marilyn Drenkhan is receiving all the phone messages of the people who are responding because of Dave Rasdal’s article. So far the ages range from 65 to 104. And everyone who has contacted her has a story to tell.

    This was originally Beth’s idea and she’s going to jump in as soon as a huge project of hers is wrapped up sometime next week. What Beth wants to do is find a way to get the stories from all of these people either at the reunion or before. I’m dying for her to get together with Joan from Tanager place to get a plan worked out and to set a date.

    I need to check my own schedule to see what has been added to it. It’s listed in two places: my Betty Auchard, AUTHOR page on Face Book (not on my personal page) and on my own web site at My publicist pops them in there after checking with me. So I might even be speaking at a book store in Davenport. i’d better find out.

    Becky, someone wrote to me, “Now that your book is finished and ‘out there,’ you can finally relax.”

    HA, not true. I’vehired a publicist this time and she really keeps me hopping. She does about 2/3 or the work and then gives me assignments for the other 1/3 of our job. For instance, I have to learn how to blog. I have one message up and that’s all. My PR gal is sick right now or she would on my back about now bloggging yet. She wants me to blog twice a week. AAaaarggh. So, I’m practicing on you.

    • Yes, indeed. This blogging thing is not going to go away. It’s become the next “must”–whether you’re trying to get a book out there–or have one already out.

      I really enjoy the blog work now, though, and I hope you will reach that point, too. And since you have the books out, you have a leg up on topics you can discuss/share with a growing audience.

      I’m sending you many good wishes and loads of luck with all the new to come.

  2. *“She didn’t want to give up—used up—and be tossed away like this. Alone, sick—maybe dying—and be flushed down like some crumpled up piece of toilet tissue…
    OK, well…maybe not.

    • Wellll….then again—while it is a bit more “indelicate” than what came up for me, it certainly nails the whole sentiment right on the head (okay—tacky, tacky pun here!), but thanks. I might have to write yours down in my keep file—for a more indelicate style story one day! :-p

  3. Becky, that’s a tough question:
    “Why are we writing?”

    I’ve never witten fiction, and I’m in awe of anyone who writes a novel. The stories about my life and my family sound like fiction to anyone who reads them, and I’m compelled to tell them in a way that people want to listen.

    But why? It’s a loaded question that we writers should take the time to answer. Each time I try, the answer is different. Today, I might say I write to entertain the reader. Tomorrow, I might say that I write so people will identify with me…or I write to connect with others. I don’t know what compels me to write. All I know is that I am driven to tell my family stories in a way that makes people want to listen.

    Sometimes I feel that writing is a way to be heard because what I have to say is important. But it’s that same old word, “why,” that stops me in my tracks. — Betty Auchard

    • I think you answered your own question in the last paragraph, Betty. It’s darn hard to be heard in amongst all the other noise clutter, but if you write yourself down on paper, someday at some time, you just might be “heard”–finally.

      Writers may not get paid particularly well, or even collect much credit—but something of them remains behind when it goes down in print.

      That’s enough–don’t you think?

      Do you know when you’re coming to Cedar Rapids yet?

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