10 March 2008

Just Write the Stupid Book

One recent highlights of my life was being invited to present a workshop at the American Night Writers Association’s 2008 Conference. Before the event I managed to kidnap Covenant’s managing editor, Kathy Jenkins, and one of my favorite authors, Tristi Pinkston, and drag them from ghost town to cacti to Phoenix Zoo to temple to more cacti. (We have a lot of cacti in the Sonoran Desert.) That weekend with them was the most fun I’ve had since . . . let me think . . . hmm . . . nope . . . I can’t remember ever having more fun than that! Under the theory that pictures are worth a thousand words, here’s some proof:

Kathy & Joan at Goldfield; Trisit & me at the Phoenix Botanical Gardens

Of course the conference was great! ANWA’s presidency and conference committee couldn’t have been more gracious or better organized. Everything was perfect. (I loved the chickens!) The best part was that I got to see many dear friends and finally meet face-to-face several of the sisters I’ve grown to know and love so well through their writings and correspondence. (They looked just like I imagined, though having pictures in their books to refer to might have helped a little.) I was going to list everybody famous I met, groupie that I am, but I’d be sure to miss somebody and feel terrible about it, so I’ll let you, Gentle Reader, languish in suspense and frustration instead. (Sorry about that.)

I love ANWA! I joined a decade ago—back when Marsha Ward’s brainchild was Arizona Night Writers and I only dreamed of publishing a book. (Maybe. Perhaps. Someday.) Because of the incredible sisterhood therein, I’ve published steadily since I joined and ANWA has expanded into several states. This year we can even boast several Whitney Award nominees and two finalists – Joyce DiPastena and Janette Rallison.
My workshop was technically on “scene & sequel,” but it might better have been titled, “Just Write the Stupid Book.” Several people have asked for a transcript and, while I don’t have that, I did write part of the story in Counting Blessings and can share that.

I intended from childhood to make use of my meager talent to write. But being careful and troubled about things like school and marriage and children and callings and . . . whatever . . . any talent I might have had was soon buried under an avalanche of life. It would still be there, in fact, if it weren’t for my best friend Joan—one of those fourth types of servants.

Not only did Joan first encourage me to write, she dragged me along to her writer’s group and applauded my first pathetic attempts at novelizationing. (I suspect that's not a word.) In real words, she stooped to dig my one tarnished talent out of the dirt each and every time I dropped it. (Stepped on it. Buried it. Abandoned it forever.) Joan knew me too well. She recognized that I was determined (if not destined) to spend more time obsessing about not having as many talents as everybody else than using the measly one I did have. One day, in total frustration, she yelled at me:

“Just write the stupid book!”

Turns out those were five of the most meaningful words I ever heard. They were so wise, in fact, that I wrote them down and still have them framed and sitting on my desk. Don’t obsess, they remind me. Don’t despair. Be careful not to borrow trouble. Just write a stupid book (or use your meager talent) now and worry about being a no-talent loser later. That simple phrase has so much power—it’s worked nine times for me!—that I’ve been thinking of copyrighting it and selling posters at writers conferences nationwide. (But I’ll give it to you free of charge today. You’re welcome.)


Tristi Pinkston said...

And a wonderful time was had by all!

Janette Rallison said...

You were a great teacher! And what great pictures too--don't give me that I'm-not-photogenic business. I hope to look as good as you some day.

Kerry Blair said...

Janette -- That's Tristi in the good picture. :)

And by "someday" you mean "when I'm old." It's okay. You can say it.

I'd never had made it through that class without YOU! (I asked for questions, then referred them all to Janette, who was brilliant as always.) THANK YOU!

Cheri J. Crane said...

Cool pictures. It looks like you ladies had a blast. And that green pin looks strangely familiar . . . it could just be my eyes. ;) Sometimes they see interesting things, like the buffalo that turned out to be rocks on Antelope Island. My family will never let me live that one down . . .