Monday, May 12, 2014

Writers on writing

Listening to writers talk about writing is what the Ohioana Book Festival, held each May in Columbus, is all about. The writers themselves, each of them with some Ohio connection in their background, may have different priorities: rubbing shoulders with other writers, meeting their fans and, of course, selling some books. To most of us who attended the event last Saturday, however, the best part was listening to the panel discussions of writers talking about writing. Thirty such panels met during the day, giving attendees plenty of options.

Here are a few of the comments I heard Saturday that I thought were particularly interesting:

"I wanted to put my eyes on what their eyes had been on."
Brad Ricca

This was Brad Ricca talking about his research prior to writing Super Boys, a biography of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the teenage Cleveland boys who created Superman back in the 1930s. Ricca grew up in Cleveland and had long been amazed that Superman had originated in his own hometown. He says he made an effort to view the city and the times through their eyes, to read what they read and to try to feel what they must have felt.

"I don't believe in writer's block. I believe in laziness block."

R.G. Yoho
Western writer R.G. Yoho, who lives in Southeastern Ohio, said he writes every day. He doesn't wait for inspiration. He just writes. Yoho's novel Nightfall over Nicodemus was the only book I bought Saturday.

"Technology throws writers into self-doubt."

Novelist and poet Amit Majmudar of Dublin, who is also a diagnostic nuclear radiologist, was speaking about how easy it is for writers today to get immediate feedback from fans and critics because of the web. Majmudar, author of Partitions and The Abundance, also said, "Take all criticism with a whole shaker full of salt."

"Language is based on sounds. We're driven by sounds."

Novelist Geoffrey Girard of West Chester argued that listening to one's prose is essential to good writing. On the same subject, Yoho contributed, "I read out loud to my wife. It's part of my editing process."

Janice Gary
"You develop your characters by developing yourself."

This was Majmudar speaking again. I would have liked to hear more from him on that subject.

"It's not what you remember. It's what you can't forget."

Janice Gary, formerly of Cincinnati and the author of Short Leash, spoke about writing a memoir and how one decides what to focus on.

I thought these were all perceptive comments.

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