Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Five Muse Moments

1. Listening to Ann Patchett give the keynote speech in which she lamented the fact that her husband doesn't care for her work, that it takes him a really long time to read one of her novels, and that she should staple a $20 bill to the text every three or four pages just to help him along. (As S would say, "Is he for real?") And that he defends himself by saying that this proves that he loves her for who she is, not for what she does. And that this sentiment inspired a sentiment expressed by a character in Bel Canto

Also, the room erupted when she said, "The muse is a bunch of BS. It's not happening. Just let it go. Writing is a job."

2. Listening to Tess Gerritsen talk about writing. This would be what I'd call the opposite end of the spectrum from Ann Patchett in a way. Well, in every way, from style to content to output. This is someone who publishes a book every year and has done so for more than 20 years. (I'll bet she views writing as a job, too.) I'd never read one of her books, but I will now. Why not? She went into a long discussion about where great ideas come from and how she does her research. The discussion about prose she distilled down to two main points. First, action is boring. Second, gross stuff is really cool. For example, she discovered that people bleed differently in space. Instead of spattering, the blood pools in zero gravity, like some giant blood bubble. She said: "I knew right then that I had to have a character bleed to death in space. 

Inspiration comes from every corner.

3. Listening to Dinty Moore read an essay about teenagers and evolution and molars. You had to be there. I thought it was from his new collection, the one that one the Grub Street nonfiction award this year, which is why I ran to the bookstore to buy it. But it's not in there. Luckily, what is in there is pretty good, too. He did a great job with the reading. It's not easy to entertain 400 people in a ballroom while they have lunch right in front of them, you know a plateful of food as distraction, but he did.

4. Hanging out with writers. I didn't go to Amy MacKinnon's talk about writing, but I bought her book, anyway. I may have taken the last one. On Saturday she and I found ourselves lounging on a couch alongside an editor, all of us talking about editing and being edited, and handling and being handled by agents and general gossip. Amy traced her novel's progress over several Muse conferences. One year, she went to the Manuscript Mart to get feedback on a few chapters.  The next year she had an agent but was stuck in the writing. That year she attended a talk that inspired her to break through. Of course, at last year's conference, she had just sold her book.  At this one, it was out at the table. Who wouldn't be inspired by that?

5. Coming home on Sunday night to the kids (who were already asleep) and to Larry (who was watching a game) and curling up with this book, which is astonishing.

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