Web diary: 'One Author's Life'


The Importance of Being Playful

January 26, 2013

Earlier in my life, it was very important to me to be taken seriously. After graduating college in 1982, I worked as a newspaper reporter when it was still very much a man's world, and, consequently, I was constantly proving myself. I did everything I could to avoid writing for the "Women's page" - weddings, social news, and stories about childrearing. I wanted all of the opportunities the men had, and I knew I would have to fight for them. As a result, I volunteered for more than my share of hard-hitting news stories. Ten years later I moved on to books - nonfiction books. I did this for about 17 years. I turned down projects that seemed too lightweight and tackled the tough topics. But then a funny thing happened. I did something completely different! I wrote fiction for the first time in my life. I had no idea if it was any good, and I didn't permit myself to worry about it. I wrote just for fun, and with no deadline or goal in mind. The result is my novel, "Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society." There are serious issues addressed in the novel but they are disguised by humorous situations. My little novel has opened up a new world to me. I have met many wonderful people because of it, and I am having new experiences. Last weekend, I went to Texas for the legendary Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend, which is sort of a retreat for writers and readers. It is a place to let your hair down. There are now pictures of me all over the Internet (some posted by me, others by my new friends) dressed like a Silent Movie star, as Edith Wharton, as a wealthy woman going to dinner on the Titanic, and as a present-day hat model. I can't begin to tell you how much fun it was to play dress-up, something I haven't done since I was about 7 years old and did not know I missed. This hard-hitting newspaper reporter who wanted to be taken so seriously is now a novelist who understands the importance - and joy - of being playful. Thank you, Kathy L. Patrick and all of Pulpwood Queens!

Manatees, Panthers, and Crocodiles - Oh My

January 14, 2013

Just back from South Florida, where I heard of some Northern folks (friends of friends) who had plans to go camping in the Everglades. I surely hope they knew what they were doing! My husband grew up in Collier County and sometimes camped, as a teenager, in the 'glades, and to this day he won't talk about it, knowing that I'm unnerved by gators and snakes and most everything else that bites and slithers. Even a manatee (sea cow) is scary if you encounter it by accident, at night. When my husband was growing up, and when I was a reporter in Florida in the 1980s, the Florida panther was on the edge of extinction. Now the majestic felines are making a strong comeback - strong enough that there are warnings, like deer crossing signs, for "panther crossings." A woman at one of my booksignings told me she almost hit one with her car! If that doesn't scare Yankees thinking of camping in South Florida, consider this: There are American crocodiles in some parts of far-south Florida. That's right, folks, as if alligators aren't freaky enough, that might be a crocodile (a more aggressive beast than a gator) lurking along the south shore of Marco Island. Of course, all of these critters have the right to be here! But it's a reminder that the Everglades is a place that commands respect.

In a Time of Rapid Change, Just Keep Writing

January 4, 2013

I can't keep up with the changes in publishing. No one can, completely. By the time you formulate a question for an expert, your question is obsolete. My inbox fills daily with updates and news alerts about the publishing business. Sometimes it's mind-boggling, such as an article in a major trade magazine predicting that libraries have two to three years to figure out how to fit into the new, digital world or disappear altogether. (A world without libraries? Huh?) Just this week, Newsweek magazine, an American institution for 79 years, has given up its print edition and gone digital-only. Whether it will survive is in doubt but most industry insiders are predicting it will not. Traditional magazines and newspapers, as well as libraries, have been too slow in redefining themselves and their business model. They went through a phase that to me, at least, seemed like wishful thinking. The business of producing and selling books is fluctuating wildly, too, of course, although I've seen a more rapid embrace of the new reality among book publishers than newspapers and magazines. Of course, no one knows what will happen to independent bookstores, or even Barnes & Noble. I've reached the conclusion that staying informed is important, but it was taking up too much of my time. I'm setting aside the news about publishing and reading it one morning a week so that I'm not always dwelling on it. By stepping back from it, it's become more obvious that it's the middle-men - those who don't create content but are in the business of distributing and selling it - who are in trouble. Devices, gadgets, and platforms will come and go rapidly, but the one constant is that someone has to write the material in the first place. When my writer-friends and acquaintances fret about the chaotic times we are living through, I tell them what I've decided to do: Just keep writing.