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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Writing: We Are All in this Together

Benjamin LeRoy, of Tyrus Books, gave the closing keynote for the Writer's Digest Conference.  While most of the sessions at this conference focused on craft or the business of writing, this keynote was pure inspiration.  Here are some clips from the speech that struck a chord for me. 
 
"Books allow us to see the world through someone else's perspective."

This is one of my favorite things about writing, or reading for that matter.  Books let us "try on" different lives and experience things we would never be able to do otherwise.  As I've mentioned before, story-telling is a uniquely human behavior and something that we all have in common, regardless of racial or cultural differences.  Thus, not only do books allow us to adopt different perspectives, but the very act of telling stories unites us. 

"When you take up the pen, you are documenting who we are as people."

There is something about writing things down that everything seem more real.  As a teenager, whenever something happened at school, I had to write it in my journal, otherwise it was like it didn't matter.  And if it didn't matter, then it didn't feel completely real to me.  In some ways, I still believe that.  As I've grown and studied literature, I've learned that even written words that are not factually true can ring true on an emotional level.  In many ways, fiction can feel more real that fact. 

"We are all in this together."

As writers, it's so easy to get caught up in things like "platform" or "getting published" but the truth is, writers and publishing professionals are on the same team.  As best I can tell, agents and editors are in this game because they love to read great writing and they believe books are important.  Writers get to supply the material.  As LeRoy explained toward the end of his talk, writers should create the best stories they can--stories that engage them--rather than trying to chase trends.

This sounded great in theory and I wanted to believe it--really, I did.   Still, doubt nagged at me so during the Q&A, I asked the following question: 

"Considering how the market is saturated with books about sparkly vampires, and considering how most human beings have the attention span of... say... a small rodent, how do we find readers for our engaging--though perhaps not quite so flashy--books?"

To which, LeRoy smiled and replied: "I don't know."

And this was when it all clicked for me.  Throughout the weekend, we'd heard about all the different ways that the publishing industry was changing.  eBooks.  Social media.  Blogs.  POD.  The problem is, it's not the writing or the publishing that's actually changing, it's the reading.  Writers and publishers are just trying to keep up.  Sooner or later, everyone who loves books (writers, agents, editors, publishers, and anybody else) is going to have to figure out how to deal with changes in the reading industry.

This is why it's important to remember that we're all in this together.  We may not be able to turn back the clock or un-invent the eReader, but we can find new ways to connect with our readers and with each other.  And that's a start.

2 comments:

Marie Rearden said...

Thanks for this. It really was helpful.

"When you take up the pen, you are documenting who we are as people."

Great line from the Keynote. Do you think the trends in reading are moving toward short books, constant action, and off-the-wall fantasy? I just read 'A Brush of Darkness,' and though I enjoyed it, the whole thing felt very too-much-too-fast.

Thanks for posting.

Marie, http://marierearden.blogspot.com

E.J. Wesley said...

I wouldn't want to 'un-invent' the eReader! As a writer and a reader, I love those things. I think the changes the industry is facing are both necessary and positive.

*adjusts rose-tinted glasses and sips fruity tropical drink*

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