Thursday, September 13, 2007

Charming Notes

Posted by Lynne

Just like reading and writing are inseparable to the writer, the content of a book is indivisible from the process of capturing the subject matter and packaging it just so, to gain the attention of readers.

I've always loved to read both fiction and nonfiction, often simultaneously reading one of each. I like a little educational psychology with my upmarket fiction. Finding my pleasure in all things book related, I frequently go to author readings and have observed a few patterns among those who attend.

At fiction readings, the author shares a few tantalizing pages, teasing the audience, while letting them bask in the glory of the prose. During the Q and A that follows, within minutes the conversation turns away from the themes of the work and on to the process of writing. Where do you write and for how long? How many words do you write each day? Do you use a computer or do you write longhand? Have you any rituals of literary significance?

In my opinion, there is as much attention paid to the process of writing as to the content of the book; in some cases more attention.

With nonfiction, for the most part, I've noticed it's all about what's inside the book that counts. The premise or thesis is top dog. The process of writing, and often the actual writing, takes a back seat.

So on the publication of my book-- the one my dear friends at the Writers' Group have been telling you about all week--I braced myself for all inquiries to be about parenting, parenting and more parenting. Don't get me wrong, I didn't really mind that no one was likely to care that I wrote the manuscript using mini-narratives, ones that might draw readers in; I'd hoped they'd see themselves in the story-like descriptions of family life. Or that I'd created a detailed outline of each chapter as I wrote, making certain that I included anecdotes of children of all developmental ages, never once repeating a single child's name or favoring a gender.

I prepared myself to concentrate on how I'd share my views in a nonjudgmental way, hoping I could do my small part to change our culture of blame game parenting, in favor of one of compassionate understanding.

Then one week after my book landed on bookstore shelves I received this email from a reader.

"I have purchased and started Negotiation Generation and it couldn't have come at a better time - with all of the transitions into the new school year. You've hit the nail on the head with the advice and the writing is terrific...Truly, you make the reader feel honored, not chastised, while pointing the way to a better parenting path."

And there you have it. The content and process are united. The reader saw what I painstakingly tried to accomplish. One reader can give hope to the writer that there may be more who see it too.

I am grateful.

If you haven't done so already, purchase a copy of Carolyn See's Making a Literary Life. There is no sweeter thing-- to the giver or the receiver-- than what Carolyn calls the charming note.


Lisa said...

I'm a big fan of the charming note -- and became one after reading Carolyn See's book. These days, most people communicate mostly via email, but those personal notes are noted, I think (I know I LOVE any personal note that comes in the mail!). I've not written nearly as many as I'd like to but I try. I've been delighted and surprised to find that sometimes the authors even write back. I keep those responses tacked up on the wall next to my desk :)

Larramie said...

And, Lynne, I have a strong feeling that your mailbox will be filled with many more charming notes for a book well done.

Anonymous said...


isn't that email a complete validation of all the sweat and tears you must have lived through.
You must be thrilled.

Lynne Reeves Griffin said...

Lisa, don't you love when a writer writes back? The notes are tiny treasures that remind you to keep plugging.

Larramie, finding out that I've connected with readers would be my greatest joy.

Reality, the note was validation indeed. It even made me teary.

And it made me want to write some charming notes to writers I admire, too.


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