LIFE AS MATERIAL
My sister and I recently drove to Altamonte Springs, Florida, where I gave several workshops and many interviews at the Florida Writers Association Annual Writers Conference. While I worked, talked, and recorded podcasts and videos, my sister attended many of the workshops.
My sister specializes in writing what she calls journals. I call them journal entries or personal experience essays, but everyone else simply calls them funny. She can take the smallest incident and turn it into an essay that would make anyone laugh out loud. As a result she’s fun to be around; she finds humor in everything. As an even more rewarding result, she’s pulled her journals into two books to add to her first book, which was her autobiography.
One of the workshops my sister attended focused on writing humor. I suspect she could have given the workshop, yet she still learned even more about humor writing. That’s the thing about going to seminars, workshops, or conferences and listening to podcasts or watching videos about writing. We writers always have more that we can learn, no matter how much we think we already know.
Usually when I go to conferences I have time to slip into other workshops, but not this past weekend, because of my overloaded schedule. The conference leaders had scheduled almost every minute of my time. Although it tired me out, I felt thrilled to be of help to so many writers in so many ways. More than 600 people attended the event.
The Florida Writers Association is going to start a regular podcast for writers soon, and the president interviewed us speakers for podcasts to be released in the future. She had great questions to ask me about writing and editing. When she lets me know the podcasts will begin, I’ll put the information in this newsletter
Author Solutions also recorded a video interview with me while I was there. The interviewer said she’d let me know when that video is available too. In addition, many attendees paid a small fee for the privilege of bringing about ten pages of their manuscripts and getting constructive feedback from me. Interestingly the most common flaw I noted was that the story started too late in the manuscript. Remember to start with a strong hook, folks.
Back to the subject of life as material, though, and how my sister can find humor in anything, my sister and I had many experiences on the way down to Florida, while in Florida together, and on our way back. We laughed ourselves through the tough times as much as we laughed at the funny things. I have decided not to tell much about the actual trip, because whatever she writes about it will be much funnier through her perspective and words. I cannot wait to see my sister’s journal about our trip.
I’ve heard many times that everyone’s first novel is also a sort of autobiography thinly disguised as fiction. I know it’s true in my case. My first attempt at a novel involved a challenge I was having with my alcoholic mother. I did a great deal of research and wrote a few chapters before I realized I was bored, so my readers would be too. My second unpublished novel was about a married couple that takes in a foster child who disrupts the family in every possible way. Guess who took in a foster child when she was still married? Duh. Guess whose foster child disrupted her family in every possible way. Duh again. I changed enough of the characters and story to make it fiction, of course, but I’ve never tried to publish it. Now I wish I could have written the story in a humorous way, the way my sister views things, but we are not the same people, even though we have lived through many of the same events. Regardless, life has been the best material for both of us.
How do you view life? Is it good material? Is it funny? Is it dramatic? Is it illuminating a bigger picture, a revelation? Is it about overcoming obstacles? Stories are everywhere, aren’t they? Enjoy today. Write about it tomorrow.