Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Convenience, the #1 Writing No-No

You have attended book signings before.

Many of them.

Some—not inconsequential number—featured former students.

Others still were the book signings of friends or clients.  Yet others were arranged by publicists employed by the same individuals who hired you to do many of the things required of editors beyond selecting manuscripts and editing the manuscripts you’d wished to bring to publication.

None were like this one.

This was a bookstore on East Colorado Street in Pasadena, where you’d been first taken as a youngster by your parents, an occasion made of it.  “You will always find friends here,” your mother said, and of course you were too much of a literal mind to grasp her intention.

In your time, you’ve been in many bookstores in many cities and countries, but this place on East Colorado Street was in all probability the first bookstore of your memory if not your life to date.

With a foamy latte, you sat at a table outside, taking in the evening traffic.  Although somewhat of a leap, the tall buildings, their shapes and sizes, the drone of busses, the sound of business chirping like a band of melancholy cicada, reminded you of New York.

As you entered the bookstore from the street level, you felt enveloped in books.  You felt comfortable, assured.  A sign caught your attention, and well it should.  The sign announced that you would be speaking this very evening about your own book.

The venue for speaking was on the second floor, a large, comfortable area with a lectern and microphone already prepared, stacks of your book, and next to your seat, a pot filled with pens for your use in signing autographs.

You were yanked back in time to a signing for a great friend of yours, the noirish, Marxist-thinking mystery writer, Dennis Lynds, when it became apparent that you and he were in fact the signing and remained so for the better part of a half hour, when an elderly man came over to join you, and actually bought a copy of Dennis’s latest.  You were on a close enough basis with him that you never had to buy one; you were on his publisher’s review list.  You recalled Dennis saying how impossible the chances were of estimating how a particular signing event would develop:  one person or two hundred.

Your publisher—more about him in a few moments—took a picture of you standing at the lectern, which he later posted on Facebook.   His caption for
The photo alluded to you in a reflective moment.

The moment was in every way a reflective one.  With one or two exceptions, the audience was entirely former students.  One of the exceptions was the dean you’d come to regard with such affection.  Many had published or had their plays and/or films produced.  Most of them had found their variations to the same path you follow, which is to say they teach either at the old stomping grounds or venues they’ve sought out.

You spoke about a number of things related to the craft of writing, bringing in some of your favorite topics, by which you mean topics where you continue to discover yet more areas of passionate connection.

You in fact spoke about your nomination for the patron saint of characters, Wile E. Coyote, and you spoke of the generic you, the you-the-writer, the reader of your book.  You spoke of circularity and dramatic endings that provide the reader a sense of some momentary closure, some dotted line across the blank page, separating acts or scenes or chapters.

When your publisher introduced you, early in his presentation, he confessed that you were his first professor at the graduate level, and how pleased he was that you were going to be together for two more projects.

If that isn’t circularity, it is instead mere coincidence.  You know enough about story to have writer at least two books on the subject, and you know that while circularity and coincidence may be argued into some kind of agreement, in dramatic terms there are only complication coincidences, never resolution ones.

Not bad for an evening’s work, or for that matter, a lifetime of trying to think things through.

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