Maybe 30 seconds passed before an elderly gentleman asked me how much I liked my Nook. Turns out that he has one as well and his wife has an iPad. We conversed a few minutes about how the devices have turned both of them from occasional readers to voracious ones. A woman sat beside me with her Kindle and declared she reads at least four times as much as she used to. I admitted that I’m a new convert because I adore the feel of a real book in my hands, the smell of the ink and, as a writer, part of me feels guilty paying the lower price for an e-book, knowing that likely converts to a smaller royalty for the author.
“What do you write?” the woman (her name is Jeanette) asked.
The question is one I hear a lot and, depending on my mood and how genuinely interested the audience, invokes either terror or glee. In this case it was glee, because she declared herself a writer, too.
Despite that our genres couldn’t be more different (more on that later) we shared many of the same perspectives about being a writer. It is not a hobby but a compulsion. If you can do anything else and be happy, do it. The process of composition is painful with the exception of those few times the muse smiles and world outside the novel vanishes. Compulsive editing is our mutual biggest weakness. “All the books say not to do it, but it works for me,” she said. Considering that she’s been successfully publishing and selling books for a couple of decades, I’ll gladly follow her advice to keep plugging away as I have been without apologies.
As I told Jeanette about The Oak Lovers and how I came to write it, I noticed a woman behind her anxiously glancing at her watch, yet remaining in her seat. When I met the other woman's eyes, she jumped in.
“I’m so sorry, but before I go I have to ask you where I can buy your book? I must read this.”
I sheepishly admitted that I still have about 70 pages to write.
“Well, what’s the title? When do you expect it to be out?”
I explained that it may be awhile, given that I need to find an agent and a publisher first. I gave her my business card and directed her to my website. I promised to contact her when it was out.
By this time I had been in the waiting room well over the required time, but I didn’t even consider leaving. I resumed my conversation with Jeanette, thrilled to have found someone who speaks the same language in this city of technology, finance and insurance. Gradually I became aware that the people who had been in the waiting room when I arrived were still there, including the elderly gentleman and his wife. Even the lab technician ignored her computer, perhaps because no one was in line to be jabbed.
The gentleman grinned at me. “I must say this is the most fascinating conversation I’ve ever heard.” A few others nodded.
We had an audience, and the storyteller in both of us leapt to attention. I expanded on how sometimes, when I write, it’s as though the characters are standing over my shoulder shouting at me that I have it all wrong. This drew a curious expression or two. “We hear voices,” Jeanette added in the same clear, direct tone she used when she announced earlier that she writes gay romance. “All writers—”
“Are mildly insane,” I finished.
I left the allergist’s office an hour after receiving my shot with a new friend, none of my own business cards and a sincere wish that I had a dozen or so copies of my book I could have sold out of the trunk of my car.
I also left with the motivation to make that happen. Carl and Madonna are waiting. I have a book to finish…
Don't forget to come by and meet us at 7 p.m. on Monday, January 17 at the Richardson Library as What Women Write are featured at The Writer's Guild of Texas monthly meeting. Rumor has it chocolate might be involved! All welcome, no admission. Hope to see you there.