One of the best things writers get to do is go to bookstores, book clubs, and festivals and sign books. Okay, I admit it, it's always fun to see our books slipped into bags and carted out of stores under someone's arm, knowing they'll be read and hoping they'll be enjoyed. But, what's really great is that while we're signing books we get to talk to people, all kinds of folks we wouldn't meet otherwise. Whether it's in a B&N or an independent store, I meet the most interesting folks.
So yesterday, for instance, I went to a book club signing where most of the members were retired teachers. We were there to talk about Singularity, my mystery that came out in June. It was a nice, kind of intimate crowd, maybe fifteen women and two men. (I'm not sure how they got in, but it was nice of the men to come. As usual, it was one of the the men who asked about the sex scene in the book. I think they're more into it than women are. I have this one friend named Jack who said he read it six times. But I digress.) I had a great time comparing notes with all of the book club members. As former teachers, they were happy, I think, when I mentioned that I still organize my true crime books the way one of my English teachers taught me to in junior high, by putting the facts, quotes, etc., on index cards and shuffling them into an outline.
As our time together went on, a healthy sampling of the questions, as always, were about what it's like to be a writer. A lot of folks, I think, do a little writing and wonder what it would be like to support themselves like we do.
So here goes. My take on the writing life:
First: It's kind of lonely. When I'm not attending a trial or interviewing sources, I spend most of my time alone at my computer. Years ago, Ann Rule warned me I'd end up with hip problems someday from the long hours sitting. That hasn't happened yet, but Ann's a very wise woman, and I have noticed I've spread out a bit. My dad says it's middle-age, but I think I've developed computer hips. I walk in the neighborhood to counteract it, but, alas, so far it's not working.
Second: The commute is easy and the wardrobe doesn't cost much. Today and yesterday I worked in my home office in my pajamas. They're my favorite ones, actually. Soft and loose. If I got a real job, I bet they wouldn't let me wear them to the office.
Third: Sometimes it's harder than other times. It's fascinating to go to the trials, but it's tough to talk to families who've lost loved ones. Really hard. And it's painful to talk to families whose loved ones will probably spend the rest of their lives in jail. These crimes we write about, no one wins. Especially the kids. Much too often, it seems to me, there are kids who suffer.
Fourth: I think I write because I have to, because I, for some strange reason, grew up needing to. Otherwise, I'd have to be crazy to lock myself in a converted bedroom staring at a computer screen all day. There's little more frightening than page one. But then, of course, there are few things more satisfying than typing "The End."
Where should someone get started: My favorite book on writing: Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. Wonderful book if you're considering taking the plunge.
With all the other writers here, I hope one or two will weigh in on their thoughts on the writing life. In the meantime, I'd like to invite all of you in the Austin area to a little gathering that's taking place this weekend, the Texas Book Festival. And while you're there, be on the lookout for familiar faces. My WCI colleague Diane Fanning and I will be there signing our books this coming Saturday afternoon.
This Saturday, November 1st, Diane and I will be available at the MWA booth from one to three. In addition, I'll stay for two more hours, until five. (At which point, I'll undoubtedly hit Sixth Street looking for good music and food. Gotta love that along with a lot else about Austin.)
What could be more fun on a Saturday afternoon?