Tuesday, October 7, 2008

First Drafts, Guest Blogging, Book Trailers, and a Movie Review

On Sunday my writers club had their monthly meeting and our guest speaker was Guy Biederman.

The topic of his discussion was "Why I will not write today" and dispeled several myths about the writing process and how writers allow impediments to interfere with their writing. He tossed out that question to the room and there were numerous replies from being too tired, too busy, and nothing to write about. One woman, who was a first time attendee of our meetings, said, "Because I'm afraid of writing crap."

I was not running the meeting and so I had to restrain myself from trying to take the reins of the meeting and interjecting my thoughts to her in response.

The first draft is important to get your thoughts down on paper or in your computer screen even if it is crap. I remember Gillian Roberts saying in a keynote address that writers should not worry about "writing it right, you need to write it down." Later you can fix it.

Anne Lamott has said on more than one occasion that she has never writes anything but "shitty first drafts."

Hallie Ephron said at the recent East of Eden Conference that she hates writing, but loves re-writing. Only after the first draft will she have something to work with and to perfect.

I wanted to share those accumulated bits of wisdom I had heard from other writers over the years and reassure this woman that she should not her first draft. She may find that the first words written are indeed crap, but that in the creative process she might also come up with something inspired. The first she needs to do is get it down on paper and she can fix it later.

However, I was not the guest speaker and did not want to interrupt in order to interject a point because when it comes to writing I have many opinions and insights. Unfortunately, after the meeting I did not get the chance after the meeting to schmooze with her convey my thoughts in response to her statement.

It was an enjoyable meeting and I found this statement by Guy Biederman to be profound: "writing is not therapy, but it is therapeutic."

Onto the subject of guest blogging. My friend Erika Mailman will be guest blogging at Lee Lofland's wonderful Graveyard Shift blog on Wednesday, October 8th. His blog normally deals with police procedurals and anything law enforcement related. This time the subject will be expanded to look at historical interrogations in the form of witch trials and the Malleus Maleficarum which Erika used as inspiration for her novel The Witch's Trinity now available in paperback. Here is a direct link to her post which is chilling.

She will be there all day answering questions, so if you have any in regard to the tests used to determine guilt or innocence of those accused of witchcraft, be sure to post it in the comment trail.

Erika has other events associated with the launch of her paperback including other guest blogging stints, public appearances and a radio interview planned for this month. You can find a list of them here.

Now to book trailers. I wanted to share a wonderful book trailer that I saw yesterday that makes me want to read about a woman from history I had not heard about before. She is Juana of Castile also known as Juana la Loca. She was the sister of Catherine of Aragon (Henry the VIII's first wife) and the mother of the Emperor Charles the V. She was the last queen of Spanish blood and is said to have gone mad over love.

The Last Queen has made the Marin Independent Journal's best seller list and the rights have been sold in nine countries.

Christopher Gortner will be our guest speaker in December for my writers club and I am excited to hear him speak. His topic will be his path to publication which took thirteen years, four agents, and included self-publishing a novel that was later republished by a large publisher.

At one point, he had an agent suggest he adopt a pen name that would make him appear to be a woman. Because it is thought that since women buy most historical novels that they prefer books written by women.

The irony of it all.

Women such as Mary Ann Evans hid behind the masculine pen name George Eliot in order to be published and now a man has been told he needs to hide his true identity in order to be published.


That is why Christopher uses the name C.W. Gortner.

J.K. Rowling had been told that boys prefer male authors and so she was advised to hide her sex behind her initials. As it turns out, I do not think that boys really care if the author is a man or a woman as long as the book is enjoyable.

I feel that women are the same. Write a book that takes me away from my own day-to-day life and I will not care if it was written by a man or a woman.

I feel insulted that such a suggestion was made to an author, especially since we are told time and again that writers must actively promote their books. No writer cannot depend on reviews causing books flying out of the bookstores without working to make sure people know about the book in the first place.

One cannot sit back and depend on the publicity department of a publisher to do that for you.

Nor can you simply hire an independent publicist so they can handle those pesky matters to generate sales while you can devote your time and attention to writing your next book.

Not in today's publishing world.

It is up to the author to push their product.

How is a male author supposed to do that if he has a female pen name?

Guest blogging with a picture of some hot chick might work, but what about when you are scheduled for personal appearances? Do you hire someone to play the part?

And isn't that what made all kinds of people upset with J.T. LeRoy?

I am glad that Christopher has achieved success without having to follow such a suggestion.

:head on desk:


Now onto a subject that disturbs me and I find myself continuing to think about days after first reading it.

Gil Mansergh is another one of my writing friends and among his many talents he reviews movies. He views over three hundred movies a year and he found the movie Towelhead so disturbing that he felt compelled to write an open letter to Alan Ball the screenwriter and director.

In part, Gil wrote:

What were you trying to accomplish when you made this film?

Because whatever you intended your message to be, the inclusion of voyeuristically graphic sex scenes between the dad-next-door and the thirteen-year-old girl make your movie into a pedophile's fantasy come true.

Gil then mentions that he is also a "psychological educator who uses movie clips to teach thousands of teachers, psychologists and other licensed mental health professionals in seminars like 'Sex, Trust and Intimacy,' 'Parenting Teens.' And 'Spousal/Partner Abuse.' "

In these seminars. I use carefully selected clips from some quite controversial films (i.e. Larry Clark's "Kids," Alexander Payne's "Election," and Catherine Hardwicke and Nikki Reed's "Thirteen,") to focus on important topics for discussion including sensuality, sexual identification and sexual abuse.

Gil goes on to describe how in this movie a character methodically ingratiates himself with the teenaged girl until she sees herself as his girlfriend and submits to his sexual advances so that force is unnecessary.

Gil's description of those scenes make me ill.

Movies are powerful because they project images that resonate with our subconscious and their influence can last for years.

I do not think that I could stomach watching such a movie. I like Aaron Eckhart as an actor, but I will not subject myself to watching him play the role of sexual predator of a child.

I would not be entertained, I would be sickened.

I trust that Gil's assessment of the film is spot on and shall spare myself from needing to take a long, hot shower after going to the cinema.

I hope that mentioning this on my blog will spare others from seeing a movie whose content you might not be fully aware of beforehand. Consider yourself forewarned.



Karen Harrington said...

Wow, what an informative post! Glad I stumbled upon your blog. :)

L.C.McCabe said...


I am glad you liked it. Please stumble across my blog again sometime.


Erika M said...

Towelhead does indeed sound disturbing--but there's no such thing as bad publicity. Let's hope the movie dies an unnoticed death.

Thank you for linking to my guest blog at Graveyard Shift--and for suggesting that I approach Lee to do so!

L.C.McCabe said...


I am always happy to offer links for a friend. You did a great job on that guest post and I'm glad to have come up with an idea that worked.

Let's hope it helps spur interest and precious WOM for your terrific book.