Last Saturday I spent the day away from my desk. Instead of writing this blog or editing this or that client’s prose, I spent a cold, gray day on Southern New Hampshire University’s campus attending Writers’ Day, organized by the New Hampshire Writers’ Project.
The day was full of sessions, networking, and book-purchasing. I took a few pictures and lots of notes. Too many to synthesize in one blog post. Most will show up in future posts, covering such topics as how writers can use social media to their advantage, how they can defeat writer’s block, how they can write entertainingly and concisely, and where they can get more training.
Nicholson Baker, author of U & I: A True Story
and most recently The Anthologist: A Novel
opened the day. NHWP director Kathy Boss introduced Baker by saying that he doesn’t think “out of the box; he doesn’t even think there is a box. He thinks in different shapes.” The stream-of-consciousness novelist once wrote tech books, but he quit to write his first novel; he had six months to make it work. For him it’s about risk and deadlines. Finishing even a draft is something. It makes your writing a solid shape, a thing in this world. It becomes separate from you and your dreams.
Baker describes writing as “sucking words out of the world and putting them on the page.” His latest novel, The Anthologist
is about the writing life and the writing process. (Look for a review on the novel from me soon.) He described how a plastic chair that figures into the story moved around his yard and house, giving him a different perspective each day. He thought a lot about iambic pentameter, which his protagonist does as well, mostly it seems to avoid actually writing the introduction he’s supposed to be writing.
After giving us some background on the protagonist, Paul Chowder, and how Paul’s girlfriend left him, Baker read a section from his book that describes how Paul now sleeps with his books:
Some of the books are thick, and some are thin, some of the books are in hardcover and some in paperback. Sometimes they get roiled up with the pillows and the blankets. And I never make the bed. So it’s like a stew of books. The bed is the liquid medium. It’s a Campbell’s Chunky Soup of books. The bed you eat with a fork.
I’m hoping that someday I’ll have to clean them out and that somebody will return. But for now, this is what I’ve got.
Listening to such prose is an inspiring way to start a day! The rest of the day was just as inspiring for me. I hope it was for others, as well. Spending time with other writers, talking about the craft, is something every writer should do. Whether you write ad copy or stream-of-consciousness novels or something in between, you owe it to yourself to study your craft, revel in it, and share it with others.
Get out from behind your desk and find your own Writers’ Day!