My talk at church went well yesterday, even though I was nervous and had a moment when my mind completely blanked. When this happens (the blanking), I stop and admit it and then I’m able to move on. This was my first public appearance wherein I talked about my Greenville book.
At the end of the talk, I asked if people had questions and they did – very good ones. Someone asked what I read, thinking perhaps I concentrated on a particular period. I don’t. But I did mention my favorites: Neil Gaiman, Christopher Moore, Frances Hodgson Burnett, a lot of nonfiction. Someone asked how I knew anyone was going to want to read my book and whether it would be liked. I answered by saying that after I’ve read one of my stories in writers group, the other writers tend to start talking about the story and the topics presented, rather than about the writing itself. I’ve taken that as a clue that at least my writing isn’t getting in the way of my stories. I later told the questioner that I can’t be sure that anyone is going to like my book, but that I wrote it first for myself and I’ll just have to wait and see how it is received.
One of the church attendees was a literature professor. (He’s a friend – as were many of the other attendees – so this wasn’t intimidating for me.) I had talked about finding the truth when writing fiction versus nonfiction. After having done both, I think it’s actually harder to find the truth in nonfiction because there is always more to uncover as far as research. The lit prof made a good point when he said that he advises his students, when memoir writing, not to confuse truth with Truth. Got that? Truth with a big ‘T’ is universal and deep, whereas truth with a little ‘t’ has to do with presenting accurate facts. Fiction is better at uncovering Truth. Nonfiction can also present Truth, but I think it’s harder in terms of discussing historical personalities and events.
After church, the lit prof told me that my book, which is a series of linked short stories, is part of a genre called the Short Story Cycle. I had no idea. When I started the Greenville series, it was going to be no more than two short stories because I figured I could do a decent job of writing fiction if I didn’t tackle a novel all at once. I had tried writing a couple of novels prior to beginning Greenville, but didn’t get very far. (Incidentally, one of those novels was going to be called the “People of the Book,” which I’ve just discovered is the title of a book by Geraldine Brooks. How weird is that?) Somewhere during the process of writing the first couple of stories, I heard an author on Minnesota Public Radio say that she wrote a novel using linked short stories because she figured it would be easier. I totally stole the idea, not knowing that there was a term for writing this way. The lit prof suggested I read a book – a short story cycle – by Sherwood Anderson called “Winesburg, Ohio,” so I’ll be looking for this the next time I visit the library.
In addition to discovering that Greenville is part of an accepted literary genre, I was also excited to hear that one of the people who heard my talk is part of a book club and she’s interested in being notified when the book is published so she can perhaps have her book club discuss it. How cool is that?
(P.S. – I started working on a cover for Greenville today.)
(P.S.2 – When I looked at my husband during my talk, he looked a little teary. I asked him about it afterward and he said he was all misty with pride over me. Isn’t he sweeter than sweet?)