Monday, November 11, 2013

Listening to Authors

Several Maryland writers have been speaking recently at area libraries and colleges about writing and publication.  It is interesting to hear authors talk about their inspirations and writing process.

Doug Norton, author of Code Word: Paternity, A Presidential Thriller, discussed his journey in self-publishing.  As a naval officer throughout most of the cold war, he had personal experience with nuclear weapons, both as objects of diplomacy and politics and as objects under his command responsibility--antisubmarine missiles that he might have to launch under cataclysmic circumstances. After his retirement, Norton began to record scenery, how people spoke and reacted, and began to think about actions and gray-area decisions made during his career.

He felt the book Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable did not receive enough attention. That 2004 book by Harvard scholar Graham Allison explained that terrorists had been trying to acquire nuclear weapons. Because of his own experience, he felt this idea was important. After taking a writing course, he made the decision to write about a fictional President and what it would cost him to do his duty if terrorists gained control of a nuclear submarine.

Although originally he sought traditional publication, he realized it would be several years before his book would appear on shelves. Since some of the information was time-sensitive, he decided to self-publish. This requires a lot of research for editing, book design, etc., followed by marketing. Self-promotion is not easy and takes time away from writing his second book, which tentatively will be published traditionally.

Another speaker, Jack Downs, president of the Carroll County branch of Maryland Writers’ Association, spoke about creating the short story and how this tight, focused style helped him write his novels.
Downs is author of Buried Treasure,  about how the disappearance of a baby in a quiet neighborhood affects the lives of his two older brothers and other family members.  CATTAILS, the Edenmist Affair, will be released soon. Part of a romantic, suspense series, it will be followed by Hermes Project.

Downs discussed where ideas come from, breathing life into characters, creating conflict and providing the appropriate setting for your story. Many of the same procedures used in writing short stories also apply when writing a novel. Downs recommended reading your story aloud when it was finished to feel for flow and discover problem areas. He also suggested running the spelling and grammar review on your computer program and joining a critique group to get feedback from other writers.

B. Morrison, author of Innocent, Confessions of a Welfare Mother, talked about creative nonfiction, described by Lee Gutkind as “true stories well told.” The key factor is that the story is true. Romance writer Pamela Morsi spoke last month at the Westminster branch of the Carroll County Public Library. Her main character in the recently published Love Overdue is a librarian. Morsi’s characters are well developed. It is easy to picture the scenery and be drawn into the life of this small Kansas town and its inhabitants. 

Besides local authors, also featured recently in the Carroll County area have been Wally Lamb, Taylor Branch and John Searles. It is wonderful to be able to hear from so many writers thanks to the Carroll County Public Library, McDaniel College and the Carroll County Arts Center.

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