Friday Links #28: Beyond Memoir

I gave a talk to the South Jersey Writer’s Group last Thursday night about my transition from wannabe travel writer to novelist. The presentation, Beyond Memoir: Let Travel Inspire Your Fiction, was a natural topic for me to wax knowledgeable on, and I was happy to see people taking notes and asking plenty of questions — though most of the questions were about my two-year bicycle travels. Understandable.

Standing in front of a group of strangers is something that’s always come easy to me. From presentations at scientific conferences during my time in college, to a semester I spent talking to high school freshman — often by the hundred — for Monster.com, and now to my post-travel talks and speaking gigs. It’s fun. So long as you are master of the material.

Last week’s presentation was brand new. It being a writing group, I knew I couldn’t just hit them with a pure travel presentation. I had to mix it up, come up with something different. And I was nervous. Not because I was worried I’d forget what I wanted to say or because of the pressure of trying to entertain and inform a room full of people, but because of the fear all creatives feel at some point in their career: the fear of being discovered a fraud.

Authors, artists, musicians, particularly those who have achieved early success, often discuss the fear of being found out. The dread that the first success was just luck — right book, right time. But the second? That’s when they’ll come for you. Pitchforks and red pens, oh they’ll come. And they won’t be kind.

It’s easy to stand in front of a crowd and show them pretty pictures and talk about how I planned and accomplished a journey that goes beyond what the majority would ever consider. Giving a talk about my travels is easy. Standing in front of peers, with no major success or, at best, a litany of tangentially-related credentials, is different. Fortunately, I was able to convince myself that even though my WIP is still very much IP, the years I’ve spent studying travel memoir, storycraft, my experiments with One Lousy Pirate, and what I know to have worked thus far, gave me the confidence to do just that.

The goal of my talk was to not speak as an expert, but to show others what is working for me. And how I believe we, as writers, can use our travels to add authenticity to our fiction. I discussed the lessons learned from my self-published travel story, the decision-making process that led to my abandoning travel memoir and embracing fiction for my current efforts, and the strengths and weaknesses of using the Internet as a substitute for on-the-ground experience. I also talked at length about the steps I took while traveling to ensure I had the research materials I would need for when I got home, regardless of genre.

I’d love to hear from anyone interested in scheduling this presentation for your group. Please use this form to contact me. Thanks.

Bookish Links

  1. Experts Warn that Top Books Prizes Are Harming Fiction – Yes, I too rolled my eyes upon seeing the headline. But Danuta Kean makes a strong case to support her claim. Unfortunately, we see it in all mediums where art bumps up against consumer goods. Books, movies, video games. Success, whether commercial or critically, encourages imitation and a lack of risk-taking.
  2. Writers on their Favorite Funny Book – Another link from The Guardian (I’m cleaning out my Flipboard likes). Here’s a number of hilarious books chosen by authors, complete with their reasons for liking the books. Of the books listed, I’ve only read one of them. Well, heard one of them. David Sedaris does a semi-annual show in Seattle. If the others on the list are as funny as Sedaris, my to-read list will get a lot longer.
  3. When Did You Realize You Weren’t An Artist? –  My favorite of the links I’m posting today. David Toussaint flips society’s need to make artists explain themselves on its head. Rather than asking creatives when they realized they were going to be an artist, Toussaint suggests asking everyone else when they discovered they would’t be one.
  4. Five of the Sexiest Scenes in Literature – Another Guardian link. Anyway, this article features five quick examples of some steamy sex scenes in classic literature, including an excerpt from Nabokov. But no, it’s not Lolita. [Mental Note: Remember to read Lolita]
  5. 15 Movies All Entrepreneurs Love – This article from Shopify is for everyone looking for a little inspiration in their business lives. Going it alone can be scary — I’ve been self-employd my entire adult life, so trust me, I know — but movies like these help prime the pumps and keep the fear at bay. We might not all be Zuckerbergs-in-the-making, but success comes in many levels, as these movies show.

Bonus Link

Tokyo Violin Maker’s Apprentice Fulfills Lifetime Dream at 81 –  Never say you’re too old to reinvent yourself. Never say you’re too old to learn a new skill or be retrained. If you ever catch yourself thinking such ridiculous thoughts, just remember the story of Amadio Arboleda, a man who, at age 78, decided it was finally time to learn how to make a violin, just as he always dreamed. It took three years, but he did it.

Post image by Pero Kvrzica, used under Creative Commons.

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