My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

Beth Kaplan logo

“finished enough”

This is the most beautiful spring I can remember.  Perhaps surviving the bitter winter pushed the trees and flowers, once they finally emerged, to explode.  There’s a stunning pink dogwood tree at the Necropolis, and a huge, dark purple lilac up the street that in 22 years in this neighbourhood I have never noticed before.  Even these last days of October-like cold were almost tolerable, because they made the colour and scent of spring last longer.

I spent yesterday at the Writer’s Union of Canada AGM, attending workshops and meeting old friends.  I learned a lot, and not only how much coffee writers drink.  In one panel, Ellen Seligman, described as “the queen bee of Canadian literary fiction,” was asked when a writer knows that a book is finished. “A book is never finished,” she replied.  “It is finished enough.”  
There was an interesting discussion about the use of computer versus typewriter or longhand for first drafts.  Ellen said, “The computer is not necessarily a writer’s best friend.  Everything comes out so fast.  The quality is different, the slowness and concentration is missing.”  Writers who work on computers should still print everything out and edit from a hard copy, she said, which is read more slowly than words on a screen.
She also said that editing on computers has another pitfall – changes are so easily made that sometimes valuable work in earlier drafts is lost.  “Keep your drafts,” she said. 
A panel on how to establish a profile emphasised the importance of a website and blog.  For once, I thought, I’m on target.  “What is your USP?” we were asked – our “unique selling position.”  Ah, brave new world, where writers not only have to write the books, they have to come up with a USP to sell it.  “What’s your brand? How do you differentiate yourself from other writers?”  They mentioned as example one writer who always wears a cowboy hat.  I emerged determined to work on my USP and my brand.  Hmmm.  Here’s something fun and original – how about being branded as a writer who writes really well, how about that?  Will that do?
And then, in the afternoon, Nino Ricci set us straight in a panel on “What I wish I’d known” – experienced writers reminiscing ruefully about their early days.  Nino said, “So much of writing is delusion. How can we tackle the page in the morning unless we convince ourselves that what we produce is going to make a difference, to make some impact, to matter?  And then it is published and we realise that is not going to happen.  The reality is that what we do is often an exercise in humiliation.” 
Thence followed an argument about who had had the fewest people at their readings.  Nino had three people once, none of whom had heard of him, but Paul Quarrington won; he told of a time that he and Wayne Johnston – “before he was famous” – had a reading at a bookstore and not one single person came.  Suddenly I felt pretty good about my twenty-five people at the 92nd Street Y. 
Susan Swan said she didn’t know that being a writer meant being constantly judged and in competition with other writers.  Wayson Choy told us that he has learned the importance of teaching yourself the how – the craft – of good storytelling, like punctuation, the rhythm of dialogue, the music of sentences.  “If you have the craft, you can tell any story you want,” he assured us with his usual sweet cheerfulness.  Oh well, if it’s that easy – a USB and some craft, please, to go.  
I am going back today to have a fifteen minute “speed networking” session with a non-fiction agent who talked yesterday about the importance of a “platform” – which means being Barbara Walters, whose memoir is #1 on the Globe bestseller list –  and tonight to dance to the music of a band called Porkbelly Futures, fronted by Quarrington.  I loved spending the day in rooms filled with people who are usually alone with only their hearts and minds and their craft for company.  There we all were, gathered together in solidarity, convinced that what we produce matters.
And we are right.  Books matter.  Writers matter.  That’s our unique selling position.  We matter. 
And now I think this post is finished enough.  

Share

Share
Tweet
Share
Pin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

Archives

Coming soon

A new book by Beth Kaplan, published by Mosaic Press – “Midlife Solo”

Join the mailing list to stay up to date on this and other exciting news.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.