The Public Side of Being a Writer

Monica Edinger got me thinking about the public side of being a writer. You spend hours holed up in your own mind or communing with research texts. Battling with drafts. Crumpling your way through reams of revision. Talking, let’s face it, to imaginary people. Then when the book is done, suddenly, you have to go out and meet people and talk about it. You have to put on that public face.

What is that face? Most of the time I try not to think about her, quite honestly, and when I do, I feel a bit funny because, you know, I don’t play the banjo or even the ukulele. I’m not an entertainer. I feel funny pushing my own books. I’m that introvert who loves juggling words and wrangling with ideas.

It’s not that I can’t speak in public, mind you. Give me something I care enough about–like the books I’ve spent my adult life writing for young readers–and I have plenty to say. About the dreams and the battles that were part of the work. About all that I’ve learned and new questions that arise to puzzle and intrigue me. About the human act of storytelling that has the power to connect us all.

Musician James Radcliffe says he writes because writing about something lets him know how he feels about it and why. That’s certainly true for me while I’m working on a book. Connecting with audiences, especially young audiences, can give me similar insights. Those will arrive more readily if I haven’t had to reinvent myself, learn to play an instrument, or try to be somebody I’m not. I’ve made those connections in ways that come naturally to me.

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