Do Writing Instructors Like Larry Brooks Matter?
|Follow me – I know this path by heart!
In life, like travel, I have a steadfast rule; never, ever follow a guide who hasn’t been where I want to go. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Then why are so many fiction writers taking the advice of ‘how-to’ book authors who have never written a novel? There are a lot of writers out there who espouse to know the rights and wrongs, and they write books upon books about said rights and wrongs. However, if they have zero – zippo – nadda novels published, I don’t give a hoot about their opinion, and neither should you. They’re just critics and I have enough critics in my head. Don’t you?
What I need are guides; dusty, haggard and road savvy enough to show me where to go and how to get there. These are the people I’ll follow into battle, not the “I know everything about writing a novel, but just haven’t written one yet, please buy my book,” peddlers of fiction. … There; bone picked. I’ll share the story of my friend and writing comrade that lies behind that prickly bone in a later post.
If you read my blog you know that last week I told you I decided to interview a few ‘published authors’ in regards to their opinion on the necessity or importance of writer’s conferences; waste of time vs beneficial. If you missed last week’s interview with the gracious Bharti Kirchner, check itout.
Meanwhile, below is my interview with Larry Brooks, author of Story Engineering; Mastering the Six Core Competenciesof Successful Writing, and an AWARD Winning blog at Storyfix, AND several fiction novels; Bait and Switch (Publishers Weekly starred review, Best Books of 2004), The Seminar, Darkness Bound (USA Today Best Seller) and more. For a complete list of Larry’s books check out his web page. He’s one of those guys you want to follow into this battleground of fiction writing and getting published. He’s been there; he can show you where to go and how to get there. Follow him. Oh, and if you missed my funny story on how I met Larry Brooks, check out Wounded at Willamette Writers.
Meanwhile back at the interview….
MH(me)- What is your goal/hope/intention when you go to writer’s conferences? (as an instructor or student)
LB – To create and facilitate breakthroughs and Epiphanies for writers who realize there is more to it than they’re getting, that they’ve been hearing less than there is, and that their work needs a deeper understanding of craft before it can go to the next level. And, to meet some cool people, which I usually do.
MH -How many do you go to/teach each year?
LB- Not enough, I’m trying to expand this part of my “business.” I’d say I do about six conferences or so.
MH- Do you think writers conferences add or detract from the writing community overall? If so why?
LB -They definitely add to community. Writers make connections with peers and with agents and others from the industry, simply through proximity. What’s really cool is when, as a group, they experience something that takes them forward together, and they stick together going forward to hold each other accountable to their goals.
MH- Does attending conferences improve your writing or is it purely a social/business event?
LB- Every time I teach an aspect of craft it reinforces it for me. There comes a point, though, that the best learning is seeing principles executed in actual stories, either published or unpublished (especially unpublished, gaps scream out at you from the page). I write for hours every day, so I can’t put my finger on anything specific as a catalyst for improvement, just the combined contextual momentum and reinforcement of it all, made real by putting it into practice.
MH- What was your single most memorable moment at a writer’s conference?
LB – In a conference in Oklahoma City a writing and critique group consisting of eight women pitched a story to the entire audience (about 200) as part of a pitching exercise. The concept involved a group of frustrated writers at a writing conference who were finally hearing something they could use, so they kidnap him and hold him captive until he had helped all of them write their novels and helped them write book proposals and prepare pitches. It was embarrassing to stand up there listening to this… it seems everyone in the audience was in on the joke except me. Turns out they actually did write the novel – together – no word on what happened to it, and nobody’s thrown me into the back of a van… yet.
MH – This year at the WW or PNWA conference what did you feel was the biggest draw?
LB – Only went to WW. I’ve been trying to get booked at the PNWA for 15 years, but they never return a call despite references from all over the country. Maybe they heard that kidnapping story and thought I made it up.
MH – What was your most engaging ‘aha’ moment this year?
LB – When I realized that I had invented something new and completely revolutionary in the manuscript coaching field (in the form of an inexpensive story summary critique service) affirmed when I rolled it out and I immediately had more work than I could handle. I had to put a fence around it and package it into a program, and its working, I’ve never been busier, at least in this part of my writing life (story coaching, which is one of five things I do in the writing arena to make a living, another of which is writing books). I always feel an “aha” moment when something works.
MH – What conference speaker/lecturer of any year has most inspired you to write?
LB – Here’s a confession: when I attend conferences as a speaker, the only other presenters I hear are luncheon or keynote speakers. The best one I’ve heard was Elmore Leonard, but maybe I was star struck. Come to think of it, I disagreed with about five of this “Top 10 Rules for Writing,” but it still sticks in my memory as the most inspiring, maybe because I saw that success in writing novels doesn’t translate into success in teaching the craft.
Next week: Julie A. Fast, best-selling author and management specialist on the Oprah and Dr. Oz created website www.ShareCare.com. www.JulieFast.com And then the following week author Robert Dugoni, NY Times Best Selling Author www.robertdugoni.com
OH, and YES, writing instructors like Larry Brooks, matter, a great deal: in a world where so many ‘guides’ have never traveled the path, he’s been there.