Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Celebrity Authors--They're Just Like Us*!!

Cindy Jones Impersonating a Celebrity Author

By Cindy Jones

Famous authors frequently stop in Dallas to promote their books and, after my debut novel sold, I began to envision myself behind a podium.  From my front row seat I took notes on subject matter, recorded how much time they devoted to each part of their talk, and filed away author jokes to appropriate later.  After listening to so many celebrity authors, I've decided a good talk is not about structure.  Instead of discovering the secret to entertaining an audience, I've discovered that—if you don't count the Pulitzer Prizes, Ivy League Professorships, and bestseller paychecks—celebrity authors are just like us*.    
  
  •         They connect unlike things to create something new.  Jeffrey Eugenides connected the study of Semiotics with Jane Austen to create his novel, The Marriage Plot.
  •          They seek obscure details.  Ian MacEwan, author of Saturday, visited an operating room—not to immerse himself in the scientific process—but to see what it looked, sounded, and felt like when doctors performed surgery.  Who knew they piped in rock music?  
  •          They create worlds.  When asked how she conducts research for her historical fiction work-in-progress, Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help confessed that if she can't find it, she just makes up her facts!  
  •          They're absent-minded.  Anne Lamott, promoting Traveling Mercies, apologized for wearing jeans to her talk at the Arts & Letters Live Series because--she forgot to pack her good pants.  
  •          They get ideas everywhere.  Chip Kidd, who designs book covers for Knopf, got the idea for the Jurrasic Park cover after touring the Natural History Museum where he bought a dinosaur book.  He took a page to his copy machine, got out his tracing paper, and added ferocious claws to create the famous logo used in theme parks and motion pictures. 
  •          They overcome obstacles.  Richard Ford, promoting his book, Independence Day, confessed that he suffers from dyslexia and had to work twice as hard as everyone else to learn to read. 
  •          They’ve been writing since they could hold a pen.  Look who was writing before puberty:  Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Atwood, and Carol Shields.  They would rather write than go outside for recess.  
  •      They love the process

Take away point:  I've enjoyed learning about myself by listening to famous authors talk.  Suddenly my quirky personal traits make sense and I leave the auditorium with renewed energy to get back to work.  I've decided the secret to a successful talk is opening up enough for others to see something about themselves in what you say.  Assuming they are present because they love reading and writing, a good talk will make personal connections and inspire listeners to exercise their creative gifts.  (I still avoid recess in all its forms).  

  • *all creative writers 

  • Spring Break!--If you are in Corpus Christi, Texas on Tuesday, March 13, please join me for a Book Talk at Anita & W.T. Neyland Public  Library, 1230 Carmel Parkway, Corpus Christi at 5:30 pm and I will demonstrate what I’ve gleaned from observing Celebrity Authors.  For more details:  361-853-9961.
Cindy Jones is the author of My Jane Austen Summer.  Follow her:


16 comments:

  1. Great list, Cindy!

    This was funny: "...Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help confessed that if she can't find it, she just makes up her facts." So good to know imagination is still involved!l

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    1. Thanks, Sara! Kathryn Stockett is a very funny speaker and I did manage to tuck away one of her jokes that works for me every time...

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  2. LOVE this post, Cindy! I absolutely love hearing my favorite authors speak. And I like what you say about quirky traits. For a while, people were saying my writing was quirky. I just didn't see it! So, for my third novel, I decided to embrace it-- I just let myself go wherever I wanted to go and I think (fingers crossed!) it worked!

    Great post.

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    1. Embrace! Thank you for that word and for bringing me to the point I wanted to make about bats and birds. Creative people look like birds but we're bats, and that can be a problem growing up. If we learn that successful authors are also bats, it gives us courage to embrace our bat tendencies and fly! I wish all creative children could attend celebrity writer talks...Go, Girlfriend!

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  3. Cindy, this is *such* a fun post! Since I'm nearly done with Season 6 of Nip/Tuck, I did know about the music in the O.R. Of course, judging from that show, people stop by all the time to watch you operate and surgeons don't pay a whole lot of attention to the body on the table.

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    1. Too much fun! But do they serve wine?

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  4. Ooh, loved this post, Cindy, and so true. I love getting glimpses into the real life of creative people and though it's fun to connect online, it's great to get to hear people in person at length. I'm looking forward to meeting readers and writers next weekend at the KWA conference in Wichita. Feels good to get out of the house every now and then.

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    1. Feels good to be surrounded by readers and writers, too! Wishing you a great weekend in Wichita!

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  5. I always look forward to your posts. They are always so clever. I have stolen jokes from other authors before :)

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  6. Thank you, Karin!
    With regard to recycled jokes, we authors have to adapt material when and where we find it! A creative exercise of sorts...

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  7. Cindy, great job. Yes, it is comforting to find out that you do in fact fit in, just your flock is a little more dispersed. Love the bat metaphor...

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    1. Thank you, Sheila. I love being part of this flock of bat Girlfriends!

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    1. Hi Maria! Thanks so much for reading! I loved yours yesterday!

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