Went to a reading at the Seattle University Bookstore last night by authors CatRambo, Cherie Priest, and Jeff Vandermeer.
I found the evening inspiring as a writer. Cat’s stories from her book Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight sparked anew the desire in me to write stories that are fun and quirky, and reminded me that stories can pack a lot into few words (which I am taking as a personal challenge to write a couple of 2,000 word stories). Cherie’s introduction to Boneshaker made me appreciate the potential for mining local history and environments for story gold. Jeff’s reading of action scenes from Finch made me appreciate the importance of context and emotional stakes to make an action scene have real meaning and impact.
Jeff also just released a great book called Booklife on being a writer in the 21st century that talks about things like how to use social media to promote yourself, in addition to general advice backed up with real and useful examples.
In the Q&A afterwards, Jeff spoke on how he developed the mushroom-based technology of his fictional world. This, plus the clever unpredictable progression style of Cat’s stories, and Cherie’s twist on Pacific Northwest history, all reminded me and reinforced the value of those two magic words, "what if." What if you had a mushroom-based technology? What if Russia had tried to cash in on the gold rush rather than selling Alaska to the U.S.? What if color were banned? Thus are great stories born, by asking "what if" and then running with it.
After the reading, the authors and a group of us attendees and associates went for beers and snacks at a local pub. I got a couple of story ideas out of the conversations, and met some super-swell folks. There was much discussion of writing and publishing, and it is always nice to be surrounded by people who speak in the same language and idioms as yourself, and share the same key interests.
In short, if you are a writer, make sure to get out and support your fellow writers when you can, and engage in social interactions with other writers and genre enthusiasts outside of the interwebs. Check with your local bookstores and authors’ websites for upcoming events. It can be inspiring and recharging as well as just plain fun.
PS: I love that the three authors’ names together make "Priest Rambo Vandermeer" — I will definitely have this unholy priest appear in some future story of mine.