|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: