I’m excited to bring you today’s guest writer Kris Baker Dersch. She’s the editor and producer of an excellent flash fiction podcast called No Extra Words (Go subscribe now!) Besides her duties with the podcast, she’s also a writer, librarian, and a mom.
Kris was kind enough to offer an essay and I think you’ll enjoy hearing a different voice than my own. Please, please, please go visit her at one of the many links I’ve included below, I know she’ll appreciate it and so will I.
A new bookstore just opened in the town where I live.
I love bookstores. Owning my own bookstore is one of those pipe dreams I have, like some people want to have horses and run a dude ranch. It’s not going to happen. But in my head, I’m Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail with a quirky little book shop that is just what people don’t know they need. Of course, we’d also have to sell records so my husband could participate. And we’d decorate it with old typewriters.
Even movie reality doesn’t work here, because by the end of the movie her bookstore gets shut down by Tom Hanks and the big chain around the corner. I’m sure that the people who ran the wine cellar or specialty shoppe that once occupied this bookstore’s spot in my quirky suburban small-town will probably tell you to hit this bookstore very soon because odds are they will not be long for this world. Reality is hard on dreamers.
Writing can be like this. There’s the dream of the bestseller and the book signings. The movie rights to your first novel will go for a high six figures, nothing to set cinema records, but plenty to live on forever, although you’ll keep writing because you love the craft just that much. If my bookstore owner fantasy is Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail, in the author fantasy I’m Emma Thompson in Stranger Than Fiction with her Selectric and her quirky shut-in status, not enough to be mental illness, but just enough so you know she’s famous enough to get away with it. Or maybe Colin Firth in Love Actually, typing away in his French villa that is somehow also in Portugal. Maybe I just love their typewriters.
I haven’t hit my reality when it comes to life as a writer. Or maybe I have. Lots of work, self-imposed deadlines, no money. Maybe this is what it is all about. That certainly is a romance-killing reality.
I’m doing Nanowrimo again this year. I have two wins: 2009 and 2012, so you can see I’m not consistent about doing it. In 2009 I only had to work 16 days in November because of a scheduling fluke and I had my own little office, an attic bedroom in the house I was sharing with my then-boyfriend. I had a “new” 80-year old typewriter, my first, and I felt like Anne of Green Gables writing under the eaves. The whole thing was terribly romantic. I wrote some kind of historical fiction and never looked at it again. In 2012, I only made it because of a last minute “I shall not lose” 20,000 word Thanksgiving weekend. I never did figure out how to turn a Nanowrimo draft into anything more than dead trees.
I crashed and burned on my third Nano attempt last fall. That boyfriend and I are now married and share our home with this tiny human who last November at the age of six months decided to stop sleeping. Week 2 I fell out of love with my novel idea, and week 4 I didn’t write at all. Writing can be a real slog. I wasn’t planning on signing up at all this year. What’s the point? I wondered.
I didn’t know what to write. I was disenchanted with the idea of launching yet another manuscript. It helped to learned that the rules of Nano have changed and it is now acceptable to bring partially completed works and add to them for your word count. Thinking of November as my “finish the crap I’ve started” month is not romantic at all, but that’s what actually inspired me to sign on and take the plunge again. While there’s a lot to be said for launching into the great unknown with an idea and barreling out thousands of words just to see what happens, after six years of trying to tame this writing beast, I know that there’s more to it than that. Sometimes it’s a brilliantly edited short story you thought would be a novel but just needed trimming. Sometimes it’s yet another draft because damn it who wants to read all that unedited crap. Sometimes it’s flash fiction because life with a toddler and the Great American Novel don’t mesh. It’s hard work, all of it, and less romantic than that bestseller and movie rights dream, but a lot of things that are worth it are hard work. Like owning a bookstore.
I wish that bookstore owner all the luck in the world, and I hope if there’s anything I can do to make her successful I will be able to step up and do it. I started that today by buying some books. She may not make it, but every indie bookstore I love exists because someone took the leap. And every book I ever stayed up all night reading, re-read eight (or ten or fifteen) times, or clutched to my chest after finishing it because I couldn’t let it go exists because someone rolled a piece of paper into a typewriter, picked up a pen, or opened a laptop.
Whatever you’re doing to build your word count today, I salute you. It is two parts hard work, and one part dream, but the dream keeps us going.
You can find Kris at her blog: noextrawords.wordpress.com
And of course the podcast itself: No Extra Words