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Voice, Readers, and Connection

In yesterday’s interview Art Slade made a comment about enjoying personal appearances with his YA readers because it afforded him the opportunity to connect with the people he was really writing for. He said that sometimes he “gets caught up in listening to the ‘adults’ in the industry.”

I can understand what he’s talking about. As writers we move in two or more worlds each day. We spend part of our time roaming around in the world of our readers for we must think something like they do in order to write something they’ll want to read. At the same time we carry an invisible–but definitely not inaudible–editor inside our heads verbally slapping our hands if we so much as unintentionally end a sentence in a preposition.

I’ve been reading Les Edgerton’s book, “Finding Your Voice” this past couple of weeks. Okay, so I have several other things to do with my time besides read–sue me.

Fascination set in for me around the bottom of page one. It seems that good ol’ Les is about as irreverent of those school days’ grammar rules as a working writer can get and still remain in the business. Yet, with all that irreverence, he makes some mighty fine points about writing in today’s world.

Between the advice to write the way you’d talk to a good friend–or enemy–and allowing yourself the freedom to take only those pieces of writing advice from others as seem right, he makes it all work for the struggling writer. Struggling, I say, because each of us grapples with finding the right voice for whatever WIP happens to be under the pen at the time.

Slade may have hit some of that nail’s head, too. He needs to reconnect with the actual readers, to feel them out emotionally, verbally, socially. He says he sometimes listens to too many “adults.”

Don’t we all? And most of the time, they’re not even in the room. It’s your mother, fifth grade teacher, high school comp teacher, college lit prof who just loved Tolstoy. It’s every editor that you’ve ever had dealings with. Then there are the friends who believe in you vs. the ones who think you live in a dream world.

See, I read Les’ book well. I also realized just how right he really was. For the first time in my life, I drew a deep writer’s breath of relief and saw that blessed light at the end of the tunnel of expression.

We do deal with adults all day, every day, unless we’re teachers still in the classroom. Each of those adults has a personal agenda, perspective on writing, personal tastes in literature, and the ability to kill any piece sent to them if they have a toothache that day and just didn’t feel like reading what you sent in. That’s the reality.

But each of them also has the ability to make your day one filled with sunshine, grant you entrance into that hallowed hall filled with published authors, promote you into that league of book series authors, or what-have-you.

Coins have two sides, after all.

If you write in a way that discourages the average reader whether because of it’s language or its level of difficulty or technical acumen, you shouldn’t be upset if it doesn’t do well in the mass market. At the same time, if you write as if punks looking for a good party and heavy drinking are the only readers, don’t expect the average parent to appreciate it for themselves or their children.

It comes back to audience and intent. I wonder if that’s why writing for the mainstream is so difficult for some writers. Do they have trouble straddling the fence while producing an enjoyable story?

Hey, don’t misunderstand here. I have just as much trouble as the next person when I’m trying to target a specific group and get it right. Children’s writers tend to write for all sorts of age groups with differing language and concept needs and limitations. And yet, I have as much trouble getting it right for adults as I do for young children.

And thanks to Les’ book I figured out why. I’d had grammar’s perfection drilled into me for so long with expectations that anything in written form must be literarily supreme that I couldn’t conceive of anything less being acceptable to anyone. Formality can be a great protective barrier, but it’s a lousy calling card for editors.

Perhaps now I can get back that imaginative voice I had when I was young. And perhaps I allow the creativity to flow the way it used to as a gusher rather than a trickling spring.

I’m taking steps to reconnect with readers of all types. I’ve taken the hint from Art’s book of success. How about you? Have you been connecting lately? Is your voice saying what you really want it to? Just curious. You might want to think about it for at least a minute or two and decide.

Well, that’s my tirade for today. Tomorrow I’ll be sitting down with illustrator Dawn Phillips. She’s such a sweet lady and a marvelous artist. Please stop by and hear what she has to say about her side of the publishing industry.

Take care all and God bless.

A bientot,


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