Mar 23, 201709:09 AMCity Beat
The Strange Magic of Writing
There is something magical and cathartic in the act of writing that maintains a degree of mystery for even the most seasoned writers. Some may feel inspired to put pen to paper by a seemingly divine flash of inspiration, while others are simply moved to write by everyday occurrences. Many people dream of expressing themselves through the art of storytelling, and most hope to share their written creations with eager readers. Nevertheless, a lot more goes into writing than simply sitting down with a dream and tapping away at a keyboard -- or does it?
On February 25th, Cupboard Maker Books in Enola hosted a book release party for Strange Magic, a collection of short stories from the Perry County Council of the Arts (PCCA) “A Novel Idea” writer’s workshop. The bookstore was delightfully musty with the scent of used books, packed into rows upon rows of tall wooden shelves. It was the perfect environment to encourage conversation among booklovers and writers alike. The attending authors were thrilled to discuss their inspiration, their advice for aspiring authors, and how they overcome the inevitable obstacles en route to being published.
One of those obstacles common to most writers is the problem of self-doubt.
“I remember the first time when my book was getting published, I walked to the book store and it just kinda dawned on me… [I was like] ugh, look at all these writers, look at all these books, how am I ever gonna be able to compete with all this?” said Catherine Jordan, editor of the Strange Magic anthology and one of the PCCA’s workshop instructors. “So it can be daunting but it’s never stopped me.”
Jordan, who mostly writes horror, said that she strives to write 2,000 words a day. She’s driven to the keyboard by her search for what it is that draws people to horror.
“You know, you talk about God and they kind of get a little glaze on their eyes, but when you bring up the devil or when you bring up demons then all of the sudden you’ve got their attention, and so I’ve always wondered why. Why? And that’s one of the things that I try to do in my writing, is I try to get to that answer, get to that why, why…why are you so entranced?”
Besides her quest to understand the human fascination with the dark side, Jordan is inspired to write because she loves to read. She believes that in order to be a writer, you must be an avid reader.
“First of all, read. Second of all, pick up the pen and write,” she advised. “It’s just a matter of discipline -- sitting down and writing and not getting stuck on that first page or that first chapter or that first paragraph. Just write.”
Samantha Coons, assistant manager at Cupboard Maker Books and author of the story “The Dragon’s Eye,” gave similar advice:
“Just write,” she said. “Don’t worry about [it]…like don’t even worry about what you think about it…certainly not what other people think about it. Just get it out. Like if you have an idea, write it.”
Coon’s story ideas often begin with characters and the struggles the characters have faced. She gave the example that if a character destroyed the world, she would be inspired to write a story about why the character did this, and how.
“I’m actually really not plot-driven when I’m creating stuff,” she said.
Jordan agreed that character development is key to a good story.
“If you’re good with your character, if you’re true to your character, your character will have their own life in that book and they will take a direction where you never thought that you as a writer would go,” said Jordan. “Go where your characters lead you.”
There are eighteen different authors published in Strange Magic, and it seemed that most of them, if not all, were at the release party. The mood was jovial and there was much laughing and talking amongst fellow writers and attendees. Several of the authors sat behind a table signing copies of the anthology in between readings.
Lynne Reeder, author of the story “Feral,” was among the book-signing authors, and she was happy to share her thoughts on the writing life. As a mother and a high school English teacher, Reeder is most inspired by her students, her kids, and life experience in general.
“You have to develop thick skin because you’ll be rejected, maybe more than you’ll ever get acceptances,” said the Jodi Picoult fan, “so you have to know that that’s not always personal, it’s just the industry…But keep with it and putting yourself out there and the farther down you dig, the truer your words are, the better success you’re gonna have.”
But it takes more than thick skin to be a writer.
“It sounds a little cliché,” said Reeder, “but writing’s something you do and pursue because you love it and it feels like it’s a part of you, because there’s obviously not a lot of money in it.”
Sitting across from Reeder was Mark Boerma, a programmer analyst from Hazleton and a Raymond Carver fan. He described how it felt to have his story “The Light of Night” published in Strange Magic.
“It’s a big thing. Its good…you know, cause once you’re published…you got that monkey off your back.”
Nevertheless, one could have ascertained by the sight of shelves stocked nearly to the rafters with books, if someone has the hunger to write, the monkey will jump back on, tugging and twisting at their hair until they sit back down and pound away at the keyboard again, making them a writer.