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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Liz Recaptures the Magic

Originally uploaded by EliBev.
Please forgive my absence from the blog the past coupla weeks. This week, we’ve been battling the flu at my house, and it’s a heinous little bugger. Last week, though, I disappeared for much more pleasant reasons. I was involved in an intensive writing seminar at a local university that I participate in annually: Green River Writers’ Novels-in-Progress Workshop.

Every year, at the invitation of Green River Writers, I and four or five other published authors in a variety of genres teach writing classes and work in-depth with a small group of people who are writing their first novels. And every year, I have a blast. At the end of the week, I’m always incredibly flattered to be told by the NIPW participants how helpful and inspirational I and the other faculty members have been to them. But what the NIPW participants don’t realize is how helpful and inspirational they are to me.

I’ve been writing professionally since 1988. Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember what it was like creating that first novel. The bubble of inspiration that finally popped and became an idea. The relentless tug of characters demanding life. The blind hope for publication that allowed me to pick up a pen and start writing. The breathless anticipation of thumbing through the thesaurus for just the right word. The unmitigated joy of watching it all play out like...(Meg Ryan "Sleepless in Seattle" pause)...magic.

These days, other things crowd into my head when I sit down to write. Reader expectations. Market trends. Editorial needs. List placement. Shrinking print runs. Disappearing imprints. They’re things that have no place in my novel, but inevitably, they big-shoulder their way into my creative process and start shoving me around. Sometimes I can shove back hard enough to make them slink away. But sometimes I can’t, and they beat me bloody. They’re an occupational hazard I have to live with now. I can’t escape them completely, no matter how fast I run.

That, I think, is the tragedy of living one’s dreams. They cease to be dreams when one begins to live them and turn into reality instead. And as a wise philosopher once said, “Reality bites.” Yes, there are certainly still moments of joy and hope and fun when I write. If there weren’t, I wouldn’t keep doing this. But it’s not a dream anymore. I've had a peek behind the curtain, so the magic's been tarnished. It’s reality now that sometimes bites.

But for one week every year, I am immersed in the creation of that first novel once again. I witness the marvel of producing a wonderful story from seemingly nothing, and I am awed by it. It really is amazing, how we novelists take common, everyday words and arrange them in a way that evokes beautiful imagery and heartfelt emotion. I don’t know why I keep forgetting that. But I remember it every time one of my NIPW students starts talking about his or her book. I see their magic and feel their dreams. And it gives me the strength I need to shove harder the next time the bullies come around.

So thanks, all you first-timers, for reminding me what’s really important in this business: It’s not the business that’s important at all.

So who’s discovering the magic of a first novel? Or who’s setting out on the journey of following one’s heart? Who has a dream they want to fulfill someday? And how are you going to go about making that dream a reality?
Elizabeth Bevarly, 4:14 PM