Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Just write it
As seen in the Kerrville Community Journal
If you have always yearned to write a book, this column will either inspire you or depress you.
Mary Lee Gowland - who will teach Creative Writing for Club Ed - had the very first book she ever wrote published when she was 19 years old.
That’s right. Age 19.
“In my teens I was primarily a poet, and my mother asked if she could read my poems,” she said. Gowland reluctantly agreed. “My mom said, wouldn’t it be fun to make a book!”
Her parents were both professional photographers [see Peter Gowland], so they took “romantic” photos of me to accompany her poems. The book was really popular, and stayed in print for 10 years.
That is the depressing or inspiring part - that this teenager had such easy, early success.
Gowland admits her case was unusual, and does not guarantee such instant success to students in her class. But you can pretty much guarantee no success if you don’t study the art and craft of writing.
After she had published her third book, Gowland started taking, then teaching poetry classes. She joined an academy, lead readings, and brought her poetry into schools. she is currently working with 4th-graders at Daniels Elementary school. This will be her first adult class in this area.
“I like teaching adults, but adults come with ‘I can’t do it’ syndrome. Kids just do it.”
Her advice boils down to that “just do it” mantra.
“Everybody says they want to write, but you have to sit down and do it.”
She will share tips and guidance on getting to that point. Her two top tips are 1) Talk, and 2) Read.
“Everybody can talk, but claim they can’t write. Writing is really just talking on paper. It’s really that simple.”
Reading is essential.
“A lot of people have no idea what good writing is. So if you want to write mysteries, read mysteries. If you want to write romances, read romances. Don’t imitate them; but learn from them.”
The whole point of a writing class is to help each student find his or her own voice. In order to do that, you must experiment with using other’s voices. Some of her lessons involve partially rewriting someone else’s poem, for example.
Other tips are to carry a notebook and take notes when you hear people use a distinct phrase or way of talking.
While Gowland is writing magazine articles for local magazines, her true love is creative writing. When giving guidance on how to do that, she loves to “throw out ideas and have people run with them.”
And rumors of the demise of reading and writing are not true.
“Reading is not dying, we just now have different ways of reading,” she said, noting she received an e-book reader for Christmas. “ I believe you should write stories for whomever you want to reach. There is an audience out there, so you share it with people who appreciate it. I get more satisfaction giving a reading for 10 to 12 people, than having sales of books to people you never see. Granted, you won’t make lot of money. But money should never be your motivation. How many artists make money?”
So you won’t get a guarantee to have a popular bestseller. But Gowland does promise this:
“I want to inspire people to tell stories they want to tell. This class will give you the techniques to help you do that.”
The new Creative Writing class meets for six Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to noon beginning Feb 3. For information or to sign up, click www.clubed.net, or call 830-895-4386.