There is a tendency (if not the cultural expectation), on Monday morning when we tell each other stories about our weekend, to simply report the events like a newspaper columnist instead of a novelist. We don’t give all the details. We don’t expound on how it felt plunging into the ice cold lake for the first swim of the summer or how we all cheered as grandmother blew out the candles at her 90th birthday party. We simply state that we had a get-together for our grandmother’s 90th, or we went to the lake and opened the cottage for the summer. We smile and ask, “And how was your weekend?” We assume our listener is not really that interested or certainly not that patient. And generally speaking, it is a good assumption. Such economy eases us through our day.
On June 7th and 8th I had the delight of taking my twin 20-year old daughters to the Printer’s Row Lit Fest in Chicago (http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/books/printersrowlitfest/). While there, I attended several author talks. One was a conversation between Bonnie Jo Campbell (http://www.bonniejocampbell.com/), Brigid Pasulka (http://www.brigidpasulka.com/), and Justin Go (http://justingo.com/), moderated by Sam Weller (http://www.samwellers.com/).
During this talk, Bonnie Jo Campbell made the following recommendation to writers. [I paraphrase] “Edit your novel manuscript as a series of moments – are you getting all you can out of each moment?”
What she was saying was this:
Reject the temptation to do in your fiction or nonfiction what you do on Monday morning. You are not at the coffee pot or water cooler. And your reader doesn’t have their nose in their favorite newspaper. Your reader is reading your novel, story collection, or true tale precisely because they WANT to feel every splash and sensation. They WANT to hear every cheer and well wish. That is the point. That is why the long form story exists. That is the contract you’ve established with them. That is why you write. That is the coveted product you are providing.
By the way…as the three of us rounded the corner of Harrison and Clark at 2:25 Sunday afternoon, the sunlight glancing in wide spreads between the apartment buildings, mixed with the late spring breeze, and formed that rare temperature – that just-right that causes you to want to walk and walk and walk, soaking in the sounds of the street performers and fire trucks forever and forevermore.