If you could choose, with which famous author would you want to talk about writing?
May 2, 2013
Being a former English teacher turned book editor, sometimes I forget that I’m not grading an essay written by one of my students. I’ve made a mental note to never, ever write notes in red or highlight in red. Green ink pens and happy post-it notes are more reader friendly when one is having his/her work critiqued.
When I edit a manuscript, it helps, though, that the story idea is so good that I become totally engrossed in the plot. Then I can look for “holes” in the overall story line and advise the author how to fill in the gaps to help the reader along. An excellent writer should never confuse the reader but, instead, take him or her by the hand so to speak, so that the reader can hear, see, and sense what the writer has in his head.
One night this week I actually had control of the remote control (something that is quite rare in our household) and stumbled upon a movie entitled Midnight in Paris starring Owen Wilson. The movie centered around a successful but unfulfilled writer who found himself drunk and lost, wandering around Paris at midnight looking for his hotel. He was picked up by a group of party-going Parisians in an antique Peugeot. Once inside the 1920s model 176 Peugeot, he joined in the revelry even though he could not quite fathom what was happening. For the next several nights, he waited for the car and was transported in time each time to meet an author whom he had always admired or a famous painter.
Though this movie was in the science fiction genre, it was not in the typical Sci-Fi mode where the hero meets an odd or even scary creature from outer space. The movie could more accurately be classified as a romantic comedy.
The protagonist of this story, Gil Pender, had some wonderful experiences indeed. He met some of his literary heroes, writers whose names you would quickly recognize and even remember the English professor in whose class you studied their works. Pender especially enjoyed talking to Ernest Hemingway. When Pender asked Hemingway to read his work, the “great one” responded that he wouldn’t like it, that he liked no one’s writing better than his own. He did the next best thing, though, by introducing Pender to Gertrude Stein. Stein read and critiqued the manuscript on which he had been working.
Watching this movie made me think how nice it would be to sit down with a Robert Frost, Edgar Allen Poe, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Robert Burns, or John Milton – just to name a few of my favorites – and simply talk to them about writing.
If you could do just that, with whom would you choose to talk shop?