Write what you love. Follow your passions. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
These are among the insights and inspiration at one of the fiction panels at this weekend’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the country’s largest celebration of the written word. The 12th annual festival was held at UCLA and drew upwards of 130,000 word lovers (along with their children and pets).
The advice above comes from Chris Bohjalian and Peter Orner, from the panel Fiction: Jumping Off the Page, which also featured Marianne Wiggins and Gary Shteyngart. What was fun about this panel, for me, was hearing about the processes of these writers: that Wiggins and Orner both write in longhand; that Wiggins takes two to three years to think out a novel but writes only one draft; that Bohjalian writes eight, nine, and ten drafts of each book. It was heartening to learn that even a writer like Bohjalian has written novels he will never publish; that it took Orner twelve years to write his novel The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo; that, in Orner’s words, “first and last sentences are a constant hell.” For writers who make it look easy, it’s comforting to know that for even these authors, writing is anything but.
It was impossible to sit in on all 97 of the panels, of course, but we did our best to visit as many of the 300 exhibitor booths as we could, seeing everything from literary magazines to small presses, as well as testing out the Sony Reader and checking out the new MySpace for literary types: TheYack.com.
Best of all, San Diego Writers, Ink got us there and back on its inaugural trip to the festival, complete with open mic readings and plenty of coffee. Mark your calendars for next year; I already have.