Get a Clue! Mystery Authors Crombie, Hallinan, & Koenig @ Texas Book Festival

Mystery authors Deborah Crombie, Timothy Hallinan, and Minerva Koenig will appear on the panel Get a Clue at the Texas Book Festival on Saturday, October 25, at 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., in Capitol Extension Room E2.014.

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Deborah Crombie is the New York Times best-selling author of the Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid/Sergeant IMG_3556Gemma James novels. A SHARE IN DEATH, her first novel,  received Agatha and Macavity nominations for Best First Novel of 1993. She has won two Macavity awards for Best Novel and her books have been nominated for a number of other awards. Her fifth novel, DREAMING OF THE BONES, was named a New York Times Notable Book for 1997, was short-listed by Mystery Writers of America for the 1997 Edgar Award for Best Novel, won the Macavity award for Best Novel, and was voted by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association as one of the hundred best mysteries of the century. The most recent book in the Kincaid / James series, TO DWELL IN DARKNESS, was published by William Morrow in September 2014.

A native of Dallas, Crombie has lived in both Scotland and England, and visits England, where are novels are set, several times a year.

Critical acclaim for Deborah Crombie’s novels

Crombie has laid claim to the literary territory of moody psychological suspense owned by P. D. James and Barbara Vine. – Washington Post

Deborah Crombie is an American mystery novelist who writes so vividly about England, she might have been born within the sound of Bow Bells. (She) gets better with each book…lyrical, biting and evocative. Cleveland Plain Dealer

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Timothy Hallinan has written eighteen critically acclaimed novels. He’s been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, and Lefty, IMG_3552among others, and is currently a Shamus nominee for his book LITTLE ELVISES.  He writes two series, one set in Bangkok, where he lives half-time, and the other in Los Angeles, where he lives the rest of the time. The Bangkok books feature an American travel writer named Poke Rafferty, who has married a Thai woman and adopted a Thai daughter, a street child, right off the sidewalk. The books are as much about family as they are about crime. The seventh Rafferty novel, FOR THE DEAD, comes out November 4, and William Kent Krueger described it as . . .”not only a fast-paced, compelling tale, but also, on every level, a fine literary read.”  His Junior Bender series, about a San Fernando Valley burglar, who works as a private eye for crooks, has just been bought by Iddie Izzard as an NBC television series. The fourth and most recent to be published is HERBIE’S GAME. [Thanks to Timothy Hallinan for writing this copy, which appears here unaltered.]

Critical acclaim for Timothy Hallinan’s novels

“Bender’s quick wit and smart mouth make him a book companion on this oddball adventure.” ~ New York Times Book Review

“A modern-day successor to Raymond Chandler.” ~ Los Angeles Daily News

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Minerva Koenig is the author of NINE DAYS, published by Minotaur in September of this year. The main character, Julia IMG_3548Kalas, is described as “short, round, and pushing forty, but … a damned good criminal. For seventeen years she renovated historic California buildings as a laundry front for her husband’s illegal arms business. Then the Aryan Brotherhood made her a widow, and witness protection shipped her off to the tiny town of Azula, Texas. Also known as the Middle of Nowhere.” With a local law enforcement officer as watchdog.

Julia has no intention of lying low, but she also doesn’t intend to raise her profile so high that half of Texas—good guys, bad guys, and who-knows-what-kind-of-guys—are either chasing, or being chased, by her. One thing is sure–Julia won’t be pushed around by any of them.

Scott Montgomery, crime fiction coordinator at BookPeople Book Store, says, “NINE DAYS introduces us to a fresh-hardboiled voice. Koenig embraces the genre, yet doesn’t completely play by its rules. I can’t wait to see what other conventions she breaks.”

Joy Tipping of the Dallas Morning news hails Julia Kalas as a successor to Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone, saying, “Let us praise the literary gods, then, that a worthy successor has arrived with Austin author Minerva Koenig and her debut novel, the funny, scary and devilishly twisty NINE DAYS.”

A long-time resident of Texas, Minerva is a licensed architect who runs a one-woman practice in Austin. Among her other interests are sewing, playing chess, and fighting the patriarchy.

Critical acclaim for Minerva Koenig’s novels

“Small-town Texas is vividly brought to life in this atmospheric and entertaining debut that also introduces a memorable and unusual protagonist.” ~ Library Journal

*****

Information about Deborah Crombie and Minerva Koenig was drawn from their websites.

Get a Clue ~ Saturday, October 25, 2014 ~ 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. ~ Capitol Extension Room E2.014

 I will be moderator of the panel.

Paradise in Texas: 2014 Texas Book Festival

Elmer Kelton at the 2007 Texas Book Festival, ...

Elmer Kelton at the 2007 Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Larry D. Moore, CC-BY-SA-3.0

One of the High Points of my life: Sitting in the first row of the Chamber of the Texas House of Representatives, with author Elmer Kelton at the speaker’s table right in front of me, and Liz Carpenter right behind me, and listening to Mr. Kelton talk about his writing career and respond to a question from the audience about why he couldn’t write good female characters.

Mr. Kelton said he’d heard that criticism, and he guessed it had merit, although he thought he’d done a pretty good job with Eve in The Good Old Boys, because she was really the moral compass of the book. He was sorry he hadn’t done better writing women, but at the age of seventy-plus, he didn’t know what he could do about it.*

It just doesn’t get any better than that.

English: at the 2011 Texas Book Festival, Aust...

English: at the 2011 Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Larry D. Moore, CC BY 3.0

But the folks at the Texas Book Festival Organization keep trying.

The 2014 Texas Book Festival takes place this weekend, October 24 and 25, at the Texas Capitol in Austin.

More than 275 authors will appear at the Capitol and at other venues around town to speak about, read, discuss, and sign their books. For an alphabetical list of authors, or to search by genre or keyword, click here.

Nationally renowned authors coming to this year’s Festival include Martin Amis, Joyce Carol Oates, Walter Mosley, Norman Lear, Lidia Bastianich, Ziggy Marley, James Ellroy, Katherine Applegate, Nicholas D. Kristof, John Dean, Valerie Plame Wilson, and Héctor Tobar.

 Headlining authors also include Charles Blow, Emily St. John Mandel, Michael Ruhlman, Douglas Brinkley, Richard Linklater, Francisco Goldman, Meg Wolitzer, Jacqueline Woodson, and Sarah Bird.

 The physically fit can bike with authors on Sunday morning from 8:00 to 9:00, when H. W. Brands, Stephen Harrigan, Lawrence Wright, and Rob Spillman will lead a tour of downtown Austin.

H. W. Brands at the 2008 Texas Book Festival, ...

H. W. Brands at the 2008 Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Larry D. Moore, CC-BY-SA-3.0

 

This event is not an author reading; it is an hour-long mini-tour that allow [sic] a group of readers to engage with authors in real-life conversations on a more personal level.

 (Here, I must digress: The summer I was fourteen, my friend and I biked from Fentress to Staples and back, wearing bathing suits [why bathing suits I can’t remember, unless we thought all-encompassing sunburn would add to the fun] and chattering all the way. The idea, X years later, that I could engage in a real-life conversation with anyone while riding a bike anywhere–well, it is to laugh.)

There will also be a Literary Mayhem (a literary pub crawl), food everywhere you look, music, activities for children and families, and a raft of other book-centered activities all over the Capitol grounds, and, if it’s anything like last year’s festival, stretching down Congress Avenue.

And there will be exhibitors from the American Society of Civil Engineers to Zonk Books and plenty in between. Translation: BOOKS FOR SALE!

And, saving the best for last–

Saturday afternoon, mystery novelists Deborah Crombie, Timothy Hallinan, and Minerva Koenig will discuss the craft of mystery writing before an audience in the Capitol Extension.

More on that tomorrow. . .

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 *Mr. Kelton did, indeed, do a beautiful job with Eve. She was perfect. If you’ve not read The Good Old Boys, do yourself a favor and read it. Then see the movie. Not the other way around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Procrastination and the Perfect Writer’s Guide

Kathy Waller:

Does reading about writing distract from putting pen to paper? Maybe. Maybe not. Laura Oles explains.

Originally posted on Austin Mystery Writers:

There’s something alluring about reference books for writers. You know the ones, lining the shelves at your favorite local bookstore. They beckon, encouraging us to come closer, to flip through their pages to discover their secrets. They promise to teach us everything we need to know about creating compelling characters, powerful plots and revealing dialogue. They offer to give us a glimpse into the writing life as experienced by those who have earned some modicum of success. These guides are filled with information, tips, anecdotes and motivation. They are filled with promise.

They get me every time.

StevenKingCoverI’ve always been a bit of a research geek. When I want to learn something new, I tend to go all in, diving into the topic quickly and deeply. Some would claim this fascination serves as a distraction, a way to procrastinate from the hard work of putting words to paper. I’ve read…

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Priceless

I received the letter pictured below when I worked at Norma Krueger Elementary School’s Scharf Library. Crystal Walpole wrote asking what my favorite book was. She dropped the letter into her classroom’s mailbox. Krueger’s Wee Deliver postal service stamped and delivered it to the library.

At the time, Crystal’s address was 683 Cocker Spaniel Drive in Sporting Dog, Texas. The library’s was 123 Yorkshire Terrier Avenue in Terrierville, Texas.

Crystal’s favorite books were Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and Rats on the Roof by James Marshall. Those were my favorite books, too.

And Crystal Walpole is one of my favorite writers.

 Crystal Walpole frontCrystal Walpole back###

 The towns of Terrierville and Sporting Dog existed for a brief but happy time as part of Marion Independent School District in Marion, Texas.

 

 

 

How to Explain Amazon’s Kindle to Charles Dickens

Kathy Waller:

An exercise in creativity . . .

Originally posted on digger666:

via A Jug Of Wine, A Loaf Of Bread, And Virtual Thou • bookishthingsblog: How to Explain Amazon’s….bookishthingsblog:

As a student at Cardiff School of Art and Design, illustrator Rachel Walsh was asked to create a project that would explain something modern/internet-based to somebody who lived and died before 1900. Walsh’s innovative idea was to take a large book and create 40 miniature books from its pages in order to explain the kindle to Dickens. The covers are recreations from real books and include Dickens’ own novels, his favourite childhood books, and some of the artist’s own.

via visuallyoriented

Source: bookishthingsblog

View original

Morning Pages: Don’t Speak. Don’t Judge. Don’t Fall Asleep.

Originally posted on Austin Mystery Writers:

Karleen Koen

Karleen Koen

The first day of last summer’s Writer’s League of Texas retreat, author-instructor Karleen Koen told students that every morning before class, we must do Morning Pages: Wake up, don’t speak, take pen and paper–not computer–and, while still drowsy, write “three pages of anything.” Don’t judge. Keep the pen moving. In her course notebook, Karleen listed the following:

Stream of consciousness, complain, whine, just move your hand across the page writing whatever crosses your mind until you get to the end of page three.

Karleen stressed that she didn’t invent Morning Pages. The technique, minus the name, came from the book Becoming a Writer by teacher Dorothea Brande, published in 1934 and reissued in 1981. Author John Gardner, in his foreword to the reprinted edition, states it was “astonishing” that the book had ever gone out of print.

IMG_3540

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

Ms Brande advises…

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My Writing Writing Writing Day: Yeah, Right

In the previous post, I announced my intention to get up, go to BookPeople, write for an hour on a project of not-email and not-post (because Ramona DeFelice Long told me to), and get off the laptop by 7:00 p.m.
Here’s how the day went.
IMG_2800

Ernest

At 8:00 a.m., I discovered Ernest experiencing grave digestive problems reminiscent of previous problems caused by eating string. No matter how careful we are, he’s always able to find string.

After practicing every sneaky tactic I know to wrestle him into the carrier, I hauled him to the vet, wrote a check, hauled him home, and spent the next twenty-four hours stalking him up hill and down dale, from litterbox to litterbox, to get an accurate picture of his post-doc activity.
If there wasn’t any, I would have to take him back to the vet today for reconsideration of the diagnosis of UTI to ingestion of string.
In addition to the X-ray, the veterinarian gave him a long-lasting injection of antibiotic so we wouldn’t have to catch him and fight over pills or liquid for a week. I could have chosen to start treatment without the X-ray and see what happened but wasn’t sure I could get him back into the carrier if the antibiotic didn’t work. Some things are not worth the effort.
Because we have two cats and two litterboxes, and because I knew isolation wouldn’t be possible, at least if I valued our doors, I sat up all night watching him. He slept. All night. Didn’t go near a litterbox. I played Bookworm.
David rose at 7:00 a.m. We changed shifts. I went upstairs for four hours of sleep. David stalked.
I woke at 11:00 to the news that Ernest had performed admirably. David had kept samples. I said I didn’t need to see them.
Ernest is in fine fettle. At present he’s lying on my arm, making biscuits where I wish he were not. I will tolerate this until the first claw penetrates my clothing and punctures my flesh. He means well.
In fact, he forgave and forgot as soon as we returned from the veterinary clinic. He swished around as if I had never betrayed him, sat in my lap, pinned down my left arm while I typed, lay on the footstool, gazed at me lovingly.
I’m grateful he doesn’t hold a grudge. In the fight for proper medical attention I nearly dislocated his shoulder. I’m trying to forgive and forget that my back and my right arm will once again have to be put right by the massage therapist. The carrier alone is heavy, and with Ernest inside it gains seventeen pounds.
Concerning the writing life: I did not go to BookPeople; I did not write for an hour; I did not eat breakfast or lunch until nearly 3:00 p.m. I did not do anything except be nurse and mama to a big, hulking guy tabby cat.
But hey–I got another blog post out of it.
The craziest thing is that it’s almost the same post I wrote two or three years ago, about the day I was

William

William

determined to write write write but instead spent the day lying on the floor in William’s bedroom, trying to coax an ailing Ernest out from under the bed and to the doctor.

Now the question: Do these things happen because I’m crazy, or am I crazy because these things happen?
What is the moral? (Must be a moral.)
  • Change in the Davis-Waller house doesn’t seem likely, at least while Ernest and I live here. Might as well accept that and go on.
  • I should never never never publicize my intention of writing writing writing.
  • Writing writing writing equals change. See first moral, above.
And failing to follow through is embarrassing. Especially reporting the failure, as is only fair. Readers deserve to know.
cropped-img_31112.jpgWhen this post is safely online, I shall throw things into a bag and head south to retreat with Austin Mystery Writers. I will have a cabin and a river and some pecan trees. I will not have Internet connection or decent TV reception. Phones will work only outside.
And for the next two days, I promise to sit in a porch swing and Write. Write. Write.

***

If paragraphs in this post are incorrectly spaced, please pretend they’re not. Today’s format is like Ernest–not under my control. It’s just one more miracle of modern technology.

Addiction, Facebook, Doctors, Pigs, and Zombies

I confess: I’m hooked.

IMG_2800

By kathywaller1. All rights reserved.

The computer is a Kathy magnet. It wasn’t so bad until 2008, when I replaced a forty-hour work week with a laptop and my husband installed wi-fi. The Internet brings so many fine blogs and other attractions into my living room, where I sit with my feet up and examine them all; email can take up an entire day, if I leave it open while working.

Doubters would say that what I do isn’t working. I disagree. Negotiating the web is fatiguing. Commenting draws a lot of energy. I don’t want to write something that will be misunderstood; I don’t want to leave typos or incorrect punctuation; I don’t want to sound stupid.

Example: The previous sentence initially read, I want to sound stupid. It’s easy to mess up online.

Political posts on Facebook leave me just wo-ahn out. There’s the writing, of course, which is draining, but there’s also the emotion. Righteous indignation requires energy. Restraint requires more. After exercising restraint for several months, I stopped logging on. But there are friends and acquaintances–no, they’re not all friends–I want, and need, to keep up with. I like knowing how my great-niece’s first year of school is going. I like knowing that in the doctor’s waiting room when she was four, she suddenly came out with, “DOOOOOOOOOMED. We’re all DOOOOOOOOOMED.” Her fourteen-year-old brother wasn’t impressed, but I was. Her pronouncements remind me we’re not all doooooooomed.

Anyway, I logged onto FB today, discovered a post about a remark a sexist pig made on a pseudo news program, and was moved to share the post and a rousing Jeremiad of my own.

jonathan11 - mf - file000242527744

By jonathan11 via morguefile.com. Morguefile free photo license.

I didn’t address my remark to the sexist pig, nor did I call him one. I saved the phrase for this post. I merely suggested that his comments reinforce the ignorance and the bigotry of listeners who agree with him. Plus a couple of other salient thoughts.

Then I copied my remarks and pasted them into a Word document for future publication somewhere, perhaps here. They were scathing, simply scathing, but reasoned and polite, and they deserve a wider audience.

Another example: I’m getting all het up here just recalling the incident. Molecules of emotion surge through my body. I am giving the sexist pig power over me. That isn’t good.

By anitapeppers via morguefile.com

By anitapeppers via morguefile.com. morguefile free photo license

Yesterday I heard a segment of a call-in program on NPR about the downside of computer technology on the culture. I’ve seen one of the effects on medicine already. When my former doctor’s practice installed computers in examining rooms, he stopped looking at me and started looking at the screen. So, to a lesser degree, did a specialist I consulted. They were excellent clinicians, and the latter possibly saved my life by doing surgery that only she and I thought I needed.*

But there’s  information to be drawn from faces as well as from words, on both sides of a conversation. Eyes transmit confidence and sympathy and a number of other messages. With the Party of the First Part looking at the side of the Party of the Second Part’s Head (or, as once happened, the back of his white coat), and the Party of the Second Part looking at a screen and typing away, I wonder whether the two Parties make sufficient connection.

The internist I see now has no computer in the examining room. He taps here and there on a Palm Pilot (or something; it has a light on it for closer examination of funny-shaped moles, plus, it appears, an entire pharmacopoeia; I hope it’s not an iPhone). But he sits near me and looks me in the eye, and I reciprocate, and we get along very well.

He also asks at every visit how the writing is going, thus allowing me to infer he remembers something about me that isn’t in the file. It probably is in the file, maybe scrawled inside the cover of the folder, but as long as I haven’t seen it, it isn’t.

One day I’ll walk in and find myself looking at a 17-inch flat screen. It’s inevitable, and, all things considered, it’s a good thing. But when the time comes, I shall tell the doctor how to conduct himself while interviewing patients, just in case he doesn’t know. I’m old enough to be his mother and I taught high school English, so I’m not only entitled, I’m an expert.

But enough of doctors.

I’ve been thinking for months–years?–about the power I give technology over my life: I don’t move as much as I used to, or get out of the house as I should. I don’t read as much as I did–I read much less, in fact, and this is the first time I’ve been able to make that claim.

I don’t write with a pen and paper as often as I used to. I’ve always enjoyed putting words onto paper with a good pen, not an expensive one, but a pen that fits my hand.

And although he hasn’t said anything, my POSSLQ** might be as tired of seeing me staring at a screen as I am of seeing the doctor do the same.

So. I’ve decided to pull the plug nightly by 7:00 p.m., and to work backward towards 5:00 p.m.

To do so, I’ll have to write everything I want to write during the day. For a nocturnal animal whose brain

By ArieleJay via morguefile.com. morguefile free photo license.

By ArielleJay via morguefile.com. morguefile free photo license.

starts functioning about 9:00 p.m., the change won’t be easy. But it’s the right thing to do.

In my new spare time, I will read books and write in my journal with the pen of my choice. POSSLQ will follow his tradition of reading every word in the newspaper and in several magazines. We might converse.

I will go to bed at a decent hour and wake at a decent hour, in time to get a table and an electrical outlet at the BookPeople coffee shop, and there I will write–write meaning to write stories and novels for at least one hour every day. I will do it because I promised author and editor Ramona DeFelice Long that I will.

Giving away your power isn’t a bad thing as long as you know the person who receives it has good motives.

Note that I write I will, a construction implying determination, resolution, perseverance.

If I absolutely can’t help myself, I’ll toss off a blog post now and then. But only outside that sacred hour.

It hasn’t escaped me that the BookPeople part involves using a laptop and wi-fi. I can’t write what I need to write without the laptop.

But as I would not be a Luddite, so neither would I be a Zombie. And I’ve had it on good authority that computer addiction leads right down the primrose path to Zombie-ism.

Brian Malbon - zombies - mf - DSC00127

By BrianMalbon via morguefile.com. morguefile free photo license.

 

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 *The subsequent biopsy agreed with us. Thank you, Dr. Carla Ortique, who now practices in Houston. I wish you were here.

**1) Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters. 2) An affectation. We’re married. 3) See in its entirety “My POSSLQ” by Charles Osgood. A darned good poem. Here’s the first paragraph:

“Come live with me and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands and crystal brooks
With silken lines, and silver hooks.
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
If you would be my POSSLQ.” . . .

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Excerpt: Lynna Williams’ “Personal Testimony”

In yesterday's post I wrote about Lynna Williams' story "Personal Testimony." Here are the first three paragraphs of the story.

“The last night of church camp, 1963, and I am sitting on the front row of the junior mixed-voice choir looking out on the crowd in the big sanctuary tent. The tent glows, green and white and unexpected, in the Oklahoma night; our choir director, Dr. Bledsoe, has schooled us in the sudden crescendos needed to compete with the sounds cars make when their drivers cut the corner after a night at the bars on Highway 10 and see the tent rising out of the plain for the first time. The tent is new to Faith Camp this year, a gift to God and the Southern Baptist Convention from the owner of a small circus who repented, and then retired, in nearby Oklahoma City. It is widely rumored among the campers that Mr. Talliferro came to Jesus late in life, after having what my mother would call Life Experiences. Now he walks through camp with the unfailing good humor of a man who, after years of begging hardscrabble farmers to forsake their fields for an afternoon of elephants and acrobats, has finally found a real draw: His weekly talks to the senior boys on “Sin and the Circus?” incorporate a standing-room-only question-and-answer period, and no one ever leaves early.

“Although I will never be allowed to hear one of Mr. Talliferro’s talks—I will not be twelve forever, but I will always be a girl—I am encouraged by his late arrival into our Fellowship of Believers. I will take my time, too, I think: first I will go to high school, to college, to bed with a boy, to New York. (I think of those last two items as one since, as little as I know about sex, I do know it is not something I will ever be able to do in the same time zone as my mother.) Then when I’m fifty-two or so and have had, like Mr. Talliferro, sufficient Life Experiences, I’ll move back to west Texas and repent.

“Normally, thoughts of that touching—and distant—scene of repentance are how I entertain myself during evening worship service. But tonight I am unable to work up any enthusiasm for the vision of myself sweeping into my hometown to be forgiven. For once my thoughts are entirely on the worship service ahead.”

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Yesterday I wrote that the narrator of “Personal Experience” is eleven years old. When I discovered the excerpt, I was reminded she’s really twelve. I’ll correct my error. My narrator, however, continues to be eleven.

September SinC-Up: Lynna Williams’ Gift of Voice

Bible Witness Camp sign

Bible Witness Camp sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

On my way home from work one night in the ’90s, I heard actress Judith Ivey on Selected Shorts, reading “Personal Testimony,” a short story by Lynna Williams.

The narrator is eleven-year-old Ellen Whitmore, a preacher’s daughter from Fort Worth, who is at Southern Baptist summer camp in Oklahoma. At evening services, when campers are expected to witness to their experiences of sin and repentance, Ellen demonstrates a talent that catches the attention of fifteen-year-old Michael. Although he’s reputed to be most spiritual boy in camp, Michael has what Ellen’s brother calls “Jesus Jaw”– he has plenty to say but can’t complete a simple sentence: “I just–I mean, it’s just so–I just . . .” He tells Ellen he wishes he could speak about his spiritual life as easily as she can speak about hers, so, following her mother’s example, she offers to help. Within days, she has a thriving business writing personal testimonies for older campers, a gratifying popularity, and a fat stack of bills stashed in her Bible at John 3:16. Her adventure in capitalism ends at the summer’s final service, when she sees her father in the congregation, realizes he knows, and makes one last and very public attempt to avoid his wrath.

 

I’ve heard that people don’t laugh aloud when alone. That’s not true. I sailed down I-35 guffawing and then quickly broke out in tears.

(I hate it when writers manipulate me like that. It’s just one more skill to covet.)

I’d been writing off and on for a few years but hadn’t produced anything even marginally successful. A small circle of friends and family liked the pieces I showed them, but they also liked me– most of the time–and they weren’t seasoned critics anyway. The writing was bad. I was frustrated. Not knowing what was wrong, I couldn’t make it right. Classes and workshops didn’t help.

The night I heard Judith Ivey read, all that changed. I didn’t experience an epiphany, per se, but there was a definite moment of enlightenment: My best work was bad because it had no voice. I had no voice. The nearest I could manage was a small-time literary critic in love with semicolons.

Listening to “Personal Testimony,” I heard Lynna William’ voice and knew what I should do.

My work should sound natural to my ear. Informal. Fluid. First person narration by a self-absorbed eleven-year-old girl with attitude, precocious in some areas and in others absolutely clueless. That comprised Enlightenment, Part I.

Then came Enlightenment, Part II: I’ve been hearing that voice most of my life. It’s the one I think in. I didn’t have to worry about copying Williams–it’s my voice, too. I’d just never recognized its potential.

Not long after hearing “Personal Testimony,” I allowed the eleven-year-old in my head to dictate a story while I wrote. Then she dictated another. And they worked.

My inner child is different from Ellen, as is only right. Mine is sharper, has more attitude. I have no idea why.

A year ago, my eleven-year-old suddenly morphed into a forty-year-old woman. She has so much attitude she’s scary. Now there’s a third voice, very different from the other two, stronger and scarier even than the forty-year-old. The third voice came as a relief. I’d wondered whether the pre-teen was all I had. What if everything I wrote came from the same source and sounded just like what had come before? The child is fun to listen to, for a while, but after a time, she can become wearing. I spend enough time with her as it is. Readers would soon get their fill.

There are some things that can’t be learned in a classroom. An instructor might have told me my work lacked voice, but he couldn’t have said how to find the right fit.

I’m indebted to Lynna Williams for helping me to hear a girl’s voice, and to recognize its value. She inspired hope. She showed me that if I listen, the eleven-year-old in my head will tell me what I need to know.

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Lynna Williams teaches creative writing at Emory University. Read excerpts from “Personal Testimony” at Google Books. The story also appears in Texas Bound: Stories by Texas Writers, Read by Texas Readers. This book comes with an audiobook on cassette tape featuring Judith Ivey’s reading.

Several sermons that appear online refer to “Personal Testimony.” Read one of them here.

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Do you like dark and compelling mysteries? That’s how a reader describes Elizabeth Buhmann’s first novel, Lay Death at Her Door. I’m tagging Elizabeth. Click here to visit her blog and read another post in Sisters in Crime’s September SinC-Up.