Thursday, April 29, 2010


Part One of a Two-Part Posting

It was my turn to be shadowed by a young wanna be writer. His name was Warren and he was all of twelve years old.

For him it was to be a three-hour tour into the mind of an admittedly eclectic writer. For me, I worried that this three-hour tour might turn into a Gilligan’s Island fiasco.

When he arrived at the coffeehouse where we agreed to meet, he greeted me with a huge grin and a gentleman's handshake.

“I knew it would be a place like this,” he said enthusiastically as he looked around at the small storefront. “It’s just the kind of place writers like to hang out in, isn’t it?”

I looked around and for the first time, really noticed the place. The air was thick with the smells of espresso and the old barn wood which covered half the walls. Lighting was as muted as the conversations that surrounded us. Posters of writing icons hung next to paintings and photo-art by local artists hoping to make a buck or two. It wasn’t a particularly clean place but it wasn’t especially dirty either. It was a place that one could be as alone and anonymous as one chose, blending easily into the background of life as though he or she were just another brick in the wall.

“I guess it is,” I said. “I’ve always thought of it as a place where you can be anyone you want and no one will care. Plus, the coffee’s good.”

Warren pulled out a Moleskine®, two pencils, and two pens from his backpack and my first thought was, “This kid really wants to be a writer.” He opened his notebook to about three-quarters of the way in to a page headlined: Meeting with Mr. E.

Like a junior journalist he got right to the point.

“Question number one,” he said. “Who are your favorite writers?” The pen in his hand immediately snapped to attention.

I paused for a moment, thinking to myself that I should have been prepared for this because it is so obvious a question that would be asked.

“The Bible,” I began, but was immediately interrupted.

“I’m sorry,” Warren said. “Did you say the Bible? As in,” he hesitated. “The Bible?”

“Yes,” I answered as his pen swung into action. “Singularly, it is a book that has just about everything in it. Prose. Poetry. Parables. Narration. History. Genealogy. Life. Death. Creation. Destruction. Faith. Hope. Love. Villains. Heroes. Lords and Ladies. It’s all there. Beginning. Middle. Ending. Plot and character development. It is a Master Class in writing, all in one book. As much as it can bore and confuse you it can intrigue and clarify you. I’ve got about a dozen Bibles and I still read them.”

“Wow,” he said,with a puzzled look. “I never thought of the Bible in that way. That’s kind of weird. Anyway, um, other favorite writers?”

“Alexandre Dumas, Edgar Allen Poe, Aristotle, Isaac Asimov, Aesop, C.S. Lewis, Douglas Adams, Zig Ziglar, Hans Christian Andersen, Harvey Mackay, Robert Fulghum, William Zinsser, Paula LaRocque,” and I paused. “I mean, I’m not married to any one favorite style or genre of writing. My favorite authors, really, are those who write well and interest me. And I’ve done a lot of reading over the years.”

He hurriedly wrote as much as he could remember, and I told myself to speak a little more slowly to give him the time he needed.

“Great,” he said as he finished writing. “Question number two: Any books you would recommend to help me be a better writer?”

“Well, that’s a question that is best answered within defined context,” I started to answer. “But generally speaking, there are a handful or so of books that every good writer should have at his disposal. A few really good dictionaries and thesauruses. Then, Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style,” William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well,” Paula LaRocque’s “The Book on Writing,” and probably mine when I publish it.”

“Okay. Good, I’ve got ‘em,” he said as he finished writing. “Question number three: Where do you get your ideas, your inspiration for writing?”

-- End of Part One. The Conclusion will arrive tomorrow. –

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