More than Words on a Page
At first I was hesitant watching this video. There it was: another video about some teacher telling some reporter some arbitrary facts about establishing a voice as an author. However, as it turns out, Charmion Mohning has a good idea about where an author can find his or her voice at an early age. It doesn't place the blame on anyone, really. A lack of voice in writing is, well, a lack of voice in writing. She suggests that, perhaps, most young writers aren't exposed to the notion of finding their own voice due to strict curriculum. Let's think about what we were reading in high school: Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Dante, Twain, Hawthorne, and so on. While the aforementioned authors are all monumental to the literary world, it is important to note, that in 2011, the way they wrote then is nowhere close to how we communicate now.
I rather enjoyed her idea of simply putting yourself into writing with her example of the witty student who wasn't so witty in his works. Sure, we are all trained to write in the form of a research paper or traditional writer, but how far does that really bring us?
Then again, as I am slugging through The Passage by Justin Cronin, I am realizing that his new book holds an old tune - yet he keeps a certain something that let's you know, as a reader, Cronin wrote this particular piece of fiction.
But what is this something? I can tell you now, as a young writer, I find it rather difficult to define. Examples work the best, but what is the simplest way to describe an author's voice? Hemingway and Stephen King both have a man-in-the-woods feel to their books, but what the heck does that mean?
Merriam-Webster provides several definitions of the word "voice," one of which is useful: "Right of Expression."
Although we draw closer to the answer, it is still difficult to explain in one sentence what it means to have a voice as a writer. And this goes beyond writing. All artists have a voice. Most people have a voice. Finding your voice, however, is no easy task. And damn those who have an innate ability to project their voice effectively through their media (let's face it, writers must have more than one medium these days) on the first try.
To help with the answer, I recently asked Kelsey Timmerman, glocal, touron,and author of Where am I Wearing, for his view on establishing your voice in the form of the written word. My question to him? What is an author's voice?
"When my editor sent my manuscript to the copyeditor, he sent instructions to “keep the voice.” There were several very specific instructions, but the one I remember the most was to keep the spelling of “fella.” Is that voice?
I’ve always adhered to the advice: “Write like you speak. If a word wouldn’t come of your mouth, don’t put it down on paper.” That being my goal, I take it as a compliment when someone hears me speak in person and tells me that I “sounded” just like I do on the page. That said, people also tell me I sound either like Joe Dirt of Matthew McConaughey. I don’t imagine either one of those fellas is a very good writer.
My favorite Esquire writer is Tom Chiarella. For a long time I never knew he was my favorite because I wasn’t reading the bylines. But eventually I discovered that all of my favorite pieces were written by him. I liked his voice.
When I think about voice vs. style vs. tone my head hurts. So that’s all I have to say. I try to think about writing as little as possible, especially when I’m doing it."
Another tactic for finding a voice comes from King. His suggestion in the following video is that anyone who wants to write, has to read. You have to be disciplined at both. Through reading, you were learn how to write. And when you start to write, you will start to develop your voice.
If you or anyone you know is interested in pursuing a career in writing, and is working on his or her voice as a writer, I highly suggest you or them (or both!) attend the Midwest Writer's Workshop July 28th-30th at Ball State University. It's all about voice.
*And I would really like to keep this thing going. If you're interested in being part of the next blog, feel free to contact me here.*
The Future of Publishing
I've been paying attention to the little publishing innovation in the video above. It's called a "vook", a file/reader similar to eBooks, but it has a multimedia twist. A vook will allow a reader to not only read a book, but also to follow supplementary videos, pictures, and information.
Definitely something worth looking into.
But as I look into vooks more and more, I find that they offer quite a bit for the future of publishing. For instance, the vook allows supplementary videos and the ability to communicate user thoughts via social media, but what if it did more?
Take Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson for example:
Already there are multiple editions of the novel as well as a thrilling motion picture starring Johnny Depp. If one searches hard enough, it is rather easy to find supplementary articles and recordings with the author.
But what if vooks allowed it all to be in one place? Not only that, but what if vooks allowed the reader a choice?
It sounds like a worthy concept to be explored as technology progresses. The reader could either simply read the novel, or add in the supplementary sources for further exploration. For me, sometimes I just want to be entertained by a good story. At other times, I want to completely submerge myself with everything that went into the book.
Let's take the technology a bit further, to the academic side of the world. One of the weakness of both eBooks, and vooks is that the reader cannot make annotations. Newer variations of eReader's like the Barnes & Noble nook allow the user to make small highlights and notes, but it's really akin to sending grammatically correct text messages through the old Motorola Razr. Remember when things looked like "i went 2 mall @12 2day 4 sum shoes"? We should be thankful that newer mobile devices allow us to sound like intelligent human beings rather than primitive robots.
And when it comes to being an intellectual, there's always research involved. Say a student or professor needs to write an article surrounding a certain text. What if you could find more information surrounding any subject? For Hunter S. Thompson, the researcher could find biographical, literary criticism, etc. For an analysis on the effects of cheese, a researcher could find related articles through a side search database like JSTOR, including reports, graphs & charts, and more.
1. Book + Supplement when you want it.
2. Annotation + Research
The aforementioned ideas are just two concepts I have regarding the evolution of eBooks and vooks (which I hope to see merge so we all don't have to shall more moolah for devices), whereas many more exist. These are simply some thoughts I wanted to share with the world. It seems like every second, someone could add an innovative feature to these technologies, but let's see how they catch up to our expectations.
Best of all, technological innovations such as vooks and eBooks allow for more interactivity. More interactivity drawls a larger audience. A larger audience reading is a good thing. More reading means more thinking, which is also a good thing.
One Hell of a Month
I don't know about any of you, but May has certainly proven to be a crazy month, and we're only 7 days in!
Think about it: Osama (Usama) bin Laden has been ultimately compromised, a new leader is threatening to strike back, Obama's approval rating is probably soaring, this website is featured as a cool here, and to the young audience out there: We did it!
For this blog I am focusing on subject matter better suited for the latter, but like many blogs, it includes thoughts about the future, which I think is a concern for many people in recovering economy.
When I first started thinking about the future, my narrow, pessimistic perspective tried to shine through like an undeveloped diamond. And sure, I have a couple of plans in progress, but nothing is for certain.
With that in mind, what does the future hold?
For me, graduating college was something interesting. It was a swift kick out of the doors of undergraduate academia. For some this isn't so daunting; they are continuing their education. So am I, but not in terms of graduate school. At least not for now.
So for all us with something uncertain lined up, or certainly nothing lined up, what's next? While almost all other animals are open to change and adapting, as humans we sometimes fear it.
A word of advice from me: There's nothing wrong with beginning a new chapter.
A word from Dr. Seuss: "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."
Dream, do, live & love. It's not over until you quit.
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.