We’ve talked briefly before about write-ins. They are a great place to work and to make yourself write. That’s not all they are good for though. One of the best things about write-ins is the people!
For the last three years we have been meeting at Denny’s in Latham every Sunday night. Over this time a steady group of about eight to ten people has developed. That number can grow to over thirty during writing months (November, April and July). Over the past three years these people have become some of my closest friends. Four of us even started this company together.
While we of course do writing sprints of twenty minutes at a time, we also spend the twenty minutes in between writing talking. Sometimes we help someone with a writing problem, but more often than not we just talk. This has led to some, let’s say interesting, conversations, dendrophilia for example!
Spending time with such a diverse and stimulating group of people has another benefit, characters! I often use the people in this group as the basis for certain characters in novels. This gives me a great place to start from with the characters appearance, profession, and motivation. Sometimes this is subtle, a simple nod to someone I know. Occasionally I don’t even know I have done this until it is pointed out by someone else. Other times it is overt and intentional. The best example of this is our own Lizette! In fact, you will find a character named Lizette in many novels written in the 518. She requested to be someone sassy, so for me she is a waitress in the local diner.
It is always fun to come to Denny’s, no matter what kind of mood I am in. I know that I will be among friends and that I will get work done, and even get inspired. Everyone is welcome to join us at any time, and I hope you do.
When I was six years old I got my glasses. Within a week I went from not reading at all to reading chapter books. The books I fell in love with were The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin. These books spoke to me. I read every one, over two hundred. Something about these characters just felt real. The girls were so different from each other, yet they were best friends. I could point to each one of my own friends and tell which character they would be (for the record, I’m Mallory). I found that I love falling into this world. These books also helped me discover my love for series. While I enjoy a standalone book, the girls in The Baby-Sitters Club helped show me how much more I could learn with each new book. I think this speaks to me as a writer. I always continue the stories in my head, and with a series I know what actually happens.
The next series I fell in love with was Harry Potter. These books had special meaning in my household, which I won’t get into. But more than that it was a great escape. Like the previous series it gave a chance to fit everyone I knew into place. I find I like my characters to be as realistic as possible, even in a magical world.
As an adult I found the world of cozy mysteries. I’ve always liked trying to figure things out, and since cozy’s are usually series’ as well these were a perfect fit. While there are many cozy’s that I love my favorite is probably the Aurora Teagarden series by Charlaine Harris. Harris is most well known for her True Blood books, and while I enjoy those as well, it was her earlier books that I fell for. What I like most about Aurora was actually how she broke from the typical cozy mode while still staying true to the heart of the genre. For example, there is no love triangle, an aspect of cozy’s that often bothers me. I also found a lot of similarities between Aurora and myself.
As a teacher I also find myself reading a lot of young adult and middle grade stories. Most recently I have found the books by Rick Riordan. He has five different series, but they all connect to each other. Each follows a different teenage hero who has just discovered they are the child of a god (or goddess). These books seamlessly interweave Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Viking mythology with today’s technological, modern world. I find them a fantastic tool to teach these classic stories that my students are often find boring. And as a reader, well they are just fun!
Many pairs of glasses later, books still influence me as a writer and as a person. Reading often inspires me to write and I am always looking for fun new suggestions.
The first book series that I loved was Artemis Fowl by Eion Colfer. The initial three books in the series were absolute favorites when I was young. Both the characters and plot have stayed with me to this day, to the point that I could actively talk to my ten year old sister about them without a refresher. I have a horrible memory, anything that leaves that much of an impression is amazing.
After that was the series that influenced almost everyone; Harry Potter. I don't think I need to say more.
Then I found Neil Gaiman. I particularly loved the variety of genres and art forms he wrote for. No matter what he was writing the plot was wonderful and the characters felt so real. It was while reading Neil Gaiman books I realized that I wanted to become a writer.
Most recently I learned about Brandon Sanderson. He wrote a letter for NaNoWriMo writers during my second year as an Municipal Liaison. At the bottom of the heartfelt letter there was a link to his first novel, Elantris. The letter had piqued my interest, so I downloaded a sample onto my Kindle to look at after November. During a break I decided I really needed to completely distract myself from the novel I was writing. "20 minutes of reading should do the trick...." The next day, after no sleep and no writing I finished reading Elantris. I was instantly in love with the characters, the magic system, the writing, and the complex tangle of subplots. The bar was placed higher. I put that book down knowing I wanted, needed, to write something as good as that book.
Since then my writing has grown. I've read all of Neil's blog posts, listened to over half of Writing Excuses, and have started to watch Brandon Sanderson's writing classes on YouTube. All have been a huge influence on my writing journey!