So I started the last day of the James River Writers Conference meeting with an agent about my manuscript. I only had five minutes so I told her I would share a 90-second story that prompted my work. Bottom line? She wants to read it! She knows I am working on a major revision so the clock is ticking!
I thought hearing “send it to me” would be the highlight of my day. But I soon found myself enthralled with a panel discussion about writing dialogue and later beaming during a spirited and wickedly funny session about screenwriting.
Just when I thought nothing anyone else said could offer more teachable moments about writing strategies that work, along came Charles J. Shields as the last speaker.
Shields wrote the biography of Harper Lee, author of the fabulous “To Kill A Mockingbird,” one of my all-time favorite reads. It’s one of the few books I try to reread yearly so I can fall in love again with its grace, truth and heartbreak. Lee’s work reminds me why I need to write. Shields’ comments reminded me to dig it out as I gear up to drill deep during the second revision of my own work. I believe it’s a happy coincidence that like Lee’s story, my novel addresses the elusive nature of truth, justice, racism, and identity through the eyes of a young, spunky girl.
This summer marked the 50th anniversary of Lee’s book, which is almost as popular as the Bible in our nation. Extremely private, not much is known about Lee, which is why Shields wrote the biography without her input. I haven’t read his book, yet. But from reviews, it seems like he hasn’t learned a great deal about Lee since she told those who know her best not to cooperate.
Harper Lee is a bonafide celebrity who shunned the spotlight for decades. Still, I give Shields props for trying to scale a privacy wall so painstakingly erected by Lee that it still looms in this age of-too-much-personal-information. How quaint is that facebookers and my tweet peeps?
Maybe the mystery surrounding the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lee makes “To Kill A Mockingbird” more powerful. What I know for sure is I will start reading it in a matter of hours. Nothing fuels my desire to write –in order to learn what I know –like reading a nearly flawless book. It just so happens it’s been nearly two years since Scout and I hung out. I need her now like never before.