It had been a while since I’d gone to any kind of author talk or writing event, so when my friend, Artemis, asked me to go see Grady Hendrix speak at Jabberwocky Bookshop in Newburyport, I agreed, even though I had never heard of Grady Hendrix or read any of his books. Artemis said we both needed to be more involved in the local “writing community” and even though I didn’t think this was going to be quite what she had in mind, I went along anyways.
I’m glad I let her drag me away from my little lake house and my keyboard.
I laughed. I learned random facts about the Satanic Panic of the 1980’s. I bought two books, and had one signed by the author.
I was awkward and asked Grady about his writing process, discovering he basically rewrote his book from scratch three times. I am more or less in the process of my third major rewrite, though it’s really the 8th revision if I count less dramatic revisions. I know everyone writes differently, but when I hear successful people following a similar method as me, it gives me hope that I am on the right path and that when I do get brave enough to send it out, someone will buy it.
I gained insight about the balance between research and just making things up. Grady said when he started writing, he went as far as having a chart on the wall with what the weather was like certain days and was upset when the real weather didn’t match what he wanted it to be, until he remembered he could just make it up. More importantly, what he said really got him into the right mindset to write a book set in the 1980’s was getting in touch with his own memories.
I’m not writing about the 80’s. My protagonist wasn’t even alive in the 80’s. However, Grady’s story reminded me that the best way to write YA, to write about being a teenage, is to really remember what is was like to be one. Even the tiniest memories can help me capture that state of mind and immortalize it on the page:
Trying to remember why locker combination while staring at a row of piss yellow lockers, getting overwhelmed the noise in the café and the smell of bad pizza, eating lunch alone, outside, in my hot pink parachute pants, or the exhilaration of getting to gym class, where I could finally run and move around freely can just bring me back to the write mindset to write a character who is 16 or 17. Even if that character isn’t anything like me, the memories help.
When the talk was over, Artemis and I bought books, got them signed, got stickers and went for a walk around Newburyport.
I had fun listening to is author talk. I learned a lot about the decade I was born in and about writing. I can’t wait to read his book. Most importantly, I left feeling motived to finish revising my own.