Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ann Packer


I just got home from Ann Packer's reading at the Tattered Cover for her new book, Songs Without Words. An overview from her website:

In her long-awaited second novel, she takes us on a journey into a lifelong friendship pushed to the breaking point. Expertly, with the keen introspection and psychological nuance that are her hallmarks, she explores what happens when there are inequities between friends, and when the hard won balances of a long relationship are disturbed, perhaps irreparably, by a harrowing crisis.


This is a book with two points of view, which is of particular interest to me as my wip is from two points of view. She read a bit from both character's POV, and hearing her read made me much more interested in the book than anything on the jacket or anything the reviews have said. Proving again that it really is the writing that makes the book, not the promotion.

After she read, she answered questions. I like go to readings/signings, but I have to say people always ask the same questions. It made me wish I had gone prepared with something unique to ask. However, even though they are always the same questions, it's always interesting to hear a writer's response. So some quotes (as best as I can read from my notes):

What's your writing process like?

I really, really rewrite as I write...I'll spend the first hour rewriting from the day before so when I start to generate new stuff, I'm warmed up.

In The Dive from Clausen's Pier [her first novel], you use crafts, and now in this book you use crafts. Can you talk about that? (Actually, this was a great question!)

I think that making things is so important to a healthy life....in making things implicit is hope and I wanted my books to feel hopeful to readers even though they also go to dark places.

Do you outline or start with characters?

I start with a situation and a feeling of people in relation to other people with a sense of something happening so these relationships might change...I'm very organized in life. Writing is a place I get to be more free form.

How do you know when you're done?

When I have a sense that I've written the book I wanted to write.

This part is paraphrasing: She did six revisions of Songs Without Words, and by revisions, she meant rewriting over and over again from start to finish and showing it to people after each revision. She did nine revisions for The Dive from Clausen's Pier.

She was quite warm and funny. The event person from Tattered Cover introduced me to Packer as a newbie novelist, and Packer was kind enough to say she would keep a look out for my name. I gave her one of my cards, as I did to a woman in the audience who overhead and asked about my book!

Two takeaways for me. One: Ann Packer is a NY Times best-selling author and still had only about 20 people in the audience. Getting turnout is hard even for well-known writers. Two: "in making things implicit is hope." It made me feel good about trying to make good sentences and good stories. The hope is that they'll mean something to someone else.

Oh, and three: The TC event person and Packer's escort knew of my publicist and had good things to say about her!

5 comments:

The Writers' Group said...

You're the third person to recommend her book, so now I'll have to buy it. Twenty people? I suppose it's best to go into these situations with no expectations. Thanks for this post.

Amy

Sherry said...

Sounds like a great experience. I loved what you had to say...you took the positives and with only 20 people there, you were not looking at this as being a "failure" for the author but a success. You've made me eager to read her new book!

Rebecca Burgess said...

I so wish I could have been there. Thank you for relaying your experience.

Ello said...

I wish I could have been there! It sounded great! And I think 20 people is a good turnout! I have seen authors come out and have only 1 or 2 people show up. It can be very discouraging.

Carleen Brice said...

I've done signings when NOBODY came. 20 is, indeed, a good turnout though I did expect more people considering her success.