Friday, July 2, 2010
First Friday Favorite Authors: Charles de Lint
I was working on an MG story at the time and was so plagued with self-doubts and how awful my writing was coming out that writing anything at all was becoming extremely difficult. I'd sent out a number of picture book manuscripts, only to have them returned in short order. (Very short order. I swear one came back so fast the publisher must have made a deal with the local post office to automatically return anything addressed to them)
In the midst of this, I attended the annual writer's expo. I attended group sessions on writing for children, writing mysteries, and writing fantasy. The person who was the head of the fantasy session was a kind, bearded guy who was being treated with great reverence by everyone else in the room. I had no idea who he was, but he seemed very approachable. When he asked if anyone had questions, a scattering of hands went up. When he called on me I asked something about how much time and effort he put into creating his settings. Did he create a street map? Did he know what buildings were on each street? And how did he know when it was time to stop creating the world and start writing the story?
Sensing newbie panic, Charles de Lint asked, "Are you a writer?"
Hedging my bets, I said, "Well, I'm getting a lot of rejections."
He smiled and said, "Then you're a writer."
That simple confirmation, from a stranger, lifted a burden of uncertainty from me. Writing didn't need to mean being published, it simply meant writing, trying, and having the courage to submit my work.
Shortly after that conference I looked him up at the local library and found a collection of his short stories. They were a type of fantasy story that I'd never considered before -- fantasy elements appearing within an urban downtown area. It was as if a subsection of New York was cracked open and all of Fairie poured out into the streets, only they remained hidden from those who could not or would not see them.
Even more impressive was his writing style. It was emotional but succinct. Each of his stories are written from a different character's perspective, meaning each story is told in a slightly different voice. But, through each voice, de Lint's own voice is heard, woven into them like background harmony singers.
I think each of us have writers who speak very directly to us. Charles de Lint, with his quiet sense of the sad romantic and infusions of celtic music, is one of those writers who speaks directly to me.
Who are some of the writers who speak directly to you?