Monday, November 26, 2007

First Person Arts

“Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” ~Mark Twain

Many new writers plunge into the world of literature with unbounded enthusiasm and blind confidence. Ignorance is bliss when you start writing, so at this point I am as ecstatic as St. Teresa. I don’t know what I am doing yet, but this provides an emotional buffer – because I don’t know when I make mistakes. However I have figured out a few things:

Don’t use the words “very” or “really” unless it is really very necessary to convey your message. Thanks, Mr. Twain, for the tip.

Don’t use any word twice or thrice in the same one or two paragraphs. It’s redundant, and makes your work less interesting. OK, I’ll cut you some slack on definite articles. Add Thesaurus.Com to your web favorites and use it often. And don’t use the word “thrice” unless Shakespeare comes to you in a dream and asks you to rewrite Hamlet.

Don’t worry about the first draft being perfect. As Larry the Cable Guy says, “Just get ‘er done.“ and complete a framework. This can later be enhanced and refined.

Writers need ideas to create their stories and then a format to present them. I can’t help you with the first one, but I’ve discovered a wonderful resource for the second – First Person Arts. Their website is First Person Arts. Their message is:

“History: First Person Arts was founded in 2000 as Blue Sky by Vicki Solot, in response to the burgeoning interest in memoir and documentary art forms. Solot appreciated the resonance of real stories and recognized their value as a means of bridging cultural ethnic divides. With the involvement of a visionary board, First Person Arts set out to support the development of new memoir and documentary work and to create opportunities for it to be seen and appreciated by many. In just four years, First Person Arts has showcased the work of more than 100 artists nationwide; We have reached across cultures and communities to attract a broad and diverse audience; and have played an important role in exploring and celebrating the richness of the mixed heritage and shared history of everyday Americans.”

“Our Mission: First Person Arts transforms the drama of real life into documentary art to foster appreciation for our unique and shared experience.”

The group’s name is well chosen, because they are looking for stories written in the first person – monologues - from real people about real events and thoughts. There may be a Second or Third Person Arts out there somewhere, but that’s a story for another day. And the Fourth Person Arts people bring time and extra dimensions into the picture, so perhaps we should leave them to the subatomic physicists.

I recently discovered O. Henry, the short story writer. His ideas came from human interaction. A woman’s face on a streetcar or a conversation overheard in a restaurant could provide enough spark for him to create an entire story. He couldn’t write by just sitting at his desk and imagining. People were an integral part of the process.

Good literature often borrows from real life. Reality gives these works believable structure. The reason that many stories fail is because the authors create worlds that don’t ring true. Readers are the touchstone and they’re hard to fool.

I believe that every person on this planet has an interesting story to tell. The key is to identify an engaging portion of it and then present it in a way that will captivate readers. First Person Arts provides an opportunity for writers and lay people to be heard, and to experience the creative process. In doing so, many “civilians” may discover their voice, and develop a desire to continue writing. I can’t think of a better gift to give another human being.

I recently had a chance to sit down with Jillian Ivey, whose job title is Communications and Marketing Coordinator. I was impressed with her knowledge, intellect, and energy. She had wisdom and insight that typically only come after spending half a century on this Earth. Any yet she is still in her twenties. Jillian has been in (and supported) theatre productions, done standup comedy, and written prose and poetry. In addition, she is an editor for Phillyist. Ms. Ivey is a modern Leonardo - or more correctly, Leonardette.

I enjoyed speaking with Jillian because there hasn’t been much opportunity for me to talk with other authors. I’ve spoken to a few Arthurs, but it’s just not the same. Writing is by nature a solitary process, like meditating or, well, playing solitaire. As a result, the human feedback loop is minimal. The exchange of ideas with Jillian was stimulating and uplifting. After talking to her, I felt more confident about pursuing a career as a wordsmith.

Whether you aspire to be a writer or not, the First Person Arts website is worth checking out. After all, writers and readers are both necessary to bring literature to life.


WaxingGrassHoppeR said...

agree with you 100%
everyone has a story to tell...
just takes us listening

rachel said...

nice post ... i like ur ideas...