Are you an author or a writer?
The other night I attended a book-signing and reading given by Lois McMaster Bujold at a local Barnes & Noble. I’ve not yet read a word she’s written but many friends rhapsodize to me about her novels. So, I was curious.
Book-signings are now an important and expected part of The Writing Life for published writers. Bujold lives in the Twin Cities and described her relief to be home again after a book tour on the west coast. She described herself as being a “writer” not an “author.” She smiled and went on to define those terms for the overflow crowd. A “writer” must write, only wants to write, and prefers to stay home to write. A writer writes and produces writing in the form of stories, books, plays, etc. An “author” talks about writing, writes to make money or to become famous, loves attention and loves doing PR. An author will write a chapter of a book, then map out a book tour and marketing plan, complete with appearances on Oprah and the early morning news shows. They see being an author as glamorous. They want to be a writer without doing the writing.
Bujold’s definitions and witty delivery garnered laughs from us. But she nailed the differences between those who write and those who spend their time talking about it and going to workshops instead of doing the work. Bujold writes. She has won awards for her novels, the Hugo among them. She confessed to abhorring the “author” side of publication, i.e. going out in the world and promoting the writing, and entertained us with stories about interviews she’d done before moving on to the Q&A portion.
I dread the promotion part of being a writer. I do not enjoy the marketing and business side of being a writer. And I used to work in advertising/marketing. I prefer to write. I think I have been gripped by this preference since I was a child. I love to tell stories, to see eyes light up with enjoyment and delight, to imagine someone smiling or laughing while reading something I’ve written. I want others to enjoy my writing as much as I enjoy writing it. But I am resigned to having to fulfill my “author” obligations to promote my writing after publication.
Bujold surprised me. She read not from the novel she was promoting, Cryoburn, but the first chapter of the novel she’s currently working on which she hasn’t yet titled. What a delight. What fun! The energy in the crowd rose as she read, buoying her words with laughter at times. Clearly, her fans in the audience enjoyed it. I enjoyed it too. She has an original voice and style, writes with confidence and her experience showed as she flowed among the points of view of the different characters. The main character of this new novel has appeared in other Vorkosigan novels as a secondary character — he’s now getting his own adventure. She created a wonderful sense of mystery around the strong female characters and I wanted to know more.
Baen Books has a Lois McMaster Bujold website that lists all her novels by series that they have in print. I wish I had one of her books to read today. An impressive snowstorm dumps inches upon inches of snow on the metro today — perfect weather to curl up with an engrossing novel and hot cup of tea….