Over the last decade, I've given close to 400 presentations about my books and various other Oregon literary and historical topics. Traveling all over the state, I've gigged at bars, barns, bookstores, galleries, coffee shops, theaters, utility closets, fairs, fields, parties, prisons, libraries, parks, and historical museums and met thousands of fantastic Oregonians who have responded enthusiastically to my personal, somewhat eccentric approach to telling Oregon stories. At the conclusion of these events, certain audience members, aspiring writers I presume, invariably ask some or all of the following questions:
1. Where do you get your writing ideas?
2. Who or what is your muse?
3. What's your writing process?
4. How do you cope with literary rejection?
5. What's your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?
6. What's the secret to your success?
7. What type of writing workshop or group do you recommend?
8. Do you think you would have become a writer without the beach?
Generally, I believe no formula exists for becoming a writer, although the Internet and bookstores are crammed with how-to guides that preach otherwise. Nevertheless, the audience wants answers so here's generally what I say:
1. Beach (Best place to think. No distractions. I never use the phone or listen to music there.)
2. Beach (She calls to me two or three times a day. We meet on the sand. There is no cigarette afterward. And then I get to work.)
3. Beach (Go to beach and write the openings of pieces in my head. Walk until they are perfect. Then sit down to the computer and type away. I never stare at a screen without knowing what I'm going to write first.)
4. Beach (I would have quit writing a long time ago if I didn't have the ocean to annihilate my angst and ego after receiving rejection after rejection from mainstream publications and publishers. The old sound of the ocean helps me start anew every time I hear it.)
5. Beach (As in go to it all the time and think about what you want to write instead of wasting time inhaling popular culture or going out all the time. To get the work done, it means ass to chair, or in my case, ass to sand.)
6. Beach (Making the time to write, which means going to the beach all the time, which is my preparation to write. Weather doesn't matter. I recently walked on the beach in the snow with my husky and later churned out a great piece as a result. I also braved the recent big storm at the Oregon Coast and went to Ona Beach to observe the damage. There, I met an interesting man and will write about him in a future "On Oregon" blog. He was a poet!)
7. Beach (It's totally free [in Oregon at least] and you won't ever have to endure the one narcissistic lunatic who typically ruins a writing workshop or group.)
8. No. One man's desert? One man's mountain? It would have never happened for me without Oregon's publicly-owned beaches, preserved in the manner they were for all those years until I discovered them some 15 years ago when I moved to the Oregon Coast in my 30s.