An evening with Jodi Picoult

Last week, my son and I went to hear Jodi Picoult talk about her latest novel, Leaving Time, at the St. Lawrence Centre in Toronto.

It was a delightful evening – quality mother-son time, fun with family friends who also attended, and a talk that resonated for me as a writer. Not to mention that admission to the Canadian Living “VIP” event included a signed copy of Jodi’s book, a lovely dessert spread, and a giveaway bag.

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From left, Ryan, me, Jodi, and our friends Laurie and Susan at the signing table.

As a writer and freelance journalist, I left feeling inspired. A few months ago, I tried my hand at writing a short children’s story, and the experience made me think that maybe I do have the imagination to attempt fiction – even adult fiction! I certainly enjoy reading it.

I loved hearing how Jodi came up with the idea for Leaving Time, the story of a 13-year-old girl who enlists the help of a psychic and a detective to find her mother, an elephant researcher who disappeared years before.

It started with an article she read about elephant mothers and daughters who stay together their entire lives. The article piqued her curiosity at a time when she was dealing with her own feelings about her daughter leaving the nest for college.

The back story captured my imagination. To research something purely out of interest, and spin it into a novel – an entire fictional world – is an enticing idea.

Research for a novel would draw on my journalistic skills, and now that I’ve had a taste of using real life as a starting point for fiction in my children’s story, I see new possibilities.

Not that I’m unhappy writing non-fiction. On the contrary, it makes me very happy. And I do want to finish my memoir on the year I lost my dad, which I’m about half-way through.

Jodi Picoult has written 22 books, approximately one a year (the same number of years that I worked as a full-time reporter!). On working days, she said, she edits what she’s written, then continues writing, fuelled by coffee until she stops in the late afternoon. Repeat often enough… and you have a book!

I told my son, who is one of Jodi’s biggest fans, that – with luck and longevity – I can write 22 books too. Maybe I should start drinking more coffee.

 

 

 

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Writer’s Procrastination

A Facebook friend of mine posted a comment yesterday about writer’s procrastination. It’s extremely common, if Google is any indicator.

The first article that pops up in a search is called “Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators.” Ouch.

I don’t think I’ve ever put off writing because I was afraid the end result wouldn’t be good enough, as the article suggests, but I can think of a few other reasons.

1. My deadline wasn’t imminent, and other tasks were more time-sensitive.

2. I wanted the material to be fresh, especially for speeches and blog posts.

3. Something else captured my attention, or needed to be done first, and I was distracted for longer than anticipated.

4. I hadn’t yet figured out where to begin.

Years ago, my editor asked me about an article I was working on. I hadn’t started writing it, but it was percolating in my head. Is that procrastination? Maybe. But I think it can also be part of the process.

How to counter procrastination? A few things that have worked for me:

1. Just start. I may end up changing what I’ve written, but at least there’s something to work with.

2. Work in small chunks. 100 words, then another 100 words. And another. Usually that builds enough momentum for me to keep going.

3. Alternating tasks. Switching focus may not work for everyone, but if I put in a certain number of minutes or write “x” number of words, then switch to a different task (even a different writing task), I find I get more done. At some point, momentum builds, and I don’t need – or want – to leave what I’m working on.

4. Um, chocolate? Or whatever else works as a “reward.” To be used as needed. In moderation.

Further suggestions are welcome. 🙂