Writing, like living, is re-writing

Twice a year I invite my sweet friend Pamela Des Barres to Dripping Springs to host a writing workshop at my house. I started this project while I had my big salon in Austin during a SXSW and I’ve been doing it ever since, for about fifteen years now. 
That year SXSW featured a “Groupie Panel” hosted by Miss Pamela Des Barres, the worlds most famous groupie in the early seventies, and Mr. Robert Plant. Pamela kept a diary, got married, had a child, then wrote the book “I’m With the Band”, which became a best seller and is still in print. She’s been teaching women’s writing workshops for years. 
How do they work? The process seems so simple: She quickly gives you a prompt like “Write about something that had unintended consequences” or “Write about something precious” and ready, set, write . . for twelve minutes, then stop. The only rules are, no qualifying, no thinking, no editing, no critiquing. Then each of the 13-15 Women in my living room read what they wrote, out loud, one by one. 
I never feel I do my best writing this way while I’m doing it, but Pamela always says “You can re-write it later.” And, she’s right. The idea is to get things down quickly so that the nagging self-editor in our own minds doesn’t have a chance to get a foothold in our writing. This technique gives our unconscious mind the freedom to explore, to mine personal experiences and wild imaginings without fear of critique. 
Hemingway famously wrote, “Write drunk, edit sober”. What he meant was, get your thoughts down freely, even recklessly first. Then take your time to re-write. You can be more scrupulous and exacting when you re-write. But don’t confuse this suggestion with editing, or qualifying or thinking or critiquing as you write. When you do that, you’re getting in your own way.
Writing, like living your life, requires freedom of mobility. Later you can, and will, re-write. You’ll toss out what isn’t working, consolidate, fine tune, prune and elaborate. If you edit too soon, you’ll never know what your writing (or your life) could have been.

The Life and Death and Life of the indie bookstore

Last week one of my favorite mystery writers made a few rare book signing appearances beginning in Phoenix, then on to Houston and other cities after that. I live in Austin and Mr Charles Finch wasn’t stopping in Austin, but his Houston signing was on a Monday and I love booksignings, so I decided to take a mini road trip. 
I coerced a book-loving friend to accompany my madness and off we drove down hwy 71 to hwy 10, speeding a little to get to the signing by 6:30. Charles Finch writes a great mystery series set in victorian London called “the Charles Lenox mysteries”, and has written 10 or 11 (or 12) books. He’s won awards and critical acclaim and can boast a large and significant fan base. You can even buy his books translated into German or Russian. 
So you might think his publishers would position his book signings in big book stores like Barnes and Noble in the River Oaks Shopping Center, but you would be wrong. To quote Mr. Finch, “I can’t imagine better starting spots than The Poisoned Pen Bookstore (in Phoenix) and Murder by the Book (in Houston) – two of the stores that every writer in the whisper network knows are truly special homes for readers and book lovers.” 
Charles Finch chose small, independent book stores for his book signings, and this can be seen as an important turning point for printed books. Not so long ago prophets were predicting the demise of the small, independent book store. 
First the big box stores opened with cheap books and coffee bars, then Amazon opened for business. The number of independent booksellers fell 40 percent in five years as people chose to shop online rather than visit a physical store. Then the Kindle arrived and many analysts were saying it was the end of the printed book. 

But something unexpected happened—from 2009 till today, we’ve  seen an almost 40 percent increase in small, independent book stores. The truth is, if you are a reader or a book lover, there is nothing more satisfying than wandering aimlessly through a cozy bookstore handling actual books, finding yourself drawn to a cover, or a first paragraph, or a fat leather arm chair in the corner of a shop, or standing in a the check out line talking about your newest find.
As Charles Finch reminds us, we readers are always on the look out for our special ‘homes‘, and there is nothing more gratifying than knowing the retail book industry is stronger than ever.