What Makes a Writer?

That may be too simple a question. A novelist is different from a picture-book writer. A picture-book writer is different from a nonfiction writer. But, certainly for all, it takes a basic inquisitiveness, a curiosity about life in the small and large, and a determination to find the way to bring patches of it to life. The author is observant, used to noticing the life around him or her, no matter how small or large. I think it begins there. Often it is said, use detail, but seeing comes first, sensing, too, then forming a vocabulary for capturing the detail of objects and mood.

Discovering Writers

Patti discovered many fine writers sitting out under the trees at the Chautauqua Summer Writers' Conference

The best writers understand how rhythm is one of the drivers of both prose and poetry; it is, after all, the expression of our very breathing and heart beat. It is at the heart of every passionate passage in novels and nonfiction as well; it is often what separates the prosaic and ordinary from the poetic and extraordinary.

But in addition to the seeing, to the capturing of concrete experience and detail, the writer is wise or in search of wisdom, and is passionately driven to express it in the stories of his or her book. Too many writers believe that merely capturing scene or moment in sufficient sensory detail is good writing; capturing a scene or a moment in sensory detail is only the beginning. What does the detail or scene or chapter mean to the story or the growing ideas behind the story or character. The writer needs to be part wizard in this: in possession of insights that create rich character, story built of obsession, and universal and touching ideas.

A writer is driven to write. It is not a Sunday afternoon digression. Writing is life itself to the writer, of both children’s and adult books. This kind of commitment will drive what the writer creates to the heights necessary to discover an unforgettable character and a story, and with luck and good contacts, publish a successful book. A writer, at his or her best, writes from the inside out. It is, often, a welling up of energies and ideas and passions into story – fiction, nonfiction, even picture book. The subconscious is important friend to the great writer, as “letting go” to story is key to discovering and writing the truly original, touching, important even magical tale.