I first discovered Jennifer's books when I read her Blaze Daring in the Dark. I fell head-over-heels in lust for Simon, and the book went straight to my keeper shelf. When I found out she was good friends with our friend Rhonda Nelson, I knew she'd be a neat person as well. Turns out, I was right. She's super funny, really smart, and nice enough to come hang out on our Playground. She's also a fabu writer, and she'll be giving away a copy of her latest anthology, Secret Santa, to one of today's commenters. Y'all make Jennifer feel at home, okay?
Hey! I’m so excited to be at The Playground. I love playgrounds. Truly. I’ve been known to get in trouble a time or two on a playground. Shocking but true. Fourth grade. Private Christian school. Me and another girl inserting every cuss word we knew (at that time it was limited to the “d” and “s” word) into a retelling of Cinderella at the monkey bars. Someone in the audience snitched. We were hauled into the headmaster who was also a minister. Reverend Woods gave us two options. He could call our parents or we could kneel and pray for forgiveness. That was a no-brainer. God might not be particularly happy with me but it was highly unlikely he’d strike me dead over a couple of bad words. Mama, on the other hand, would positively kill me. And since God already knew, I didn’t see any reason for Mama to find out too. I dropped so fast I bruised my knees.
But, today I’m going to try to behave myself and stay out of trouble on The Playground.
Playgrounds are good places to share secrets. Can you keep a secret? Alright. C’mere and I’ll tell you one. Lots of times I’m not sure if I’m really a “real” writer. Most of the time I feel like an imposter.
A couple of years ago I sat in on a published writer’s gab session at Moonlight & Magnolias. The guest speaker, a New York Time’s author, dropped this. “I didn’t have to do anything to write that book except listen to the voices in my head. And they were talking so fast I could hardly get it down.” I felt like a total imposter. Dang! Five books and that had never happened to me. First, there are no voices in my head. I was sort of glad because most of the time I feel kinda crazy anyway without hearing voices and there’s just not a lot of extra room in my head. But she was a NYT lister and I was a nobody and maybe all real writers heard voices. Plus, I was downright green over that taking-dictation-so-fast-she-could-hardly-keep-up business. I’d donate a body part for just one book like that. For the most part my writing is about the same pace as molasses…on a cold day…in Alaska…in December. No voices. I’m obviously just faking the writing gig.
Next sticking point – “real” writers have a burning, compelling need to get a story onto paper. Uh…not exactly. Once again, I’ve been disqualified for the TNC, True Novelists’ Club. I obviously have stories to write, but it’s more like a nag sitting on my shoulder. Southern-bred guilt trip as opposed to a burning passion.
All the years before I sold, and even for years after I sold, I felt just a wee tad shy of bonafide because I’m not much of a plotter. Okay, that’s a gross understatement. Look up panster in Webster’s and you’ll find my name. I know the beginning, I pretend I know what’s gonna happen in the middle, and I know the end (lucky for me it’s a romance or that’d probably be up for grabs as well). Don’t the legit folks have it all figured out up front?
Then we come to the touchy subject of ideas. Authentic authors are bursting at the brain-seam with plots and stories. They’re veritable idea mills. I’ve got one or two that bounce around at any given time but I’m not exactly overwhelmed by my fertile imagination. (I tend to save that for late at night when I’m the only one up and I hear a noise.) Yet another strike against me.
One word – and be forewarned, it’s a bad one. Revision. I was sitting in a writer’s meeting once and we were discussing our works-in-progress. I shared that I was knee-deep in revision doo-doo. One of my sister writers shot me a sympathetic look, albeit one reserved for a lesser being, and said, “Really? I never have revisions. But then I spend a lot of time getting it right before I send it in. I can’t help myself, I’m a perfectionist.” Perfectionist? And there I was thinking she was something else! Mais non. Verifiable writers get it right the first time. They don’t get seven-page, single-spaced revision letters. Those letters are reserved for us pretenders.
But just at the time I feel as if I’m the biggest trickster, putting something over on everyone, I realize I am a real writer. First, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my writer credentials. Let me assure you I have the neuroses to prove I’m legit. Everyone expects a writer to be neurotic. If I weren’t a writer, then I’d just be a nut.
Second, my husband asked me once if I won the Power Ball Mega Millions thingie (which is highly unlikely considering I don’t play the lotto, but he does), what would I do. I thought about it for about two seconds and said, “The same thing I do now. Write. But I’d hire a bunch of people to do the stuff I hate to do – housework, bill paying, errands – so I’d have more time to write. And I’d buy a house at the beach and a house at the mountains – so I could write there.” Several million bucks and I still want to stare down the blank computer screen? Forget the neuroses. That proves it. Maybe I’m just plain nuts.
But the absolute, bottom-line validation is this: I keep showing up for the party. Revisions from hell? I slog through them. Bad review? I keep my butt in the chair. Nasty comment about my book? I’m still working. Ouchy rejection from an agent? My fingers are still on the keyboard.
Granted, there are times I hold my breath waiting to be revealed as the big faker because there aren’t any voices in my head, the words aren’t flowing off my fingertips, I’m neither the plot maven nor the idea girl, if I have a burning sensation I reach for a Tums, and I’m considering legally adopting Revision as my middle name. But (and that’s my big but – sorry, I simply couldn’t resist) I suppose when push comes to shove, I am a real writer after all. How do I know? Because eventually, despite my excellent procrastination tactics and neurotic self-doubt, I write.
Okay, so what’s your secret? What leaves you feeling like an imposter? What tells you you’re real?
Visit Jennifer's website (www.jenniferlabrecque.com) for more info on her books. And be sure to check out her blog!