Sunday, August 12, 2007

Thinking, a Thick Book, and a Stranger

At the Pacific Northwest Writer's Association conference, I was priviledged to sit in on a session by an agent and one of his authors. The agent, Ken Atchity, has more than 40 years of experience in publishing and more than 15 years in the entertainment industry. The author, Royce Buckingham has one year of experience with Mr. Atchity. So I sat in on the session that they led together. The title of the session was, "New York to Hollywood and Back."

It was interesting to hear about the process of a writer and his agent/manager. I especially liked hearing it from the writer's point of view. But just like in church, the real lesson wasn't in the the sermon but in a few sentences that got me thinking. Mr. Buckingham talked about his journey. And there was one thing that really made me think. He said that when he is traveling, he is working. If he is driving for hours, he is thinking up a new novel. And after hours of doing this, he sometimes turns on the radio to take a break from it.

I just spent a week camping on the Oregon Coast. We stayed at a state park, so we had access to showers. We have a relic of a motorhome so we had running water and electricity. What we didn't have is internet, television, computer games or the like. And that's the way I like a vacation to be.

I went for a few walks alone. As I slipped on my somewhat soggy tennis shoes one morning, and pulled a sweatshirt over my head, I felt like I was missing something. I looked around. I had a good book. I'd brought along my computer on this vacation (battery included) and my notebook and journal. But I thought about Royces words. I went alone to the beach with nothing at all to do. How often do we do that? Do we need to be reminded to do so?

"I'll just think." I told myself. "I'll have no plan at all."

So I walked down to the beach. It was a little chilly and fog still lingered. I found a boulder to sit on and looked out past the sand to the ocean. I sat and sat. And then I sat some more. As the sun came over the hills behind me, I decided to head back to see if my family was awake yet. They weren't. So I sat beside the motorhome on a rickety lawn chair, with my computer propped on my lap. And I began to write another book. Yes. Another book!

I'd just spent an hour or more thinking. And during that time I put lines, sentences and paragraphs together. I'd written a book in my head. I'd titled chapters and designed the cover of it. I'd imagined speaking to groups about it. I'd imagined which photos I'd use in it. And now I began to use my hands to create what my mind had already completed.

After breakfast and a shower, I headed down to the beach again...this time with my family. A man came up beside me as I walked.

"I just have to know." He said. "What is that book you're reading?"

My kids walked on, avoiding this interaction with a stranger. Anything involving their mother and a book could take a while. I showed the man the title, "1,001 Ways to Market Your Book." It's a thick volume by John Kremer. Of course he next asked about the book I've written. I gave a short synopsis of my book, Breaking the Code- A Daughter's Journey. As he passed me, he said, "Good luck on your next book. I know it'll be good."

I was puzzled and he must have seen that I was. Did he misunderstand and think this was my second book?

"You will write another book." He said as if he knew. "I don't know what it will be about but I know it will be good."

I barely believed I'd just heard him say what he'd said. Crazy. Simply crazy. Or maybe crazy and miracle aren't so far apart. He walked quickly away down the sandy path and I couldn't even speak. I should have said something...anything. But I didn't. I should have told him I'd just started a new book that very morning. But I stood there with my proverbial mouth hanging open.

And it all started with time taken to think. Thinking is under-rated. When was the last time someone asked about what you'd been thinking about? I mean people say things like, "What are you doing?" Or "What time is it?" But when was the last time someone asked, "What have you been thinking about today?" And it's such a great question. I'm going to start asking it more. And I'm going to practice the fine art of thinking more too. Want to join me? -Karen Fisher-Alaniz


Jennifer said...

That is a great story. And now if you dedicate your next book to the Oregon Coast Stranger, we'll all know why. I rally enjoyed that :)

Karen L. Alaniz said...

Thanks Jennifer- Sometimes things come together in a way that is nothing short of amazing.