Saturday, January 28, 2006

Gail Godwin, A Lifetime of Achievements

I attended a book signing at Quail Ridge, (one of my favorite book stores) and listened to Gail Godwin speak about her new novel, QUEEN OF THE UNDERWORLD. She also discussed her new book, THE MAKING OF A WRITER: The Journals of Gail Godwin, 1961-1963. She shared with us her passion for Henry James, Marcel Proust, Lawrence Durrell, and ThomasWolfe.

I have read SOUTHERN FAMILY, which I loved, and have yet to read more of Ms. Godwin, so I wanted to meet her, get her to sign my copy of Southern Family, and purchase her new books. (She looks thrilled to have her picture taken, doesn't she?)

I believe Ms. Godwin is a treasure. A graduate of Peace College, many of the young women from Peace were in attendance. I’m sure she inspired them, as her real life reads like a novel … a struggling writer through the 50s and 60s who comes to the realization that she is a novelist, not a journalist. And after traveling the world, keeping a writer’s journal, and having some connection with Thomas Wolfe through her mother, she finds success in her writing. Sounds all dreamy and movie-like, doesn’t it? Like something out of a Virginal Woolf novel.

In her memoir, she also writes about her terror of facing twenty-six with nothing to show but a rejected novel and a stack of debts. "I do not feel like a failure," Godwin insisted as she sat down to an empty page. "I will keep writing, harder than ever." Simply inspiring.

But, I believe we can look back on these writers … Gail Godwin, Elizabeth Spencer, the late great Eudora Welty, among others, and see a world that has come and gone. During the question and answer session, many of the questions were rather fluffy to me … “What was your greatest experience at Peace College?” “Will we see the character of Margaret again?”

I wanted to ask, “Ms. Godwin, what do you think about the publishing industry today versus when your first book was published?” My question just didn’t seem to fit in with the fluffy questions. I should’ve asked anyway … it might have added a little spark to the conversation.

Ms. Godwin is a well respected and a genuinely loved author and teacher, but the talk lagged on. Personally, I was ready for her to stop at the end. Meaning no disrespect, because I think she is a wonderful writer, but it’s a good thing she’s already established. The new writers and novelists of today cannot sell their books out in the trenches if they drone on for an hour. I DO HOPE my readers understand my comments have absolutely nothing to do with the quality of her writing. But I also hope young writers, unpublished or newly published writers understand … we’ve got to be better speakers, sharper, clearer, louder, and shine a bit more at our presentations than the established authors of yesterday (even if they are continually published.)

It’s only one part of getting your work sold. I love the networking I’m able to do while at these signings. I always meet people who are interested in my work, as a writer. They asked for my card and web site and it helped to make the trip to Raleigh feel like I haven’t entirely wasted my time.

I sincerely wish Ms. Godwin all the best with her new books, and I’m sure I will enjoy them as much as I enjoyed Southern Family … maybe even a little more.

Blessings to you and yours.

No comments: