ON THE RADAR
Writing Something that Matters
Author Ann Hood, this year’s keynote speaker at the Sanibel Island Writers Conference, likes to urge aspiring writers to be brave in their writing and write something that matters. “If you don’t write something that does matter, no one is going to care,” she says. Hood, the New York Times best-selling author of several works of fiction and
nonfiction, including The Italian Wife, The Knitting Circle and Morningstar:
Growing up with Books, is among the new presenters at this year’s event, the 13th annual conference to be held on Sanibel. Under the longtime direction of Tom DeMarchi from Florida Gulf Coast University, the 2018 version will host recurring presenters, as well as many new authors and workshops.
Writers who present every year include Steve Almond, John Dufresne, Lynne Barrett, Christopher Schelling and Darin Strauss. “They kill it in the classroom,” according to DeMarchi.
New presenters include Emily Black, Tod Goldberg, Major Jackson, Tom McAllister, Alastair Moock, Annemarie Ní Churreáin, January Gill O’Neil, Jane Roper, Michael Ruhlman and Mark Evan Schwartz. “All of them have been either on the waiting list for a long time, or they were highly recommended by another presenter,” DeMarchi says.
As keynote speaker at the conference, Hood plans to discuss the whys of writing. “I like to talk about why we write, why we explore what we do, why it’s important to write and why it’s important to read,” she says. “And part of the way I talk about that is my own journey as a writer and, of course, the themes I write about. The reason I talk about this is not to congratulate myself or expose myself, but rather for the writers in the audience to be braver, because without being brave, and writing the hard stuff, you’re not going to write something that resonates and lasts. “So, my hope is always to urge people to take risks to be brave in their writing, in their hearts and in their lives, and to write something that matters because it’s hard—when you sit alone in your room day after day making stuff up—to believe that there is some person out there who is going to read what you wrote and it’s going to matter to them.” When asked to expound on her writing process, Hood responds: “One of the things I think that new writers hope for [or] are sometimes even advised, is kind of wait for the muse to hit and write anything, rather than be more thoughtful in the process. I don’t mean make an outline, but … just bethoughtful. I don’t like the whole spaghetti against the wall and see if it’s cooked theory. I spend an awful lot of time thinking about my story— thinking about character and plot and how to move the story—and I mean really thinking, not (just) putting words to paper. I probably spend a year on the first 50 to 75 pages. Once I get to that magical point, which varies from book to book but it’s always under page 100, then I can go on.”
Hood’s latest book, published in June, is a young adult novel with a Beatles-themed title: She Loves
You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah). Her newest adult novel, published in 2016, is
The Book That Matters Most, a novel whose protagonist is a member of a book club where each member must present the book that matters most to them. Her newest nonfiction book, Morningstar: Growing up with Books
(2017), is a collection of essays that explores which books have made a lasting impression on her life.
The Sanibel Island Writer’s Conference is scheduled this year for November 8-11 at BIG ARTS and the Sanibel Public Library. Workshop topics include fiction, poetry, songwriting, children’s literature, journalism, screenwriting, creative nonfiction and publishing and editing. It is open to aspiring writers at all stages of development. Paula Michele Bolado is a freelance writer and professional educator living in Southwest Florida.