Monday, November 07, 2005

Only Two Types of People:
Authors and Would-Be Authors

It's long been common knowledge among writers that everyone in America wants to write a book. The uncharitable types have a standard reaction when told at a cocktail party that "I think I have a book in me." The wise guy silently thinks "and that's precisely where it should remain." Others (myself among them) would instead encourage the person to get down to business and seriously pursue it rather than merely talking about it. But the actor Henry Winkler, a budding children's book author, reminded me of the power of this universal aspiration when he made an appearance on NPR's Fresh Air last week. He recounted once seeing a dad and his daughter on the street. The dad tells his daughter, "There's Henry Winkler. He played the Fonz on TV. " The daughter replies: I don't know what the Fonz is, but I read one of his books." Winkler, already world famous several times over, concluded: "At that moment I understood what heaven is."


At 10:33 AM, Blogger Jeff Hess said...

Shalom John,

If I had a buck for every time I've said, "You should sit down and write that book!" I wouldn't have to write anoher word.

But of course I would. It's not the money.

I think that writing a book is one of the life experiences that everyone should experience at least once. Doesn't matter if only the dog gets to read it. The book should still be written.



At 11:03 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

You're absolutely right, Jeff. I say write it for your kids, parents, siblings and two best friends. Mostly, write it for yourself. By the very effort of putting words to your experience, you'll come away with a far deeper understanding of yourself and your own life. I'm looking forward to plunking my few clams down to read yours, whenever it's ready.

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Shannon said...

And this...this is why I endure NaNoWriMo every year...or try to, anyway.

Nonfiction writing is easy for me like breathing. It almost feels as if I'm cheating, somehow. But the EFFORT I have to put in with fiction makes me want to keep pounding away on it... I wonder if other writers have this inner dichotomy. Are you a natural fiction person (Stephen King, Crichton & co...) or a natural-born nonfic? Hmm...

At 2:31 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Now that's an interesting observation, Shannon. I'm (partly) with you: I often marvel over how much trouble most people have getting just a couple of good sentences onto a page that capture their meaning. At the same time, nonfiction writing never comes terribly easy for me, cause I simply keep raising the bar, trying harder things than I tried before. Sometimes that means longer things, like books. Other times it means trying to condense a meaningful profile of someone into 1,500 words rather than the 5,000 it used to take. As Twain famously said to one correspondent, "sorry, I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I'm sending you a long one."

At 5:04 PM, Blogger Jill said...

John, I'm sorry, but a minor correction. IMHO, Winkler really isn't a budding writer. My son's been reading the Hank Zipzer series for a few years now. :)

At 6:58 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thanks, Jill. This was all news to me, till I heard him on NPR. Of course, my kids are a bit older than yours. I'm afraid they're a tad post-kids books now. They've gone straight into trashier adult stuff. But I say good for Henry W.

At 5:40 PM, Blogger Chris McVetta said...


I LOVE the fact that you are a writer - who actually encourages other writers to write a book.

That's so refreshing! Although I've had fellow writers and college professors who have stressed the same point to other writers - it's still nice to see the same point of view from a relative stranger.

Thanks for leaving your ego at the door - and keep up the good work!

At 5:38 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Chris, how wonderful of you to stop by here and leave a comment. I recognized your byline, but until you left this comment and I followed the link, I wasn't aware you had a blog (my bad). And so I went right to your initial entry, as I always do in trying to grasp a writer's DNA. And you didn't disappoint with this brilliant little minimalist riff of wry self-effacement: "I'm just some pop culture schmuck with a couple of worthless degrees under his utility belt (Communications from Cleveland State; Creative Writing from The Second City) and a whole lot of spunk!" I'll be reading you closely from now on. Thanks again for making the connection.

At 7:45 PM, Blogger Chris McVetta said...


Thanks for the nice words - it's obvious you are doing wonderful things for the writing community. Sorry I missed it, but hope to be a part of other events you host in the future!

I remember your byline and fabulous writing when I was working at The Free Times some ten years ago as some self-involved snot just out of college. But, I remember, nonetheless.

Don't worry about my blog - I'm so underground, I'm kissing China!

Thanks again for the kind words - again, keep up the good work!

At 6:23 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Chris, cut yourself a break. We're all self-involved snots till we hit our stride and find our life's work. I'll be interested in learning about what you've been doing via the blog, and perhaps coffee in person some time.


Post a Comment

<< Home