When is a British agent not like an American agent?
When it comes to patience, which the British variety have, apparently, more of according to author and alumnus Ryan Gattis ’01.
Gattis, as well as authors Pico Iyer, Janna Levin and Gordon McAlpine brought fiction, science and travel together at the annual Pub(lishing) Crawl, organized by the
Department of English
Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
“We’ve never had a Pub Crawl in the past with such an illustrious, brilliant, wide-ranging lineup of writers,” said Professor James Blaylock, creator and host of the program. “All four of the speakers are related to Chapman University — all of them teachers in one way or another — and each is a remarkably original writer.”
This meeting of literary minded writers, both published and yet-to-be, yielded unusual, unique advice and quips for those seeking their path into the world of publication.
- Twitter is a great tool for finding an agent. Gattis said one of the most interesting ways to find out who wants what kind of writing is to look through publishing agents on Twitter.com. It’s direct, quick and simple.
- Don’t write something because it’s the trend of the moment. Writing a novel takes a very long time – by the time you write a “trendy” novel – it will be past.
- “We all have that hope the our first book will change our lives … that changed mine,” said Gordon McAlpine. “It’s worth pursuing , but you have to be persistent. There’s a million ways out.”
- Don’t be afraid to scrap the whole thing and start it over. Janna Levin shared a story about the writing of Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space, where she decided after writing much of her manuscript that she had dove into a hole of her own – one that made her writing inaccessible to a wider audience. So she pulled it back and wrote it completely over in a new voice, one that could be heard by more readers.
“When I totally changed the direction of this book, and I threw away a whole other book and started over, I thought a lot about this. I would listen to the way Ray spoke, the way Kip Thorne spoke (the astrophysicists at the center of the story, working on the project of recording black holes colliding),” Levin said. “I would record our conversations and I would capture their best lines. It shaped the writing of the book to think about how this story is universal. Everyone knows what it’s like to take crazy risks. Even if we don’t do it ourselves, we think about the person who does. It could be about Shackelton, it could be about climbing Mount Everest. So I think that my admiration for novelists helped me find a way in.”
Pico Iyer gave the crowd insight on what he does when listening, the process of dedication to writing and how the Dalai Llama changed his perspective on criticism:
- “When I meet a person, I lean in and try to read what’s not being said, as if I were reading a Keats poem.”
- (He commits to spending 5 hours a day at the writing desk.) “Sometimes it’s electric, sometimes it’s painful. Writing is the most enjoyable suffering you can do.”
- (Advice to young writers)“If you have an opportunity now, at this point in your life, give yourself entirely to writing. Don’t wait to have an agent, don’t wait for anything.”
- “After spending time with the Dalai Lama, I respond to reviews very differently. Even the good reviews don’t mean as much to me, because many times the reviewer has missed the point completely.”
Chapman alumnus, writer and educator
Ryan Gattis ’01
recently authored the book,
All Involved: A Novel of the 1992 L.A. Riots
, told from the perspectives of gang members, firefighters, nurses and other L.A. citizens who lived through it.
, a Barnard College of Columbia University professor of physics and astronomy and a Chapman Chancellor’s Fellow, is the author of
How the Universe Got Its Spots
A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines
Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space
, among others.
, author of
The Art of Stillness
, is a Time magazine essayist, New York Times contributor and Chapman Presidential Fellow who has published numerous books on his world-wide travels, the concept of where home is and most recently, the joy one finds in just staying put and unplugging.
is the author of a number of books, the most recent being the Edgar Award-nominated
Woman with a Blue Pencil
. Joyce Carol Oates called it “a book that Kafka, Borges and Nabokov, as well as Dashiell Hammett, would have appreciated.” He is also the author of
The Way of Basebal
Finding Stillness at 95 MPH
Joy in Mudville
, the young adult trilogy
The Misadventures of Edgar and Allan Poe
, and others.