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Peter Geye Class Visit

Speed

I was at home last night playing Boss Monster with David, and it turns out I am just terrible at that game. Why? Because I’m a long-term player. It’s a fast paced game, and I need to shift my speed and strategy if I’m ever going to make good with it.

It’s possibly the same with the Internet. When I write blog posts, they take a long time! Even when it’s just a short comment, most of the time.

I think this (hopefully) contributes to the quality of my work, at least some of the time, but also you probably realize that “time is of the essence” and all that. David and I had a really fun date night last night and we just did, and it’s something to take a lesson from and to learn to enjoy being in the moment. I’ve been trying to learn to meditate and that’s giving me a sense of mindfulness for the current moment as well.

So what?

So, that was my long-winded way of saying I may try to write “quick” blog posts. Will this be one of them? I don’t know!

Peter Geye came to visit my Readers’ Advisory class this past Wednesday, 06/18/14.

Safe from the Sea cover image The Lighthouse Road cover image

Peter Geye, a Minneapolis native, is the author of two published books so far (look forward to another one soon, once he gets the arrangements set up with a publisher!), Safe from the Sea and The Lighthouse Road. We read The Lighthouse Road as a class for our genre section on Historical Fiction. He was very relaxed, informative, and funny – a good speaker. I thought I would just give a few highlights of what I took from that class. Quotes are from Peter, as best as I could take them down.

Peter Geye. Photo from Star Tribune. Photo by Matthew Batt.

Peter Geye. Photo from StarTribune.com. Photo by Matthew Batt.

On wanting to become a writer

“What I did was read.”

He took a long time to get into the actual process of writing. His first novel took ten years to write (and he does not plan on ever doing things that long route around again), but ravenously devouring books while thinking “I’m becoming a writer” is not something Peter Geye regrets. Although he started out on his journey to become a writer having “no idea what [he was] doing,” it seems to have worked out for the best.

On becoming a writer

“The only way to write a book is to sit down and write it.”

As an aspiring writer who has taken quite a hiatus from writing lately, I seem to be hearing this a lot. I personally can’t wait until I’m done with grad school so that I can immerse myself in comic books and my poetry book project I would really like to do. But it is rather tough to just start a thing and go for it, and this was the flip side of what Peter mentioned after doing a whole lot of reading, ultimately in order to write…you need to write.

I also loved that he said that he doesn’t always believe those other writers who say that they have a very rigorous writing schedule. I do believe them, but it was nice to hear, since I seem to hear that yes it’s hard, but one has to toil tirelessly every day in order to get the writing done. I have never been too self-motivational in this aspect and I like knowing it doesn’t come naturally for all.

On writing historical fiction

“If you’re going to write about something taking place so long ago, you have to abandon yourself to it.”

Geye’s writing has all been historical fiction thus far, but he did not set out to be a historical fiction author. In many ways, he describes his process as “backwards” in that for him, the story comes first, whereas many other writers who write historical fiction are writing about a specific person or time period or event, and start from there.  What he said regarding immersing oneself in the world one is writing in order to constantly making connections to our world now – I think this applies to all sorts of writing, fiction and non-fiction, explicitly historical or not.
He originally did not even consider his work “historical fiction,” but has only come to realize that is what he writes when publishers have branded his work thus.

Some tips for libraries (and other organizations) looking to host author visits

  • Know how to pronounce the author’s name before introducing them!
  • Publicize the event. Please.
  • Plan ahead. Authors, like many other people, have lives, and it’s nice to arrange things ahead of time and have it on the calendar.
  • Make sure to have an engaged audience. Invite people! Make them interested in the work if they’re not already.
  • Connect with book clubs.
  • It’s “almost always better with Friends groups involved,” because they help publicize, gather audience, and members attend. Also, they help
  • PAY. Writers could be…writing…if they weren’t there for your event. Get a grant. Even a small honorarium is better than nothing. “You’d never ask a plumber to come over to your house and fix your house for free!”
  • Have a bookseller presence (if a library).
  • Give a thoughtful introduction! Tell about the author, your personal response to his or her work, perhaps, honors, awards, schooling if it applies. Ask the author if there is anything they’d like mentioned (or left out).
  • Don’t expect a full-blown presentation with too many bells and whistles. “You’d never expect a plumber to cook you dinner.” An author’s product is his or her book. Reading aloud is excellent. Talking about the book, receiving questions, great.
  • Literally provide questions to people in the audience. Make sure there are conversation starters so there is no dead space at the beginning of Q&A.

The best part about those author visits (for an author)?

When someone says they took something from the book. Empathy and validation mean a lot.

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