Wednesday, July 9, 2008

they write down their words one at a time...just like you and me

I went out to lunch w/ a friend/colleague this afternoon and we got into talking about all the celebrity encounters we've had--between the two of us, there were plenty. Some of them were big media celebrities, like Cal Ripkin, Jr. or Chris Noth, while others were those whose presence got to us, namely those writers we admired. I told her about meeting Andre Dubus, while she told me about meeting a reverend who greatly influenced her life (incidentally, both encounters took place at Quail Ridge Books -- I bow down to you, QRB). We got on the subject of getting starstruck--stammering, saying stupid things, or saying nothing and just *looking* stupid. And we wondered, who would we really want to meet but would be afraid of making fools of ourselves in front of?

I've already talked about John Taylor, but I got to thinking specifically of writers with whom I'd love to have a conversation but would fear the starstruck factor. Two come to mind: Aaron Sorkin and Nora Ephron.

Maybe it's because they have academy award nominations and emmys. Maybe it's because their words are iconic: Men and women can't be friends because the sex part gets in the way; You can't handle the truth! Maybe because they've worked with a caliber of talent that I could only work with in my dreams. Maybe it's because of just how they've influenced my writing, left an impression on my style. When I write dialogue, for instance, I visualize the scene playing out in front of me, an ensemble cast w/ Allison Janney and Brad Whitford and Tim Busfield saying the words. I imagine Mahattan locations. When I write from what I know, I think of Nora Ephron, when I play with rhythms, patterns, and voices, I think of Aaron Sorkin. When I write humor, I think of both of them. And many more, too.

But when it comes down to it, they're writers, just like you and me. They write crappy first drafts and endless revisions. Their characters talk to them (or perhaps don't talk to them sometimes). They have writing routines, periods of time when it's all crankin' out and times when they've got nothin'. They have a process. They have certain readers whom they want to please and whose opinion matters to them. They know struggle. They also know tension, resolution. They know their themes, what moves them to write, what they witness and respond to. The know the language. They know the words. I can certainly have a conversation about that, can I not?

And it's about the conversation. Surely they would appreciate that. Especially Aaron, king of the conversation. I would want to talk about the words with them.

So Aaron? Nora? Meet me for coffee sometime? I'm buying.
And I'll try not to say something stupid, I promise.

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