What to say after a reading...
Written by
Sheila Grinell
December 2017
Written by
Sheila Grinell
December 2017

I’ve been giving talks in libraries and bookstores this past year. Afterwards, people usually come up to me to chat. Every so often, someone stands around an extra beat, hesitating. I can tell what he wants to talk about but hasn't figured out how to broach. I say, with empathy, "Are you interested in writing?" She nods "yes" in relief, and then she spills the beans.

People tell me they have been carrying a book around inside them for years. Some say, "Boy, have I got a story!" meaning harrowing personal experience. Some want to construct a memoir from a trove of old family papers. Quite a few people want to write a coming-of-age tale set in a different time. Some people want to write a lesson for children and are looking for an illustrator. Some people can't choose among too many compelling ideas.

Although they don't tell me why they've put off writing, people respond gratefully to three pieces of advice I offer. Here they are, if you need them.

  • Make a commitment to write for an hour a day for 21 days. Psychologists say it takes 21 days to form a habit.
  • Take a class to develop your craft. You need craftsmanship in order to articulate what's in your imagination.
  • It's better to finish one story than to start ten. Make a list of your ideas, pick one and run with it. Your best ideas won't disappear.

Once in a while, someone asks questions about the process of publishing my novel. I explain what I’ve done, and her faces folds; she says, “That sounds like too much work.”  Or a guy sets his jaw and asks, “Is there a She Writes Press for men?” I try to encourage my interlocutors to tackle the artistic challenges of writing and the business end of publishing at the same time. They are conjoined.


So far, only one person has contacted me to say he took my advice to heart. I hope others have done so, and that my example—I started writing fiction in my sixties—has inspired a few older souls to contemplate a “second act.” Please do contact me if you wish to discuss.



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