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Joe DeRouen, Author of the Small Things trilogy: 2006-09-17

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Language We Use

My wife bought a new comforter for our bed. When my four-year-old son Fletcher saw the new comforter, he asked what happened to the old one. We told him it had a rip in it and that we didn't need it anymore. He was still curious what we'd done with it. The conversation went something like this:

"Where's the old comforter with the rip?" Fletcher asked.

"It's in the back of the car," my wife said, "so we can donate it to Salvation Army."


"So other people can have it."

"Who will have it?"

"We donate things so that poor people can use them."

"Poor people like things with rips?" he asked.

My wife and I broke into laughter. As far as I know, poor people don't enjoy sleeping under a ripped comforter any more than rich or middle-class people enjoy sleeping under a ripped comforter. And, really, it's probably poor form to refer to whoever ends up with our castoff comforter as "poor people."

But the whole thing made me laugh and, later, thing about just how influential language can be. Which ties the whole thing into this column, which is, after all, supposed to be at least vaguely about writing.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go find some more ripped stuff - an old shirt, perhaps, and more than a few pairs of socks - to give away to the poor.

Monday, September 18, 2006

National Novel Writing Month

I've done National Novel Writing Month (or Nano for short,) in which you do your dead-level best to write a novel in thirty days, every year since 2003. Small Things was my first effort, though it required a good two years editing and rewriting until it was up to snuff. Next came Threads, the second book in the eventual Small Things trilogy. Last year I tried something different, a stand-alone, as-of-yet-untitled novel that I'm still working on.

So why am I tell you all of this? To inform you about Nano, for certain, but also to vent about my frustration over having not yet gotten the first book published. Certainly there's some hubris there - why should I, my first novel out, get published, when it takes some authors virtually dozens of books before they finally sell even one? But I'm confident in the book, and have revised it and revised it, and I know it's a good read. And so I keep trudging along, trying to get an agent (I'm just targeting one in particular right now, waiting to hear back from her) and continuing to write.

So will I do Nano again this year? Sure, I will. It's September and I haven't quite decided what to tackle yet, but I'm for sure going to do it. For one thing, it'll be my third year being the Municipal Liaisons for the Northwest Arkansas area, and I've got to set a good example. But that's not the only reason I'm doing it.

As frustrated as I am at not having an agent, at not selling the first novel, I love to write. Though I still have high hopes for a career as a novelist, I imagine I'll keep writing forever, published or not. I'm a writer, after all, and that's what I do. I'm still confident that I'm going to sell that novel - or another novel - but until that time (and, I'm imagine, well after) I'll keep plugging away, putting words down on the page and dreaming of walking into Borders or Barnes and Noble and seeing Small Things or another one of my books on the shelf. And then I'll cackle like a madman, kick up my heels, pull out a sharpie and sign every last one.