“One of your fans is here.” That’s what an old college friend said to me at his fiftieth birthday party. Don introduced me to eleven year-old Taylor, who had read Plank Road Summer.
I figured that asking “Did you like the book?” would risk a quick end to the conversation, so I said, “Who was your favorite character?”
“Oh, definitely the grandmother.”
“Gran Mather? What did you like so much about her?”
“She was really smart. Gran always knew just what to do.”
“Gran is one of my favorites, too,” I told Taylor. “I love when she thwacked Mister Ives with her staff.”
Our conversation turned to the joys and frustrations of writing. Taylor was working on a fantasy, and she described the setting of the story vividly. When I asked about the characters, Taylor said she hadn’t quite figured out what the main character’s “issues” are.
I confessed that in an early draft of Plank Road Summer, Katie and Florence were so completely lacking in issues that a friend who read the story said, “It’s very pretty. Where’s the conflict?”
Taylor and I agreed that having trusted readers look over a draft is important. A good editor can suggest changes that will help a writer bring out the real story. I told Taylor that editor Philip Martin of Crickhollow Books had convinced us to cut two chapters from the published version of Plank Road Summer.
However, in the early stages of a writing project, an editor might get overly involved. Taylor and I agreed that parents, for example, are generally very helpful, but sometimes they want to change too much.
Soon Taylor’s mother and father drifted over toward us, a little curious as to the subject of our conversation.
I smiled. “Oh, you know how writers are. We were just talking shop.”