Writer vs. Author

I went to a literary salon in London the other night. It was at the house of a dynamo new comer to the publishing world called Meike Ziervogel. She is a long time Londoner, an energetic German and a bombshell blond.

I remember not so long ago, three years tops, when Meike and I went walking together, (there is a group of us who tackle the English South Downs every four months or so) and she was talking about starting a company to publish contemporary European literature translated for English readers. I walked along, nodding and murmuring, yes, excellent idea! while thinking, Damn, that’s gonna be a hard one.

But lo and behold, a blink of an eye later, Peirene Press has just won the Independent Publishers’ Guild Newcomer of the Year 2011 award. Meike is remarkable and I am so proud of her. (Her blog)

The reason I’m mentioning this is that as part of her publicity she runs sensational literary salons where she invites authors to come and talk about their work.

The latest one I went to had two very engaging writers David Flusfeder and Matthias Politycki being interviewed by book critic Nicholas Lezard.

It was Matthias who brought up the idea of Writers vs. Authors, saying that neither one is better than the other. They are just very different approaches to writing.

The authors, he said, see an interesting story and develop it. They have the ability to stick with a story that is not their own. They are able to create plots and characters outside themselves and their obsessions.

The ones he called Writers are bound by their life, chained by their passions (hence the clever photo of chains…). They are forced to write the story that comes out of them, whether they want to or not.

I think I am firmly in the second camp. Which is why, after writing three satires set in the U.S. I suddenly wrote an emotional novel about the plight of childhood which I’ve set in Hampstead Heath in London.

It was prompted by my own feelings of what children today are going through. All based on watching my children and my friends’ children.

For about a year I kept putting it aside, saying No, that’s not the kind of book I write. Go away.

But it kept tapping me on the shoulder, kept turning up in my dreams, until I finally said, Fine. I’ll write you. And then will you please go away. So I can write another book, closer to the kind I usually do.

It nodded its head and solemnly promised.

Well, that book, called Sisterwood, is done and we’ll see what happens with it.

And I am free to begin another book. But the book I aimed to write:  a thriller I said thrillingly to myself –a real book with a real plot and potential sales!–is being pushed aside. Another book is tapping me on my shoulder. It’s another one that I started two years ago but put away as unpublishable.

Write me, it now whispers, don’t forget me.

And again, even though I worry that no one will be interested, that my agent will raise a weary eyebrow, I have begun meeting with this book, furtively like a lover.

Come to me, it calls, write me. You know you want to….

photo by racineur (flickr)

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Writer vs. Author

  1. Sisterwood … fab title! I guess when you’re a writer, you’ve got no choice but to just … do it.

  2. I had to read the definition of author three times and I’m still not sure I understand how that would work. I suppose that makes me a writer . . . or an obsessive. . . Is there a difference?

    Please keep us posted on Sisterwood!

  3. I suppose that makes me a writer…I’ve been hoping for a promotion to Author but it just won’ t happen….

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