Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Library Event with Sandra Dallas

I live in a fairly small town and have to admit that I don't spend very much time at my local library. The joke in our house is that I have more books sitting around than our library does...

But, when Sandra Dallas made a visit to our library last Tuesday night I knew it was an event I didn't want to miss. Ms. Dallas has a wonderful sense of humor and treated our group of about 50 people to a wonderful talk covering a wide variety of topics.

Some of the highlights included:

On Writing: Ms Dallas made the comment that most books about writing are hogwash, but she did mention two, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott and Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing: A Novelist Looks at His Craft by David Morrell, that she said were well worth reading.

On Ideas: "Ideas choose me" was how Ms Dallas opened up this section of her talk. She mentioned Buster Midnight's Cafe as an example of how the plot, characters, setting and first line of the book just came to her as she was walking through her house one day. She changed direction to get the ideas down and said she was glad she did. Even though many of the pieces of the book changed slightly the first line remained the same through all the edits.

Ms Dallas was asked if she took suggestions from readers on what to write about next and her answer was a very quick "no". She said that if she was going to spend a year or so writing about a topic she wanted the idea to come from her alone.

On Characters: Ms Dallas said that she has never intentionally patterned a character in a book after someone in her life, but that it does happen. She mentioned a character in her book Tallgrass very closely resembles her father, but she didn't realize it until the book was finished. Ms Dallas said the character she most resembles is Mattie, from The Diary of Mattie Spenser, but Mattie is more how she wishes she was.

On Book Covers: Ms Dallas prefers covers to be accurate rather than want those that sell. She pointed out some inaccuracies on the cover of The Diary of Mattie Spenser and talked about all the revisions that were done to get the cover of Prayers for Sale right.

On Her Upcoming Book: Ms Dallas' next book is titled Whiter Than Snow and is set in the 1920's. It centers around a small town and an avalanche that carries away 9 children, 4 of whom survive.

I really enjoyed hearing Sandra Dallas speak and can't wait to pick up more of her books. Tallgrass has been languishing on my shelves for too long, and this has inspired me to move it up the pile.


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Great post. I like Sandra D. Tallgrass and Prayers for Sale were great!

Serena said...

I would love to see her talk in person. Her emails for my D.C. Literature Examiner interviews were great!



Sandy Nawrot said...

I would venture out to see her! I just uploaded Prayers for Sale on audio, and am axious to listen to it. Great summary!

Melissa said...

Serena: Thanks for the links. I will check them out!

Mimi said...

I like Sandra Dallas and what an awesome opportunity.

Sheila (bookjourney) said...

This is so cool - the name caught my eye. I have read a couple of Sandras books and enjoyed them.

Marie Cloutier said...

I like how she says her character Mattie is who she wishes she was herself- I'll bet a lot of people end up writing characters that way! :-) Writing is such a great opportunity to explore what might be.