Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Time for Guest Blogger Camille Minichino!

Camille Minichino is back as my guest this go around, and I'm just going to make a little personal aside here. If it weren't for Camille and Penny Warner, I wouldn't be a published author. The mystery community is a supportive bunch, especially nurturing and encouraging, and Camille is one of the best. Anyway, Camille has a new book and a new series coming out, and she has some thoughts about that elusive title "writer." Enjoy!

I'm a (Gulp) Writer

Sometimes I wish I were a plumber. Or an electrician. Or a pastry chef. Then, at least, the next time someone asks, "What do you do?" I'll have a simple answer.

Right now, what I do most is write. But I have trouble saying "I'm a writer." Sometimes I can manage, "I write mystery novels," because having sold 17 books to publishers, and having just submitted my 18th manuscript to my agent, I think that's a fair statement.

But "I'm a writer" carries with it a certain presumption, that if you look up "writers" on Wikipedia, you'll find my name between Herman Melville and Margaret Mitchell. The fact that I'm on the bookshelves between Ngaio Marsh and Marcia Muller helps a bit.

When I show up for a book signing, I might say, "I'm the author," so the clerk will know what to do with me. But I never say, generally speaking, "I'm AN author," or "I'm A writer," simply that I'm the one billed as the author for this evening.

The first time a reader came up to me at a conference and said, "I like your books," I thought she'd made a mistake. I lifted my badge on its lanyard and said, "I'm Camille Minichino. I don't think—"

"Yes," she said. "And I like your books."

Why such insecurity? What makes what I do an occupation or a profession, as opposed to, well, simply what I do? Salary might be one thing. I don't get a salary for writing. Now and then I get an advance or a check for royalties, but it certainly isn't what keeps me in the style to which I've become accustomed.

In fact, many people don't think writing is a business at all. I know my relatives and non-writer friends have no idea how a novel comes to be. Or that it's something they should spend their money on. They assume, with each new book, that I'll remember to give them a copy. More than one has been known to say, "Hey, I don't think I ever got a copy of that third book in the second series."

It's the same even with service providers. The receptionists in offices I frequent say, "I hear you have a new book out. I'll take one." As if they're doing me a favor, helping me offload all these copies that just pour into my house for free.

I wonder if any of these people say to their plumber clients, "Hey, my faucet is leaking. You can come over and fix it."

I'm not as ungenerous as I sound. I donate books all the time, to libraries, schools, and event hostesses. And the giveaways on blog tours (like today!) are a lot of fun, besides, hopefully, encouraging new readers to take a chance on my books.

I guess I'm looking for a little more respect! (Sorry to channel Dangerfield.)

I'm sure no disrespect is meant. I believe this is how many people think a 350-page manuscript comes into being:

1. Allot a few hours a day for a month, maybe two if it's Christmastime.

2. Make sure there's enough paper in the printer.

3. Open a blank document and start writing the title and the first page.

4. Continue writing the story for another 349 pages. (It's a lot of typing, but eventually, the pages will be filled.)

5. The end.

No wonder I don't think it's worth mentioning that "I'm a writer."

The day I received a doctorate in physics, there was great fanfare. Academics love pageantry! Robes, velvet hats with tassels, trumpets, and a grand, symbolic climbing of the stairs to the lofty stage where our professors sat.

After that, I had no trouble, saying, "I'm a physicist."

I think that's what writers need. We need a ceremony with that first book. Not just a little party with tchotchkes and cookies, but a full-fledged initiation, Trumpet Voluntary blaring.

On the other hand, one "stranger" saying, "I like your books," makes up for a lot.


Camille Minichino is a retired physicist turned writer.

As Camille Minichino, she's the author of the Periodic Table Mysteries. As Margaret Grace, she writes the Miniature Mysteries, based on her lifelong hobby. As Ada Madison, she has launched a new series, academic mysteries featuring Professor Sophie Knowles, math teacher at fictional college in Massachusetts.

Soon, every aspect of her life will be a mystery series.

Camille has also published articles for popular magazines and teaches science and writing workshops in and around the Bay Area.


Anonymous said...

I agree there should be a ceremony for writers. Wonder what the music should be. In my mind, everyone would wear Cat in the Hat hats. Not too dignified, but what fun!

Best of luck with your latest books. They are both on my reading list.

Camille Minichino said...

To llk10retired -- great idea about what to wear and choice of music. The more pomp, the better!

And, by the way, Claire is being too modest about her own contribution to the writing community and all she has helped and inspired, me included. Thanks, Claire!

Cindy Sample said...

You are two of my favorite authors. Yes, Claire, I own both of your books and Camille has an entire shelf in my house although I don't think she'll be satisfied until she has her own bookcase filled with a multitude of series.

Very fun post. I like the idea of a ceremony although I do throw great launch parties. Every new book release is a cause for celebration. And chocolate!

Camille Minichino said...

I should have mentioned that Cindy has the right idea with her launch parties! And those dead body cookies ...