Several times recently, Barbara O’Connor has talked about how important rhythm is to her in her writing. So it was no surprise to me to learn that she is taking African drumming classes. What better fit for a woman who writes sentences like this: “The day I decided to steal a dog was the same day my best friend, Luanne Godfrey, found out I lived in a car.” [from How to Steal a Dog] I really, really think Barbara and I could be best friends if she would just write a clinker of a book. Just once. Seriously, if you want to tell a good story, go read her work. We will forgive her for getting confused and mistakenly naming a boy main character, “Kirby.” (I guess she isn’t perfect after all.)
I would say that rhythm is Barbara’s writing fingerprint. Ditto for picture book author extraordinaire, Ann Whitford Paul. My friend and co-author, Mary Nethery, stamps her work with tight plotting and elegance, as does Kathryn Galbraith. My buddy, Dave Patneaude, weaves in sensory details like nobody’s business. And people like Helen Ketteman and Kathi Appelt and Susan Patron and Bonny Becker are recognizable for their use of language, be it poetic or particular or hyperbolic or heart-breaking.
I think my “signature” is voice. Not that I’ve got a handle on it in my WIP ( I believe my muse when she says I’ll get there) but I think that’s one thing that captured people about Hattie.
Thanks to the adorable young woman here, I heard Hattie’s voice loud and clear. This is a photo of my most beloved maternal grandmother, Lois Thomas Wright Brown, at age 14, shortly before she ran off and married her 17-year-old beau. But that is, as they say, another story. I spent many hours — a lifetime!– with my grandmother, talking over countless cups of tea, hearing her Kentucky birth, her hard-scrabble rural Washington growing up and her Depression-era Seattle dialects in every word she said.
I knew Hattie’s story because I knew my grandmother. And women like her. Women like Vanity L. Stout Irving who rejected her fiance’s gift of a ruby engagement ring: “I told him I wanted a cow and three pigs for a wedding present.”
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that my fingerprint is voice (Mr. Random House is waiting patiently for proof of same. Me, too.). I’m wondering what you think your fingerprint is? The thing that marks your work as uniquely yours.
Dish! Tell me what it is. Point out examples of other folks’ so we can all learn.
But let’s also remember to celebrate what it is that is uniquely ours.
(This is one of those instances where you should do as I say and not as I do.)