All the latest news, ideas, and opinions from Denver's Independent Literary Center: lighthousewriters.org
Notice I didn’t say “stupid”? I’m making a concerted effort to not use “It’s the ____, stupid,” or “What we talk about when we talk about _____” derivatives for at least the next ten years. Maybe for the rest of my life. I do what I can to nudge us out of our title-recycling rut. I know. It’s not enough.
But what we really do talk about when we talk about voice is that irresistible, unnameable thing that, once found, makes writers fall into a trance or an auto-pilot fugue state (soar, baby!) and makes readers fall in love. You know: Holden Caulfield. Scout Finch. Huck Finn. What’s not to recommend any of them? Author Jennie Shortridge, herself a successful novelist who knows her way around voice, is jetting into Denver to read from her new novel, Love Water Memory, at the Tattered Cover LoDo (Wednesday, 4/10, 7:30 PM) and to teach a workshop (Saturday, 4/13, 1:00 to 4:00 PM) at Lighthouse: Voice: Tapping Into the Distinct.
In predictable fashion, I had some questions for her:
Q. What are some of the novels or stories with the most memorable voices you’ve read recently?
Jennie: The thing about voice is, the more natural it sounds, the less people think of it as “voice.” A great example is John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars. It’s just a droll teenage girl who is narrating, but think about how amazing that really is. She sounds like a teen girl and yet if you read across Green’s work, you realize that he is really very good at sounding naturally like other kinds of characters, because he’s employing his own voice as well. It seems almost counter to the point, but it’s what makes us want to read more of his books after finishing one. And as a writer, that’s what you hope to achieve most: repeat readers.
Q. If you had a bit of advice for writers trying to tap into their voice, what would it be?
Jennie: Forget everything you’ve ever read and what it sounded like, and listen to the way words form in your own thoughts, the tumble of them, the way certain words go together even if grammatically incorrectly. Play with words, with sentences, with rhythms and color palettes and flight paths. Find your own way through the telling. And, of course, come to my class.
Even if we do recycle titles (or go with really cheesy one-word variations), at least we can do it with distinction. Hope to see you at Jennie’s workshop, her reading, or both!