Thanks to author Pat Valdata for stopping by and sharing her reasons for choosing to write fiction. Enjoy!
Why Write Fiction? By Pat Valdata
“When I am at a book fair, the cover of my 2nd novel, The Other Sister, often attracts people to my table. Sometimes they just want to identify the ethnic costumes worn by the two girls (they are Hungarian).Often they’ll pick up the book and begin reading, asking me if it is a about my family history. I explain that the book is set in the urban, Hungarian–American culture that I grew up in, and that I got the idea for the novel from hearing the story of how my mother’s parents met, but that it is a work of fiction.
I am always surprised by the people who put the book down at that point and tell me that they don’t read fiction. And they almost shudder when I point out that my other current title, Inherent Vice, is a book of poetry. While I am sorry I didn’t make a sale, I am most disappointed that anyone would limit his or her reading to nonfiction. I have nothing against nonfiction—I write it myself, and some of my favorite books are biographies, memoirs, and nature writing. I also understand that we are all busy and have less time for leisure, so we need to choose how we spend those precious minutes. But how sad not to embrace the world of the imagination!
Sometimes I worry that kids today are not being raised to love imagination. When little kids play with toy trucks, they don’t even have to supply the “vroom vroom” noise of the engine running—their toys come with sound effects built in. Computers and video games provide not only sounds but images, too. I’ll admit that I enjoy playing Angry Birds almost as much as my four-year-old grandniece does, but if had to choose between smashing green pigs or reading a good novel, the novel would win, every time.
Do children have imaginary friends these days? Mine were my closest companions until I started school. When my mother read to me, and later when I learned to read myself, I loved to picture the characters, scenes and action in my head. From page one until the end of the book, I was right there, with the characters, whether the setting was Rivendell, Mars, the streets of Trenton, or a Greek island.
I think that is what led me to write books of my own. When I am in the middle of a novel, it’s as though I have imaginary friends again. I have fun watching their lives develop on the page, picturing what they look like and how they behave. I feel happy for them when good things occur, and sad when the inevitable plot complication means I have to make bad things happen, too. As the manuscript pages pile up, I am thrilled to realize how much I have made up out of pure imagination, and I am hopeful that a reader somewhere will care for these characters as much as I do.
This happens when I write poetry, too. Lately, I have been writing persona poems, in which I put myself in someone else’s shoes and tell a bit of their life story using the first-person point of view. Some are based on real people, like Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman to get a pilot’s license, but others are made up: a skateboarding teen-aged father, a glass blower, a commuter who has lost a child. Some of these fictional personae, like the glassblower and skateboarder, required some research to give their voices authenticity, but others, like the grieving commuter, are completely made up. As with my fiction writing, I hope that readers of these short stories told in poems will enjoy spending time with the characters.
For me, that’s the whole point of a good read (or good write): getting to know a whole new set of imaginary friends.”
Pat Valdata’s first full-length poetry book, Inherent Vice, was published in 2011 by Pecan Grove Press. Her chapbook, Looking for Bivalve, by Pecan Grove Press in 2002, was a competition finalist. Pat has also written two novels: Crosswind (Wind Canyon Books, 1997) and the award-winning The Other Sister (Plain View Press, 2008). Pat is a 2013 recipient of a grant from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation for a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Pat has an MFA in writing from Goddard College. She has taught writing and literature courses for the University of Maryland University College (UMUC), University of Delaware and Cecil College. To purchase her books: http://www.cloudstreetcomm.com/books.htm
Thanks again to Pat Valdata for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and Readers & Writers Recipes. Have an imagination-filled day!– Vonnie