Beanery Online Literary Magazine

February 10, 2008

DAVID PAGE: Notes from St. David’s Writer’s Conference

—presented by Carolyn C. Holland

Below are snippets of notes taken during David Page’s keynote address and two workshops at the April 2007 St. David’s Christian Writers one-day conference—not meant to be a complete, full writing.

Throughout his life, successful writer David Page overcame three major “handicaps.”

First, English was his second language.

Second, as a child, he was dyslexic. Only through an understanding teacher did he learn to read at age nine. Prior to that he adapted by learning to “listen well.”
Third, eleven years ago he had a stroke, which was supposed to leave him a virtual vegetable.

In each of these experiences he saw the positive. (to read the rest of this article click on  DAVID PAGE: Notes from St. David’s Writer’s Conference )

My impression is that he’s as much a cheer-leader and motivator as he is a writer.

“How do you attend a writers conference,” he asked. “It’s a great risk you’ve taken. If you are really going to make the conference work for you have to make yourself vulnerable. I’ll tell you, if you want to make it successful, you have to give, to serve, not just take. Someone here needs you today. Think of yourself as a servant (connect with people, it will make you a better writer).”

For a writer it be successful, they need to find their uniqueness—they are not like someone else. They are unique on this earth: you are you.

Dig down deep, discover you own voice…You have to make yourself a little raw, sensitize yourself, so when you walk out you have the treasures…We are all teachers. If you allow yourself to be such, you will have the capability to be modeling…Bring what you are to the situation think about what you know and apply what you know because no one else knows what you know.

His stroke took away his speech, language, communication, math. He laid in a hospital bed for a very long time. “The only thing said by the doctor was he hoped I died, I’d never walk, speak, or write again. Live each day with hope, possibilities are endless.”
We are all struck down…The best therapy in the world for me is writing, I create characters and watch them…My characters have been my greatest therapists in life.

I could be dead this afternoon, so my appreciation for each moment is great…I have a 100% belief that there is something beyond us…That stroke took me there, I died and was given a road back.

WORKSHOPS

The way words connect—writing is weaving, taking words of color, putting them together in a pattern. If you are writing in such a way that there is no pattern all, all you have created is pages of words.

You are charged with telling a story, telling a mood…It amazes me: when I ask someone to tell me about their novel, 80% can’t tell you. If you can’t articulate in one or two minutes maybe you should be a plumber. The idea is you really have to go at this knowing you have a mission…writing is hard work, a job of real communicating, and that’s not an easy thing to do…You need dilemma, conflict: if you do not have conflict in writing, it could become just a dance—it’s smooth, but how much more interesting is it when people collide?…don’t think of something so united characters are just dancing, but have a rumble, a collision, that will bring up questions that the reader brings to the piece.

I was given a great gift, a stroke, to learn from, I could have said I’m devastated but what I did have was a choice: was it the end or the beginning of my life? how was I to perceive life after the stroke? How many novels embed that idea of decision-making?

Learn to ask yourselves questions. You have to be self-questioning all the time. Write around your thought: engage people in it, and you’ll have a much stronger piece. Give people an opportunity to engage with you. Give them pieces they can fill in with their own life. Writing is a lonely business but it doesn’t have to be if you include others.

Use critique groups. Find people you can share with and accept (input from), but the bottom line is you have to be willing to hear their response but strong enough not to change your work. They should only ask you questions, not tell you what to write. In a really healthy writers group it’s really about asking questions. You as the author answer, but don’t use their writing, and lose your voice. It’s all about asking questions.

Writing is about finding own voice, tone. You have more than one tone as a writer.
Before fifth grade, when he didn’t learn the traditional way due to his dyslexia, he learned alternatively. He listened. If he heard it, he owned it. Then a special teacher taught him how to read, Learning how to read gave him inroads to who he might be, and he began to write.

You can’t talk about writing unless you question how you learn. What kind of learner are you? How are you hoping to engage the reader in what you write?
After college he enlisted in the Army. Then he became actor, wrote plays, poetry, short stories, and ghost novels for famous people. “I’d try anything that came down the pike as a writer.”

A lot of people get used to being who other people perceive them, living out their lives to other people’s expectations. Ask yourself if you are happy. What makes you happy? Most people lie. If you are able to ask yourself some hard questions you will find your passion. Once you connect with who you are and who you are meant to be doors open.

You are alive, therefore you have a chance…Anything can come your way, but you have to open the door.

I find the more naked I become sincerely the more naked people will be with me. It doesn’t take long in conversations to reach a higher level, and higher purpose, I think getting naked is a hard thing: the more vulnerable we are in living and life and writing the more suspect we can be in life, because other people put more (masks) on because they don’t want to be known. They can be scared away like crazy, especially people you’ve had a long relationship with. I cry, thank God I can cry. I want to know the depths of my own being, and help others to do so too.

“I believe the more emotional things become the less words are needed. So many people overwrite. The higher the emotional content the fewer words are needed. The natural and more correct tendency is to make it more narrow.”

Are you happy as an individual in your life what you’ve done up to this point?
You are alive, as long as you are alive you have a chance to find happy. It was good to have a stroke. It made me ask my mother’s question—Are you happy, and what are you going to do about it?
Writing is like a pregnancy, with a delivery process, and a maintenance process…Quickening: when a woman first feels life in womb. I always think that’s a lot like a thought. I relish the quickening of the birth of a thought, asking what will I do with it?

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