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Vail Daily column: Choose your hobby with care

Don Rogers
My View
Don Rogers
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

My hobby has sent me questing lately to book events. This dovetails with my professional life, and so the two swirl neatly together. What feeds one serves the other.

If there is one common truth about writers, it’s that you’ll find our brains in our fingers. We write to understand. In my case to even know what I think.

So to understand the strange land of fiction — utterly foreign to journalism other than we tell our stories by stringing sentences together — I did what writers do to learn. I wrote.

And I did what serious hobbyists do. I went to see experts discuss their craft.

People dabbling in brewing go see real brewers. Home cooks gobble up knowledge from chefs. Gardeners, collectors, builders, musicians, painters and photographers all tap their fonts of knowledge.

So I joined Books in Bloom last Saturday and attended an author’s talk at the Healy household in Vail last Friday.

At Jane and Tom Healy’s home, I listened to local Karen Weber’s granddaughter, Corinne Weber, as impressive and courageous as anyone I’ve met, talk about her book “Where the Monster Weights: How Anorexia Held Me Hostage.” Her story already is under contract for movie options. No surprise there, with raw credibility oozing in the writing of 22-year-old Corinne’s story. I remembered Jane Austen wrote a couple of her masterpieces at the same age as I flipped through the book at the gathering.

I arrived late to Books in Bloom at the Pines Lodge in Beaver Creek, slipping in through the door just as it was closing and was stunned by the crowd. Must have been over 100 women all dressed up for the afternoon and maybe three men, including one of the invited authors. And a first for me: Sudden awareness that jeans and old, untucked flannel maybe weren’t my very best choices. Next year, I swear, I’ll tuck in the shirt and break out the sport coat.

I left with a sackful of books and deeper appreciation for W. Somerset Maugham’s quip: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

Authors TaraShea Nesbit, Roxanna Robinson and Wiley Cash (I want that name) each turned out to be engaging speakers, as well as writers. As an aside, I’m going to just say it: Erik Williams hands down is the emcee every event organizer should covet. Crisp, funny, knowledgeable and does his homework. Just saying.

I never expect writers to be great presenters, too. I go for the tips, insights and proof in the flesh that such a thoroughly crazy gantlet as this can produce actual published works. But the event alone was a lot of fun. The Eagle Valley Library District folks did a nice job putting this one together, and I was happy to buy my copies there from the Bookworm.

I’ll match memory from their talks while reading their books over the coming weeks as I apply it all to my hobby.

Naturally, I didn’t explore the realm of fiction sensibly by dabbling with a short story. No, I had to be the butt of a Will Rogers’ line: “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

That is, I had to try a novel. And not something simple or, alas, focused. I had to throw in Pashtuns in the Hindu Kush, super-intelligent machines leading a civilization 6,000 years more advanced than ours, Earth 30 years from now, a psychopathic forensic anthropologist, an autistic baseball star, a shaman connected to another at the far end of the universe, and a guy like me who dies in the opening scene. The story explores the interplay between sex and love, religious faith and science, mechanical and biological life, and the stark terror of having a dream you believed impossible suddenly coming true. All in the context of a yarn.

Whew. But so engaging, so much fun, and I’m learning so much about far more than writing in the whole blessed exercise. I recommend it heartily for everyone. Put it in your bucket list, for sure. The story you write is just part of a larger experience.

Like any good hobby, I think.

Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2920.


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