December 5, 2012

Death of the Opinionated Writer

By Heather Day Gilbert

Growing up, tragic author biographies inexplicably moved me. Percy Bysshe Shelley—drowned. Edgar Allan Poe—possibly overdosed on opium. Jane Austen—pernicious anemia. Margaret Mitchell—hit by a car. Sylvia Plath—too horrid for words.These writers lived vibrantly. Some loved recklessly (Edna St.Vincent Millay). Some said whatever they wanted (Oscar Wilde). Some got thrown into prison (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn). Some became expatriates (Ernest Hemingway).

My personal writer aspirations went something like this: I’d graduate from college, find a ramshackle beach on a remote island, where I’d have no responsibilities but writing and caring for my pack of large dogs.

Life veered from my carefully-laid plans, as it often does. Instead, I married my red-headed Yankee sweetie and moved up north for awhile. We had three kiddos. Suddenly, I was a very responsible adult who scrawled poems in my downtime.Then I carved out some time and wrote a book. I got an agent. I started a blog. One buzzword was floating around author circles at that time: platform.
Turns out, writers are no longer islands, left to their own devices as they churn out the bestsellers. They’re also not free radicals, wandering hither and yon, throwing caution to the wind.

Writers have to be: Calculating: Track your blog hits and your FB hits and post accordingly. Open: Let people get to know you, but don’t be so open stalkers can hunt you down if you get famous. Bold: Know why you’re writing what you write and be passionate about it. Pliable: Be willing to change genre/time period/locale based on what can be sold. In other words, don’t be too attached to your idea.Unique: Don’t write something the market is saturated with. Normal: Don’t write something so different it can’t be marketed.Tolerant: Don’t tick people off by tweeting your political views. Real: Use your own unique “voice” in everything you do. 

Bottom line: writers today need to be calculating, yet open. Bold, yet pliable. Unique, yet normal. Tolerant, yet real.Somehow I miss those capricious, admittedly half-crazed, yet utterly brilliant writers of yesteryear. And I’m still waiting to see how my biography will turn out. 
Heather Day Gilbert enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Fifteen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as nine years spent homeschooling her three children. Heather is the ACFW West Virginia Area Coordinator. Her historical fiction novel, God’s Daughter, is rooted in the Icelandic sagas. It tells the story of Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir, the first European woman to have a baby on North American soil. You can find out more at Heather’s blogspot:, or at her FB page: She’d also love to chat on twitter @vikingwritergal.

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