NOTE ADDED ON 12/11/19:
As requested, I’ve changed the title of this blog to clarify that I was not invited by TED but by TEDxSantaCruz. See this post for details.
The Women of the Copper Country was published on August 6, and the novel has done well — we’re in a second printing for the hardcover. Thank you all for your orders and support.
(I pause here to note that books make good gifts, and you can have my books signed and/or personalized if you order from my local independent store, Mac’s Backs/Books on Coventry.)
The response to this novel has been real surprise. I never expected much interest in a 1913 strike against a copper mining corporation in the Michigan U.P, but I’m glad I was wrong about that! The story of Annie Clements and so many other women activists of the early labor movement has struck a chord. The right book at the right time, I guess.
And now, for something completely different…
Last year, I wrote 30 pages of a story I had to set aside while finalizing The Women of the Copper Country and doing the publicity work for that book. I’ve been dying to get back to the new story and I’m happy to report that Corpus Christi is now well underway: 150 pages written, probably a third of the final novel.
Having a writing routine is important to me, and the components of that routine have changed over the past 30 years. When I was younger, I had four good hours in any given day when I could concentrate on high-level work. At 69, I’m down to two hours of useful focus and I have to guard those hours like a Rottweiler.
Which is why I’ve turned down an invitation to Santa Cruz to give a TEDx talk.
I was flattered, I truly was, but accepting the invitation would mean putting Corpus Christi aside again. I would have to write a new talk that would be “curated” by a TEDx person. In December, I’d be flying to the venue for a couple of days to be “coached” as a speaker. There would also be time spent “interfacing” with my fellow speakers.
Curating and coaching and interfacing? Seriously? I was already thinking, This sounds like a giant energy and time suck.
I wasn’t wrong. For three weeks following the invitation, the TEDxSantaCruz event dominated my waking hours — which were, incidentally, expanded by the inability to fall asleep while worrying about what I’d gotten myself into.
See, I already spend a lot of time developing a talk for each book. I edit and refine each talk before and after each event. I have 5-, 15- and 20-minute versions of each talk for each book. Because I go over the wording so much, I’m liable to screw up the narrative if I’m ad-libing, and I don’t like to bore an audience by backing up and out of the verbal weeds I just wandered into.
So I use a script and I need a podium to put it on. I am a good enough actress to make the talks sound spontaneous and engaging, but TEDxSantaCruz’s organizer believed that a podium “puts a barrier between you and the audience.” My performance would be coached and rehearsed until I could recite a 12-minute presentation while walking around the stage.
“Nope,” I said. “Script. Podium. That’s just how I roll.”
So. Okay. Podium. Then we came to “curating” the talk itself.
I was never clear about which idea I was supposed to be “pulling forward.” Was I supposed to talk about The Women of the Copper Country or the work of women activists or the role of labor unions in the modern American economy? I’m not a historian or an economist. I’m a novelist. I can only talk about my books. Maybe I had misunderstood the whole thing from the start?
Anyway, after a couple of weeks of back-and-forth, the immortal words of Danny Glover came to me: “I am too old for this shit.” I told the organizer what I’m telling you: I’m genuinely flattered by the invitation, but my time and energy are better spent writing the next novel.
Which isn’t to say that you can’t get me for a library or bookstore or organization event! I do, in fact, have a really good presentation about The Women of the Copper Country: already rehearsed, edited and honed by moi.
We’re booking dates in 2020 now. Contact us at MDRappearances@gmail.com and we’ll make arrangements with you.
No curation, coaching or rehearsal necessary. I just need a podium.