Dawn Reno Langley – writer, traveller, blogger, teacher – provides today’s fascinating Last Word of the Week. Dawn has a PhD and loves gardening, and is a natural-born writer. Immediate connections! I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to speak with Dawn and find out a bit more about her. All those mysterious writing aliases, for example…
LWOTW: Welcome, Dawn, great to meet you. When did you first realise that you are a writer?
Dawn: It was so long ago! My first article was published in the local newspaper when I was 9, and I knew even then that I wanted to be a writer. I’d already read everything in my little local library, and my imagination had already begun creating my own stories. So, I guess I could say I realized I was a writer around the time I started putting sentences together.
That makes sense! As a writer, do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?
You know, I was thinking about this just the other day. I’m a planner. I create outlines and know where the story is going, but I add to that with the dreams/imagination and keep me awake at night. When I’m writing fiction, I can rip into the story and totally take it apart, then put it back together again in a very different manner. Usually my imagination is more likely to be employed at the beginning of the process of writing (to birth the story) and during the rewrite process. That’s the time for long walks in the woods where I can’t get connectivity . . . .
I know what you mean about staying awake at night with ideas! The bane of writers. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
There are two, actually. One, during the peak of my nonfiction career, I wrote the first book on African American art and collectibles, and when my book Collecting Black Americana was introduced in Washington, D.C., I had the front page of the Living Section of the Washington Post – and when the doors were opened to the antiques show where I had a tableful of books, people ran to the table. Ran! I still can’t get over that.
The second one is when I introduced my last novel, The Mourning Parade. I travelled across the United States via Amtrak, stopping at 18 different cities and visiting friends, family, and old students of mine along the way. I started the trip in my hometown, a small city near Boston, and I invited all of my family and friends to a local art gallery for a big launch party. It was the first real launch party I’d had in my career (and by that time, I’d been making a living as a writer for about 30 years and had written more than 30 books), and it was simply amazing. Almost everyone from my graduating class gathered to celebrate with me, and it gave me wings to do my cross-country trip.
What fabulous experiences! How wonderful. What are you most looking forward to at the moment?
Right now, I’m working on a rewrite of a novel that had its genesis when I was doing my PhD. My agent has suggested some changes that gave me the impetus to find a lot more depth to the story and exploded the main character. I’m excited about working on it and can’t wait to finish it. What I’m looking forward to most is my agent’s response to the changes I’m making.
That sounds very exciting. Now, you’ve made a career out of writing, among other things. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Read the best writers. Gain experience. LISTEN to other writers, editors, and readers. Read. (Did I say that already?) Take classes, go to free readings, write things that make you uncomfortable. Read poetry if you’re a fiction writer. Read memoir if you write poetry. Read novels if you’re a memoirist.
That’s more than one thing, huh? Okay, the most important is to read.
And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character?
This one’s easy. Sherlock Holmes. He’s got a distinctive character, is amazingly complex, and has equal parts humour and drama. Besides, I think brains are sexy, don’t you?
Brains are very sexy. Thank you so much Dawn, it was a pleasure speaking with you.
Dawn’s important links: