I’m so happy to have Aya Walksfar writing today’s guest post. Please take a few minutes to read her great ideas about the responsibilities of an author.
When a writer decides to claim the title of author, that writer is then accepting that certain responsibilities and obligations accrue to them. There are seven major responsibilities/obligations.
1. When a reader picks up a book, the author of that book is asking for the most precious commodity that a reader possesses: her/his time. What readers expect to gain in this exchange is a story. Unless it is otherwise clearly stated on the cover of the book–such as this book is Part 1– the author is implying that between the covers of that novel there is a complete story. Complete stories consist of a beginning, a middle and an end. The end should be satisfying to the reader and should come after the climax or resolution of the problem presented by the story. The last page should not read “to be continued” or “for the rest of this story, buy my next book.” This is a clear breach of an implied contract between the author and the reader.
2. Words are powerful. The words of Martin Luther King, Jr. helped bring about civil rights for black Americans. The words of Abraham Lincoln set off the secession of the South and the beginning of the Civil War.
I grew up in a ghetto full of drugs and alcohol and violence. When my illiterate grandparents talked a Carnegie librarian into teaching me to read at the age of six, they gave me the keys to an entire world beyond the boundaries of those mean streets. I read about Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman’s fight for freedom; I read the gentle words of May Sarton and the powerful words of Maya Angelou and about the daring exploits of Amelia Earhart. I read about Sappho and Madame Curie. I aspired to their courage, their wisdom. I wanted to be like them and change the world.
Not only did books open new worlds, they literally saved my life. They taught me that I had the power within myself to leave those streets behind. When I returned to my neighborhood many years later, most of the kids I’d grown up with were either in prison or gunned down by the police during commission of crimes or killed by rival gangs. Without those strong female role models, I would not have believed that a girl could impact the world–I looked around and all I saw were males running the world. I would not have believed that a woman could take charge and change lives. Or overcome great obstacles.
If all girls see in the media, in literature, are Hollywood’s version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and Princesses too helpless to rescue themselves or women unable to make a decision, then it is difficult to dream of piloting a plane, researching for the cure to cancer, becoming an astronaut or simply making decisions that affect your own life without the need for others to approve.
If all boys see in the media are macho, violent and emotionless men we are casting the roles for their future behavior.
Like it or not, accept it or not, authors impact the world by setting up limits for acceptable behavior, admirable behaviors and how greatly one can dream. We must use that power wisely.
3. An author has the responsibility to present a novel as free as possible from errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, story construction, and other areas. There is little as aggravating as an author who has the temerity to pass a rough first draft off as a finished novel. Such behavior indicates a great disrespect for the reader’s time and money.
It is our responsibility to write and rewrite as many drafts as necessary to have a well written story. After we have rewritten and proofed for errors to the best of our own ability then it is time to have the book edited. Once it is edited, the next step is to send copies to beta readers and to listen closely to their feedback, rewriting again if necessary.
4. Though it should be obvious there are those who apparently still believe it is okay to steal another’s literary endeavor. One must not steal! Snatching someone else’s work without permission or payment, using another’s words or art without attribution is simply wrong. And illegal. If you can’t write the book, then become an enthusiastic fan of a writer. Become a valuable, and honest, beta reader.
5. Unread books are treasures left to waste away in the Land of Undiscovered. The lives of the characters within their covers languish, and eventually die, in want of a reader. Readers breathe life into the characters, into the words; they invite them to live within their homes and minds.
An author must respect her/his readers. It is readers who will determine if the author’s work is discovered and treasured.
We must listen to what our readers tell us in person, in emails, on Facebook and other social media, and in reviews. Whether those readers are flattering or plain mean, you dismiss their response at your peril.
I read every communication from my readers, including the trolls. I think about what was said and gauge its validity. When I first released my literary novel, Good Intentions, a reviewer commented that they almost didn’t pick it up to read because the cover was off putting; however, they took the chance and read it and found the book quite good. You can bet the second edition of that novel has a different cover. Comments from readers are opinions. I value my readers’ opinions. Another communication from a reader about that same book said how much it had helped him deal with being adopted and to accept that the lies his parents told him had been told with good intentions and love. That young man gave me great encouragement and during those long nights when I doubted myself, I remembered his words and kept writing.
6. An author needs to be generous; generous with praise, with thanks, with acknowledgements, with interactions. Though I write in solitude, it is the expertise of consultants, editors, beta readers, cover designers, publishers and fans that make my novels the best they can be.
7. And lastly, an author has the obligation to be a lifelong reader, a lifelong learner, a lifelong enthusiast for creating and changing and growing. How can we give to others, to our characters and readers, if we don’t take the time to refill our own reservoirs?
Aya Walksfar lives with her wife of 26 years, four German Shepherds, two Papillons and an ornery pony on twelve acres of once-abused farmland that they rehabbed into a wildlife/wild bird habitat. Inspired by the power of words and by the strong women she met between the pages of books, she began writing, and being published, at the age of fourteen. She writes about ordinary women living extraordinary lives. Her novels entertain, enlighten and empower women and girls.
When Aya is not conversing with characters, she reads voraciously, works the land, trains her dogs, rides a motorcycle and spends time with family and friends.
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