Earlier today, members of the Whittlesey U3A [University of the Third Age] gathered to listen to members of the Whittlesey Wordsmiths and the Voices in Verse poetry group give readings and talk about writing. The special guests included Eva Jordan and Alan Sharkey, who spoke about their latest publications.

As I had no new book because it’s still in the hands of the publisher, I gave a short speech about being a writer and author.

Here’s the transcription (the recording quality is terrible because I used my iPhone).

I’ve just been told I can only do four minutes, so I’ll only do four minutes.

I am an author and a writer. And I differentiate between them because I agree with what the late, great Harlan Ellison once said: “An author is someone who is lucky enough to get his name on the cover of a book. A writer is someone who can’t help himself because the Muse has got her claws into them.”

I am both. I’ve been lucky enough to write books that people wanted. I have won awards. Both of these books [indicating Paranormal City and Shuttlers] shared a single award because they [the judges] couldn’t tell which one they preferred.

However, I’m also a writer, and I can’t stop writing. I’ve been a writer for nearly eleven years now, and I’ve written nearly 1½ million words. Mind you, that’s not all in the same book. I’m now working, or have worked, on a total of twenty-five books.

The reason I’m asking this is because I want to know, how many of you are writers? Not necessarily wanting to be published, but how many of you would like to be able to write?

It’s something everyone can try. And I’ve heard people say, “You’re not a writer until you’re published,” and that’s wrong. You’re a writer from the moment you sit down in front of your computer or with a piece of paper and you start writing. You’re a writer.

The thing is, it can be very addictive. And let me tell you, extremely so.

I spent a few days working on my website, and I hadn’t been doing any writing, so on Tuesday, I finally got the chance to do some writing. And the dam just broke. In thirty-five minutes, I wrote 764 words. I would have gone longer, but I was part of a group writing session, and we had to stop at that point. Otherwise, I would still have been at it at four o’clock in the morning. Which, by the way, is normally my bedtime.

The point is, I want to encourage all of you to write, even if you’re not ready to be published, because publishing is hard work. All of these people can tell you that [gesturing to the rest of the panellists]. You’ve got to edit. You’ve got to revise. You’ve got, perhaps, to do submissions. You’ve got to do marketing. You’ve got to go out and push yourself.

Maybe you don’t want to do that. But have you ever thought about joining us in the Whittlesey Wordsmiths because we’ll encourage you if you want to write?

We. Are. Writers. Some of us are self-published authors, others of us have been published as part of the group, and all of us are writers.

And I think I can say for all of us, we don’t want to be anything else.

We are the writers of this world, and we’d like you to join us sometime.

Thank you very much.

The actual time was 3:19.

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