Friday, June 11, 2010

The Critical Mass Salon

Ever since I clutched my late-bloomer’s MFA diploma in my sweaty fist, I’ve been looking for a salon. A group of fabulous people who can talk about the poetics of loss in Hemingway or the influence of film on modern writers or why the West Coast still can’t get the respect it deserves, literarily speaking. Our MFA program director, the talented poet and Tim Gunn stand-in Aaron Shurin, once made us write a letter about one of the elements of our own personal poetics, and had us send it to someone. The writer friend I sent it to has never acknowledged the letter, so I learned to shut up about it. But I longed for those discussions all the same.

Why, you might ask, didn’t I salon it up with my fancy MFA cohorts? Well, I did for as long as I could, but they didn’t love Dashiell Hammett or Flannery O’Connor quite as much as I did. And only one of them is still writing.

You can’t live in San Francisco for ten minutes before you find at least a few writer friends (who still write) to hang out with, plus I kept the writer friends I brought with me from Oakland and Los Angeles and even more exotic locales. My friends might vent their spleens about this publishing house or that eBook trend, or bemoan the unbearable burden of marketing in a shrinking economy, but they seemed to find it distressing or disturbing or vaguely insulting to talk about what writers and artists have talked about for thousands of years – how the hell this art thing works. My friends inspired and encouraged me to write, but I was still lonely for my fantasy salon.

And then Pens Fatales was born.

I was skeptical at first. Many a grog starts off with a bang and then folds under the weight of having to come up with new content every damn week. But the Pens just kept making me laugh, or cry, or see the world in a whole new light, day after day, week after week. I looked forward to popping open my internet browser first thing at work, to get a little inspiration for the day. After about nine months it hit me square between the eyes – these women can WRITE! They don’t play it safe, they write from the heart, or from other organs, depending on the theme. They share embarrassing moments, profound observations, and fabulous stories, but most of all, the Pens Fatales write the hell out of their grog. And even more delightful, it is easy to tell, purely by voice, which Pen has written for the day.

Honestly, I can’t believe I get so much delicious content for free.

In software (my day job), we talk a lot about how to make a site “sticky,” keep people coming back. The trick is to give people content they want, not content that sells what you want to sell. Without a doubt, the writers of Pens Fatales do this day in and day out. Because they deliver so much wonderful prose, if they happen to mention a book or an event, I’m motivated to check it out—because I know how wonderfully they all write, it’s very likely I’ll enjoy their latest book, or have fun at their latest event. It’s the opposite of selling. Attraction by quality.

Pens Fatales has hit a critical mass of talent, and created the salon of my dreams. I’m never disappointed, though I am sometimes challenged to rethink my theories, and every once in a while the compassion and warmth that flows through the grog reminds me to be a better person.

So thank you, Pens, for creating the salon of my dreams.

_______________________

BIO: Mysti Berry is an award-winning screenwriter, short-story writer, and budding novelist. Her first mystery novel, By the Numbers, is hurtling towards completion. She lives in San Francisco with husband Dale Berry, creator of the graphic novel series Tales of the Moonlight Cutter.

11 comments:

Sophie Littlefield said...

Mysti, I got to tell ya, any salon would be improved by having you around. I love that painting you included...even if those folks are, like, three hundred years old or something, they look like they have the perfect mix of contentment/tipsy ennui/could-hang-out-here-all-day. Like one minute they're talking brilliant and the next minute they're napping on each other, until the pizza guy shows up. I could so picture hanging out with you in such a scene! thanks so much for popping by today; you're the best. Um, I think we are *your* fans...

Rachael Herron said...

Awwwwwww. You made me as verklempt as any of the other Pens. What a lovely post. You honor us by being here, and I'm so glad you are.

Hard Boiled Mysti said...

Thank you both for inspiring me to write more and more every day. Keeping a writer's imagination fresh and alive is hard, wonderful work.

So is discovering new friends and new voices. The best work there is.

Martha Flynn said...

Dammit people! We need to have some kind of emo-quota around here. It's not good for my rep when I start every morning in tears. ARGH!

Gigi Pandian said...

Mysti, I love that you think of this as a salon! I had no idea what to expect when we started this experiment, but it turned into something I love -- which wouldn't have happened without wonderful writers like you stopping by :)

Hailey.Juliet said...

Hi Mysti,
The Salon is perfect! I've always adored the idea of a literary salon, and when you mix in fun genre fiction it gets even better ;-) You're the best. Incredible post, eloquent and thoughtful and fun. Thanks for diving in and doing this! I'm off to twitter you, now ;-)

Hard Boiled Mysti said...

Martha, Gigi, and Julie -- J'adore! When I was young I thought salons were for Oscar Wilde-style ranking, only in my "mature" years (seriously so not grown up yet) did I realize they can be the most wonderful places ;)

Thanks ladies for a GREAT year!!!!!!

Adrienne Miller said...

Oh Mysti, we love you. The only thing is I think you have got us all wrong. You are always the one with the wonderful insight in your comments while we get all twittery for 300 words about how "ladies wear girl pants..teehee." Seriously, you are awesome.

Hard Boiled Mysti said...

Thanks Bubala! bra is a funny word, though. bra bra bra bra bra bra bra BRA buhra!

Lisa Hughey said...

Mysti--I've been MIA for the last week or so-sorry to take so long to get back to you. I used to participate in a music salon once a month (primarily piano but we did have a few peeps who played other instruments as well :)) but hadn't made the connection with the Pens and our grog. You've captured us exactly. A Writing Salon. Great, great post. :) :)

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