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Some Musical Notes

The majority of the writing classes and workshops that I have participated in have emphasized the importance of appealing to our reader’s senses. You may not even be aware of it while reading, but authors will often incorporate descriptive phrases relating to sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch in order to increase the likelihood of making a strong connection to their readers. For example, they will reference the scent of pine needles which might take you back to Christmases past, or their description of a faint ocean breeze might evoke a romantic memory. More importantly, their use of sensory writing immerses the reader into the character’s experiences and makes the book seem more believable.

            Since my recent posts about mental illness have referred to the visual medium of film, I thought I might shift to how song references can shape our thoughts and how some writers, including myself, have used it appeal to our reader’s imaginations.

            While enrolled in the MFA Creative Writing program at Wilkes University, I had the privilege of having a professional editor from a much respected independent publisher read my novel and provide me with notes. He was very encouraging about my writing and suggested that I read a novel called Beautiful Music. He said that Michael Zadoorian’s novel reminded him of my own. This editor has since moved on to work at one of the Big Five publishers and after reading this novel I consider the comparison to be a great compliment. Beautiful Music and my novel, A Bold & Brazen Article, do share some similar characteristics including themes about bullying and mental illness as well as main characters who have lost their fathers. Both books also take place in the 1970s in rough urban settings and make references to rock music. Zadoorian’s great novel transported me back to my youth and literally had me running to iTunes to purchase albums from bands which I had been unfamiliar such as Montrose (They rock!). In my own novel, I reference songs including Peter Frampton’s “Show Me the Way” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “I Am a Rock” to give a sense of what my protagonist is going through.

            I’m sure that everyone can link certain songs to particular times in their lives. When you were married they asked you to choose a “wedding” song or perhaps you had a song which you and your boyfriend or girlfriend identified as your own. When I was teaching I (as well as I’m sure many of my students) would play Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” on my drive out of the parking lot on the last day of school. After I decided to move to LA many years ago to pursue a career in screenwriting, I would put on the Mama’s and the Poppa’s hit “California Dreamin’” to pump me up when I began to waver from my decision. I also have several songs which reflect my dreams as a creative person and writer which inspire and reenergize me. I find the Eagle’s “Take it to the Limit” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” to be particularly helpful whenever I begin to question this challenging quest which I find myself on. Both of these tunes have been especially helpful of late whenever I receive rejection letters from literary agents to whom I have queried about representing me and my novel. Instead of getting down, I replay the lyrics in my head and send out another query letter while continuing to work on my second and third novels.

            I am curious to see if any of you can relate to my musical moments and how you use music to inspire you. Feel free to share your thoughts and songs with me by going to my Contact page on my website: Until next week, Rock On.