‘Author’ vs. ‘Writer’.

Okay, so it’s my birthday, so I’m going to make this a relatively quick one. I say relatively, because I never seem to know just how long I’m going to talk in these things.

With the upswing of attention thanks to Libboo’s Bounty, and the beginnings of the script begun, I started thinking about something an event producer at the Boston Book Festival a few weeks ago said to me. She was asking where she’d take the Authors in for the event. I explained what I knew, that I was fairly sure that they were supposed to be taken in the front way after everyone was seated. (So, not much.)

When I said it, I also referred to the superstars in question as ‘writers’. She quickly corrected me. “Oh, no,” She replied, wide eyed about it. “The Authors will come in that way.”

Past my usual flurry of sarcastic responses that would shoot up in regards to something like this, my first question (which I kept internal for my own safety), was “What’s the difference?”.

Now, granted, I’ve never written a book. I wrote a thirty page story about a psychotic werewolf and a psychiatrist’s efforts to stop him when I was about thirteen, but that was it. And, from what little I do remember of said writing, it was terrible. But, of course, I still wanted to show it to the world.

(And if this is raising eyebrows, don’t be afraid, you’re not alone. My mother was terrified I was going to turn into said psycho killer. G, a writer/author I know, explained to her that it’d be okay. All that mattered was that I was getting it out. I never knew of this conversation until recently, and I still can’t get over that she was that worried.)

I still remember how many people I showed one short story of mine called ‘The Dollhouse’ (Twenty six), and how many liked it (Twenty six out of twenty six, hell yes!). A lot of other things I wrote, I don’t really remember. I know I got a lot published in a literary magazine the local library had around then (Cecilia and Frederick, hell yes!), and one story I wrote about a father’s morning before the events of September 11th got a lot of attention.

So I’ve been published a few times now, even if it wasn’t exactly ‘published’ published. I’ve gotten attention in various forms for what I’ve done, and it’s gained me a certain level of attention off and on for a number of years.

So am I an Author, an author, or a writer?

I’ve always called myself a writer. And I like that title. I don’t think I need the mantle of Author, but maybe it’s because I don’t have G’s notoriety, or anything like those who do book signings and speaking arrangements, and all that jazz. Or maybe it’s a lack of self confidence, considering Author to be too lofty. Or even author, for that matter.

Plus, all writers are authors. You author an article, essay, novella, novel, screenplay, stageplay, blog post, whatever. You made it, you authored it. Why shouldn’t the terms be interchangeable?

If there’s something I’ve missed here, I’d love to know. The look in the producer’s eyes when I dared sully the oncoming elite’s names with ‘writer’ gave me the notion that I did. Although I will say that I listened in on the panel (I was posted in the balcony to play hall monitor so no one would trip over the equipment cord that’d been taped down, or take the stairs too quickly), and none of those assembled seemed all that egotistical to me.

Then again, I do know that in every book signing or book related event I’ve ever been to, the writers are always Authors. And I’ve even heard myself say ‘Author’ when I talk about G, but then again, I always treat that guy with a certain level of reverence. Even though I’ve met his wife and kids, and he’s a fantastic human being, and I’ve known him for at least ten years… He still intimidates the hell out of me sometimes. So it’s a respect thing, then. It has to be. But is it necessary? Would it hurt someone’s feelings that badly if they used the ‘W’ word?

It’s weird, but it’s something to think on. And maybe if I ever gain any kind of fame, I’ll get the difference. But for now, I’m comfortable with ‘writer’. It’s a good, solid title, one that’s backed by millions of people who try their hand at it, published and unpublished alike.  And it feels about as warm and comfortable to me as a properly broken in sweatshirt. (Of which I have many.)

I’m going to shut up now, but I leave you with something that makes me happy every time it comes up on my MP3 player.

A Writer’s Prayer – Neil Gaiman

Oh Lord, let me not be one of those who writes too much;
who spreads himself too thinly with his words,
diluting all the things he has to say,
like butter spread too thinly over toast,
or watered milk in some worn-out hotel;
but let me write the things I have to say,
and then be silent, ’til I need to speak.

Oh Lord, let me not be one of those who writes too little;
a decade-man between each tale, or more,
where every word accrues significance
and dread replaces joy upon the page.
Perfectionists like chasing the horizon;
You kept perfection, gave the rest to us,
so let me earn the wisdom to move on.

But over and above those two mad spectres of parsimony and profligacy,
Lord, let me be brave, and let me, while I craft my tales, be wise:
let me say true things in a voice that is true,
and, with the truth in mind, let me write lies.

(Grab the MP3 here.)

P.S. – I consider this a short one. The words that are not my own don’t count. So there. :p

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~ by Sara on October 30, 2011.

2 Responses to “‘Author’ vs. ‘Writer’.”

  1. I’ll admit that it is a rather funny level of difference, as it mainly seems to be a matter of connotation. It’s much as in fantasy literature, where a wizard is usually considered greater than a sorcerer (I use the example of fantasy literature, since, well… I’m a fantasy writer).

    • I like that analogy, gives the whole thing an interesting image when you think about it.

      I just wonder where you cross the line into that level of magic, and why it has to matter. Getting anything out, at all, is an achievement. Especially if it gets noticed in the haze of information we’ve got going on these days.

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