Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tim Wynne-Jones: A maestro in every sense of the word

On April 26, I had the pleasure of meeting a memorable person and writer; Tim Wynne-Jones, writer-in-residence at the Toronto Public Library.

Just before he was scheduled to talk, he circulated among the attendees; librarians, aspiring writers, fans and people like me who had not read his work, but were curious to meet him just the same.

We started talking about "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott and it was progressing very well before he was dragged off to meet someone. If truth be told, I did not heap blessings on that "kidnapper." From the moment he started speaking, his warmth, his sense of humour and wit, won me over.

I met him for a second time on May 31st when he conducted a well attended workshop on “Everything you always wanted to know about writing….” By then I had read “The Maestro” which won the Governor General Award in 1995 and "Some of The Kinder Planets" (also a GG award winner in 1993) and was enchanted by his writing style and his voice. In a most informative albeit too short session, he gave a few tips on plot, dialogue and conflict. From my random jottings, three points are worth mentioning;

1) Conflict: Keeps the plot moving. Increase the stakes to grab the reader. Make a promise to the reader and then deliver on it.
2) Motivation: Why is a character doing what s/he is doing? Too much co-incidence is not something the reader will accept.
3) Don’t Explain: Let the dialogue explain the story. And never use it to deliver back-story.

Another great source of information is “Ten Things you need to know” which can be found on Tim’s website at
His passion for the craft of writing shines through in everything he says and does, with a genuine desire to guide and coach aspiring writers.

Tim ended his talk with a quote I’ll always remember. In fact I asked a writer friend Hélène who also attended the talk, to scour the Net for it (Thanks Hélène!)

"One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes."

From Write Till You Drop By Annie Dillard

NYTimes May 28, 1989

As of writing this, I have read most of his books, from “Odd’s End” to “Rex Zero and the End of the World” and am truly inspired.