::Ray Jones walks out onto the stage. Ever the nadir of fashion, he brushes somewhat self-consciously at his ill-fitting black suit. He needn’t worry. All eyes are on his little co-hostess waving from his coat pocket. His white handkerchief makes an ideal background for her vast mane of yellow hair and her black evening outfit. Little pinpoint sparkles outline the pearls at her throat and ears and on her black-gloved wrist::
Ray: Well! To get down to it, we’re here to present the award for ‘most improved author’.
Gadget: That’s right! But - golly - ‘most improved’ is sort of ambiguous. I mean, a writer could improve from good to wonderful, or mediocre to good, or bad to mediocre, or…
Ray: SO WHAT we have done is to go through some books of quotations to see if we could steal stuff and string it together to make some sort of speech on what becoming better as a writer might mean. I read through the books with my beautiful co-hostess here (general applause) and she wrote down the ones we thought we could use.
::Gadget disappears into Ray’s coat pocket for a moment, then comes back up waving a tiny book. It’s made from two small pieces of poster board with pages of cut writing paper between them. The whole is bound with a single staple. She opens the book::
Gadget: Logically, we should start with the reasons why a person would want to sit down and write a fan fiction - or any fiction - in the first place. ‘I can’t understand why a person will take a year or two to write a novel when he can easily buy one for a few dollars’ - Fred Allen.
Ray: There are lots of reasons to write. We may have something we feel we need to say. Or perhaps we have already created some sort of inner imaginative world that we want to share. Then again, writing may be a sort of notebook in which we arrange our thoughts so as to understand them better. Writing may be an attempt to work out our own problems - a catharsis which will then appeal to others who have similar problems.
Gadget: Here’s a quote by John D MacDonald: ‘My purpose is to entertain myself first and other people secondly.’ It think it’s true that to write something that will really engage others, you have to be truly involved in it yourself. To the degree that you can get lost in it yourself, so may your readers. A story may start out as simple wish fulfillment, but as the writer’s skill grows, he or she can weave more layers and more meanings into it.
Ray: So I guess we have to ask ourselves ‘how does this skill grow?’
Gadget: Well, there is the general acquisition of knowledge and experience. That’s part of it. If the writer has no personal experience of what he writes about, it is often painfully obvious. As for the knowledge part, to quote William Faulkner: ‘Read, read, read. Read everything - trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.’
Ray: What about the old saying that an artist has to suffer for their work?
Gadget: Here’s a perfect quote to cover that! ‘You don’t have to suffer to be a poet. Adolescence is suffering enough for anyone.’ - John Ciardi
::Several teens and parents in the audience laugh at that one::
Ray: Speaking of youth, it is an interesting fact that there are child prodigies in art, mathematics, and music, but there are no child prodigies in literature.
Gadget: Literature is about life and living. It embraces everything. Mathematics, music - even visual arts - are straightforward and mechanical compared to that.
Ray: We found some suggestions for the developing writer to keep in mind. But first we probably should recognize the nominees:
Ray: Okay. Got the suggestions ready, Gadget?
Gadget: Golly, yes! Here’s one I think is very important: ‘No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing.’ - E B White.
And another one to think about: ‘I’ve given my memoirs far more thought than any of my marriages. You can’t divorce a book.’ - Gloria Swanson.
Ray: Heh! I like that last one. We need to hurry up, though. Indy’s looking at his watch.
Gadget: Okey dokey. Let’s see here, um, - how about ‘There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.’ - Red Smith.
Ray: A vivid image of what the process can do.
Gadget: Golly! Do you think we ought to put in some kind of legal disclaimer, that that’s only a metaphor and that writers shouldn’t literally attempt to exsanguinate themselves over their keyboards? I wouldn’t want us to get sued!
Ray: I think we just did.
Gadget: Get sued! Oh, great golly-and-a-half!
Ray: No, warn people. I think we just covered that.
Gadget: Oh, good. Okay, everybody, remember! Don’t let our writers have any sharp objects!
Ray: What was that next quote? The one about how to get started?
Gadget: Ah, I believe that one was ‘Just get it all down on paper and then we’ll see what to do with it’ - Maxwell Perkins.
Ray: Sometimes, when you’re stuck, the best thing to do is to just start jotting down notes and descriptions, outlines, anything. Just push keys or move a pen.
Gadget: Here’s another one…
Ray: Indy’s waving at us. We need to wrap it up.
Gadget: ‘Nothing you write, if you hope to be good, will ever come out as you first hoped.’ – Lillian Hellman.
Ray: We have the name of the winner for this category right here in this envelope.
Gadget: ‘It takes less time to learn how to write nobly than how to write lightly and straightforwardly.’ - Friedrich Nietzsche.
::Ray reaches up to his pocket and, with great care, gently holds Gadget’s muzzle shut::
Ray: We have to stop now. The last quote and then we read the name of the winner, okay?
Ray: Okay, last quote.
Gadget: We’re fond of saying that the Rangerverse is infinite. So what better way to end our quotations on writing than with this promise from Ecclesiastes 12:12 – ‘of making books there is no end.’ ?
::Ray opens the envelope::
Ray: And the winner IS.!
::The crowd stands and cheers as Winston takes the stage. Monty shakes his hand as Winston takes hold of his award::
Winston: I’m honored to accept this award, and I’m glad to know that people consider my work to be improving with time. However, I’ve still got a long way to go before I really consider my writing to be at the level I want it to be. I still feel like I’ve barely gone anywhere in terms of what I’ve accomplished so far versus the potential for what I want to accomplish. Hopefully by this time next year I’ll have improved considerably more than I have so far, and maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll be picking this award up again. We’ll see what happens. Thank you, everyone!
::Winston leaves the stage to the audience’s applause. Applauding as well, Ray walks backward off stage, carrying Gadget with him::