Author Berg has advice for writers

Published: Sunday, May 5, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
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(Photo provided)
Elizabeth Berg

Elizabeth Berg never intended to be an author or any sort of teacher of writing, but she’s become both.

And she’d love to see others do the same, to “translate what moves you or angers you or inspires you or mystifies you, into words.”

The best-selling author of novels such as “Durable Goods,” “The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted,” “Talk Before Sleep,” and “Open House” (an Oprah’s Book Club selection in 2000), will speak Friday as part of the Woodstock Fine Art Associations’ Spring Luncheon. 

The luncheon begins at 11 a.m., with lunch at noon, and Berg will present “The Story Behind the Stories” at 1 p.m.

Those who attend will have the opportunity not only to hear from Berg, but also have copies of her new book, “Tapestry of Fortune,” purchased at the event and signed. As described, the latest book tells the story of four women who venture into their pasts to shape their futures, fates and fortunes. 

It is the latest in string of books reflecting on female friendship, all praised for Berg’s ability to find humor and emotion in everyday life. 

A registered nurse for 10 years, Berg only started writing after she won a contest in a magazine. Essays and then her first novel, “Durable Goods” published in 1993, followed. 

She’ll talk about the creative process behind all of her books, she said, but she most looks forward to taking questions.

“I think for aspiring writers in particular it’s always nice to hear the story of how somebody got started, especially someone like me who never went to writing school and never thought I’d be a writer at all,” said Berg, who is from Chicago but in the midst of moving to California.

One of the best ways to encourage writing is reading, she said, “thoughtful reading.” It’s desperately needed these days as a way to open up humanity and understand one another, she said, at a time when we need to be paying attention to what’s going on in the environment and the world.

For aspiring writers, she said, “If I could single out one piece of advice, it would be, ‘Writing is unique as love. You could list all sorts of advice about both things, but you have to do what your heart tells you to do.”

Many potential writers might not take the leap out of fear of criticism or rejection. To them, she suggests locking everyone else out, especially when writing a first draft.

“It tends to be the really sensitive souls who get scared away from it, who don’t submit things,” she said. 

Don’t write in a formula or like someone else, she said. “Because it will sound like someone else,” she said.

“Never write to sell. Write because that’s just what’s burning you up inside. ... I think true writers write because they have to and need to and would write whether they’re published or not.”

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