A writers’ salon doesn’t have a thing to do with haircuts or dye jobs. It’s about conversation. A fairly controlled, albeit spontaneous conversation. I attended just such an event last evening in at a Barnes & Nobles in Westminster CO, sponsored and led by Lori DeBoer, who heads the Boulder Writers Workshop. A dozen writers sat in a circle on folding chairs. We introduced ourselves and our work. Turns out we had four people writing memoirs, a few novelists and a few poets. How then did we manage a conversation that included such a variety of genres? We found a common thread, voice, that mysterious, important quality to writing that almost defies definition.
Voice is the signature that writers, no matter what their genres, try to make crisp and unique. Think of things like word choice, humor, authorial presence in the work, sentence structures, etc. Famously, Hemingway’s simple direct language and his crisp sentence structure, or James Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake, those convoluted portmanteau words, Dr. Seuss’s unmistakable rhythms and rhymes. To discover and enhance the voice on the page takes confidence and courage. When we write we speak to a potential audience of strangers, so we want to be ourselves, but our most creative and honest selves. If we show off or turn away, too shy to face the faces that face us (Do you hear Eliot’s voice in that repetition?), the reader may turn away. It might be worth a few lines in a journal, or more than a few, to define your writer’s voice. Having defined it, you can examine it and use it to your advantage.