>A Secret Word

>Every day during the Fairhope Writers Colony Retreat, we are treated to lunch and an informal session with one or more of the area’s resident authors. It’s fairly unstructured, to leave room for what Sonny Brewer calls “meditative” interaction. On Wednesday we were treated to a double blessing.

First, a conference call with William Gay, who wasn’t able to attend in person. We sat, cross-legged on the floor around the coffee table at the Fairhope Writer’s Cottage so that we could better hear William’s voice coming through Sonny’s cell phone, set on speaker mode. (For a treat, watch this video of William reading from his novel, Provinces of Night, during the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008. He talks about the affect of music on writing.)

At lunch and in the afternoon, we were joined by Jennifer Paddock, author of A Secret Word and Point Clear. I had read Point Clear (her second novel) a couple of years ago, but yesterday Jennifer gave me a copy of her first book, A Secret Word, and I stayed up late last night enjoying its opening pages.

Jennifer’s day job is tennis pro at the Grand Hotel’s tennis club. Since I played quite a bit of tennis when I was younger, I love the way she weaves the sport and its venue into her story:

“The maples are the first to turn here in late October. Orange and red among the persistent green leaves of oak and elm. To see the orange and red fall on a freshly swept green soft court…. To hear the lights click on. To hear the whirring, chirping mating call of the cicadas who have shed their skin and grown wings. To see below the windscreen their abandoned sells still clinging to the chain-link fence from the dusk before. To take on in my hand fragile and blonde and lifelike, and show Paul. To be the only ones here in this world.”

In our brief conversation with Jennifer yesterday, I asked her which elements of the novel were important to her in her writing. She answered:

1. Honesty
2. Place/Setting
3. Plot

I can see how she remained true to those elements in Point Clear and in the early pages of A Secret Word, and I hope to take some of her wisdom with me as I continue to work on my novel-in-progress.

Mostly I enjoyed meeting Jennifer, the person, beautiful young woman who studied in Arkansas and New York City and now makes her home in Fairhope.

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