Local writers featured in library reading series
The Lincoln Library is two buildings: both the old half and the seamlessly-added new half. It is a brick castle full of already written books, fine-friendly librarians and the Internet.
But there is also writing taking place at the library. Words are being put onto paper and read aloud, from new works by local authors, all in the same building where patrons check out books, check e-mail, and check out DVDs for their kids.
On Wednesday, April 5, the Lincoln Library will host the first reading of this spring's writing series with local author Ken Janjigian reading excerpts from his recently published Trapped Doors and his upcoming novel Defending Infinity
"We've done this kind of thing in the past," Ellen Sisco said of the monthly readers series. "There's a lot of people in Lincoln who write books, and we like them to come in and talk about their books."
According to Sisco, assistant librarian for Lincoln, the "First Wednesdays" series evolved from the library's tradition of occasionally hosting local writers to read from their works. She said a lot of libraries host readings and that past Lincoln writers' works have featured subjects ranging from "how-to" books to fiction.
Janjigian, of Watertown, will read from his first published novel. He began writing as a Clark University student in the 80s and "started writing seriously" in 1995. He cited his literary role models as Jack Kerouac, John Updike and Henry Miller and noted that Miller with his "often missing plot" seems to have fallen out of favor in recent times.
"I always gravitated to the novels that had a lyricism and a poetry to them than rather the, you know -- a beginning, a middle and a conclusion," Janjigian said. "That doesn't really interest or impress me. [Trapped Doors]. I don't think it's like a Henry Miller novel -- there is a plot. I just don't think the plot is emphasized."
Janjigian said that it was difficult to get his first novel published,. He said that initial rejections and one important "consideration" led him to put it aside for a few years and start a second novel before making his final revisions.
"First books, I think, are incredible challenges to get published," Janjigian said. "And if you are not well connected in the literary world then it's even more difficult."
Trapped Doors was first sent out to publishers in 2001 when he thought it was ready, Janjigian said.
"And a fine literary press in NYC considered it, which is a big step," he said. "Looking back at what I sent them, I don't think it was ready to be published."
Janjigian said that it is important for writers to find support for their works in progress and he solicits feedback and advice on his writing from two main sources.
"I have one of my oldest fiends [who is also] is a writer," Janjigian said. "We lived out in San Francisco together. We were both very young and ambitious and wanted to become writers so we moved from Boston to San Francisco and whenever I have a manuscript ready he is the first one to read it. And whenever he has one ready I am the first one to read his."
This kind of input, from the right source, Janjigian described as invaluable.
"It's very helpful to have a kind of partner like that. He knows what is good about my writing and he knows how to improve what's not so good about it," Janjigian said. "Especially the first time you show it it's great to have someone you really trust. My fiancÚ is monumentally helpful too -- she along with my mother are my biggest supporters."
Janjigian said his fiancÚ, Sharmistha Ghosh, is one of those people who likes to read the endings of books first and "she actually inspired the ending for my second book."
According to Janjigian, Trapped Doors is less autobiographical than many readers assume.
"I don't like to call anything autobiographical but some of it is drawn from real life, whether mine or others but it is probably a lot less autobiographical than what people might think," Janjigian said. "It definitely comes out of my experiences and then it is filtered through the process of imagination into something else."
Sisco said that the last "First Wednesday" will feature Lincoln Library's own writers group.
"The last meeting of this series in June will be the writers from the "Write Stuff," Sisco said. "Reading... their stuff," she smiled.
"We started the 'Write Stuff' last fall," Lincoln Library Reference Librarian Jeanne Bracken said, "because the Lincoln Review was looking for writers and wanted to foster writers and we thought that providing a program to get people interested and to find out who was interested might be a good way to find them some new writers."
Bracken, who leads the "Write Stuff," has been a published writer for 30 years and has "been published in, as I say, newspapers and magazines from coast to coast," she said. But despite enthusiastic participation in the bi-weekly meetings, the Review may yet still need writers, Bracken said.
"So far I am not sure it's worked," Bracken said, "but we have gone on beyond our initial -- we spent a lot of time initially playing around with grammar and sentence structure and that sort of thing and now we're really writing and beginning to critique each other's work and hopefully, and no difinitely, this June, as part of the writers series, we will have people who will be reading and we're pretty excited about it."
But writing, according to Janjigian, takes time, and his teaching at both the Harvard College Extension and the Bartlett School in Waltham gives him the time to write. Janjigian said he tries to spend at least two hours every day on his writing, often "on his laptop at the kitchen table" in the morning when his fiancÚ is at work.
"I find writing is much better when it's day after day, rather than once or twice a week, it's just really hard to gain momentum and rhythm [that way]." he said.
Janjigian said he is looking forward to both the reading and to answering any questions the audience may have. His advice for any aspiring authors: pick up a pen, or a laptop, and get started.
"When I was younger I went with the Hemingway credo: 'If you want to be a writer just write.' I really stuck very simple," he said. "Write and travel, that were my two goals, keep writing, keep traveling and, of course reading as much as you can."
Speaking of Trapped Doors, Janjigian said, "if I had to summarize the novel, which is very difficult, a tragi-comic story of Bohemia. That's how I would describe it."
When asked to describe Defending Infinity, Janjigian paused and then said, "It's almost easier to write a book than to describe it."
A 5,000-word excerpt of Defending Infinity was recently published in the literary journal Ararat Quarterly.
Defending Infinity is the story of an Armenian man who is at the point in his life where his life is supposed to settle down," Janjigian said. "It's the story of Van Arakalian. Van is suffering from a serious case of insomnia. To pass the sleepless hours, Van becomes addicted to keeping a journal of automatic, surrealist inspired writing. Soon his comfortable, stable life begins to unravel, which he thinks might be for the better."
Janjigian said his reading may not be appropriate for either young adults or children.