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INDIAN LAND – Right now, she has 87 books swirling around in her head, on her computer and in boxes of notes she takes.
But Catherine Ritch Guess prefers to handwrite her books.
"Computers don't have soul," she explained to Kim Tallent's language arts class Dec. 6. She described for the students how each story travels from her head, down her arm, to her hand and then to paper. Students listened in rapt attention as she spoke of how her fiction is based on real people she meets and places she goes.
"The best stories start at home," she said. "In your own back yard."
Guess told the students that she likes to drive to the place she wants to write about and sit down in a coffee or ice cream shop.
"I go into an area like a sponge and soak up the atmosphere. I have no preconceived notions when I go," she says. "I like to just sit there and use all five of my senses."
She writes copious notes about what she sees, hears, smells, feels and tastes.
"I then devote those five senses to the reader, using them to create the scenes [in my books]," Guess said.
After talking about the creative process of writing, Guess discussed word placement and editing. She also shared the importance of not interrupting the creative flow.
"The house could burn down around my head, I think, and I might not know it," she said. Much of the time, she ignores ringing telephones and conversations around her. Other times, she may interject some of those background noises into her story, such as barking dogs or singing birds.
But most of all, she said, you must write and keep writing.
"Every word you write is honing your craft," she said. "Every word you write gets you to where you want to be."
Guess is working on a book for her Shooting Star Series entitled "The Midnight Clear." Indian Land High School graduate Shana Hamilton is featured in the story and Guess would like to include a middle school student's story.
Guess encouraged the students to send her their stories and poems. She would like the work to be Christmas-related. A simple, sweet story about Christmas will be part of the children's novel.
These books are given to children in tough situations, such as those in the hospital or victims of disaster.
Guess needs submissions by Jan. 3. The child author will be invited to a book signing at Si's Pizzeria after publication in March. Submissions can be e-mailed to email@example.com.
For more information about Guess, go to www.rudytheredpig.com.