Mosher shares writing advice with Attica students

By Ben Beagle, Daily News Lifestyles Editor
Local News, March 27, 2004

ATTICA — Author Howard Frank Mosher repeated some advice a longtime Nashville songwriter once shared with his daughter, during a visit Friday at Attica High School.

Talking with 18 seniors from the school’s advanced placement English classes, Mosher said the advice also applied to writing.

“When you write those songs and sing those songs, don’t hold back,” he said. “Don’t edit yourself. Tell it like it is.”

Mosher visited the school as part of his series of book discussions in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties. He conducted a question-and-answer session in the school library, talking about his background, the writing process, and life and literature in general.

Mosher is the author of Northern Borders, selected by “A Tale for Three Counties” as its 2004 featured book. He is scheduled to appear at Arcade Free Library at 10 this morning, and will be at the Letchworth High School auditorium at 2 p.m.

Starting his presentation with a few words about his upcoming novel Waiting for Teddy Williams, Mosher showed the students a depiction of what the cover will look like. It showed a country baseball diamond, with a Holstein standing on it.

Mosher said authors have little control over their books’ covers, but he’s come to like it.

“It was the cow I had some doubts about,” he told the students. “In Vermont, people are a little sensitive about that.”

Students asked questions such as whether Mosher’s books are based on people he knows. He said all his characters are based on real people or combinations thereof, including close friends, family, neighbors and his wife.

They don’t mind the characterizations, he said, although he admitted being nervous about A Stranger in the Kingdom. The book is based on a racist incident which occurred decades ago in his Vermont community.

Mosher said it turned out people were more interested in which area the fictional town of Kingdom Common was based on. He said the place was actually a combination of several villages.

Writing as a career requires a huge amount of drive, he said. Northern Borders alone needed about 40 drafts, and took about five years to write. The job involves writing 10 to 12 hours per day, seven days per week, for up to six weeks at a time.

“When I get up in the morning, I’m absolutely driven to sit down and write these stories, no matter how long they take,” he said.

A rare exception was Waiting for Teddy Williams, which took only 18 months to write, and actually occurred to Mosher as he was driving on the Thruway a few miles north of Batavia.

Describing the experience as “quasi-supernatural,” Mosher said he imagined a boy looking out his window, at a man who was leaning against a barn door, smoking a cigarette at the moonlight. He fleshed out the idea after pulling off at a rest stop.

“As I sat at the rest area, all of it came to me,” he said. “The only explanation I have for that is I must have been thinking about a lot of things subconsciously for a very long time. Otherwise this would have taken forever and a day to write.”

The students said afterward they were glad for the opportunity to talk to Mosher. Their discussion included everything from favorite books and authors, to aspects of Huckleberry Finn.

“It’s good to have this kind of thing happen,” said Bryant Keicher.

Amy Smith found value in the way Mosher’s characters are based in actual people, which makes the characters seem more real. She said she’s read some books where its obvious the characters aren’t genuine.

“I think he’s very down to earth,” she said. “He seems like someone who definitely grew up in a country surrounding. He knows what he’s talking about.”

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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