Sunday, October 11, 2009

An Interview with Darrend King Brown by Jean Wong

"He taught Simon Says to an entire village of Laotians, is a Class A chess player, and managed to water seven elephants at a Shell Station..." Does that sound like one of our colorful California writers? Actually it's part of a bio of Darrend King Brown, who has been editing for the last twenty-two years. He started writing when he got a grant from The Colorado College to study homelessness, and went on to publish articles and speak on this subject. One of his stories about a tramp got Darrend into the prestigious M.F.A. writing program at the University of Arkansas. Since then, he has written, taught, and done editing work in the United States, China, Japan, Ireland, and England.

Darrend says that his "favorite thing is to watch someone get better at writing. I get so proud." He knows writing can be a lonely task and that "all writers get rejected repeatedly. They have to be self-motivated, disciplined, and good at creating stuff. Then they need to be able to analyze, rework and market their writing, which requires many diverse skills."

Darrend asks writers: "What are you trying to do?" He then guides them to focus on what are the "most important things to work on to get there." He is careful to avoid a judgmental approach. "I'm treating their work with respect and telling them what it needs to meet the standards they've set for themselves." He feels that most writers are very receptive to his suggestions and that certain weaknesses in their writing will come up "more than once, so there's always opportunity to reinforce my point. Sometimes I'll work with writers who are improving very quickly, in which case the critique tends to help their next project more than their current one. That's always a fun place to be."

Darrend finds that "straightforward editing of a story's structure and language comes easily, but that the biggest challenge is clarifying the trends in someone's writing. This takes thought and inspiration and if that can be done well, it feels like a victory."

Intrigued by his interest in chess, I asked Darrend if this mindset helped him to look at a work from various angles, so he can see how one part of the structure affects the other or what sections need to be either trimmed or developed further. "Sometimes, yes, I get different insights from thinking of a plot in visual terms. I've noticed chess-playing brains are pretty infrequent in fiction writing. It's not a better way of thinking, but it's a rarer one in this field."

As to his ventures in the arena of authorship, Darrend reveals, "I do write myself. I have a novel I've been working on for a while and I think it's really good. Unfortunately, I have a large editor in my head at all times, so it goes slowly, slowly."

Editor's Notes:

[1] For more information, go to

[2] Editing is the act of re-visioning --- looking at your written work in a new way. The editor's job is to help you shape your work into its final form and to make you look fabulous. The editor is on your side, trying to make you look the best you can be. Writers and editors are collaborators. Darrend will be one of the editors on hand at the Redwood Writers 2009 Conference on October 24th. More conference details:

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