POULTNEY - Vermont resident Archer Mayor, New England's premiere mystery novelist, visited with Poultney High School Oct. 9 through the collaboration of Dawn Sarli, challenge teacher and Catherine M. Oliverio, English language arts.
Daily workshops had Mayor working with English, science, and art classes culminating the day in a question and answer assembly. Mayor discussed the craft of writing, forensic science, and his other jobs including death investigator for Vermont's chief medical examiner and deputy sheriff for Windham County, as well as 25 years in EMS and fire fighting.
Faculty and students thanked Mayor for his insight, honesty with respect to the writing industry, and his knowledge of the forensics and scientific facts.
Mayor has been writing and editing over 30 years.
"When lost in writing, it is so magical," he said.
When asked about retirement, he said, "I'll never retire until I get that movie deal."
Students interested in becoming writers inquired about getting beyond writer's block, character descriptions, and busy schedules. Many wondered how Mayor juggled his life.
"I write when I can, which at times includes writing on my laptop in the car between jobs," he said.
"Writer's block? Forget that," Mayor said. "Sometimes you need to walk away. What I do is take a 10-minute nap. If you hit a roadblock on character description, simply skip it, make a notation, and go back to it another time. Keep the flow going and then edit."
Mayor emphasized the importance of editing.
"I edit my 300-400 page manuscripts up to 6-7 times."
His metaphor of horse manure in relation to editing had the audience laughing.
"Come on, let's face it repetition is an issue. Revising is respecting your readers," he said.
"Everyone is a writer. Some of you text, e-mail, whatever-just make sure you edit what you send. The craft of writing makes me feel like a closet air traffic controller; and with so much going on, it's like performing an autopsy," he added.
Mayor referenced the use of the bicycle as compared to writing.
"How many of you didn't crash the first time you rode that bicycle?"
No hands went up.
"Yes, it takes practice. I wrote six turkeys before getting published. At least I asked what I needed to do to improve my craft," he said
When asked his favorite book, Mayor said, "That would be my next book, which is up here in my head."
Mayor's advice included the following:
•Avoid stopping at the end of a chapter.
•Leave open-ended sentences so that when you go back to it, you can keep the flow going.
•Never give up your full-time job since the odds are against you.
Fascinating for most was that Mayor lived in Europe and Argentina most of his life and still does not understand our English language.
He asked students-"Can you please tell me what an adverb is? I have no clue. That's why I have five different editors."
Mayor lived in 30 different places since his father, who died at age 99, had the family moving around a lot.
"My dad said, 'Never quit, always get fired.'"
In 1988 Mayor had three books published, two history books and one novel.
"I quit my job not taking my father's advice," he said.
Old-fashioned curiosity and nosiness involved Mayor involved in forensics. "I wanted to know why do we do what we do to each other."
The question of "CSI" and "NCIS" television shows popped up; Mayor said that although he does not get to watch much T.V., he loves "CSI Las Vegas". He agreed that "NCIS" was more true to life.
At Yale Mayor majored in U.S. history so that he could learn about Americans and why people did not care for them in the other countries he had lived in.
Mayor began his career for a wealthy Texas family involved with oil and forestry whose story embodied American history and led him to writing his first detective Joe Gunther book, "Open Season".
Mayor highly acclaimed for his Vermont-based series released his new book, "The Price of Malice", and is currently working on book no. 21.
One last question for the audience, Mayor asked, "Do you remember what I said when you have your first book done?"
A student shouted out-"Burn it!" Another student asked, "Why would someone do that?"
"You need to keep practicing. It's like learning the art of playing the piano," said Mayor. "Remember readers are storytellers; they get to run the movie in their heads and are capable of being creators."
Mayor's accomplished work won him the 2004 New England Independent Booksellers Association Award for best fiction, the first time that crime literature had been honored.
The best way to introduce a reader to Archer Mayor and his books is to visit the author's website at www.Archer Mayor.com.