Ladies and gentleman, Jessica Carter.
What it means to be a beta...
I grew up as the middle child of homesteaders who were doing the whole hippie “back to the land” thing in the 1970’s. We lived 20 miles from the nearest town (population 890) and our closest neighbors were more than a mile away. Living in the middle of nowhere without electricity lead to adventures that would make any Pippi Longstocking wanna-be jealous. I have incredible memories of those days, and my brothers and I had more fantastic experiences than any other kids we went to school with. Being an advanced reader brought me right back to those halcyon days of exploration and adventure because the two experiences share so much in the sense of new wonders, life changing moments, and scenes that alter how you see the world around you.
I remember one time my brothers and I came across a crater in the forest with a fallen redwood tree embedded in its walls. We spent weeks pretending that it was a ruby mine, and every time we dug up a new chunk of the scarlet wood we imagined it was a huge, priceless gem we added to our treasure chest. As a reader I was transported back to that ruby mine of my childhood. Each time I read a new version of Mark’s draft I would come across a new ruby or two that I added to my treasure chest of images he had created in my mind. I would open the text thinking I knew what it held, thinking it would be familiar and then I would find a new metaphor shining in the words, or I would reread a scene that he had polished into something new and wondrous. Each rewrite of the poetry would reveal a new facet of emotion that caused me to examine my own thoughts as if under a jeweler’s loupe.
Since our land was located in
Western Oregon, rain was abundant and
rivers, streams, and lakes were everywhere. Again, as I read and reread drafts
of Mark’s works, these aspects echoed back from my past. Every single hot day
of the summer we kids would swim in the river near our house. One of my first big moments as a kid was the
time when I finally swam all the way across the river. It required endurance,
and when I hit the current in the middle I had to fight extra hard to get
through it without being swept downstream. The very first draft of an author’s
work is similar. It can be a challenge to sort through the characters, and you
might get swept up in parts of the plot, but you keep reading until you work
through the first draft and the sense of accomplishment for yourself and for
the author is elating. Once you conquer the first draft, you can spend your
time exploring subsequent versions. Once I crossed the river, I would swim it
daily. On days I didn’t attempt a crossing I would put on a snorkel and mask
and examine the life under the surface, or I’d jump into the white water
section and ride the rapids down to the calm pools of the swimming hole. After
I completed a first reading of any of Mark’s works, I could spend time
exploring the depths of his images or get swept away by new action sequences.
Examining and watching a specific character was like exploring a unique rock
found on the bottom of the river. Instead of examining beautiful mineral
striations or crazy shapes carved by the river’s current, I would explore a
character’s motivations and thoughts; all those things that set him or her
apart and made that individual interesting.
Another element of
that aligns with the
life of an advance reader is the focus on change. To keep in the press if you
are a celebrity, you must constantly push the envelope, do something wacky or
weird, or in some other way completely alter who you are or what you do. As an
advance reader I get swept up in that same fluidity. When you read from draft
to draft things are constantly in flux. Characters change their opinions, their
motivations, sometimes their appearance.
From day to day in the world of the stars, I don’t know if Britney
Spears is going to be blonde or brunette, if Taylor Swift is going to be writing
a song about her most recent breakup, or whose marriage is imploding. From
draft to draft in the world of Pevana, I don’t know if Talyior’s reasons for
actions have changed, if Donari’s physical appearance is altered, or if
Roderran has planned some sort of dramatic dictatorial action that will wipe
out entire towns. Hollywood
As far removed as the hippie lifestyle and the hip-hop lifestyle are from each other, they still both have aspects that embody the privileges enjoyed by an advance reader. I am so glad that I grew up with the alternative lifestyle my parents provided me, and I guiltily devour trashy magazines today that have nothing in common with my all natural upbringing, yet both ends of that spectrum are touched upon when I read for Mark. My sense of adventure and exploration is reawakened when I get a new draft, but at the same time, my current events inspired ADHD is satisfied as I see new plotlines develop and unexpected events unfold. Not everyone can be fortunate enough to know a real, live author and that is too bad because there is nothing like the experience of watching a new work grow. I look forward to immersing myself in Mark’s next work and exploring the world under the surface while keeping current on changes he makes as he goes through the process.