Writing Excuses 6.17: Writing Assistants

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Editor’s Note: This post has been written by Linda K. Strahl, an editor at the Jet Fuel Review. Her full bio can be found at the end of this post.

This week’s podcast there are two guests. Quoting the Writing Excuses site, “Peter Ahlstrom, assistant to Brandon Sanderson, and Valerie Dowbenko, assistant to Pat Rothfuss, join Brandon and Dan to talk about what they do for “their authors.” The phrase comes to mind, “Where ever there is greatness, someone is always standing on another’s shoulders,” which seems to be only a fraction of the whole story behind the job writing assistants actually do.

Valerie tells the audience that her job has a very large general and particular description that she cannot really put into writing. To make it easier on the listeners she just list a few of the tasks she is required to do, from background research to shopping for shoes, her job gives Patrick more time to write, rather than deal with the mundane tasks of living. She later tells us the many ways Patrick thinks and approaches everything, which is something I think Patrick fans would enjoy listening to.

Peter, was rather more reluctant to divulge his, “behind the scenes work,” most likely because Brandon was sitting next to him. Though this put a dampener on his candor, he eventually let the audience know about his tasks as “Knave” to Brandon’s company. As the middle man between Brandon and the world, Peter does the job of editing previous works that Brandon no longer has time for. He limits the things Brandon has to deal with while making him focus on what his author (Brandon) does have to do. It is said that he does that task rather poorly, because everything Brandon thinks of is just to interesting. Valerie complains about the same hardship.

There is a common phrase description for assistants, “an extra brain,” in the process of writing. When a writer has so many things to do, and a majority of it just interferes with writing, it is easier for a writer to hire someone to deal with all the “other stuff.” Through this podcast, we can see the external process of writing and its multiple road blocks.

To learn more about tasks assistants have, and the characters of the authors they work for, listen to the podcast. I enjoyed it myself, mostly because I am a huge fan of Patrick Rothfuss, but I think it is always interesting to find out the details about an author and how they work. This I believe is the fundamental purpose of this podcast, which is definitely showcased with the topic of choice this week.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, narrated by Wil Wheaton.

Writing Prompt: First person once removed — give us a story from the perspective of a first person narrator who is NOT the cool person. Example: Sherlock Holmes.

Editor’s Note: Linda K Strahl is a transfer student from University of Wisconsin- La Crosse, where she was studying Archaeology and minoring in Creative Writing. She came to Lewis University in Fall of 2010 to major in Creative Writing. After participating in the production of two plays at Phillip Lynch Theater she has become an enthusiastic dramaturg, and is contemplating a career as a researcher and playwriter.

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