Book Review – Runaways: A Writer’s Dilemma
Reviewed by Anne Greenawalt
A tongue-in-cheek deep dive into a writer’s psyche
In his satirical novella, Michael J. Seidlinger shares the fleeting – or runaway – nature of the writing process by playfully mocking a Writer who’s sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding to write a novel in the age of social media.
Meet the Writer, an aspiring novelist, who, at the story’s beginning, is “a little bit lonely and a whole lot desperate” while attempting to write their first novel. And by writing, I mean finding every possible way to procrastinate writing by binging on social media, browsing the internet for “research,” and texting friends.
The story outlines the Writer’s novel-writing journey, a nonlinear process filled with elation, self-doubt, a bit of mania and decline in mental health, and a whole lot of social media distractions, which leaves the reader to wonder along with the Writer: are they really a writer and will they ever finish and publish a novel?
Any writer or literary citizen, especially those who have ever participated in Twitter’s #WritingCommunity, can relate to at least some aspect of the Writer’s process, whether it’s the social media deluge, imposter syndrome, pockets of euphoria, or other “runaway” moments.
The author peppers the story with the Writer’s social media posts, which are not only stylistically entertaining, but also show the Writer’s mental rollercoaster. Although some of the posts are cliché (“Will I ever be able to write again? Said every writer after a bad writing session”), others are humorously self-deprecating (“Your first name + your last name = your struggling writer name”), and some of them are informative (the writing processes of famous authors like Joan Didion and Haruki Murakami).
Their persistence throughout the narrative recreates the constant interruptions to the Writer’s writing process. The Writer reflects on the effects of social media, at times attempting to boycott it by writing in longhand and other times rejecting in-person literary events in favor of posting on social media; ultimately, the Writer keeps returning to it because it becomes an integral part of their process.
The Writer reflects on other aspects of their writing life by imagining what it would be like to be a famous writer. The Writer asks, “What about me? Will anyone ever google search my name looking for insight into my process?” They also question the legacy that they’ll leave behind with their writing. These are relatable, universal concerns of today’s writers, particularly those who participate in the digital world. The author doesn’t classify the Writer’s gender or genre, a tactic that further helps readers to identify with the protagonist.
Anyone who writes, has written, or aspires to write – and likely anyone who has ever experienced a creative process as a participant or consumer – will appreciate the mental/emotional journey of the Writer’s life and process in Runaways. Readers will root for the Writer to succeed, and, because they will see a piece of themselves in this narrative, they will also reflect on their own creative processes and root for their own success, too.
Publisher: Future Tense Books
Genre: Literary & General Fiction / Humor / Writing & Publishing
Print Length: 86 pages
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