Over the past year, the state of Nebraska has launched a new tourism slogan. “Honestly, it’s not for everyone.” In a world dominated by twisted truths and false advertising I find their candor refreshing. I also think that their marketing campaign phrase could accurately describe the life of a writer.
Life as a writer can be hard, and solitary, and populated with more paper and ink that people. Being a writer means purposefully subscribing to a life of working and waiting. Rejection, writer’s block, maddening plot holes … the list goes on. And honestly, it’s not for everyone. Despite its challenges, the writing life is one I love. It is one I am fighting tooth and nail to not only be a part of, but to be successful in.
For me, the working and waiting and all the struggles I mentioned above are worth it. If I get to spend my days creating stories that entertain, educate, and engage readers… then it’s worth it. I enjoy the solo hours in my writing office just as much as I enjoy my meetings with my critique group. I love reading and the physical act of committing words to paper. I love being creative and thinking through the obstacles of made up people and the situations I put them into. Plain and simple, writing makes me happy.
Even though this life may not be appealing to everyone, I want to share with you the events of last Saturday. Every once and a while, I get to do some things, that even those of the nonliterary persuasion might find… magical.
On Saturday, I had an amazing literary day.
I started by sleeping in. (See, off to a good start already!) I then spent three hours in my writing office. I commissioned a book cover and I posted on social media. I also submitted the final version of a manuscript that I have been working on since July. This particular manuscript will be traditionally published. It needed more clearance, revision, polishing and gatekeeper approval than anything I have ever written before. I have worked really, really hard on this project and so has my publisher. It was exciting to see us reach this milestone. It was one of those shiny and golden moments writers wait for.
Next on my day’s agenda was an author talk.
Each November my in-town writing group, WWInk, in cooperation with the public library and a few others, creates a schedule of events to celebrate National Novel Writing Month. Write ins, speakers, workshops… it’s amazing! (You can like this Facebook page to stay connected to the organization and be in the know for next year’s events!) The event on Saturday?
New York Times Best Selling, Wisconsin author, Michael Perry.
Jess Witkins, the president of WWInk had interviewed Michael several years ago and it is with a quote from that article that she introduced him to the bursting at the seems audience gathered in the basement of the library.
I will confess, that prior to the event I had not read anything by Michael. He’s a nonfiction guy and I’m definitely more of a fiction kind of girl. But I’m on board now. You know why? Because I fell in literary love.
Every single thing that came out of this man’s mouth dripped writing wisdom. I took copious amounts of notes, trying to capture every one of them so that I could enjoy it all over again once he was done. His laid back jeans and military grade backpack… his deep voice and easy smile… his homegrown Wisconsin roots all made it easy to trust him, to like him, to feel like I’d found a kindred-word-nerd spirit.
In addition to his likable personality our overlapping connections further entrenched me in his authorial spell. Michael put himself through nursing school (at UWEC… my alma mater!) by working as a real live, horse-lassoing cowboy (my first dream job!) on a ranch in Montana. He grew up in a tiny town where I vacationed one week a summer (in a cabin on a lake), for the better part of twenty years. He is a Wisconsin writer, writing as he says, “both geographically and existentially in the middle of nowhere,” while doing business at the big kid table with the head literary honcho’s in New York (my current dream job!).
But mostly the thing that drew me to this literary human is that his love of words equals mine. The reverence with which he speaks for writing and the amount of joy he feels in the act of writing, runs parallel to mine. And THAT was cool shared passion was a cool thing to experience. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from his talk on Saturday.
After the talk I caught dinner with a few writing friends. Over French fries and wine we rehashed Michael’s presentation and made future plans for our organization. We finished our day by listening to Michael make music and tell stories at the Root Note.
Truly, it was a magical day.
Remember than bit of wisdom from Nebraska? I realize that my shining literary day might not be as cool to everyone else as it was for me. And that’s okay. In my family we also have a saying. “Everyone gets to pick.” It’s a neutralizing statement that ends arguments, instills compassionate deference and allows room for tolerance of other’s opinions.
As for me, I will pick writing EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
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