Friday, June 19, 2015

Finding Center

Until I wrote my memoir Rude Awakening I was, both by nature and by nurture, a loner. It was however, during the writing of my book that I began to change and to notice how loneliness was being transformed into aloneness. Alone is different. Alone is better, because while loneliness is distracting, alone is centering.

Then, when the book was done and I was told I would have to market it, I had to change again. I joined Toastmasters and learned how to stand in front of a room full of people and talk about my story. But I still had a lot more to learn. 

If you’ve already read my memoir, you know that for me initiating conversations and interacting with others is as foreign as is the man in the moon. 

Two years ago when I attended my first Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, I found it a good place to learn about marketing. To that end, the most important thing I learned was that if I wanted people to know about my book, I would have to get a presence on the web – and to that end, this blog was born. But as much as I love writing this blog, it is by necessity, a solitary activity and I was once more in danger of become a loner. At least I was until this year’s conference.

Two years ago when I went to the conference, I went alone. This year I was met by four other women, members of the writing groups I belong to, two of whom I had never met in person before. How was I going to perform? How was I going to interact? I was nervous. I was so scared I stopped for a moment to ask God for help.

No problem, He said, just follow me. And so I did as He led me to my first extended meeting with the others. As I met for lunch with my fellow writers – Helene, Kelly, Doreen and Cathy - I told myself to just listen. But the conversation was so lively and intriguing, I wanted to join in and, as we waited for more than an hour for salads that never arrived, I was blessed with a lot of opportunities to enter the conversation.

Of course, the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference was designed to keep us busy. There were workshops and rap groups, banquets and buffets to attend and in between each, the other women and I would meet to compare notes and to see which, if any, classes we had together. The three-day weekend moved along quickly as I enjoyed myself and the company I kept.

At this year’s conference I learned many things. From Stuart Horwitz, who wrote Book Architecture, I learned how to structure a book and from James Knipp’s Apples to Writers workshop, I learned about the connection between creativity and fun.

But the most important thing I learned this year was that I am part of a community – a community of writers and, while I loved being in that community and would never go back to being a loner, I have to admit there were moments when I secretly longed to return alone to my room upstairs and just sigh. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Reading, Writing and Maybe Some Sunning

Two weeks ago I was in Quakertown signing copies of Rude Awakening at an event called Arts Alive, where I was seated at a table with about a half dozen other writers. To my right sat a gentleman, an older man. When I say older, I mean he was about the same age as I am. Every once in a while someone would stop to look at the title of his book and comment on it. One man stopped dead in his tracks and said, “Wow! I just got that book from the library and I’m half way through it.”

Now I was curious. Before I had a chance to talk to the author, he disappeared. In his place was a young woman I took to be his granddaughter, although I later learned she was his editor. I pointed to the book and asked, "What's it about?" 

“It’s an earlier version of An American Sniper,” she said.

“Really?” Now I was intrigued. I had gone out of my way to see that movie and loved it. When the author, whose name is Michael Roman, came back we started talking. He told me he had lived in Iran for ten years during the 60s and 70s and that his youngest children were born there. He said he found the Iranians to be warm and generous and made many friends. While there, he served as a Major General in the Imperial Iranian Air Force and was shot at many times by terrorists and by many of the Shah’s opponents. Then he told me a story I will never forget.

He said that one day while he was standing outside his house in Iran, an armed man aimed a gun at him. When his wife, who was inside the house, saw what was about to happen she ran outside and threw her arms around him.

“Oh my God,” I said, feeling breathless as I pictured the event in my mind. “What happened next?”
 “She wouldn’t let go and the shooter ran away.”
I loved that story, but what I loved more was the way he told it – as though even after all these years, he was still awed by what his wife had done. Michael’s book is called Zehbel: The Clever One and is currently being made into a television series.

Speaking of books, I have been able to cross two of them (Touching My Father’s Soul and Quiet) from the list I posted last month. I was also able to read three others that weren’t on the list including The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.

Do you remember what I told you about writing in a post I called Write On? I said that some books (including Gone with the Wind) are written backwards. You can only imagine then how delighted I was to find these words on the back of The Notebook:

“Dear Reader, It’s hard to believe that over twenty years have passed since I began writing THE NOTEBOOK. Drafting this novel was a circuitous process. I wrote first what became the final chapter, and wrote last the first five pages of the novel.” I loved it.

Well, summer is almost here and I am almost ready to hang up my school bus keys until September. I plan to do a lot of reading this summer as well as working on my new book, although I can’t say that either the end or the beginning has been written. I seem to be lost somewhere in the middle, but then writing is such a wonderful process that being lost somewhere in the middle is not such a bad place to be after all. For me this summer, the living may not be easy, but I’m sure it will be delightful.