Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Writing Life: A Chance to Give Back

After I accepted the invitation, I realized I was sold out of
two of my three books. I put in an order and they arrived
literally the night before the event. Phew.
Yesterday was one of my best days as a writer. And it wasn't because I sold ten books in a half-hour. The sales were a bonus. And it wasn't that I'm getting a stipend. Truth is, I signed on before I even knew about it. Two things made yesterday amazing: a chance to give back to young writers and, to a lesser extent, being treated really well.

A few weeks back, Dr. Barbara O'Byrne, a person I met several months ago at the 2015 WV Book Festival (Side note: I just got notification that I've been accepted to attend this year's event--yay!) contacted me. She heads up the WV Young Writers Day, held every May on the campus of the University of Charleston. It seems that one of their regular workshop presenters is battling some sort of health issue and had to drop out. Dr. O'Byrne remembered me and the combination of being a published author and a teacher was apparently what she was looking for to fill the vacancy. It took me upwards of a second to say yes when she asked if I would be willing to do a workshop.

This is the meet-the-author time. It was a packed house.
I feared at one point that I hadn't brought enough books--a
good problem! I only sold out of one title, though. 
To be honest, I didn't say yes with the idea of being beneficial to the kids in my workshop foremost in my mind. I was excited and honored to have been asked and I thought it was a nice chance for some exposure for my writing career. And I got that, I think. But the thing that really made the day a joy was getting to be around a group of 38 students in grades seven through nine, all of whom love writing. And not only did I get to be around them, I got to encourage them to keep writing. To see writing as a worthy pursuit, whether they planned to do it as a job or not. We had fun and we laughed and I think I had a positive effect on them. I know they had a positive effect on me. They worked together to make poems about what writing means to them. And the final results were nothing short of fantastic. Especially considering these were kids of between eleven and fourteen years of age. I was deeply impressed. We were only together for an hour, but it was a really good hour.

This was the view from the rotunda where we sold our books.
Aside from the view from the windows of the chapel at
Alderson Broaddus in Philippi, this might be the most
spectacular view on any college campus in West Virginia.
The bonus part of the day was being treated like someone important because I write books. I don't mean that the way it sounds. Celebrity isn't something I pursue. What I mean is that the people there viewed writing as a meaningful, important thing to do. They were there for the sole purpose of celebrating and promoting creative writing as, in many ways, foundational to so many of the other intellectual and artistic pursuits that we can undertake. And because I've done that as much as I have, I was celebrated. Not going to lie--it felt good. A perfect example of this was during the meet-the-authors segment after lunch, when we got to chat with the attendees and sell signed copies of our books. One young lady who was in my session had her mom buy two of my books. Then she asked if we could get a picture together. She stood beside me holding up one of the books, a big smile on her face. As she was leaving, she said, "You're the first author I've ever met." Wow. Just wow.

So if you're someone who is thinking about taking up writing, seriously consider it. Not because of the money and not because of the celebrity, but for the joy of creation and the chance to have a positive impact on people's lives. And if any of that other stuff comes along, well, that's just gravy. And who doesn't like gravy?


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