A Dose of Encouragement
No matter where you are in the writing world, each of us need it--a solid dose of encouragement. While some people think I make it look easy, it's not. I continually struggle with writing the right things at the right time on the right day. Like every writer, I have screaming thoughts as to whether I've put the right thing down at the right time.
I've returned home from a whirlwind trip of five days at a family wedding in Southern California. We drove back from California to Arizona a little over a week ago. That evening I reorganized my suitcases and took off early the next morning for five nights in New York City. I'm delighted to be home for a few days (very few since I travel again in less than a week). My trip to New York was predominately a part of the annual conference for the American Society of Journalists and Authors, which is the leading nonfiction writers group in the nation. I was a bit amused when a fiction writer stopped me in the hall way and said we should have more on our program for novelists. This writer noticed my "board member" ribbon on my name badge. I patiently explained the nonfiction emphasis of the society and how we had intentionally limited our fiction offerings. It didn't help this writer figure out which panel she would attend for her next session (which was her immediate need). I had countless interaction on many different levels during these sessions. It's part of the reason that I attend this conference because I never know what terrific thing can happen from a single conversation. I've seen it happen many times in the past and know it will come from these meetings as well.
While the link to the tapes of these sessions is not yet on the ASJA website, please keep track of this link. If you could only choose one offering (and there were many outstanding sessions), I'd suggest you get Jeannette Walls keynote address on Saturday. Jeannette is the author of the bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle. If you haven’t read her book, I recommend it. If you don’t know the story, Walls is a journalist who writes about celebrities for MSNBC. The Glass Castle is her personal memoir about her growing up years. The book remains on the paperback bestseller list and many reading groups and others are using this book. Her talk was a great encouragement to any writer. I will give you several of her points. First, she underestimated people's reaction to her story. Walls was certain that she would lose her job at MSNBC if people knew her true story. Then she spoke about how each writer needs to determine what is the story and what is their own perspective on the truth? "The truth is whatever you choose to make it. With any story that you tell, you choose how you will tell it and how you will shape it."
"Painful memories are difficult to include but you have to put it in. You need to get the whole story down on paper then choose which parts you will ultimately keep," Walls told us. "Substantial nonfiction writing is sharing the experience. It’s about honesty and being honest with yourself. We all have our fears. Our biggest demon is to face our fears. It can't hurt you. Harness it and use it for good. Don't be afraid to look them in the eye and face them down." Later she told us, "I believe the truth shall set you free and I'm living proof of that." Walls encouraged each of us to chase our dreams as she has done.
There were over 700 writers in the room at this luncheon. I don't know how Jeannette Walls impacted the others but for me, she certainly gained a fan of her work and her writing.