Yesterday I had two writing gigs. TWO! The first one was in a library where the security guards pack heat, and there are two of them patrolling the aisles. It’s a library where you get buzzed into the restroom and there find lurking an odor more corrupt than King Tut’s tomb or my son’s gym bag. It’s a sick marriage of the two. The bathroom air makes you feel dirty.
Somehow after the break, the smell of vomit which was strong in the bathroom followed us into the classroom. Not sure if it was the baby some desperate-to-write mother brought (and I give her kudos for that brand of desperate) or if somebody puked during break and then thought a valiant push-through would be a good idea. Note: Unless you’re a bona fide anorexic, hurling on break and then returning to a roomful of healthy people is not courteous. I felt myself contracting Norovirus as we sat there. Where’s a vat of Purell? It was difficult to concentrate. And it was the first meeting. The one where everyone’s made of ice and has something to prove. There were so many students, intimacy was a challenge. Or maybe it was that the room felt haunted and there was old gum stuck to my seat.
At one point the moderator asked if anyone had written any short memoir pieces. I raised my hand. He asked what it was about. I told him.
Moderator: Wow. That sounds amazing. I’d like to read that.
Me: (shrugs like a gawky teen girl finally asked to dance) I’d like you to read it.
People with social skills don’t say things like that. Might as well have been this.
Moderator: How are you?
Me: Desperate. Want to be my friend? Oh, and I’m creeped out. Why am I in a library that feels stuck in 1925 and smells like a thousand armpits?
No. The answer is good. I’m good. Thank you, Mr. Moderator. And the answer to “I’d like to read that” is to smile. And say nothing.
My second gig was the local library’s workshop. It was like coming home. Cozy, warm, familiar. It is a blessing to have a group of people with whom I can share the journey. The “security guard” in my library only works during the after-school hours, presumably to herd the youth who use it as a way station. This should alarm us. First, because enough youth have no place to go after school and/or can’t get there because we don’t bus them. And second, because as a collective, these half-finished knobs of humanity warrant a security guard. It should alarm us that in some meeting somewhere a disheveled and half-mad librarian, fresh from wrangling obnoxious pre-teens, proposed the idea that managing other people’s kids was above her pay grade. Solution: library security.
With no lingering security guard, no rank odors assaulting my senses, the second meeting was lovely. Both were lovely in their own way. And they were hard in the way socializing is hard for an introvert. I tire quickly. My dear friend Kathleen pointed it out. She’s the kind of person who notices things. Makes her a great writer. But I wasn’t too tired to notice Cyndi sees the virtue in other people’s writing and is able to buoy a floundering, squirming author. Or how contagious Nancy’s excitement was and how useful her clever plot ideas. Larry, new to writing, has inspiring tenacity. Especially for revisions. Scott, two T’s can always be a stand-up comedian in addition to writing. Scot, one T leads us faithfully and his journalism expertise is a gift. I missed Alexia and John. The meeting lacked gore and glamour, and the two of you know why… AND lacked spirituality. Paul! Nobody’s flying when you’re not there. (And I miss your super-discerning critique.)
Sorry this post degenerated into a personal letter to my buds, but sometimes you just need to give a shout-out. Love to the people who sustain me, both in the physical world and you who read. My blogging friends have been the source of many smiles. To the folks beta reading my novel, thank you! Especially James, who is taking the time to discuss the clunks honestly and thoughtfully. Not only does he not crush my dream, he emboldens me.
Here’s to writing gigs, uncomfortable and comfortable! And to friends who make everything possible.