A crossroads of thoughts came somewhere between watching Ted Kennedy speak on Monday night and reading Amy's post yesterday. Having a book out makes an author a public figure, subject to being recognized, approached, discussed, analyzed. Yet other professions that generate public figures -- politics, or sports or entertainment -- offer a distinct advantage in that their years of junior experience train them not only in their chosen field, but force them to be increasingly public people along the way.
When I was younger, I worked in state government. Once a week or so, I would write a press release for the Commissioner at the Department of Revenue and when it was approved, march it up to the press offices under the golden dome of the Massachusetts State House. As I headed to the rooms where the wisecracking reporters sat, I would pass the young politicos. They were my age, and the young men and women alike eyed my long skirts, short-sleeved tops and flat shoes with suspicion.
Clearly, I was not one of them no matter how comfortable I looked pushing in and out of heavy oak doors. They wore suits, wandering the marbled halls looking earnest, practicing their public faces. They moved from being aides to assistants, meeting constituents, coordinating public meetings, rising and flourishing under increasing public visibility, until some eventually launched their own bids to represent their neighbors. They, like top athletes and entertainers, moved from small stages to ever-larger venues over a career.
Writers do that to some degree. We can publish a piece in a local paper, by-line for a regional magazine, perhaps have a story published in a literary journal. We can network, teach or go to conferences or work through a master's degree. Still, the growth and change and development happens mostly in the shadows. Our craft is quiet and private and happens behind the walls and doors of our homes. Then, with hard work and determination, one day:
When the story leaves us, the shield of invisibility comes off and there we stand, in our local libraries, in a bookstore, in the grocery store, blinking into a quick spotlight. With luck, we have acquired some of those tools elsewhere, so that when we are required to handle that moment with grace and aplomb, it's as though we, too, have been practicing all of our lives.
And so to a question: What are your thoughts about the moments when you have sent or will send a story out into the world... and you must follow it out, as well?