Thursday, May 10, 2007

One Step Up

Posted by Lynne

The conference was wonderful for so many reasons. Like Hannah, I reveled in each sophisticated word uttered by Margot Livesey. I will treasure her response to a question I mustered the courage to ask.

I feel so lucky I had the chance to attend Michael Lowenthal's class called Astonish Me. In less than two hours, he showed the audience how writers in charge of their work can do daring things with characterization, point-of-view, setting, dialogue and even punctuation to astonish readers.

Like Amy, I unknowingly plunked myself down at the same brunch table as our illustrious keynote speaker, Charles Baxter. It wasn't until he leaned over to pour me a cup of coffee that I realized. As if he were a movie star, I said, "Thank you, but since you are the guest of honor, perhaps I should be pouring you a cup." To which he replied, "See if you feel the same way after my talk."

Days later, words absorbed over the weekend still come into sharp focus as I drive, or prepare a workshop, or make a lunch for my children. If pressed to answer the question, "What did you learn that will have the greatest impact on your writing career," it is simply this. I want and need to be surrounded by lovers of language.

If you follow this blog, you can understand why spending two consecutive days with Amy, Lisa and Hannah would be a delight under any circumstances. And I had the pleasure of spending time with my niece, Stephanie, a journalist and emerging fiction writer, too. Everywhere I turned, I saw writers whose work I treasure. Sue Miller. Suzanne Berne. Or agents or editors who represent writers I admire and read faithfully.

At the Saturday afternoon cocktail party, I realized that this room of people--novice to expert--knows what it's like to love writing above almost all other things. On a morning set aside for writing, they too, feel the cautious optimism that goes with hoping this will be a day to produce wonderful sentences, paragraphs, pages.

In his keynote, Charles Baxter told his spellbound audience that each of us is on a step. Even if we are standing on the first step, we have done something glorious. I'm a writer. I love being surrounded by writers. And after this year's Muse and the Marketplace conference, I am content to stand on my step, until it's time to lift a foot to take my place on the next one. It feels glorious.


Larramie said...

One step at a time....Charles Baxter sounds absolutely delightful! And I'm certain that he's still climbing.

Trish Ryan said...

You capture that feeling so perfectly, of showing up in the morning, hoping something wonderful will emerge as my fingers hit the keys. Thank you!

And please drag me by the hair to this event next year.