No matter how “successful” one my little book events is, there is a feeling of both relief and regret when it is past and not filling that spot on the calendar where it was for months. And I alway have preconceived notions of how it will be, who and how many will come, and where and how I will steer the conversation and readings just so–and none of this transpires according to imagination’s script. Often, it’s even better. But there are always regrets, no matter how “well” things have gone.
There were many I hoped to see last night who did not come. And some who came that I did not expect. The crowd filled all the chairs provided for the event, and they were responsive enough, if a bit “Lutheran” in their restraint–except for the front row: two grammar-school-aged girls listened to every word and followed me with their eyes and their imaginations as I acted out the story of Zachary, our lost dog who found his way home.
And they asked questions:
“How did you write your book?” one asked.
“I didn’t write a book. My words became a book. I just wrote paragraphs every day.You write a book one sentence at a time. Then find two sentences that fit together. Soon you’ll have a paragraph. Write another that belongs to the first. And soon you’ll have a page. Do this every day, and your sentences and paragraphs and pages will do a better and better job saying what it is you want to say. And in time, if you really want to, you’ll have written a book.”
And “Is your book TRUE?” asked the other.
“True? Yes, but it is a painter’s reality. A painter looks out at a landscape–a pretty barn, a couple of cows, the hills in the distance, and some power lines. He leaves out the power lines in his picture. With writing, you can leave out the power lines and just focus on the things you want your readers to see in the subject of your words. This isn’t dishonest. It just uses words to focus attention on parts of the view.”
After the program, the two girls twittered excitedly. “I’m going home and write the story of my life!” One said. “I’m going to tell my teacher about this!” said the other.
They both came up to the book table with one of my bookmarks and asked me to “autograph” them. Made me smile.
But who knows how this small influence on these young minds might take root and grow to become something of substance. My small appearance and fumbling half-hour could represent a gentle nudge towards a future for one of both these young girls to take writing as their voice to the world.
So I have my satisfications and my regrets. But who knows how we touch the lives of others in ways that can’t be known until their sentences that we inspire finally become their book.