Sunday, September 11, 2005
The Crafting Life
Yesterday I was at my first book festival as a vendor and it was a slow day. I had a reading in the afternoon where only three people showed up. It would have been so easy to be frustrated. As I talked and read I could see their eyes begin to light up with the recognition that they were listening to good work. I think they were surprised at the fact. I don't think they really expected to find it here in this corner of a small festival. "Your prose is poetry," one said. A man at the booth said, "You write good sentences." Where did I learn to write? I paid attention to my life and I paid attention to wood. I learned to glue up the rough multiple pieces with a vision of where I was going, then begin to shape the result. Understanding craft is important, but I didn't learn it from a writing school. You have to feel the craft in some vital place, feel the design. I lived the reading fully and the three people were genuinely happy. I planted seeds that now will have their own life beyond my reach.
It's sometimes frightening to think that I have left the security of my teaching job, where I was head of department, for small book festivals, blog postings and the constant threat of rejection. It seems insane on the surface. The wonder in the eyes of my three person audience keeps me going. I need this because I don't exist in a vacuum. Our (my) best endeavors do need support. I can't see your eyes on the other side of this screen, don't even know if they exist. For the moment I have to imagine them and keep going.