Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Band of Writers (or Where Snobbery Turns to Dust)

A most recent Saturday found me doing something I don't actually like doing - shopping. I know, I know - some women and men LOVE TO shop for everything from ratchets to shoes to thingamajigs but I'm not one of them. Color me tired the moment I think of stepping into the mall with a do or die shopping list involving something to wear. On my body. Immediately. And that's what Saturday found me doing. Wandering confusedly through stores filled with too many choices. With lots of sale items and lots and lots of women very serious about bagging a great deal the way some men might want to bag big game. I accidental wandered into the Dillard's LAST DAY SHOE SALE, and was caught in the crush and shoved forward until I was staring at a row of shoes two sizes too large and do you know I ALMOST put a pair on because I caught that IT'S THE LAST DAY OF THE SALE FOREVER AND EVER mentality until I thought STOP THIS. WAIT JUST A SECOND I know -I just need a BREAK to rest from all this pressure. I'm alone. I'm at the mall. I know where to go to calm my rattled nerves.

A few minutes later I stepped across the threshold of Davis Kidd Book Store and my heart rate began to find it's way to a more normal pace. There was the lovely fresh scent of story wafting through the air, the low hum of booksellers recommending their recent reads, of customers in line discussing what their book clubs were reading. Now, this is more like it, I thought, and then pleasantly took my time wandering the aisles, viewing the great tables of recommendations, new releases, local authors, and one of my favorite displays - If you Loved THIS book - try THIS book. I'm on a natural high going, ummm, yes, I loved that book. Ohhh, I loved that book too. Now, here's where if I had already picked up my zippy new Droid phone I would have been uploading great photos of those tables laden high, displayed with a lovers touch, and downright intoxicating with all their book cover flavors but for now you'll just have to close your eyes and imagine what it was like to be in the company of readers, silently moving incognito though the aisles, touching covers and spines with delight.

I'm so happy to be a reader's writer. That is - my love for story, my love for reading, is more than a foundation. It's really my snob repellent and yes, I use it on myself on occasion. If we've ever been snobs (we have) or been touched by snobbery (we have) or just cast out into the outer reaches of not being with one particular clique or another on any given day snobbery (want me to name them?) then having a little snob nob repellent goes a long way. And the Love of Sheer Story in ALL It's glory does just that. I mean do any of our old opinions or anyone else's hold value under the light of our LOVE for the written word? Of great literature that reminds us of what it means to be fully human, of stories that make us laugh and forget our troubles, of kick down the door heroine's that carry us through the night fighting battles and solving mysteries so we feel vicariously brave and strong. Writers are some of the greatest readers of all time, quick to champion another story, to promote a new book, to share a bit of great news. It's who we are in the wonderful great scheme of things. It's why this blog was created. To celebrate story writers, to share how-to's with those struggling and wanting to be published, to give a sense of belonging and community to those of us wild enough to keep at this thing in spite of the lonely miles we cover on the road year in and year out to connect with readers and each other. To give us a place to share funny stories of what has happened on that very road, how we've navigated and orchestrated with or without agents, and our behind the scenes survival stories of our sometimes not so private lives.

The greatest fraternity, sisterhood, organization- whatever you want to call it - that I've ever joined by default has been this jangled, tangled, strange, witty, talented, original band of writers. Those of us who meet on the road, at festivals, at bookstores, and events where we've been somehow finding each other through the written page ever since. And that's what I was thinking as I considered JT Ellison's new release The Cold Room and the great reviews she has received. (Like a proud buddy - sharing her bookmarks at the nail shop where I had drafted her saying - Look here, my friend JT. She works hard she does.) Or the ladies in line behind me where I clutched a copy of The Book Thief in my hand because, yes, it had been highly recommended to me by another writer friend who emailed me TWICE to make certain I would read it. So there I stood in line at Davis Kidd, two ladies behind me talking book clubs. One says- I love to read about characters from Japan and such because it seems so exotic. The cultures are so different. And I turn, never once mentioning that I'm an author, that my books can be found on the shelves of Davis Kidd. It just wasn't that kind of moment. What I did say was - If you like that book you should discover the wonderful warm, Jamie Ford and The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. (An author I met on the road because of that other author champion Pulpwood Queen author, Kathy Patrick) Then I go on about the book what I hope is enough to intrigue them.

I made my purchase and went to lunch alone, opened the first page of The Book Thief and fell into the story, forgetting all about shopping deals and deadlines.

River Jordan is the critically acclaimed author of three novels, The Gin Girl, The Messenger Of Magnolia Street, Saints In Limbo and a collection of essays, The Deep, Down, & Dirty South. Her forth novel, The Miracle of Mercy Land, arrives September 7, 2010. Hew new work of non-fiction Praying for Strangers will be published in 2011. The author lives in Nashville where she produces and hosts River Jordan Live, a literary jam session on the radio. On rare occasion she buys new shoes.


Anonymous said...

I don't remember the last time I went to any writer anything without being snubbed by snobberly writers, from the Southern Festival of Books to a local regular reading event. Even got the telescopic end of a long nose from one at a major state writers conference. In fact, I ran across one writer (a kind, generous and much-honored soul) who was so fed up with the clique-ty clack at one event that he said, "I'm leaving, it's just too fussy here." "Shy" writers. No, just self-important. Guess it's deserved. We commoners prefer 'em on paper. Less fussy that way.

Sun Singer said...

Nothing like a good bookstore to cancel out the Valium-level anxiety I feel just being near most stores in a mall. The Harry Potter madness parties were an exception, but I love the quiet and the possibility, and sometimes even watching people staring at covers and back covers trying to decide--without being crushed to an early death by the madding crowd--whether to read this book or that book or the one two shelves shy of reality.


River Jordan said...

Dear Anonymous :)
Sorry that most of your experiences have been such. Writers do get self-absorbed and yes, many(most) are shy in an introverted way you just can't tell that's what it is. They are the opposite of people who are the welcome committee for the Chamber of Commerce but if you get a chance ask them what words they just discovered and fell in love with. Of course I've experienced this too but even the writers who might try their best to maintain a pedestal fall off when they talk about books they love. So happy you met a "a kind and generous and much honored soul" in the bunch.

Sun singer - story instead of Valium - think I'll get a bumper sticker!


Kathy L. Patrick said...

Dear Anonymous, Sun Singer, and River!
You know that blog was very important because it gives voice to something I have been saying all along. Forget snobbery, exclusiveness! Keep away from that negativity you all! River is right. Writing these blogs with our band of fellow writers is a relationship I would not trade in for all the money in the world. Anonymous, you need to come to my Girlfriend Weekend as I will not tolerate anything that makes another feel superior to anyone else. All our authors who come are encouraged to participate along with all the attendees fro all events.
We are all dealt the hand we must play. That's life but we also must learn and know as River has so eloquently written, that a story, a book, is not a one man show! It's about the relationship between the reader and the writer.
Quite frankly, at 53 years of age I won't stand for any negativity in my life. If life is not about sharing the the story, the book, the joy with all my new and old friends, authors and otherwise, then it simply is not a life lived well.
Stick with us Anonymous and perhaps you will then be able to tell us your real name. I would love to know you. What's your story?
I also happen to own a book store which is also a hair salon, so yes, there is nothing like a good bookstore to help find the perfect book to be our balm against all that wound us.
You go River! I have never enjoyed reading a blog so much!

JT Ellison said...

You should of bought the shoes...

Thanks for the shout out!!

Anonymous said...

Kat - I'm a published novelist (major house). In attending, even hosting, writing events, I remain astonished at the general snottiness (hate to repeat that, but . . .) that seems to pervade many of them. I did, however, find Kathryn Stockett charming and self-deprecating; perhaps because The Help was her first and she hadn't developed into a professional rock star yet. Could it be that at some of these events I was seen as "competition?" (That, of course, would be BS.) But most likely, the Writers didn't realize I was published, either. Which makes their cool-distance that much more bewildering. Or maybe they saw me as another oogly-boogly sycophant/fan, among so many others clawing for their time and attention. (I was just trying to be nice, not, y'know, STALK them.) In any event, I guess I just asked the wrong question: Say, do you like books? I suppose that trying to talk about life outside books is too . . . off-putting. My bad.

River Jordan said...

JT - I could have been killed in the Mosh Pit! Have a great signing at Sherlocks with author -Bente Gallagher on Sat. For those who can go -it's:
Sherlock's Books Nashville
235 Fifth Avenue North, Nashville, TN
Saturday, March 06, 6:00pm.

debra said...

Good to know authors are recommending other writers works. They should make a special shelf for that at bookstores!