Monday night I had my second book signing.
Since the last one I’ve been thinking about what emotional fear is. I know writers get scared about how a book will be received. And going to dark places in the writing. It can deplete and leave you weak. When I write something, I’m experiencing and reliving my own losses. In Dust Unto Shadow by the end of writing I felt like I’d survived a terrible death.
I thought a lot about my grandmother when I wrote my book, and my hunch is that I picked up many of my storytelling talents from her.
So Monday night’s signing opened with her.
Not only do I remember her telling me stories, but I recall her delivery and her essence. She was neither shy, nor fearful and in many ways, was filled with daring. She was an adventurer and kind of unconventional in her own way, and yet there was a paradox to her. She could be blunt and earthy, but often she held her tongue out of decorum, because good manners and being cultured was important to her. By writing this book, it has allowed me to have my grandmother with me every day.
I think writers are surprised when others want to read their work. This week that hasn’t been on my mind but the issue of displacement has. I wrote about wanting to belong and what happens when an outsider arrives to a new location— the mistrust, the suspicion, the envy and how the uncertainty challenges one to hold onto their own, to be true to themselves despite the yearning and wanting of friendship. We’ve all been in that place at one time or another and know the haunting loneliness that accompanies not belonging. The feelings are deep and they last a lifetime.
I’ve tried to take those ideas—and all the things I’ve learned meeting people I wouldn’t have if I’d stayed glued to my computer—to create characters who are struggling with the same things that we all struggle with. For me, connecting with others helps me realize the importance of home, family, friendship, love, despair, loss, failure, regret, and triumph not only on a deep personal level but as something I can bring to my writing.
What do you feel you contribute to your writing that is taken from personal experience?