Return to Where It All Began

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
While at a signing, A fan brings a book that inspired Nick's writing career to Nick's attention. He then gives a talk to a group of fans about why he became a writer. For a writer to talk about himself, Nick tries to remember the story of how it all began.

Submitted: September 11, 2016

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Submitted: September 11, 2016

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One of the days that a writer looks forward to is a book signing or a book reading. It is almost a day of vindication. You spend a lot of time alone trying to put words on paper. Something that can make a lasting impact that years later still leaves a big impact in the hearts and minds of people. Every author aspires to be like a Hemingway or a Shakespere. Someone who many years later has their words read with a dedication from readers as if it was released for the first time. Any author who doesn't have those kinds of aspirations is only fooling themselves.

I was invited by Johnson University to participate in a reading of my latest book. It was based on my experiences working in a hotel in Idaho. There was a good crowd in the auditorium. A pretty full house truthfully. The host of this event was a man named Leonard Lowenfield. Lowenfield was the head of the English department at Johnson University. He prided himself as an expert on writing. I called him a fool. But when the request came, my agent made the deal and here I was hawking a book to a bunch of people. 

Authors tend to go to these types of events. There is always some boring host who has the delivery of a snail when speaking. There are people who ask you questions that you have been asked three hundred times and that you answer with the exact words you have used each time. You hope to get people involved with these discussions, but they just sit utterly dumbfounded. Authors try to liven up these discussions, but the usual audience for these things is over the age of 70. 

Not that I am complaining, I know I have fans all over the world. I have people that email me and go on my website and send pics of my books and stories of how they have been inspired by, angered with me and wanted to meet me. I perfer this type of interaction with people than in person. My siginings never have my full scope of fans show up. 

After talking with Lowenfield and answering questions for 10 minutes, we went to the lobby where the school staged a table with all my books and we proceeded to start the signing. This was the part that I always liked but never could get used to. People would come up to the table, say that they are fans and ask if I could write their names in the books. I'd usually ask how they were, sign my name and move on to the next person. It was as informal as it gets, very factory line like in its manner. 

An hour went by and I announced to the crowd that I was gonna take a break and would be back shortly. I got up from the table and the crowd dispersed into the lobby, chatting amongst themselves. I walked over to the coffee stand and bought a Pepsi. I walked into the Teacher's Lounge and just decompressd. I got out my phone and turned on a song and leaned back in the chair. 

After a few minutes, I heard the door open. I turned to the door and there was a teenage girl standing right in front of me. She was a tall girl with black hair and glasses. Wearing a t shirt and jeans she was holding two books. One was my new book and the other I couldn't quite make out. She walked over to the chair next to mine. 

"Can I help you?" I asked.

"In just a second," She said. "The people out there are boring as hell. Seriously, they have to be like over the age of what, 752? Shit, they are gonna die next week. Why the hell waste the time I could have asking you the questions I wanna ask." She said.

"Oh," I said. I straightend up in the chair. "What kind of questions do you wanna ask?"

"My name is Lila Raymond. I'm 17 years old and have just completed a book. I'd ask you to read it but I don't wanna have you take my ideas.So hands off." Lila said.

I nodded as if I understood these instructions. She moved the books around and I saw the other one she had.

"I loved your new book, it was quite the study in character and a funny take on hotel culture. I love all you stories and books. I read in an interview where you said that Norman Mailer was your biggest influence as a writer and that Barbary Shore was the book that inspired you to become an author. I was wondering what in particular inspired you from that book?" Lila asked.

When I published my first book, I was interviewed by a magazine that asked first time authors what was their first books they read that inspired them to write. I chose Barbary Shore. Mailer was a unique author, in that he had a swagger and confidence that just came through in his characters and stories. The book was about a writer in 1950's America who rents a room in a cheap boarding house. He interacts with some rather unique and fascinating characters. It was a book about relationships. All my work has been inspired by that notion of how people interact with one another. 

"I read it when I was 18 years old. I was in a used book store in Boise Idaho and I happend to find it for very cheap. I went back to my grandparents and read it in three nights. As soon as I finshed it I started on my first story. Here I am now." I said.

"You make it seem very easy," Lila said. 

"No it isn't easy," I said. "It's a simple concept, ideally. You sit at a desk or table, have a pen and paper, possibly a computer and all the time in the world. Writers have to find a way to make everything work. It takes time and paitence and skill. A lot of people either have it or they don't." I said.

"How did you know that you had it?" Lila asked.

I laughed. "I don't know if I have it, I'm published sure. People buy my books or read my writings. Doesn't mean I'm good or great. Means I'm OK. Somebody took a chance on me and it lead me to right at this moment." I said.

"But how do I know if my story is good or not?" Lila asked. "All I have ever wanted to be is a writer."

"Let me ask you something," I said.

Lila leaned in closer to me. "Have you done any writing today?" I asked.

"Huh?" Lila asked,

"Have you wrote anything today? Have you put pen and paper together for any ideas you might have?" I asked.

"No," Lila said.

"You have to make sure you do it every day. Even if it is just writing your name on a check. Writing is important and you have to practice everyday. Truthfully, I haven't done any real writing today either." I said,

I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out a notebook and a couple of pens. I opened up the notebook and pulled the cap of my pen. I turned to look at Lila.

"Ernest Hemingway said that there is no friend as loyal as a book. I believe he is right. I also believe that he was also talking about a notebook. Norman Mailer also said that being a real writer means doing the work on a bad day. That is my rule as well. No matter how much the day sucks and it seems like you can't get anything to stick on paper you have to work at it." I said.

"OK," Lila said. She was nodding her head. I could tell she was an eager student who went out of her way to meet me. I figured I could do something special for her.

"Are you taking any creative writing classes right now?" I asked.

"Yeah, Lowenfield is my teacher. Guy makes you write all these weird whimsical non sense things. He sucks as a writer." Lila said,

"I have to agree with you," I said. "I'm gonna do you a favor, Miss Raymond."

"Really?" Lila asked.

"Sure," I said. "When I graduated high school in 1991, Norman Mailer wrote a book called Harlot's Ghost. 1340 pages and I read every word. I wrote Mailer a letter telling him how much his work meant to me and that all I ever wanted to do is follow his example. He wrote back saying that as much as he appreciated the letter, I needed to get focused on my writing. So here is what I am gonna do for you. I'm gonna give you my notebook and these two pens. I want you to write. Come up with a story or a book that will last through the decades. Something meaningful. When I retire, I wanna read the latest work by Lila Raymond. Will you do that? Just keep on writing?"

Lila grabbed the pen and paper and started writing. Watching her reminded me of when I recieved Mailer's letter. It's great to watch artists at work. There is something in their faces and body. You can clearly see the determination pour through them as they attempt to show their art. I was impressed how she went to work. I grabbed her copy of my book and wrote this dedication,

"TO LILA, KEEP THE PEN TO THE PAPER. YOUR WORDS MEAN A LOT TO SOMEONE. YOUR FRIEND AND FAN, NICK BRENNAN".

I left the lounge and walked back to the table to continue the signing. I saw a bigger group of people waiting for me. Talking to Lila brought back my energy and for the next three hours I gave every bit of energy I could to the people. I posed for pictures and signed every single book that was there. After the last book was signed there were people still there hanging out in the lobby, so I did what anybody would do. I bought them dinner courtesy of the college. We all had Pizza and Pepsi. Lowenfield walked over and saw us hanging out.

"Mr Brennan I am most surprised," Lowenfield said.

"Mr Lowenfield, I have to thank you." I said.

Lowenfield raised an eyebrow, 

"People like you, who have taken the fun and complete joy out of writing. I met a girl today that reminded me of why I got into this in the first place. I've read your work, and quite frankly I am appalled at this notion that you are the head of the english department. The only thing your writing is good for is for toilet paper when the janitors run out of toilet paper," I said.

"How dare you," Lowenfield said.

"No sir, how dare you." I said. "All you intellectual snobs have made writing into the most joyless and painful experiece for some. When it should be the most fun, the most relaxing. People like you who call themselves experts should be ashamed of yourselves. I didn't realize when my agent made this deal what kind of idiots I would be talking to, but you sir are a disgrace to the writing profession. Your attitude towards creativity is just awful." I said.

"My work has been on the NYT Bestseller's list. Your's has only been in the Gazette. When it comes to people who know writing, who is really the expert?" I said.

I left Lowenfield standing there, fuming at the notion that he was just brow beaten by a writer like me. I never had much use for creative writing classes. Half the time the teacher didn't know what they were talking about and made students write diary type entries. They were just a waste of time. 

I look at writing like this. If you wanna write, then damnit write. Put that pen to paper and make it count. Who knows. You just might be the next Hemingway. That's not a bad goal to aspire to, when you think about it.


© Copyright 2017 Robert Logan. All rights reserved.

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