Every once in a while, we get to do something so completely for ourselves, so singularly satisfying, that the pleasure derived from it stays with us for quite some time…
And yesterday afternoon, for just a little while, I fed my soul by surrounding myself with lots of books, and others who love the written word as much as I do.
And today, the excitement still stirs within me.
At the invitation of Jennie Fields, author of “The Age of Desire,” I attended a book reading at Parnassus Books in Green Hills. Much like the diminishing of brick and mortar music stores, I was devastated when Davis Kidd, our longtime independent book store, closed. And I was elated when bestselling author Ann Patchett, and publishing veteran Karen Hayes opened Parnassus. I’ve attended several events there, and the intimate vibe of the room wraps me in a peaceful feeling.
Ross Howell, Jr., admittedly a 65 year old white man, took an interest in, researched, and wrote a novel about Virginia Christian, a black woman charged with killing her white employer in 1912. Written from the perspective of Charlie Mears, a young white newspaper reporter investigating the murder, the story focuses on “Virgie,” the only female juvenile to be executed in Virginia history.
Because of Jennie’s comment about this being one of the best books she’s ever read, I got to the book store early enough to buy a copy of the book, “Forsaken,” and read the first chapter, to get a feel for the author’s writing style. And from the little bit I read before the event started, I was captivated…
Howell spoke to the small crowd who had gathered, then he read a few pages from the book, wearing a hat that helped him step into character. My mind was spinning, hanging on to every word he spoke.
When he finished, he sat with Jennie, as she asked him some questions about the book, how he came to be interested in Virgie’s story, and his thoughts on the current day juvenile justice system.
What seemed to keep rolling around in my head, though, was the fact that at the age of 65, Ross wrote his first novel. That fact alone excited me. It gave me hope that one day soon I can finish my book…
By his example, and several things he said, I was moved to my core. He changed me.
As the event wrapped up, I spotted Karen Trotter Elley in the back of the room. Another fine writer, and a member of the women’s writers group that I’ve attended off and on for a decade or more, Karen has been published in one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and is currently doing stand-up comedy. She doesn’t know it, but for quite some time, her quiet determination has inspired me.
Also in attendance was Rebecca Wells, who most of my readers will know as the author of “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.” It was great to see her, but I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to chat with her for a bit.
As I stood in line to have Ross autograph my copy of his book, I wondered what I’d say to him. And before I knew it, it was my turn. I handed him the book I had purchased, and simply spoke the truth.
I said “You are an inspiration to me, and when I leave here, I’m going straight to Office Depot to buy a flash drive so I can get all the pieces of my book in one place, so I can finish it…”
He looked up at me and smiled, and pulled a business card out of his jacket pocket. Handing it to me, he said “Email me when you have your manuscript finished.”
My heart nearly jumped out of my chest. What better motivation could I have to finish my book?!
I work for various clients all the time, often until the wee hours. But I’m determined to carve out some time to piece my chapters together, to streamline the story, and to finish my book. It’s been about fifteen years in the making. It’s about time…