She showed up for me.
We never met in person, but her words knew me. I feel my face smile chapter after chapter of Ariel Gore’s book How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead. My eyes enlarge and my head nods each page turn.
Is this what it’s like when a writer encourages the deep inner being of another writer?
Ariel, thank you.
Around page 79 an unexpected tear escapes and a memory flashes through my brain. I remember the day no one showed up. Not a soul. Every other college student had parents, grandparents, maybe aunts and uncles too. Dang.
The ceremony is held in a red brick colonial style building with tall windows trimmed in white. The large room has plenty of chairs, food that I am too scared to touch, and lemonade that I dare to enjoy. I am thirsty. My writing professors say hello and are pulled away because other people’s people want to meet them. I find a seat in an empty row on a green cushioned chair with a straight backrest made of metal painted white.
While today that scene cuts me a bit, I assure you that on the actual day I am joyful and feel justice is about to be announced. I am 22 years old and delighted.
“This year’s Best Graduating Senior Writer goes to…Glenna S. Edwards for her submission Bertha.”
I make my way to receive the certificate and $500 check. Only on rewind do I remember the surprised audience members whose faces turn to question that the alone girl is a winner. The money is a bonus compared to the certificate that I want most. I need someone to say I am a good writer. And they do out loud and on paper. Boom!
This was the vengeance I longed for because four years earlier at a smaller scale spring time writers event, no one said anything.
That was high school. Back when I participate in many extracurriculars, but the only award I ever hope for is the Golden Pen award. A plaque hangs in the English department where the new winner’s name will be engraved.
Sitting in the cafeteria listening for the announcement, my 18-year-old mind practices being a good loser. The only other candidate who might win deserves the prize too. I will remain kind and congratulate her then run home to lament.
I also practice remaining calm and gracious if I do win. I will not jump up and down though my legs may try to betray me.
The other possible winner may throw a fit. She has a reputation. She has publicly wailed sometimes when things did not go her way. I try to remember her personal story about how her mom didn’t know she was pregnant until she went to the hospital for extreme food poisoning but came home with a baby. For reasons I do not fully understand while in my youth, her tale helps me be patient with Miss Could-Make-A-Scene.
The teacher says into the microphone, “Thank you for coming tonight. This concludes our evening.”
What?! They must have forgotten. I see the other candidate ask about the Golden Pen. The teacher pretends not to hear. We all go home never to know exactly why the 1990 Golden Pen is not awarded.
My adult self has multiple guesses why 1990 was skipped. And I remain thankful 1994 happened.
To my writer friends, read Ariel Gore’s book How To Become A Famous Writer Before You’re Dead. It is encouragement served all you can eat buffet style.
To be fair to those who knew me in 1994, I didn’t know to ask for representation. I realize now why the obvious choices didn’t jump at the chance. Me becoming a writer terrified blue-collar adults around me.
To Ariel, I promise never to use the word p_ _ _ _ _ _ _ mentioned on page 82. I get it.
Much love & peace to all readers & dreamers. oxox