I went to a second reading tonight. This one was a published novelist named Nancy Peacock (great name!) who, despite her critical successes, could not afford to live as a full-time novelist and thus made her living as a housecleaner. And so, she wrote a memoir about it.
In comparison to John Kessel, this reading was not well-attended -- maybe a dozen or so people. All women, w/ the exception of one man. And it's possible that I was one of the youngest women there.
That alone seemed reflective of her story.
During the Q&A, I asked her a question: "Have you reconciled the two (writing and housecleaning)? If so, how?"
Her answer: "Yes. I gave up housecleaning."
Later, I raised my hand again, and this time shared a comment about how her story needs to be told to all the aspiring writers who have the expectation that the Stephen Kings and Oprah Book Club authors are in the majority. And heck, come to think of it, the public needs to be set straight as well.
In response to my comment, Nancy mentioned that she kept telling herself, "no one else is going to do it for me." She also repeated the phrase "buckle down" when answering questions about keeping a writng schedule, and deadlines, and getting an agent, etc. In the way that I was validated last night when John discussed his process and his struggles, I was equally, if not more so, validated by Nancy's use of the phrase "buckle down." And here I've been beating myself for not "buckling down" enough, for not, what she says, "getting aggressive" with my writing careeer. "That's what my friend told me I needed to do," she said. "I needed to get aggressive."
When I went to the table to get my book signed, she asked me what I do for a living, and I told her, and told her about my own struggle to balance the two. She told me not to give up on pursuing an agent, and credited me for continuing my career in light of a full time job that takes up so much "psychic energy," as she called it. She signed my book w/ the note "Get aggressive." (The pacifist in me thought that maybe this phrase is too violent as a mantra, but certainly it's a proactive statement. I do, however, like "no one's gonna do it for you"...)
On top of everything else, today was "Poem in Your Pocket" day at the bookstore. Recite a poem and receive an extra 10% off your purchase. I didn't have any poems w/ me, and blanked out when invited to recite one. What came to mind was a poem I'd composed when I was seventeen and in my artsy, New Romantic phase (I think I had discovered e.e. cummings, too). Thus, I recited:
Give me a break; I was seventeen.
Still, I got the 10% off, and was able to buy two books for under 20 bucks as a result. Life is good.