Week 31: Author Inspiration at the Central Library [Score +12]
Libraries are some of my favorite places to be: stacks and stacks and room upon room of books, all sitting quietly, waiting for me to choose one or six to take home with me for three weeks. For free.
It gives me a sense of calm, peaceful happiness just thinking about it.
My usual haunt is my local library, but the Indiana Writers Center’s “Meet an Author, Be an Author” event gave me the perfect excuse to make a long-overdue visit to the Indianapolis Central Library. The building’s architecture is a mix of the original limestone structure built 100 years ago and a modern glass-and-steel expansion finished in 2007.
And it’s about four times the size of my own town library. Heaven!
This event featured local authors in both casual conversation and panel discussions. In addition, workshops offered aspiring authors (like myself) to learn a new approach, consider a genre, or just make some new friends.
Writing About Your Life
My expectations for this free event were temperate as I tore myself away from wandering through the building itself and went to my first workshop: “Writing About Your Life.” But within five minutes of the workshop’s beginning, I was excited and engaged. Our teacher was Darolyn “Lyn” Jones, an assistant professor of English at Ball State University.
When I was in college myself, I got a minor in English Writing just so I could take a bunch of creative writing and literature classes for fun and get some kind of credit for it. This workshop took me right back to that same passion and eagerness.
For the next 75 minutes, I sat with about a dozen other writers of all ages and backgrounds, and Lyn led us through several different idea-starting exercises. In the first, for about five minutes, our goal was to write 10-15 short statements that started with “I remember…” Just a sentence or two on the first memory that popped into our head, then move on to the next one.
In our second exercise, we chose one of those original “I remember…” statements and wrote 10-15 more “I remember…” statements just about that first memory specifically. What did we remember smelling? Seeing? Feeling? Hearing? Afterward, we partnered with a person sitting next to us and shared our memories.
My partner was a woman in her 80s named Lou who wore a stylish mustard-yellow jacket over black slacks and turtleneck, big hammered-copper earrings, and round, dark, tortoiseshell glasses. She wrote about going shoe shopping with her mother in Mobile, Alabama as a child. She remembered seeing a black woman come into the store as a fellow customer, and the woman was only allowed to try on select shoes if she went behind a curtain. She wasn’t permitted to try on the full selection of shoes or do so in the main store area.
Hearing one “I remember…” descriptive statement after another perfectly painted a picture in my mind of this scene in her memory.
Me? I wrote about an episode of bullying I experienced in seventh grade..
I remember sitting on a bench beside a neglected softball field.
I remember we were clad in school-issued gym uniforms of navy shorts and grey t-shirts.
I remember just a few other girls were nearby, but the teacher was far away.
I remember answering her question with, “not particularly,” and she asked why I couldn’t just say a simple “no” like everyone else?
I remember feeling shocked when she stuffed a fluffy white dandelion in my mouth.
It was part of a particularly intense period that ebbed and flowed over several years, and I can still recall that feeling of loneliness twenty years later.
A Genre for Anyone
After leaving the memoir workshop feeling jazzed and full of ideas (even though it brought to mind some difficult memories), I next went to a genre-author panel. Four local authors who write mystery, romance, urban fantasy, and young adult shared their experiences and perspectives on everything from whether they’re a “plotter” (outline the full story before writing) or “pantser” (just start writing without a plan, flying by the seat of your pants), to how to find an agent and publisher.
Hearing that these authors—all of whom have published at least half a dozen books each—manage to do so while having careers at the same time encouraged me. One man had been a stay-at-home dad for a couple years, and when his kids would go for 2.5 hours a week to a playdate, he would write. Another used his 30-min breaks from a scientist job to write. One woman is a teacher and didn’t write her first novel until her son was a senior in high school, and has now published more than 20 romance novels.
I left inspired, energized, and glad I’d gone to the event. Seeing the Central Library itself would have been worth the trip alone, but the event far surpassed my expectations.
- Did something outside my routine: +1
- Left the house: +1
- Did something entirely new: +1
- Signed up for an activity without knowing anyone else involved: +2
- Had a conversation with a stranger of at least 30 seconds: +2
- Had a conversation with a stranger beyond basics (i.e., work, hometown, what’s your dog’s name): +2
- Learned someone’s name: +3