As I become comfortable in what I consider my third career (quilting industry business owner first, nonprofit advocate second, and now, novelist), I think often of my early love of narrative, the joy I remember from childhood at the very concept of stories. That mere words are capable of creating people one can know, places one can be, boggles my mind to this day.
I recently dug through a box of memorabilia to find a photo I hadn’t looked at more than once since my quilting career began. There I am beside my mother Dorothy Graham as she reads to my brothers and me. My older brother (an athlete all his life) looks like he’d rather be outdoors. My twin (the contented one in the family) sits contentedly on my mother’s lap. But look at the little girl! Look at that face. How much more into a story could a child of three be?
I spent the past weekend in Chicago, enjoying StoryStudio Chicago’s first-ever writers conference, hanging out with writers including my Washington Island writer friend Mari Anderson and the wonderful Rebecca Makkai, whose latest novel THE GREAT BELIEVERS (book report coming soon) I read in five days, my heart wrenched repeatedly. I absorbed wisdom at author panels and learned more about the publication process during “How the Book Sausage is Made.” A highlight was confirmation from Makkai’s agent Duvall Osteen that my own agent Stephany Evans is top drawer.
StoryStudio’s first conference was my own first experience at a gathering of writers. In general sessions, in the individual classes on my schedule, and even at the reading and literary smackdown at a neighborhood bar Saturday night, I took the time to scan the room, to get a good look at the other animals in my same zoo—other humans for whom the story is everything. Hopefully, some of them were lucky enough to have a mother like mine who (next to my father and us children) loved books better than anything. Whether or not they are lucky enough to have a photo like mine to prove stories thrilled them from the get-go, I know they see themselves in my face.