Last night, best-selling author Ann Patchett spoke at the Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati, in front of a packed house of book nerds. She was engaging, charming, downright funny at times, and her talk was a great peek behind the curtain at a word wizard.
A couple of things stood out to me:
She referenced several other authors and novels, often showing a slide of a book cover on a screen near her, and every time she did, there was an audible gasp of appreciation from those in the audience who had read the book. “Yes!”… “so good!” It’s great to know that there are folks who still savor the written word in the Instagram/TikTok era.
Through her novels, and her independent bookstore in Nashville, and her interviews with other authors, she’s done more to promote reading than anyone else I know. She’s like a Levar Burton for grown-ups.
During the Q&A, a young woman in attendance asked “What’s your advice for young writers?” Ann’s reply was that any and all advice she had to offer on that topic was contained in her essay “The Getaway Car” from her book This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. (She wrote the essay because she gets that “what’s your advice for aspiring writers” question a lot… one time a woman even followed her into a public restroom and asked Ann that question while she was in a stall!)
But Ann did offer a few words of advice, and there’s no secret code to be cracked. The formula she mentioned is simple, really:
If you want to be a writer, read a lot, write a lot, don’t spend too much time trying to perfect a particular project, and don’t go into the process thinking about how to sell your work.
Read a lot, and write a lot, for the pure joy of it. Sounds like a winning plan to me!
Ann Patchett’s latest novel, The Dutch House, has spent 20 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List.
Seth Godin just plain gets it. First of all, the dude writes a blog post every day. Yes, that’s right. Every. Single. Day. Neither rain, nor snow, nor authoring books nor hosting workshops nor speaking at conferences, will keep Mr. Godin from his appointed rounds — sharing pearls of wisdom with folks like you… and fanboys like me.
About a month ago, my old radio pal Ric “The Rictile” Cengeri was unceremoniously dumped from his Vermont Public Radio gig, after 12 years of faithful service.
I worked with Ric for three years at 97X. We were roommates for much of that time, and morning show co-hosts for a year. So we spent a ton of time together. You won’t find a nicer guy, or one more passionate about creating great radio programs.
His energy was off the charts. His sense of humor was keen. His joie de vivre was contagious. His ability to remember listeners’ names was Rain Man-like. The way he mentored our college co-ops was admirable.
You could drop Rictile onto an uncharted desert isle (not Gilligan’s Island) and come back in three weeks to find a full blown party with hundreds of people. (He earned his Dirty Mayor nickname from his local pub, where he made so many fast friends that they called him “the Mayor.” He even has a cider named in his honor.)
After such a shock, Ric could’ve chosen to wallow in self-pity. But that’s not the Way of the Rictile. Instead, he’s doing what he’s always done. Going to concerts, to museums, to sporting events, to restaurants, to the symphony, to poetry readings, to the pub, to farmer’s markets, and volunteering in the community… The Man stole his livelihood, but he’s not going to mess up his life.
The Facebook post below from a former co-worker — and Ric’s reply — speak volumes about the kind of person he is.
Ric’s VPR job ended on a sour note, but the Dirty Mayor’s life is a thing of beauty. I can’t wait to hear about his next adventure.
I attended a performance by author David Sedaris last night. You may think it’s a bit of a stretch to call it a “performance” when he was merely reading his stories, followed by an audience Q&A. But that means you’ve never seen David Sedaris live. And I was in that group prior to last night.
I’ve read most of his books, and love them. I knew he’d be funny, insightful, witty, [insert other adjective for a writer of humorous, satirical essays here]. But I didn’t expect it to be bust-a-gut, rolling in the aisles, laughing-so-hard-I’m-crying funny. Yet it was. I haven’t laughed that much, or that hard, in ages. He’s not just a masterful writer, but also a powerful performer.
The promo blurb for the show was spot-on:
If you love David Sedaris’s cheerfully misanthropic stories, you might think that you know what you’re getting into at his live readings. You’d be wrong. To see him read his own work on stage allows his autobiographical narrative to reveal a uniquely personal narrative that will keep you laughing throughout the evening.
Best of all for a hack like me was the fact that the laughs were powered by David’s written words. No props, no fog machines, no show business shtick. Just short essays read by a 62-year-old man standing at a podium on an otherwise bare stage. Observant. Trenchant. Moving. And Hilarious.
David’s tour continues in the U.S. through early December. If he’s performing anywhere near you, you simply must go.
[David also used a bit of his stage time to promote another writer’s latest book. He raved about Ann Patchett’s new novel The Dutch House. I’ll have to check that one out.]