Do you regularly free write? Do you wish you did? Several times a month, we’ll post a writing prompt. Open a notebook or a blank page and keep your hand moving for 10 minutes. Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation – just write.
I was never one of those teenagers who went to boy band concerts and screamed my head off. I never followed maps to the stars homes in LA. I never tried to sneak backstage at theatre events to get an autograph. I was too nervous, too shy, too introverted to do anything but be a respectable, calm citizen. But things change. When Janisse Ray came to Ithaca to give a reading from her newest book, I could barely contain myself.
Janisse Ray is the author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, a memoir of her childhood growing up in a Georgia junkyard, and the story of the decimation of southern longleaf pine forest ecology. I read the book, along with several of Ray’s essays for my first mentorship in my first semester of my MFA and was amazed. Her writing, along with her story, was utterly captivating.
And so, I attended her reading at the local college. Her confidence was contagious. She was vibrant, funny, kind, thoughtful, grateful. And her new book, The Seed Underground sends a powerful message of hope. It was one of the best book readings I have attended.
After the reading, I hung around, slowly gathering my things, waiting for the crowd to disperse. I wanted a chance to really talk to her, beyond the normal formalities, and wanted everyone else to filter away. Janisse was incredibly kind to every person who walked up to her. She took time to answer questions and give hugs and talk about the details of her book. But it turned out, I needn’t have tried so hard to find time with her. When it was my turn, it seemed as if she would have been happy to talk to me all night. (Well, I might be projecting a little.)
I was the last fan there and walked with Janisse out into the bitter cold night. We talked about our kids, and her travels, and her farm. Then she invited me to sit in on the creative writing class she was teaching in the morning. She’d taught one already that day, which she (and I) was sorry I had missed. But being invited for the next morning was beyond what I hoped for. As a student, still feeling my way around the academic and professional writing worlds, this was an incredible educational opportunity. As a reader and lover of good writing, it was all I could do to not jump up and down next to her and scream, like the star-crazed seventeen-year-old inside of me wanted to.
In today’s free write, think about meeting one of your heroes, literary or otherwise. Did it happen by chance? Did you seek them out? How did you feel about the meeting? What did it mean to you?
Do YOU have a writing prompt to share with Literary Mama readers? Send your 150- to 300-word narrative and associated writing prompt to lmblogcontact (at) literarymama (dot) com. We’d love to read your ideas!