TFW a keynote speaker…
….makes you feel like you’re at a café with her by yourself sipping lattes. That’s Marion Winik.
At my first HippoCamp this summer, I was late to the keynote by two or three minutes and felt shy about pushing my way through people to get a seat, so I plunked myself down on the floor against the back wall. I didn’t want to make a scene getting a seat, yes, but the truth is, I didn’t want to make a bigger scene when I snuck out ten minutes later.
You see, keynotes are not always my thing. I don’t love being talked at. Even by writers whose work I love, I hate lectures. Log-winded speeches. But I needn’t have worried. I felt like I was having coffee with one of my closest writing friends. Because Marion (it’s okay if I call you that, right, Mar?) knows how to connect with her audience.
Marion talked about universal issues. It didn’t matter if you’d read her books or not. Heck, it didn’t matter if you were a writer or not. Everything that could happen to a writer, a wife, a friend: it’s all happened to her, and she told us about it all in the humblest of ways. All you had to be in that room was human, and I was captivated. For that hour, I wasn’t a writer. I wasn’t anything but a person with lived experiences thinking “Oh, me too, me too!” as she spoke. It was just Marion and her pile of amazing books and my beating heart.
We talked about The Topic All Memoirists Love To Hate, also known as Will People Hate Me If I Write This? (Yes, Probably) and I loved every second of it and then went back to my room and read Return To Sender by Mark Doty because somehow I never had before.
I gasped and cried listening to the stories she shared, including the ode to her dead goldfish who was the stand-in for all the pets I cried over with my kids when I wondered why I was crying.
I didn’t want her to stop talking and neither did anyone else. She went over and we all begged her to keep reading her excerpts anyway. They were that good.
I bought the books that I had not read because she was so compelling that I wanted to know everything.
When I chatted with her, she asked me about my writing instead of the other way around and upon hearing my answer, she recommended a book about to be released that she thought I might be interested in. I looked it up immediately and she was right: I was interested and I bought it on pre-order right away.
I can tell you that she inspired me to try out my own ideas for essay collections like her fabulous Book of the Dead and play with rules like she did for topics and word counts and other parameters to see what comes up. So far my ideas are To All The Birds I’ve Loved Before and Sparrow Sandwiches, both plays on the many birds I’ve had throughout my life, but I don’t think anyone will want to read either of those.
Room to grow, I guess.