Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Why I Do What I Do

Writing can be a lonely business. We writers spend a lot of time alone, thinking, dreaming, percolating ideas, taking walks to get inspired... We sit at our desk, alone, or at the kitchen counter by ourselves with our coffee, or at least I do. And we write and write when the ideas begin to flow. Sometimes we don't know who our audience will be, or even if our book will be read by anyone. Or if it will even become a book. But we write anyway, because we have to.We often will never know how our work affects people. In my case, I always hope to inspire and educate through my writing. And sometimes we get to see how the fruits of our labor pays off.

And sometimes, we reach just the right person. The one we may have written the book for.

That's what happened to me on a recent author visit to a school in Maryland. An entire high school read my novel Weeping Under This Same Moon. 400 kids and teachers and even parents! That in itself was incredible. Even better, I was invited to spend two full days talking to students and writing with them, answering their questions about the writing process and the story itself. I met with all four grades, spending most of my time with the senior class. At night, I gave a talk to an auditorium full of students, administrators, teachers and parents. I spoke about what it was like to be a teenage volunteer working with Vietnamese refugees, and how it changed my life, informed my life, perhaps even
saved it. Then I invited a very special guest to Skype in. The cover girl from my book, now a beautiful young woman, a doctor. She told her story. How she escaped with her older sister, my main character, Mei. How she was cold and frightened and how that experience informed her life. And how my friendship with her and her family changed everything for them.

We invited the audience to talk, or ask questions, and they did. Toward the end of the evening, a woman came up to the mic. She was the mother of one of the students. She was in tears. She took a deep breath and shakily told her story. She, too, had been a "Boat person" - a Vietnamese refugee. She had never shared her story in public, but hearing "Linh" speak about her experience, gave her the courage. By the end of her story, we were all in tears. She had been through much trauma which she relived on a daily basis. She thanked me for my book and we hugged. She thanked "Linh" in Vietnamese and went back to her seat.

The next day, I received a beautiful card from her telling me that being there and being able to feel safe enough to share her story was the most healing experience of her life.

Experiences like this one affirm why I do what I do. Writing is my passion, and if my writing can touch someone this deeply, I know my purpose.

No comments:

Post a Comment