I have had an interesting couple of days. Friday, I went to my first Yoga class, and it was delightful. Please understand, my only experience with yoga before this was Tony Horton’s Power Yoga, in which there is no such thing as relaxing, gentle stretching, or becoming one with your breathing… it is a relentless 90 minute pain fest that leaves me wanting to punch Tony in his stupid face, if only I could lift my arms at that point to do it. So, Gentle Yoga. The instructor spoke in a soft voice and told us to do what we can… bend into the stretch but don’t go too far. Feel the moment. Not that it wasn’t a workout, because it was. But it was a gentle and comforting workout that stretched out my entire body and allowed me to focus on my breathing and be completely present in the moment. At the end of the class, we all spent about ten minutes on our mats, with blankets and pillows, listening to the instructor take us through a guided mediation. Afterward, we all relaxed into almost unconsciousness and I probably would have fallen asleep if not for the fact that one lady who was on a mat near me, asked in a loud voice, “So, are we going to be in your next book?”
Fast forward to Sunday. My love and I went to an honest to goodness hootenanny. Yup. A bunch of people, mostly old, mostly men, with fiddles and banjos and harmonicas and guitars picking away at old bluegrass music. It was AWESOME. Those of us who were non-musicians generally hung out in the kitchen, getting the food ready and chatting. I got involved in a pretty deep conversation with a few people. We started talking about gay marriage and how it was legalized in Iowa. I was fortunate to be with a bunch of like minded people, including one very old guy with a pointy beard who was pretty quiet throughout the whole conversation, just listening to all of the back and forth until at one point, he pointed his finger into the middle of the circle of people and said, “Anyone should be allowed to get married.” and then didn’t say another word. Another lesson learned. Don’t judge a book by its cover. I would have assumed this old guy was totally against gay marriage. I like lessons such as that, though. I like it when my assumptions are challenged because I shouldn’t be making assumptions like that in the first place.
Fast forward a bit, the conversation was getting heated (though not argumentative) and we were all having a great time, when someone who had been relatively quiet throughout the whole talk said, “Do you think this is going to go in your next book?”
I am actually asked that question a lot. When people find out that I am a writer, that is usually one of the first things I hear along with “Oh, I’m writing (will write, want to write, did write) a book too!”
The one about the book is the big one, though. People want to see themselves in something, after all. So, will this yoga class/hootenanny/auction/coffee house/whatever be in my next book? Well, yes…in a small way, I think that almost everything I experience goes into what I write in one way or another. The events shape me, which in turn shapes my writing. Big events have big places. After the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, I wrote a couple of paragraphs in which one of the characters tries and fails to explain the essence of the festival to other characters. So, yes, events often show up in my writings.
Of course, that’s not what people really want to know. What they really want to know, specifically, is if they are going to show up as a character. And the only answer to that is… yes and no. Definitive, huh? The thing is that if you have a quirky character trait, or something about you interests me, or I find something strange or likable or unlikable about you, chances are that a future character may show up with that particular trait. But will that character be you? No. It will be the amalgamation of you and me and the guy at the bus stop and that woman I talked to on the internet last week and my sister and my girlfriend and the lady who rides her bike through town collecting bottles to return for deposit. Look, every character I have has bits of me in it. And it’s possible that some of them have bits of you. But with the exception of Andy’s racquetball partner who is named after my sister’s co-worker, Nate, I do not have any characters who are based on any one person, including myself. And this is probably important to note, because my mother was adamant about wanting people to know that she is *not* the pot-smoking, sex class attending, strap-on fan, hippie mom from “Man Enough.” In fact, the only thing my mother has in common with the mom in my novel is that they are both mothers.
And that’s okay. That’s good. Just like life itself, a novel becomes the sum of its parts. And you, all of you, are, in one way or another, my parts. You have all helped to make me who I am at this very moment and for that, I am extremely grateful. So, make sure to read my next book… and look for yourself. Chances are, you might be able to point to something and turn to your friends and say, “Hey. That’s me.”