I spoke to the writers' guild last night, and I believe it was a success. I didn't stutter or stammer or stare at the floor while I spoke. I'll get to what I said in a minute.
First, I have to say that Ms. Snodgrass is a delight, and I wouldn't mind being like her when I am 80 years old. I saw a picture of her when she was a little girl, and she looked alarmingly like Scout—both me and Scout Finch—so it's possible I will be like her when I am 80. She was lovely and very gracious. I was a little concerned as I was driving to the meeting place, and I passed a slow driver on the highway. Of course it was my host, but she didn't seem to mind when we met and shook hands.
I didn't really know anyone else at this gathering. There were twenty-one people there besides myself, and I just smiled at them all as they walked in. I recognized one man whose name I won't mention because I can see him googling his name, and I wouldn't want him to stumble on this blog. This Man—a flirt, it turns out—is a local celebrity of sorts who travels around to schools and concert halls and gives a presentation about the history of the American flag. It's surprisingly interesting. A couple of years ago, my orchestra performed and recorded the presentation with him for a DVD that he now sells. My picture is on the cover of the case although I appear at about the size of a flea.
Anyway, Flirty Man was there because he saw the advertisement in the paper and thought he'd check it out. I introduced myself right off the bat and told him I played with the orchestra, so we were instant pals. Flirty Man is 83 and a recent widow after being married for over 55 years. He told me all about his past—his parents met while performing for the Barnum and Bailey Circus. They went from there to vaudeville and the burlesque, although he said plainly, "Mother was not a stripper." He grew up backstage and said he was at least twelve when he learned women were not born with jewels in their belly buttons.
He and his wife met while singing at supper clubs, and they were quite an act in their day. He showed me a picture of them from the 60s and said they were often mistaken for Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe. This kind of history lesson went on until the meeting began, and I was enthralled.
So, after a brief introduction, I stood up and went to town. Here is what I said for starters, memorized and delivered with gusto:
I am a graphic designer, a musician, a cook, and a knitter. I make earrings out of antique African trade beads, and I paint with acrylics on canvas although I am a complete novice as an artist. I am a mother and a wife, a daughter and a sister, and a co-worker, a neighbor, and a friend. I am a student studying French horn with a private teacher at Mount Union. I play horn in the Tuscarawas Philharmonic and in the Dominic Greco Band, and I join an ensemble now and then. I believe in God, and I believe God intends us to be our brother’s keeper. I go to church where I organize meals for the local homeless shelter once a month and occasionally play the offertory. I am an enthusiastic Democrat, although I have had it up to here with the current campaigns and how easily everyone is distracted from the real issues. I am a big fan of old movies and Broadway musicals, and I like classical music and light jazz and James Taylor and Judy Garland. I am afraid of deep water and spiders, and I don’t like sports unless my kids are playing them. I have lived in five different states. I have been to Brazil, Mexico, France, Belgium, Germany, and England, but I love staying home and reading in the comfort of my favorite chair and in the company of my two cats, Mike and Tiger. I am a member of MENSA, but I couldn’t solve an algebraic equation if you held a gun to my head. My favorite color is green. My favorite food is salmon, but shrimp will do in a pinch. Besides a dark, strong cup of coffee, my favorite beverage is a chilled glass of chardonnay. Beyond all of this and through all of this and above all of this, I am a writer. I am a writer not because I am published or make a living with my writing but because I write and find it the most satisfying thing I do. No matter how frustrating any given project may seem when I am faced with it, I am most fulfilled when I am forming words into phrases to make a point or to tell a story. For me, writing is one of the key elements of my identity. When I sit down to define myself, I am learning to be comfortable with putting it at the top of the list. When I first meet someone and am asked what I do, I know they mean what do I do for a living, so I hesitate to say I am a writer. I’d like to change that.
They seemed to like this, so I passed out blank sheets of paper and had them write ten things that define them. Most of them read their list out loud, and we talked about how few people put "writing" at the top of the list. That didn't seem to be from lack of confidence but was their honest organization of priorities.
After some more blabbing and snacks, someone read a short story I had written. Then they discussed its strong points and weak points, and the group was both gracious with its compliments and reasonable with its criticisms. I had a great time overall and am so glad I said yes to this invitation.
Later, Flirty Man pointed out a painting that was hanging in the corner of the gallery (the meeting was held at the local art center). The painting was a self-portrait of an aging and overweight nude wearing a red hat, which certainly makes me think of the Red Hat Society in a new light. He thought the woman's toes were ugly, but other than that...
As an exercise, try defining yourself using ten things pulled from your interests, activities, and beliefs. And then see if the order your list is in tells anything about you.