Tonight, I had the pleasure of hearing Tayari Jones, author of a brand-new book, Silver Sparrow, speak about the writing life. She talked about how the idea for her book came to her, how it took her five years to write, and how she kept writing even when her book-to-be was rejected by her former publisher. It was inspiring to hear her speak about staying committed to her novel even when it seemed that all her hard work might never see the light of day.
Tayari was warm and funny and she gave a spirited reading of the opening of Silver Sparrow, which I look forward to reading. But what I enjoyed most about her talk was a wonderful story she told, which I just have to share with you.
While she was in the middle of writing Silver Sparrow, her third novel, her publisher pulled out of the project. She had to decide whether to simply stop writing or keep on going. In her mind, this defined what kind of writer she was: If she was someone who wrote for the marketplace, then she would stop; if she was someone who felt compelled to write, no matter what, then she would keep on going. She kept on writing.
One evening, she found herself giving a reading from one of her other books. After she was finished, a woman came over to her, took her by the hand, and said, “You’re a talented writer. There’s someone here you should meet.” The woman, who was a complete stranger to Tayari, navigated her through a crowd of people and put her hand in someone else’s. The someone else turned out to be from Algonquin Books. Tayari and she talked about her new project. At one point, Ms. Algonquin asked, “So, how do you know Judy?”
It turned out that the mystery woman who had guided Tayari to her future publisher and turned out to be none other than the best-selling author, Judy Blume. The moral? Writing angels are everywhere: but you need to write for them to find you. Write on!