Book Expo & Being Famous


I love Naomi Shihab Nye’s line about being famous, The floor is famous to the feet.

I was off to the book expo this morning at the Javits Center, when I realized I was, in all essence, a day too early. (I suppose I could have rushed to the city to listen to a discussion on unraveling the quantum physics of epublishing…)

Like every writer, I battle with the green-eyed monster, envy. Book fairs, agent panels, publisher round tables, are always a mixed bag. Our gregarious side loves the interaction, the stimulation and if we’re lucky, having a rare conversation with someone inspiring that blows up our brain.

Our other side, the quiet, book-gobbling, wildly insecure writer’s side, is understandably wary.

When I was 25 I had a most prescient astrological prediction. The reader indicated that for the first half of my life, I would live as an extrovert, while for the second half, I would be an introvert. Being in my wildly extroverted, TRIPLE LEO phase, I looked at the astrologer as though she had just succeeded in the greatest rip-off pre-Bernie Madoff.

Now, however, well into my “second phase” (and sliding), I live whole weeks without sharing a single word with another of my species. (My dog, however, LOVES my poetry.) I have to fight the deepest resistance to change out of my Fresh Produce and into something more presentable for possible human interaction.

I was thinking of attending the Writer’s Digest writer’s conference yesterday, where they were offering an “agent slam.” Lines of writer’s apparently got to stand in rows upon rows of agent lines and have three minutes to pitch. The mere thought of it frightened me back into the freshest of my Fresh Produce.

For cheering, for solace, for remembering who I am and why I do this to myself (small twist on Gerard Manley Hopkins: Who I am is me…for this I came) I read and re-read, Writing Past Dark by Bonnie Friedman. It an older book from 1994. (Her essay from the book, `Envy, the Writer’s Disease” made the cover of the New York Times Book Review). Whenever I begin to lose faith, or just feel plum soul-lonely, I pick it up. Here’s a snipet I underlined:

“Why do we seek fame?” a student asks the spiritual teacher, Krishnamurti…”Have you ever thought about it?” he says. “We want to be famous as a writer, as a poet, as a painter…Why? Because we really don’t love what we are doing. If you love to sing, or to paint, or to write poems — if you really love it –you would not be concerned with whether you are famous or not…Our present education is rotten because it teaches us to love success and not what we are doing. The result has become more important than the action. (In other words, the endpoint supercedes the journey.)

It is good he continues, to hide your brilliance under a bushel, to be anonymous, to love what you are doing and not show off. It is good to be kind without a name. That does not make you famous, it does not cause your photograph to appear in the newspapers…You are just a creative human being living anonymously, and in that there is richness and great beauty.

And if I have the audacity to add to the great Krishnamurti, in that there is also the most delicious form of success.

See you this w/e at the Book Expo!