Infiltrating the Literati
When I agreed to it, I assumed it was just another "mom thing." (Not that there's anything wrong with that. I love my mom things!) I didn't give it much thought. But when the giant posters started appearing all over my neighborhood, I realized that um, no. It was not just another mom thing.
It was Tad Friend. It was Paul Zelinksky. It was Janice Eidus. And it was Gabriel Byrne - yes, that Gabriel Byrne - doing a little piece from this guy called James Joyce.
And then there was uh, me. Mom-101. Reading about talking toys.
I spent the entire day in a heightened state of anxiety, making self-deprecating jokes to fend off the heavy feeling that I was about to be completely outclassed. When I climbed the stairs to the art gallery where the event was held and saw Liz Gumbinner, Author, on my name tag at the sign-in table, I was terrified of being discovered. Like someone I knew would see my chest and point at me and screech that horrible alien sound that Donald Sutherland made at the end of the 1970's Invasions of the Body Snatchers remake.
Fake! Fraud! Why, you don't even have a Masters, you Mom-101 person.
And then I realized what I was doing. I was falling into that trap. The one where people assume writing about mom stuff is somehow less interesting/important/worthwhile than writing about pretty much anything else. Love. Tragedy. Racism. Taxidermy. That our stories, however frivolous or profound, just don't count. Or they don't count to the people who count. Or something.
I couldn't believe that after all these years of defending the power and the essential voices of mothers as memoirists, that I had become my own worst, painfully insecure critic.
But when I started reading,
the crowd smiled.
They nodded in recognition at references to the talking toy keyboard. They laughed in the right places. As I plowed through the essay they continued to laugh, even as the humor-enhancing effects of the Chardonnay was wearing off. At the end, they clapped, and not just in that polite sort of way. Nate beamed. We might have even sold a book or two.
I felt like an author. Maybe for the first time ever.
And it was a really freaking great feeling.
Even if I did look like Popeye.
[event photos: Aki Tuccu]