Saturday night I attended a cozy little event given by an indie bookstore in DC called Politics and Prose. They hosted a dinner at The Washington Club (right on Dupont Circle, how cool is that?) for a debut author who also happens to be a mentor and friend of mine, Jenny Milchman. She’s written a thriller that, frankly, I’m having to read during the day because it’s too creepy to read at night. It takes place in a small town and brings back all kinds of memories for me, since I spent my high school years in just such a town and I have no doubt stuff like this was happening behind those closed doors. But I digress…
The dinner not only introduced Jenny’s debut novel, but it also introduced me to two local authors I’d never read before: Allison Leotta, and Anthony Franze. It was a tripple whammy, and a fun evening out for someone who doesn’t get out a lot. Allison was a federal sex-crimes prosecutor and Anthony is a lawyer in the Appellate and Supreme Court for a major DC law firm. I was drooling over the richness of their story material (yes, a bit of author jealousy there) and very happy to meet such interesting people.
I also met an amazing couple who really made the event a lot of fun for me. She’s a Navy officer (her next promotion would be to Admiral, which just had me wide eyed) and he works for Lockheed Martin doing something technical that made my jaw drop, plus they are raising kids. Can you imagine? She just got back from deployment, and he’s been juggling kids, career, and missing his wife. They were both down to earth, warm, friendly people and I can tell their children are extremely lucky to have them as parents.
I’ll confess that I had stars in my eyes when I chatted with the Navy officer. Not only is she smart, funny, and charming, but she’s totally bad ass when she’s deployed. She’s out there in the thick of things, carrying weapons and escorted by safety battalions. Not just a body guard, a battalion! She attended the event because she’s been tinkering with the idea of writing a novel and wanted to get a taste of what it was like. I’m pretty sure I probably scared her with the amount of fawning I did over her (I’m not a stalker. Really. *whistles innocently*), but I found her completely fascinating, and I just know any story she tells will captivate, delight, and intrigue legions of readers. She’s been there, and seen things. Talk about fodder for stories! It would be a shame if she doesn’t at least try to write something down, because the rest of us don’t live lives like that. It’s why we read; to experience things we wouldn’t otherwise.
I hope she does write a novel, or ten, or twenty. The reading world needs a kick ass female Navy intelligence officer fighting for justice.
On the way home I thought about how odd it is to be living here in DC, and how normal it is to run into people who are prosecutors, judges, CIA agents, FBI, etc. DC is so full of people like this that I feel like a small child in the middle of a group of adults. I might have gone overboard on the fan-girl moment; I really was just trying to encourage a fledgling writer out of her shell and onto the page. More than that, it made me think about my own life and how boring it is by comparison. I told her: “your life seems routine to you, and the petty day to day doesn’t seem like anything anyone else would be interested in. To you. But to me? It’s exotic, strange, new, exciting, and I want to know all about it. That’s why you should write it. Because we don’t live your life.”
For example, my day job wasn’t anything that exciting. I was, and still am to some degree, a graphic designer. To me, that’s…well, nice, but boring. I don’t save lives. I don’t do anything that really matters. Not like a Navy officer. Not like someone who spends their days negotiating and trying to make the world a better place in areas of the world that really don’t like women, or Americans, very much. I’ll admit I felt inadequate sitting there in a room full of people who do things.
But I remember the first time I showed my brother where I worked, and the giant printing presses that ran the silly little grocery store ads and newspapers that we printed…and I remember the look of awe on his face as he watched those giant machines churn out thousands upon thousands of copies. To me, it was the thing that stressed me out and made me grit my teeth. Was it running right? Did the images look right? Did I get the right text with the right picture? Did I have the next file ready to go?
To him, it was exotic, exciting, strange, and amazing.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, whatever it is you spend your day doing…it’s amazing to someone else.
Your ordinary is someone else’s extraordinary.
Try to remember that while you’re cleaning up the dishes and wrestling the kids into the car or organizing the PTA or whatever it is you’re doing today. And if you’re a story teller, don’t be afraid to share it through your stories. Because someone out there wants to live vicariously through you.