“I write for the page. “  Don DeLillo

The Keynote Speaker at Write on the River was Jess Walter, a brilliant author who grew up in the smallish city of Spokane, Washington.

From his website:  “Jess Walter is the author of four novels – THE ZERO, a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award, the 2007 PEN Center Literary Award and the 2007 LA Times Book Prize and winner of the 2007 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, CITIZEN VINCE, winner of the 2005 Edgar Award for best novel, LAND OF THE BLIND and OVER TUMBLED GRAVES, a 2001 New York Times notable book – as well as the nonfiction book EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW (rereleased as RUBY RIDGE), a finalist for the PEN Center West literary nonfiction award in 1996.” 

To be totally honest, I hadn’t read Walter’s work and only picked up a copy of The Zero because he was going to be a speaker at the conference and I was curious.  One page, and I was in love.  This man writes brilliantly, and he is also an entertaining and inspirational speaker.  I couldn’t begin to share all of that inspiration with you, but I offer the parts that have stuck with me for good.

On important concept was this:  What is your own measure of success?  If you’re looking for fame, go be a movie star.  If you’re looking for money, you’re in the wrong profession – 80% of published authors make $15K or less, per year.  As he said, “No one succeeds in publishing – you only persevere.”

Walter’s definition of personal success?  When he can look at a page and say, “It is beautiful, it is artful, it makes the world bearable.”

I was moved by this.  Profoundly.  My own measure of success, as I thought about it, is not being published or finding an agent.  When I write something that moves somebody – to laughter, or tears, or anger – that’s where it is at for me. 

 Walter also offered the following rules for writing:  

  1. Revel in the work
  2. Sweat the sentences
  3. When you finish something, really celebrate
  4. Take joy in the small victories
  5. Trust your instincts
  6. Be nicer to yourself
  7. Keep in mind your story of how you came to be a writer.

And that, in a nutshell, is it.  What about you?  My challenge for the day:  Determine for yourself, what is the measure of your success?  And, if you haven’t already, buy a Jess Walter book – you won’t regret it.

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