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“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.

Okay – I know you’re lurking out there somewhere.  Maybe you already meet on a regular basis, clandestinely behind my back, to discuss your writing projects and make fun of mine.  Maybe you live closer to Spokane than I do, or are independently wealthy and can afford the gas to drive there, so you don’t need a writing group closer to home.  Maybe you are already published and successful and just don’t need anybody else.  But I persist in believing there are other writers like me, living the small town life in my part of the world, who would like to connect and collaborate with other writers.

It’s time for us to find each other.

I live in Colville.  There are a number of locations where we could meet: Meyer’s Falls Market in Kettle Falls,  Talk’n’Coffee or Java Jive in Colville, or maybe the Flowery Trail in Chewelah.  Heck, we could meet at McDonalds!  Maybe we could just exchange emails and IM addresses and hang out online. 

Sure, it’s the middle of the summer, and nobody wants to start anything or make new plans.  Maybe you’re all selfishly going away on long, relaxing vacations.  But it will be fall before we know it, and then the excuse will be that there is too much snow, so I personally believe the time to act is now. Besides – Nanowrimo is coming up in November, and this year I really want to have a local Nanowrimo group happening.  I know, I know, as my friend Jamie says, “it’s good to want things in life.”

Well, sometimes, if you want something enough, you find a way to make it happen.  So, reply to this post and let me know how to reach you.  Or drop me a note at kschafer@wildblue.net.   In the meantime, I’ll be busy working on my novel. 

Really.

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