One evening last month, the pastor and I were special guests at our church’s weekly club for neighbourhood kids. It was “I Love to Read Month” and we were invited to read stories to the kids – he because he’s a pastor who loves to read, and I because I’m a writer who loves to read.
Wandering around the church basement and observing the kids at play before the evening opened, I overheard one little fellow, maybe 6 or 7 years old, impatiently asking a leader, “Where’s the author?” He wanted to play outside, but not yet. “Where’s the author?” he repeated.
Hmm, I thought, sounds like they built this visit up a bit, but what in the world is this boy imagining when he hears the word “author”? How I wished I had something Inspector Gadget-y about me, maybe pens that shot out of my fingers or a miniature printing press I could pull from my sleeves! Yes, I wanted to make “author” seem more impressive than the ordinary, grandma figure I would surely seem to him instead.
Well, it was a fun evening, and said kid expressed no particular disappointment, nor much interest either, come to think of it (he was one of the two boys who crept under the nearby table during his group’s story time). I had no magic to deliver, but I did write my name on a piece of paper and show the children the same name on the books I’ve written. I let them see my photo on the back cover. (Another boy, obviously on his way to becoming a charmer, told me I looked younger than my picture!) I wanted them to know that the books they read have real people – people with names – who put those words into sentences. I told them that writing was the particular gift and work that God had given me. They asked some good questions, told me about their favourite books, and then I read them a story. And that was the visit of the author!
I’m with Amy Tan in preferring the word “writer” to “author” – the latter a word “as chilling as rigor mortis,” she says, unless it’s very clear we’re talking “contemporary” author. A writer, though, writes – “in the present progressive tense.” But whatever the professional label, most days the author/writer in this house tries to be found at her desk, several hours at least, working. Once a week or so that work includes this blog, last week it was a review, but mostly the work turns round the current fiction project.
I think of writing as my “calling,” a notion that may sound loftier than it really is. For me it simply means a daily and ordinary commitment (sans gadgetry) to what one has discovered or knows one needs to be doing now. But I like the word “calling” because it has the idea of voice in it, both a voice that summons and a voice that responds.
It includes the voice of the Source of the gifts we’re given to invest, the inner voice or sense of rightness and peace, and occasionally, outside voices — just enough to keep us going. These may be the encouragements of readers who resonate with the work, of kids with good questions, or sometimes, like yesterday (I knew there had to be a way to slide this in, and trust you won’t mind :)) the excitement of being shortlisted for a couple of awards.