Last Friday night I took this photo of people holding their cell phones aloft at a Neal Diamond concert. It was my first Neal Diamond concert. Considering this is his fiftieth year on stage, I thought time just might be running out for me to hear him sing Solitary Man or Sweet Carolyn live. While I was there I met several of fans who had been to his concerts multiple times. Seems I was late to the game.
Each one of those lights represents a Neal Diamond fan. If only all writers had such a loyal and large fan base. Okay maybe Stephen King or J.K. Rowling could fill an auditorium, but even they don’t get to actually see all the people who enjoy what they read especially as they are writing. Bookstores host readings, but a writer is lucky to get more than thirty people, unless they write blockbuster best sellers. At its core reading is a solitary pursuit. As is writing.
There are so many books from which to choose. There is a lot of competition and writers toil alone with the hope that someone, somewhere, will take the time out of their busy lives to read. I never really picture a person reading my work, but perhaps that is a mistake. After all, I’m writing for living, breathing, and paying, humans. Hopefully. Always have hope. If I wasn’t it would be journal writing which is fine but be careful because we know those can be found and read, too. Remember Bridges of Madison County? Talk about unintended audience. I started thinking about the people in my life who are avid readers. Not necessarily of my work. I just know they like to read.
My friend Sara here, wrapped in toilet paper which is what women do at wedding showers, is an avid reader. She reads a lot of non fiction, her tastes are varied and she doesn’t settle for shallow, trite books. We went to hear Gloria Steinem speak last year when she was on her memoir tour. Now Gloria sure had an audience, but the audience of women didn’t hold cell phones in the air to make her return to stage. Wine glasses. Not really. Anyway, Gloria Steinem said she doesn’t limit herself by only having friends her own age. Her view is that she just had to wait until some of her friends were born. I feel that way about Sara. She keeps me in touch with the latest smart reading around. I stay hip with Sara.
On the right is my friend Laura and she reads fiction. A lot. She is one of the most prolific readers I know. She bought me Night Circus for my birthday last year, and I loved it. I trust her judgement, and we tend to like the same fiction. I can’t keep up with her. Her reading habits put me to shame. My high school friend, Debbie, on the left doesn’t read. At all. Writers would never be able to make any income if everyone was like Debbie. However, Debbie beats me at Scrabble every time. Every time. She out spells me. Also, I know she would have loved Neal Diamond. Laura — maybe. Variety of friends is the spice of life.
I work with Andrea and she recently gave me a book called Winter People. It was nothing I usually read. I don’t like scary books all that much. However, I liked the book’s stark, white cover with an etching of a house. Isn’t that funny how we sometimes chose books for the cover? She likes that particular author a lot, reads all her books, and she was so excited about Winter People. Her enthusiasm was contagious. I read the book just so I could talk to her about it. The book was scary, involving ghosts and an evil little girl. Andrea likes supernatural, scary books, and her encouragement allowed me to expand my reading horizon. She is a avid reader, as well, and an independent young woman who has a bright future. And she surprises me by reading my blog.
I‘m uncertain who my readers might be, but I know they are women. I classify myself as writing women’s fiction. I just never think a man will be interested in what I write. I have had male editors, male writing teachers and now and then a guy will read my blog, but I think I write more for women. Above is a photo of the women I went to high school with at our reunion a few years ago. I’m not saying what year I graduated. Let’s just say it was when bell bottoms were in style and Neal Diamond had number one hits.
I can have moved far away, traveled many places, met a variety of people, but I don’t want to escape from my past and what makes me who I am today. These women I understand. We share a lot in common. We grew up together and survived our teenage years. They are all funny, witty and gorgeous.
Even if I don’t know for certain who reads my work, maybe a few men do, it helps as I sit alone in a room writing to imagine a reader. I feel less alone believing I’m not alone.