I couldn’t possibly imagine a more beautiful setting for a reading and signing than Chris and Jeff Swanberg’s beautiful home in Rockford, Illinois.
After wonderful nibbles––all gluten-free, thank you, Chris––we settled in their beautiful living room to talk and, after a while, share a little from Eve’s Garden.
What a wonderful audience, and the questions they asked! We roamed from Romani history to which came first, the writer, or the observer? It’s deeply satisfying to talk to other writers about one’s projects and be understood so completely. We differed a little on which came first in our lives, the writer or observer. My answer was, the reader. And I explained my vivid memory of the moment words on a page began to make sense to me. The fact that several in this audience were teachers no doubt made the conversation a bit Socratic at times–them, Socrates, me a hopeful Plato––but it was fast-paced and fun. And they were, as writers so often are, generous.
Somewhere in our deep conversation about the adaptation in Romani religious views, buffered from my limited experience, and informed by others’ quests, I realized that my own religious transformation has led me to one conclusion: I believe in the open heart. All of us respond to being clearly seen and valued, except, perhaps, for those whose experience of the world has hardened them against others beyond our ability to understand and their ability to receive.
Sitting in that lovely room with writer-readers and my hostess, a wonderful poet and mentor to me, I realized that the writers I love most–we mentioned Mark Doty, the most open-hearted poet I know; and Karen Salyers McElmurray, the amazingly nurturing and fearlessly sharing teacher, memoirist, novelist; and my fiction mentor, Connie May Fowler––I thought, how fortunate I am to know these people, even those I know only through their work, like Mark. They are fearlessly giving to the world in a time when too many of us are battening down the hatches and enclosing ourselves from strife.
Inevitable, then, to end the day in Chris’ beautiful garden, with love and laughter.