I spent last weekend at the writers’ conference called Muse in the Marketplace.
Put on by Grubstreet, it is held at the grand old hotel the Boston Park Plaza. The ballroom, from another age with chandeliers as large as cars and art deco embellishments, housed a thousand writers all seeking to celebrate the Muse.
I attended workshops on the business of writing as well as the craft. I met extraordinary writers, authors, agents, and editors. The vibe was uplifting and embracing—the lesson, be true to your story.
As I re-enter my day job today as a Guardian Ad Litem attorney advocate I wonder, how did I get here? How did I become an attorney and a writer? It isn’t easy. I tweeted earlier this week that sometimes I feel disjointed like I have two full-time jobs—one I cannot give up and one I am unwilling to. But that is not exactly true. I am very proud of the work I do giving a voice to foster children in court. It fulfills my need to use whatever talent I may have towards a worthy purpose and it inspires my writing (and pays the mortgage). But my writing inspires my life (even though it pays for nothing—for now ; )
But there is a saying: writers must write. But how did a biochem major with a law degree catch the bug?
It is true that my family is full of writers. My mother, Elizabeth Friedmann, is a biographer—her seminal work A Mannered Grace: The Life of Laura (Riding) Jackson was published in 2005. She worked on it throughout my high school and college years. My younger sister, Marie Marquardt, writes beautiful and powerful young adult fiction, with her latest, Flight Season, newly released. My eldest sister, Carroll Ann Friedmann, has also published, working with my mother to edit Laura (Riding) Jackson’s works for publication. All are inspirations to me, and yet for years, I was able to support their writing without feeling the itch myself.
What happened?! I am quite positive my husband wants to know.
At first, I thought it was my competitive side, that I could not stand to be the odd woman out, but then I considered that maybe I was influenced at a very young age, and the effect lay dormant in me until three years ago, when I spent eleven days walking around Mount Rainier on the Wonderland Trail. In that quiet space infused with the energy that only nature in the wild contains, I believe something in me might have cracked open.
If you’ve gotten this far you must be asking, “But, Lee what does that have to do with Alice Walker, Margaret Atwood, and Annie Dillard?” Well, I believe they were the ones who affected me.
You see my mother in my youth was the founding editor of Kalliope: A Journal of Women’s Art *.
Marsha Bryant of The University of Florida described the publication in her blog.* “Founding editor Peggy Friedmann explained the Kalliope collective’s epic task in her introduction to the Tenth Anniversary Issue, noting the great difficulty women writers had getting their work published in the reigning literary journals of the late 1970s. (The journal received 8070 literary submissions in 2001.) The journal’s namesake also appeared in the quote from Anne Bradstreet printed in each issue. It begins
‘I am obnoxious to each carping tongue / Who says my hand a needle better fits,’ and ends with these lines:
‘But sure the antique Greeks were far more mild/ Else of our sex, why feigned they those nine/ And poesy made Calliope’s own child…”
My mother was a trailblazer for women writers everywhere, making sure they had a place for their own voices to be heard. She brought Alice Walker, Margaret Atwood, Annie Dillard, Maxine Kumin, Denise Levertov and Marge Piercy and many more female poets, writers and artists into my home. In “peace and sisterhood” they sat in our living room, stayed in our guest bed, ate breakfast at our table, and talked with my mother about their work, all the while I listened having no idea how extraordinary an opportunity it was. Alice Walker signed the book below for my mother, and later mom gave it to me.
At the time I did not fully understand these remarkable women’s importance or their work, but I believe their presence and their energy were encapsulated in my home. Along with my mother, who loves the written word as much as anyone I will ever know, I think they planted a seed—the beginning of a new life. I believe it lay dormant in some space inside me and then, only in the quiet of nature on the ninety-three miles of the Wonderland Trail, was it fertilized.
Because there, I began my first manuscript, Wonderland. It led to my second, Puck Restored, and then the next, that is barely a whisper in my head, but already loved enough to be named The Last Continent. I am saving that one to begin at a week-long workshop this summer with Cheryl Strayed.
The painting above represents these strong brilliant talented writers: Walker, Atwood, Dillard, Kuman, Levertov, Piercy, Friedmann, and the picture below me.
I will never be a mighty live oak, but with the energy of these women in my soul, I believe I can grow as a writer until one day I am a tree.
*To learn more about the cutting-edge journal Kalliope see Marsha Bryant’s blog Kalliope and the Communities of Women’s Poetry/
**Live Oak from Second Floor Studio, acrylic/canvas used with permission of the artist Beau Redmond, my very-much-loved stepfather. Explore his work at http://www.beauredmond.com/
Thank you for reading. I will be gifting a book of prose or poetry of the winners choice from one of the seven authors mentioned above. Please comment or share on FB, reply or retweet on Twitter, or comment on the blog to be entered. If the winner is unsure of the book they wish to have, you can ask my mother, who this blog is dedicated to. She can help you choose for she knows these writer’s work well.