Thursday, February 16, 2017

Number One: Story Exchange

Most people who [seriously] love writing have a list—conscious or not—of goals for their work. Places they would like it to end up or people they would like to read it or whatever. Some people want to make money—not always out of greed but as validation, confirmation that their words are valuable and that that value has some kind of tangible measure. Some people want to be famous. Some people want to change the world or change peoples' minds about something; some people see those as one in the same. 

I didn't realize I had a list until someone asked me about it one day a while back. 

It's kind of a fluid list; priorities change and some days I'm feeling more sensible than others, you know how it is. Some of the items on my list are silly, some are far-fetched, some are accessible, some are in the works, some are completed.

For example, there's a really cute literary magazine called Popshot, with gorgeous illustrations throughout. I'd like to someday have a short story in there (when I have time to write one). That's Number Seven(ish) on the list. The New Yorker would be a fun place to have something land but that item's way down on the list because it's about as realistic as saying I'd like be an astronaut by the time I'm 40. It'd be fun to sign with a lit agent, it'd be fun to travel to a big writers' conference, it'd be fun to do a book'd be fun to do lots of things. I have a very long list.

For a long time, up until yesterday, Number One on the big ol' dream list was to hear Stuart McLean read something I wrote out loud on the Story Exchange. I don't know why that beat out having a book published or making it into The New Yorker, but it did. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I really respected McLean as a storyteller, and figured that if he selected my story to read out loud, then that would mean something. Maybe it had more to do with the fact that I felt like he could infuse something into my words that I'd never be able to—the way he breathed life into Morley and Dave and Bert and Mary and Jim, maybe I thought he could pump some blood into one of my little one-dimensional characters. That would've been neat.

I was going to go see him live when he came here, the year he was diagnosed with cancer, the year the tour was cancelled but, well, the tour was cancelled. And he hasn't been back since, and yesterday the news broke that he'd passed away. 

His passing isn't about me or my list but, at the risk of sounding like a kid who's sad a professional athlete died before they could get his autograph, I'm a little sad to cross Number One off and replace it with something less meaningful. 

Goodbye, Stuart McLean. Thanks for Dave and Morley and making me laugh in the kitchen while I was trying to cut my husband's hair and countless hours sitting in a parked car because I got to my destination before the story was over.