Friday, March 11, 2011

Writing 'Bout The Blues

Just going to share my experience at my first writer type event as a participant (hopefully, it'll not be my last). Last month a teacher at the local middle school called me and invited me to be a guest at their annual Authors and Appetizers luncheon and I felt very honored. The purpose of the event is to expose students to real, live writers of poetry and prose, and to have them meet, mingle and mix with them at the luncheon. In other words, provide proof that authors are normal 'real' people. Now, as far as myself, I still have this strange difficulty accepting myself as being introduced as a 'writer', even after having many interviews, articles and music reviews published; and a novel about to be. I've had friends and relative present me to others that way and I'm always inclined to look around to see who they are introducing.

At this event, thirty or forty students milled around on the bottom floor of a stately old mansion, reserved for weddings, society wing dings and events like this one. I wandered around aimlessly, not knowing really what my duties were, but it soon became plain as a group of students walked past me and one young man said, "Are you an author?" I tried to sound confident and told him that I certainly was one, because I figured I needed to own up to it right then and there. We eight authorly types had no name tags and the students were struggling determining us from the other  regular adults milling about.

One proclaimed, "I can't tell the authors from the parents."

His teacher said, "That's exactly the point. See, they are just like anyone else." Then she said, pointing to me,"There's one there." And another group of students approached and followed their instructions to introduce themselves, thank me for coming and ask questions about my writing. Did my heart good to witness these students, dressed nicely, conduct themselves with impeccable manners. Some of them truly seemed to take an interest in my answers, then they were off to the next author on their scavenger list. I found it all quite enjoyable.

Soon after, we took random seats at random tables and I was joined by a group of students, along with the superintendent of schools and my state representative. Since I taught the latter in journalism back in the day, she did help validate my credentials somewhat. We ate a great meal while the students peppered me with questions. I could tell that a couple of the girls at the table had a passion for writing, and I had hopes that no one dashed the fire before they graduate.

After the meal, we all gathered for author presentations, which due to time restraints, meant keep it short and sweet. I was told to come up first. Now, being that I had no book out on the market to read passages from yet, nor a cover design for them to look at, I decided to pull out my 'C' harp and play a couple of blues riffs. Of course, that is not something that they expected at all, nor did their parents, who came out of the kitchen area to see what the heck was going on in our room. They applauded kindly, but I could see the look on some eyes that said, "Okay, your point?"

At that point I began to explain my affinity for the blues and how it relates to my writing. I told them that I'd been listening to, reading about and playing the blues for a long, long time and that when I began writing, I simply wrote about what I knew. I recounted for them, the wonderful blues musicians who allowed me to question them about their craft (in particular harmonica playing) and share their answers with readers who also found a passion for the blues. Of course, I told them when my ideas for a novel began to blossom, that my protagonist had to be blues musicians--specifically, blues harp musicians. Also had to tell 'em that River Bottom Blues would mostly carry a PG-13 rating and before they purchase a copy when it came out next Fall, they might should run the idea by their parents. Being the first up, I kept my spiel real short. I taught school long enough to know, though, that when it comes to students; short is good.

So, the first time out as author was certainly a rewarding experience for me. If other opportunities come along, I hope I have audiences who exhibited the same enthusiasm that these middle school did. Maybe, at some point, I'll own up to the title...'writer'.


LisaAnn said...

Love the harmonica idea! I bet those kids will remember you better than they remember any of the other writers there... :)

Ricky Bush said...

Thanks for dropping by Lisa Ann. Yeah, I used to play the blues harp to my geography class when I taught a lesson on cultural diffusion. When I run into students from ten, fifteen years ago, they remember the 5 minutes that I played the harmonica.

Jennifer Hillier said...

Sounds like an amazing experience!

And you are a writer... so own it :)

Ricky Bush said...

Yes, Jennifer, it was a fun event. Impressing pre-teens can be a challenge. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and visit.