I was reading a post on Lia Mack’s blog Blissfully Beguiling that got me thinking about why I should even be attempting to make writing my career. I have other things I could do with my life as far as interests and things that might bring in an income go. Things that would be a whole lot easier to be successful at. I could go back to teaching public school (Well, you’d have to pay me quite a bit more. No, a whole lot more, and cut the red tape.). I could apprentice to be a doula or an aspiring homebirth midwife (I watched The Business of Being Born last night. It was a temptress of a film. Makes you want a baby in the belly, and makes you want to witness birth over and over again.) I could become a small business owner of a bookstore, health/natural food, or open my own restaurant (I know. All excellent choices in this economy. But, what is an excellent choice anymore?).
I will never forget when I read the first novel of my favorite author – Clay’s Quilt by Silas House. It moved me beyond what I could have imagined from a work written by someone closer in age to myself then most authors I had been reading. I was taken aback by how similar it felt to my work, yet so great. I was shocked by the similarities so much so that I began to question the relevance of my own work. How could we be writing works so similar in style and context and neither of us having read or been influenced by the other. I thought that it might be time for me to give it up writing. It didn’t matter that I am woman and he is a man. He writes women flawlessly in my opinion. I had become irrelevant.
However, those thoughts lasted only a few days for me. I realized soon that it wasn’t that I had become irrelevant, but despite the fact that I haven’t been recognized or widely published, and I am still working on my first novel, I had become part of a collective. A writing movement – dare I say a literary movement. (Wow! Big words.) We aren’t only similar in our writings, but similar people as well. We are both from the hills of eastern Kentucky, in the throes of coal mining, country music, and the nineteen eighties. Our backgrounds are fueling our writing content. I began searching out more Appalachian writers from my generation and reading their works, and I noticed more similarities. I noticed that though we each have individual voices, topics, and experiences, we are all writing our stories. We are perpetuating our culture, showing the meeting place of two worlds in the past and present. It has become pretty exciting to me.
So, while I could sell great books and promote Appalachian literature, I could promote health and well being, feed folks good food, help mothers achieve positive birth outcomes, or teach oodles of Kentucky children to appreciate literature – what I want to do is share the story of my generation. I want to share the story of my Appalachia. I want to share it with Appalachians, Louisvillians, New Yorkers, the Japanese, Canadians, the man behind the counter at the sub shop, your mother, my former teachers, or anyone looking for a good story. I want to preserve a spot in history for the things passed down to me. I want to pass them on mostly importantly to the people being brought up here in the mountains. I want to be a part of this collective of Appalachian writers who are showing the world the “real” Appalachian. Showing the world that yes, stereotypes come from real places, but it is what you don’t understand about us that makes the difference, our dualities and triumphs. That our experience though so specific is a universal experience. You might be more familiar with us than you think. We are proud to be Appalachian from the mountains where there are no malls or 100 places to have dinner out. We are proud to be coal miners, chicken raisers, garden growers, banjo pickers, and quilters. We are storytellers.
Why am I chosing writing? Because I feel like it is the most important thing for me to be doing right now. That through writing, I can wrap all my interests into one clean package. Why am I chosing now? Because now is all we have. I want to be a mother who shows her children that the time to dream and work toward goals is always now. Yes, I have limitations, but I can work a little everyday toward my goals.