I am a professor wanna-be, but, sadly, I can’t teach without a master’s degree – not even as an adjunct. But on Sept. 24, I got to feel like a professor.
I was invited to kick off the Westfield State University Guest Lecture series with a reading from Divine Renovations. Past and present interns were there, including Jamie Faulkner and Amanda Hebson, who both drove over an hour to make it to the 7 p.m. event.
Normally at book events, I read three passages and then answer questions from the audience, which tend to revolve around the grief journey. At Westfield State, I wanted to instead talk about the writing experience and give students pointers on the process.
I also hoped to show the seniors that they are ready for the real world. So I began with two questions: By a show of hands, how many seniors want careers in writing? About six hands went up.
Then, who feels confident and ready for that career? I was not surprised to see only one or two hands remain.
I told them one of my favorite stories of my own lack of self-confidence: When I was a senior at Westfield State in 1985, my journalism professor – David Humphrey – pushed me to take a job at the Springfield newspapers. It was a job he had lined up for me, and I originally turned it down. David sent me back to the managing editor to say I had made a terrible mistake, that I did want the reporting position. His confidence in me launched my professional career.
The story resonated with students.
I also talked about the challenges that came up for me in writing the book, a work of creative nonfiction, and I told them I wanted my book to show readers what the grief journey looks like, rather than tell.
Some of those hurdles lay in protecting others who would appear in the book; other challenges were literary: How do you show denial? I read passages that illustrated these difficulties.
Students asked me questions about my book, my future writing goals and the world beyond graduation for English majors.
It was a great chance to help other people consider their own goals. It was a special night.
My current interns – seniors Billi MacTighe and Evan Cirioni – were there to help me sell books. Jamie Faulker, an intern from last year, introduced me with words that were complimentary and touching, balancing who I am as writer with who I am as a person.
Jamie helped me in the final stages of publishing the book last spring. At the event, she also gave me a ladybug teapot and mug. They were an indication that she’d paid attention to the nuances of my book; she recalled how significant tea time was for Ed and I.
And that makes her gifts very dear to me.