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Fire in My Hands

I have been writing all my adult life, but it took me about fifteen years of caterwauling to give myself permission to be a writer. If you took a look at my journals from those “wish I were a writer” years, you’d see an endless kvetch about “writing is hard” and “I wish I had time” and “no one wants to hear what I say, or do they? I may never know!” It was gross, and I eventually tossed those journals (recycled the paper, anyway) because who needs that kind of negative energy just cluttering up the shelves? No one, that’s who.

But there were moments, I tell you, when I would write something magnificent, when I would breach the surface tension of the world and get through to Somewhere Else, write a poem or a story or an entire novel that made me tingle and preen. It was magical, that feeling, and when I’m lucky, I get those feelings, sometimes for days on end. But most days, it’s just a slog to meet a deadline or keep writing down the story until I hit that surface tension and try to push through. It’s magical, unless it’s not; it’s dull, unless it’s amazing.

“Although some times I have felt that I held fire in my hands and spread a page with shining—I have never lost the weight of clumsiness, of ignorance, of aching inability.” – John Steinbeck

Andrea AveryI recently finished reading a friend’s book; I met her last summer at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, where she shared some chapters from her manuscript. I didn’t know it was about to be published; nevertheless, it was wonderful reading, and even more so when I got to read the whole thing, in hardcover, no less. Andrea Avery, a talented writer from Phoenix, AZ, has published her first book, a memoir: Sonata: A Memoir of Pain and the Piano (Pegasus). The gist of the story is that Andrea, from a young age, was a gifted pianist, but in her early teens she developed rheumatoid arthritis, and since then, has struggled to keep her hands mobile enough to continue playing. It’s a race against time, because the reader knows that one of these days, the music will stop.  

The narrative leaves me breathless, because it is exquisitely crafted; I am in the moment with her of feeling the burning in her joints, of trying to play an octave when her fingers won’t stretch so far. She has managed, in every line, to grasp that elusive brilliance that is creating art, creating story. It’s a beautiful, funny, lovely memoir, and I urge you to read it. She’s coming around the Bay Area in October for LitQuake, so catch her if you can.