Filed under: Patry Francis
Two weeks ago in New York, I had the privilege of appearing on a panel at the Backspace Conference. It was my first experience at a conference, and one I’d recommend to anyone in our solitary profession. During my four days in the city, I made friendships that feel destined to last, impressed the hell out of myself as I sipped martinis in the Algonquin bar, and attended crowded literary cocktail parties. I also had a chance to speak to an audience about my experience as a debut author.
But the highlight of the week was one I almost missed. David Morrell was scheduled to give the keynote address. Though I was aware of his connection with Killer Year, I quickly decided that Mr. Morrell wrote the kind of action-driven thrillers I frequently buy for my husband, but don’t often read myself.
I’d met the author during one of the “mixers,” and I immediately liked him. He was warm, congenial, and totally unpretentious as we talked about the conference, the challenges of book promotion and his connection to Killer Year. But his speech came at the end of a long day, and I doubted it would speak directly to me. After all, we were different kinds of writers. Or so I thought. I will always be grateful to the friend who convinced me to stay.
By the time he’d finished speaking, I realized that there is only one kind of writer worth being, and David Morrell had given us a living demonstation of who that was. As the writing cliche goes, he didn’t tell us how to captivate an audience, he showed us. And he did it so powerfully that many people left the room in tears–and everyone left inspired.
He began with a simple question: Why do you want to be a writer? Then, after eliminating all the easy answers, he moved on to a statement that has stayed with me. I’m paraphrasing here, but it was something like, “I’m going to tell you my story, but as I do, you’re going to hear your story.”
And as he spoke, sharing a story that held everyone in the room entranced, that was exactly what happened: He told us his story, but in the universality of the emotions it evoked, we heard our own. And strangely, miraculously, we understood it better than we ever had before.
That, I realized, is the storyteller’s art, the purest form of literary magic. It’s what every reader or moviegoer hungers for when we open a book or enter a theatre. We want to go on that mythical journey that will not only entertain us; it will expand our hearts, illuminate the dark places inside us, and ultimately expand our vision of what life means.
Can you guess what I did as soon as I got home? That’s right. I ordered two of David Morrell’s books.
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