Why do I keep bumping into Andre Dubus?

He was sitting at one of those little two-seater tables, chatting with a friend in the lounge area of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center when I spotted him the other day—novelist and short story writer Andre Dubus, finalist for the National Book Award for House of Sand and Fog, which was later adapted for film and nominated for an Academy Award, Guggenheim Fellow, Oprah Book Club pick, and National Book Award finalist.

I instantly new it was him as I saw him out of the corner of my eye as I was passing by because of the hair. It’s distinctive: dark, soft waves with a swirl of grey at the center near the hairline that looked as if it could have been applied with a painter’s brush. He was sporting that rustic, Ralph Lauren look—the pointy cowboy boots, boot-cut jeans, open-collared shirt, dark, fitted blazer.

He stood up as I approached his table. I started to introduce myself, but I didn’t have to. “I know who you are.” He sounded ebullient. “You’re the novelist.”

“Yes, I am,” I replied, relieved that I didn’t have to explain myself.

He shook my hand. “Do I owe you an email?” he continued.

My mind raced back to the times I tried to get in touch with him, when I sent him updates about my manuscript. “Yes,” I said. “You probably do owe me a few emails, but that’s okay.”

I had been hanging around the convention center, waiting for a friend who was in the exhibit hall at the American Library Association mid-winter meeting. I had no idea that Dubus was one of the speakers. Before we parted, I handed him a copy of the Christmas Moments anthology that features one of my stories.

The first time I met him was about eight years ago when the nonprofit I work for invited him in for our organization-wide book club meeting. He read from House of Sand and Fog. At the time, I’d been writing short stories and hoped to write a novel. I told him so when he signed my copy of his book. He wished me luck and inscribed the book with “Good luck with your writing.”

Then, a few years later, I attended an author event at Newton Free Library to listen to him read from his memoir, Townie. Afterward, he seemed delighted when I told him that I’d completed my MFA in creative writing at Southern New Hampshire University and mentioned that he knew novelist Diane Les Bequets, one of my mentors who was running the program. He encouraged me to keep writing.

A couple of years later, not long after I’d gotten married and finished revising my novel, I showed up at Newtonville Books with my husband. I could feel the energy in the bookstore as Dubus’s fans awaited his arrival. They filled most of the seats but left a few up front. My husband and I didn’t have much choice but to sit there, front and center, with the lectern not much more than a foot away.

Dubus walked in and after he was introduced, opened a page in his story collection, Dirty Love. He adjusted his glasses, and as he was about to open his mouth to read the first line, he looked up at me and said, “I know you. We met before.”

Later, he signed my book and we had a nice chat.

Why do I keep bumping into Andre Dubus? Sometimes it’s by accident. A couple of times it was planned. When I’ve been around him I’ve wished that his stature as a novelist and memoirist could somehow rub off on me, opening doors for me in the world of publishing. But, the more realistic part of me simply enjoys the delightful and inspirational moments I’ve had with one of my favorite authors.

I had one of those anxiety dreams last night

 

She looks how I feel

She looks how I feel

I hate it when that happens. In this one, I am back at Southern New Hampshire University in the final weeks of my low residency MFA program in creative writing. I realize that I have not done any of the course work needed to graduate in a few weeks. I scramble around, looking for slips of paper with the professors’ assignments on them. My classmates graduate and I am left behind. All of the tuition money I spent is wasted.

I know why I had this dream. I am at a critical stage with my manuscript. I am fine tuning my query letter and plan to begin sending it out next week in search of a literary agent to represent me. I’m taking a leap of faith. Will my manuscript soar or will it sink? The prospect of rejection makes me anxious. I wonder how other authors feel when they get to this stage with their work. I’d love to hear from you.

 

Will you join me on my writing blog tour?

I have been invited by writer Barbara Beckwith to participate in a writing process blog tour. I have enjoyed getting to know Barbara through her work with the National Writers Union. During the years that I was the president of the Women’s National Book Association Boston chapter, she and I conferred on joint activities. Barbara is an accomplished essayist. You can read more about her on her blog. This tour has included Leslie Brunetta, Ken Wachsberger, and Adina Schecter.

Lisa Braxton’s Writing Blog Tour

What am I working on?

I’m working on a novel. I’m completing final revisions and plan to begin sending the manuscript out to literary agents before the end of July. The manuscript is set in the 1970s in a struggling New England urban community. The two sets of main characters are from different sections of the same town and are profoundly affected by an urban redevelopment project taking place. The novel explores issues of race, class, culture, and social responsibility.

In addition, I had a story published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game and have written three additional stories that I’ve submitted to the editors of the Chicken Soup Series that I hope will be accepted. I have also written an article for Guideposts magazine that I hope will be accepted.

Why do I write?

I enjoy expressing myself creatively through the written word. I write short stories, magazine articles drawing from my journalism background, and essays. When readers tell me that my writing inspired them, gave them hope, made them cry, made them reflect on their own situations, then I feel that I’ve done my job well.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

My professors at the MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University told me that no two people can tell a story the same way. I hope that I bring something unique to the reading experience.

How does my writing process work?

I write with my feet up in the bed. I write on the couch. I write in the library, during my lunch break at work, at the crack of dawn at the kitchen table, while I’m under the hair dryer at the hair dresser, while on airplanes. Whenever I can fit in a few moments of writing, I write.

So now it’s your turn. What do you think of the writing blog tour? Care to join me? How about some fellow alums of the Southern New Hampshire University MFA program. Let me know.