It's surreal to spend days writing about a book I've already written, proposing discussion questions for a readership that has yet to hold the book in its hand. I'm so impatient for Don't Kill the Birthday Girl to be out! Preparing a Reader's Guide for nonfiction is different from answering an MFA class's questions about a poem; the focus moves from technical craft to real-world impact. All of the sudden I find myself wondering: just how big a difference could reading this make to someone?
When you tell people you've written a memoir, it feels like talking about the book means talking about...me. But that's not the conversation I'm interested in, trust me. What I want to talk about are the quirky tangents through pop culture and food history, the medical mysteries and treatment quandaries, your own stories. I want to hear opinions about handling food allergies in today's world, knowing they might differ my own, knowing there might be better solutions found in the exchange.
I am crazy about TED Talks--I link to them often--and I'll put it out there for the universe that I dream of being on the TED stage someday. Some authors get shy and modest about their dreams, whether it is winning the Pulitzer or being appointed Poet Laureate. It's true that these are honorariums, not accomplishments, and we have to focus on the page itself. But there's nothing wrong with wanting your voice to be heard, not just by book-lovers who seek out literature in their everyday lives but smart people in other arts and sciences who are open to new ideas and approaches to creativity.
That said, you also can't take yourself or your legacy too seriously. In this TED Talk, visual artist Vik Muniz takes us through his creations, from a found/assembled "clown skull" from his Relics series, to soft sculptures that evoke cotton and clouds in equal measure, to images rendered in chocolate. He's working with a sophisticated palette of influences--but it's not as if a velvet-cushioned chariot ferred him to the TED audience. Born in Brazil to a bartender father and a mother who operated switchboards at work, his opening anecdote talks about going into advertising...and getting shot.
Muniz has said "I am a photographer when I photograph, and a draftsman when I draw, but an artist is what I am always becoming." Take 15 minutes out of your day and enjoy this video of someone in the prime of his career--curious, funny, ambitious yet modest, happy to try on different modes without losing faith in his voice. While you're at it, take a minute and let yourself dream about where you and your work can go. Dream big. Dream of changing someone else's world as well as your own.