The evening whooshed by – much like the tornado-like winds and gusty rain that blew us (my friend Jini and I, following a delicious long-overdue dinner that also went too quickly) into the Radnor Memorial Library on Tuesday evening.
And it seemed that the hour and a half we had to celebrate our friend Beth Kephart flew by, too. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I could have stayed there till midnight. (As it was, I was among the last to leave. Again.)
As Beth wrote on her blog, we did, indeed, have cake – which is pictured above with 10 of Beth’s books looking on, kind of as if they too were bowing to the one who had birthed their stories into the world.
But before there could be cake, we had the privilege of hearing Beth sharing her life, that of a ice skater, an outsider poet, a writer who had never met a single writer until she was an adult, a writer with a reader of one, and another reader who she fell in love with despite his critiques of her prose.
It was a glimpse into the memorabilia and photos of a rarely publicized life of a quietly accomplished author (how many people do you know who have written and published 12 books, with a 13th on its way – and yes, she announced, “most likely a 14th.”)
On ice skating’s influence on her writing:
“What I learned from skating was the choreography … I would not have become the writer I am without that sense of movement, of lyric.”
On studying sociology and anthropology, the continual quest to know and learn, and how that thirst for knowledge influences her writing life:
“In order to write about what you know, you need to know about the broad world.”
On feeling like an “undercover spy” of sorts by walking and observing and photographing the streets of West Philadelphia, home of the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.
“Knowing my city better made me see better.”
“I feel surrounded by ghosts …”
On the influence of architecture on her writing:
“Architecture teaches one a lot about structure,” which is applicable for many other things.
On being a mother and a writer:
“Being a mother prepared me for being a different kind of writer.”
On believing and not believing in the writing:
“I wrote it [Flow] just the way I wanted to.” [because it was likely to be a self-published book]
“No one believed in ‘Flow” (her book told from the perspective of the Schuylkill River
On outlining and the research process:
“The biggest research you do is into your own heart.”
On the writing itself, the hopes for it, the advice to aspiring authors:
“I would love to find a way to be as exuberant on the page and more precise.”
“Ask yourself, what is the emotional rise and fall for the reader and which of your characters is responsible for that?”
On coming full circle, and seeing the writing and the facets of a life converge:
Photo in Beth’s presentation of ice skaters (Undercover) on the Schuylkill River (Flow) at the time of the Philadelphia Centennial (Dangerous Neighbors).
And then there was applause, of course, as Pam of the library thanked Beth …
and there were books to be signed ….
There was talk from Beth of her “perfect book” of hers, which she says is still to be written.
There were laughs to be had by Pam and myself, who I’ve known since working with her for several years (from 1985-1990) and who I hadn’t seen for 20 years and who now works at (and blogs for!) the Radnor library and who was the very person who coordinated the evening’s event ….
… and my very, very favorite picture of the evening, and one of my favorites ever, of me (second from left) with Pam, Beth, and Jini, three of the most special and amazing influences in my life, all now connected in ways we know and ways we have yet to uncover.
These kinds of evenings, these kinds of moments, these kinds of intertwined tangle of friendships don’t come around very often. And when they do, we need to take hold while we can and celebrate them while we can, no matter if it is in the heaviness of fall’s rain or in the slant of the summer sun.
copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.