“Writing and reading has always been a huge escape for me. One of the things I want to convey to my reader is that. I want to provide them that same escape.” This is what I tell nine girls and Francesca Lia Block. We are going around a circle talking about either, the one message we’d like to convey through our writing, or why we write. This is why I write.
“I can tell from reading your piece that you got a lot of pleasure out of writing it. You had fun, and you definitely convey that to the reader.” This is coming from Francesca Lia Block herself, the goddess whose writing I’ve worshiped and studied since high school. She is the woman who has taught me the most through her words. Through her I’ve met some of my closest (albeit not physically close) friends. And here she is, commenting on my own working.
Francesca sits on the edge of the chair with her legs crossed. She looks like she’s ready to take flight, yet at the same time she appears comfortable and grounded. It’s the beginning of summer in New England and she wears a black leather jacket indoors. Later she comments that she must be cold blooded since the rest of us are in t-shirts. Her boots are tall, pleather and shiny over black jeans. When she reads the piece I’ve submitted to be work-shopped, she laughs out loud often. I am so pleased by this reaction that I can’t help but grinning.
She says my story is charming. Later a few other girls comment on things that I’ve mentioned in the story. Vegan Love Cakes are appreciated by the vegan girl. The dream my main character has about floating on a cheese danish makes another girl realize that is also her dream. We laugh around a table covered in oreo brownies, lemon meringue cookies, and veggies with hummus.
When I first saw on Facebook that Francesca Lia Block would be making a rare appearance in Boston, I knew I would have to go. I rearranged a few work things and decided that I would be there for everything possible. Then to learn that Francesca was offering a workshop! As a writer, this is more exciting that word can even express. I compared it to meeting Hanson, but if you don’t understand that, then maybe my words aren’t enough. It’s almost better than meeting Hanson. I have feedback about my writing from my favourite author. This is who I am. This is what I want to do.
The day before the workshop, Ari and I took the T into Cambridge. We found the Cambridge Public Library, a library so beautiful I got chills, and went to find the Main Lecture Hall. The guy at the desk teased me when I asked if he could tell me where it was. “Yes, I can.” Was his response. “Will you please tell me?” I smiled. Yes. He would.
We took the elevator in the wrong direction before redirecting ourselves and making it to L2. We ducked inside fifteen minutes late. We missed the actual reading, but Francesca was answering questions. For an hour she told us about her writing process and her upcoming books. She asked who we thought should be cast in the Weetzie Bat movie. She answered questions about writing, gave advice on life.
After she signed books in the hallway. Fifty some-odd girls lined up. I bought Ari a book and we waited in line, getting closer and closer. I snuck a picture. I grinned a lot and was unable to stand still. When it was finally my turn, I excitedly hold her I would be at her workshop. I forgot to introduce myself. She smiled opened the book to see where my name was written (on a post-in someone passed out earlier). I forgot to ask for a picture with her and seconds later it was Ari’s turn. We left with signed books, on our way to meet Shaylin for delicious sandwiches. I saw earrings in a jewelry store that were ladybugs and I had to have them.
Sunday I am on my own all day. My mom worries about me wandering the streets of Jamaica Plain by myself. As if it wasn’t one o’clock in the afternoon. I am excited and nervous. I don’t want to be disappointed. A book signing is one this, but this is different. This is real life weaving its way into my dreams. This is my dream unfolding in ways I never imagined. This is my fiction and my creations blending with the fictional world of Francesca Lia Block.
Sometimes it’s hard to imagine people as real people who eat and live and sleep in beds like you do. When you’re little you are unsettled by seeing your teachers outside of the school environment. When you’re sitting ten feet from your favourite author, hearing her talk about something you wrote, it feels like it isn’t happening at all. It feels like those moments in life when you think to yourself, this moment feels like a movie.
After the workshop part we take the time to go over basic elements. Francesca suggests ways to make characters sympathetic. She tries to offer more specific suggestions for our work. She turns to offer to sign something for me but catches herself, “Oh, you had signed something yesterday.” So instead I ask for a picture. I hand off my iPhone wishing I had brought something more professional (also wishing I owned something much more professional that was also digital). The picture is as surreal as the afternoon has been.
When I leave she hugs me and tells me to keep writing. I return to the streets with a refreshed sense of self. My senses seem a little sharper. I am more aware. This feeling is one I want to remember and this moment I want to take with me.