Last Saturday morning I was checking my e-mail when I got a note informing me that “The Past Is Never Dead” had been selected as finalist, or shortlisted, for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, awarded by Stanford University. It was of course a delightful shock. The fact that it was one of fifteen nominees in the non-fiction category did not lessen the impact.
But it did set me to thinking about why I write. I believe that all writers want to be published, although I know there are many who get considerable satisfaction from writing for themselves. I remembered when “In Broad Daylight” was first published, in 1989, and I was riding my bike by East High School in Denver. In the Esplanade was a young girl sitting under a tree reading a book. I thought of those who had read and would read my book, people I would never know, could never even imagine: a waitress sitting on a stoop in Brooklyn, a businessman flying across country in his private plane, a farmer in the Northwest sitting at the local cafe, a professor of history at a major university. (In fact, later I would receive a photo of a young woman sitting at a coffee shot not far from the collapsing Berlin Wall, reading the book). For each person who read it, I realized, it would be a different book. For each personality that absorbed the words, it would be a different story. It would bounce off their strings and sound a different song.
A person’s mind is their most private place. It is them, inside. To be invited into someone’s world, to become a part of a person’s consciousness, is truly an honor. You become a part of their story. Images from your words exist in their minds.
So, at the risk of sounding corny, I would say thank you to the readers, for allowing me in. That really is why I write.