Saturday, June 12, 2010

For the writers of tomorrow

By Michael

If I were talking to a Chicago high school student who wished to become a writer, I would say, “Come visit me today at the Printers Row Lit Fest (in downtown Chicago) and bring your parents. I’ll be leading a workshop on plotting mysteries from 11:30-12:30 and will be talking with readers and writers at the Mystery Writers of America Booth (Booth W 14) before and after.”

If the would-be writer said, “I can’t get there today,” I would say, “Then, come tomorrow: I’ll be on a panel (called ‘Stop! You’re Killing Me!’) along with some very funny writers at the Hotel Blake from 11:00-12:00. Again, I’ll be talking and signing before and after.”

If the would-be writer then said, “You seem to think you have all the answers; I hate it when adults pretend to be smarter than they are,” I would answer, “There’s a story of a young ballerina who lived in rural Russia. She wanted nothing more than to become a famous dancer like her idol Nadia Petrikov. It happened that one summer, while the Nadia Petrikov was traveling from one famous dance performance to another famous dance performance, her car broke down in the rural village where the young ballerina lived. It also happened that the only mechanic in the village was the ballerina’s father (a highly implausible detail, but once you’re a published writer like me you sometimes get away with one). While Nadia Petrikov sat in the grimy waiting room of the garage owned by the father, the young ballerina slipped into her tutu and began dancing for her idol, hoping that Petrikov would recognize her great talent and whisk her off to join her dance company. But when the girl’s dance ended, Nadia Petrikov yawned and said, ‘You stumble like an amputee turtle’, a common Russian insult which devastated the girl so thoroughly that she never again put on her tutu. Many years later, Nadia Petrikov, now an old, old woman, was traveling through the rural village when her car again had trouble. Remembering the garage that had repaired her car once before, she had her car towed and came face to face with the girl, who (now a middle aged woman) had taken over her father’s business and spent her days elbow-deep in grease. ‘Ach,’ said Nadia Petrikov, ‘I am sorry to find you here. You had the physical talent to become a great dancer.’ Astonished, the girl-turned-mechanic asked, ‘Then, why did you say that I danced like an amputee turtle?’ Nadia Petrikov said, ‘That was only a test. If you’d truly had the spirit of a great ballerina, you would have ignored my words and continued dancing.’ ‘I see,’ said the girl-turned-mechanic, and then she put sugar in Nadia Petrikov’s gas tank so that the car would once more break down in the thick woods that surrounded the rural village. That’s exactly what happened, and when Nadia Petrikov got out to see what was the matter with her car, she was eaten by a large bear.”

If the would be writer said, “What the heck is that supposed to mean?” I would adopt a wise expression and answer, “One day, when you become a writer, then you will know.”

5 comments:

Michael Wiley said...

(With apologies, I'm posting this post on Monday, June 14 -- having been without internet for the past few days. Printers Row was great, and I scared off the couple of high school students who stopped by to talk with me.)

Terry Stonecrop said...

Haha, I lke the ballerina story.

Michael Wiley said...

Thanks, Terry -- and thanks for reading a very belated post!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

A true ballerina would have kicked the bear's furry behind, Nadia!

Glad Printers Row was fun!

Michael Wiley said...

No question about it, Rebecca. But the bear took her by surprise and she was ninety-four years old . . . .