A Meeting Place

I had the pleasure of interviewing Maria Semple in 2010, after she had published her first novel, This One Is Mine, and apparently before she had begun writing her breakout bestseller, Where’d You Go, Bernadette. She was feeling philosophical about her novel writing career that day. “I don’t know what I’m going to write next,” she said. “I might just be a one novel author. That would be okay.” In the middle of the interview she reflected on the self-doubt she faced while writing This One is Mine. “Why would anyone be interested in this?” she found herself asking again and again. It was a debilitating and unanswerable question, a question many, many writers ask regardless of their experience level. She eventually found a novelist friend who explained that if she liked the book then someone else would like the book also. She found his answer credible enough to finish the novel and see it published.

But I suspect that that question was still following her around her Seattle apartment that day. It’s a very pesky question. I liked Maria very much. She’s naturally funny, by which I mean her humor flows in and out of whatever she’s talking about. I don’t think she knows how to speak without humor. She is also not someone, it seemed to me, overly concerned with self-control. Given the option, she’d rather let it rip, which happened to make her a very entertaining subject for an interview.

This One Is Mine was funny, but Maria let something loose in Where’d You Go, Bernadette that felt a lot like the woman I met that day. Sometimes the story I most want to tell feels so close to how I think and talk and see the world that it’s hard to imagine that story inhabiting anyone’s imagination but my own. I can no more imagine who would like to read it than imagine who would want to be me. Yet it is the very intimacy of what interests me most that becomes the portal through which I have reached the most people. I am unique, but I am not so very different than anyone else. I am continually seeking agreement with myself, and when I do, I find that place within me where all friends and strangers are welcome.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion.

"A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

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