Last night, one of my favorite romance authors, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, made an appearance in the Twin Cities. And, while due to social media, we have greater access to our favorite authors than ever before, it is still fun to see people in person and learn about their writing process first hand. In the end it was well worth my drive across the city.
She infuses her signature brand of humor into her many books and she brought that same lightness to her hour-long talk last night. She is unapologetic about the romance genre and received a loud round of applause when she shared her belief that romance books have done more for feminism than any other genre, including literary fiction. (Almost every one of her heroines has had their support system pulled out from under them and has to use their wits and grit to get back on their feet and ultimately succeed.)
For these reasons, her work has always resonated with me as a writer. But, near the end of the hour she shared something that helped me connect to her as a person as well. An audience member asked her how she got into writing; did she always know she wanted to be a writer?
Her answer helped me with something I’ve been struggling with. She said (I’m paraphrasing) that, no, she didn’t “always know” the way so many writers do. She was a theater major in college and taught drama after graduation and while she was a voracious reader, she did not imagine that she would ever write. She continued saying that other authors shared, “they weren’t always writers, but have always been storytellers” so that is what she called herself, a storyteller, for years – but it didn’t truly resonate with her. It wasn’t until recently that she realized the real reason she became an author. She realized she is simply a frustrated actor and is writing the characters she wishes she could portray.
I think I literally breathed a sigh of relief upon hearing her answer. You see, while I’ve always enjoyed writing (and it has been a central component of many of my jobs) I wasn’t that eight year old kid writing novels in my bedroom. And, feeling like I needed to compensate for that – after all, this lifelong pursuit of writing is the story you hear from most authors – have also labeled myself a storyteller.
But, last night I felt like I got permission to admit what is really behind all of this for me. Yes, I love to write and, yes, I think I’m a pretty decent storyteller, but at the end of the day, the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do is to entertain people. And, while I’ve sang and acted in my life, writing feels like the best, and most authentic, way for me to be an entertainer.
So, thank you, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, for the permission to be me . . . and for helping me understand my motivation as a writer.
P.S. In the header there is a clown nose. This is what SEP gives out as prizes at all her events. You receive one when you correctly identify which of her books the quote she is reading came from. Yep, I got one. Pretty stinkin’ proud of myself, too – the trivia geek part of me went home feeling pretty darn sparkly. 😉