Welcome Home: Heights Authors was a blast
On the beautiful Sunday afternoon of Oct. 5, the Friends of the Heights Libraries, FutureHeights and Reaching Heights gave a wonderful event for newcomers to the Heights. Thanks to the host, Nighttown, and generous sponsors Simply Charming, Motorcars, realtor Susan Delaney of Howard Hanna, DVUV, and Keller National. Appletree Books and Mac's Backs, our local independent booksellers, helped FutureHeights organize this event.
Author Tricia Springstubb, whose What Happened on Fox Street was an Indie 2010 Pick of the Year; James Henke, a former writer and editor for Rolling Stone magazine and author of several books; and poet George Bilgere, winner of a 2003 Cleveland Arts Prize and 2014 Creative Workforce Fellowship, whose work has been frequently featured on Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” on National Public Radio, read and discussed their work. Kathleen Cerveny, Cleveland Heights poet laureate, moderated the panel.
Listening to the banter of the panelists was great fun. They enjoyed themselves and we in the audience loved it. I certainly did, but I was reminded of a painful realization I’d come to years ago.
As the end product of a thousand years of Irish inbreeding, I was telling funny stories in the womb. After I’m overheard saying something amusing, my friends who have been published tell me I should write, and write seriously, not waste time making up rhymes and songs for my cats—the Meat Song, for instance, which I’ll sing for you one day if you’re good. I think I shouldn’t write, though, for good reasons.
First, it doesn’t seem to me that the ability to tell a good tale or pass a funny remark necessarily accompanies the ability to write well. My friend Holly is enchanting in a conversation, but has a learning disability which she refers to as “the hole in my head where the letters fall out.” She can barely read or write, but is a favorite of mine because she’s so much fun to listen to. Other conditions can hamper a career as a writer, too: laziness, for one. Chatting is my favorite activity (after lying on the bed and reading, of course), but writing is work. No less an authority than Dr. Samuel Johnson, who called himself a harmless drudge, declared the only reason to take up writing was to make money. He said he’d never do it otherwise.
Second, no one can deny that too many mediocre writers are published every year. There’s no reason to add to their number. Many years of reading, far from outfitting me to write, have convinced me that—considering how few authors do write well—I’ll never live up to the standards I admire. So few writers do live up to those standards. I have taught myself to be a discerning reader, though, which I’ve been told is an author’s dream. I think I bring some gifts to my love of reading: understanding allusion and delighting in a well-wrought phrase give my appreciation a lot of depth. It seems to me my value is as an audience member, not another voice in the choir.
Finally, I know one more thing about writers: They write. They can’t not write. I can cheerfully not write, believe me. I’ve no compulsion to share my ideas in print. Far from needing and wanting to write, I feverishly need and want not to write. I hope future generations recognize the outstanding common sense with which I do not sit down, I do not take up pen, and, thankfully, I do not write. Much.
A Cleveland Heights native, jewelry designer Susan Prendergast has worked in galleries and popular eateries since she attended the Cleveland Institute of Art.