Let's say your husband dies suddenly. Let's say you're in your mid-30s when it happens and let's say you also have three young children at the time. What you really want to do is crawl into bed and never get out, but you have these children. They need their mommy. They also need clothes to wear and food to eat. You decide the only thing you can do for your children is to show them that tragedy does not give one permission to live a small life.
So, you decide to give your dream a try. You write a novel.
Your agent likes it. Amazingly, a publisher buys it. Then, a woman in Chicago decides it would make a good first novel for her new book club--and that woman's name is Oprah. Your book skyrockets to the top of all the bestseller lists. USA Today names it the second most influential book in the past 25 years. You go on to write seven other bestselling novels. You meet a new man. A wonderful man. You marry. Add four more children to the family. You think life is good. You deserve this.
Then, a family member steals your identity and the equivalent of two children's college tuition. You fall in--of all places--a mud bath in Hawai'i. You tear up a knee, break a foot, fracture a hip and hit your head so hard, something happens to your eye. A couple years later, after a few surgeries, lots of physical therapy and self-medication with Doritoes--just about the time you start to feel like your old self--a man with a crooked toupee swindles you and your family out of 30 years of earnings. You are left with a well-known name and $4,000 in the bank. That's it. Even your pride's gone, as you find yourself opening envelopes and spending the $20 bills and cashing the $100 checks that readers send you.
Actually, there is one other thing remaining: Your talent. But you don't remember that yet.
This time, you consider suicide. But, then, you remember all those Doritoes you've eaten and how the medical examiner will weigh the body at some point in the post-death examination.
Eventually, you remember your husband and your children, their good health, the vast ocean of love that washes over you daily--from family, friends and readers. That's when you also remember your talent, and you sit up and take pen in hand or slide in front of the computer screen, and you think, "I am not afraid to fight and write." And you write the sequel to that blockbuster first novel.
Does this story sound like the makings of a good book? Maybe some day it will appear in a memoir as the real-life story of Jacqueline Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean. On September 15, 2009, No Time to Wave Goodbye arrives in bookstores. As for how Mitchard's personal story will end? We don't yet know. According to Jackie, she plans on returning to the Hawai'i Writers Conference next year with a bestseller under her belt and a dress with a belt.
Another speaker at today's conference was Oscar-winning writer and producer, Bobby Moresco. His story follows a somewhat similar theme. A few years ago, he attended the conference when it was on Maui and told his dream-come-true story. I am going from memory here, but the story entailed work as a construction worker by day and screenwriting by night. The story included second and third mortgages on his house. And many, many closed doors--people in the business who told him his screenplays wouldn't work, because no one would pay to see his movies. But Bobby believed in himself. He believed in his ideas. And, like Jackie, he wouldn't live small. He kept at it, and in 2004, Bobby's project Million Dollary Baby won an Oscar for Best Picture. The next year Crash won an Oscar for Best Picture and Bobby carried home an Oscar for original screenplay.
Inspiration is one reason many people attend conferences, especially conferences on writing. And this conference--Hawai'i Writers Conference--is no different. It oozes with inspiring, dream-come-true, how-I-made-it-big stories. They may sound sappy and trite, but let me tell you, during the long days of writing when the critic in your mind says, "Who do you think you are? No one will read that. No one wants to hear what you have to say," it's the stories like Jackie's and Bobby's that really do inspire. That keep you sitting at your desk and putting words on paper, because maybe, just maybe, you'll be the next Jackie Mitchard or Bobby Moresco.