In my home city of Rochester, New York, we are fortunate to have an amazing literary non-profit called Writers and Books. Just the name of it sounds magical to a fiction writer and bookworm like me!
In addition to offering writing classes and workshops to kids and adults, the center hosts readings and talks by visiting and regional authors. Amazing, right? One of the programs they offer is called, If All of Rochester Reads the Same Book. Each year, Writers and Books selects a book for the Rochester Reads program, then hosts a series of events around that book. I’m in favor of any program that gets an entire community excited about reading!
This year’s pick for Rochester Reads was Sonja Livingston’s collection of personal essays, Queen of the Fall: A Memoir of Girls and Goddesses. I became a fan of Sonja Livingston after reading her first book, Ghostbread in which she shares stories of living in poverty as one of seven children with nearly as many fathers. She writes in honest but not overly flowery language in a way that doesn’t seek pity, it merely asks to be heard and understood.
When I learned that the Rochester native was going to be in town, I knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity to meet her.
There were several events held around town leading up to her visit and multiple readings during her stay in Rochester. I attended a reading at the local library and found myself in awe of how down-to-earth this talented writer was as she stood at a podium in front of a room full of people talking about her life and her work.
One of my favorite moments came during the Q&A portion of the evening when Sonja was asked about her writing process. The part of the question that interested me most was, “How do you know when you’re done?”
As a writer, this is something I often struggle with – at what point do the revisions end? I was eager to hear Sonja’s answer. She responded that, even as she read to us from her published collection of essays, she still found spots that she would like to edit.
She went on to say that she gets each piece to a point that she feels good about it. It was reassuring to hear that even a published writer doesn’t always get to the point where they feel their work is perfect. Later in the evening, she talked about how she might do as many as fifteen complete revisions on one single essay – but that she loves it.
I was fortunate enough to have my book signed and to talk briefly with Sonja. It is such a privilege to meet a writer whose work I so admire. I’m excited to add Ghostbread to my collection of signed books on my shelf.
Livingston just released another collection, Ladies Night at the Dreamland. I look forward to reading this collection as well.
Have you attended an author talk? What was your experience like?