Universe to Laura: Write

Joanna Rose presents her co-teacher Stevan Allred with blank paper.

Joanna Rose presents her co-teacher Stevan Allred with blank paper.

I sat in the audience at Powell’s on Sept. 12 when my mentor Joanna Rose presented my other mentor, Stevan Allred, with a ream of blank printer paper with a bow on it. She explained the significance. When a member of their critique group finishes a big project, they are gifted paper to get going on the next project. With my small press publishing Stevan’s debut book,  A Simplified Map of the Real World, he received paper to get moving on the next thing.

And then, at the after party, I was given paper, too. My own pristine stack, packaged with a bow, and given with a hug. Because this summer, I finished a draft of Lost Notes, my fanciful nineteenth century novel.

Oh right.

My novel.

This whole press thing began because of me being a novelist. (You can read more here about how it all happened.)

I’ve been writing seriously since 1998, novel after novel, and a jazz band biography hiding in there too, and I’ve had and lost a top-notch agent, and I’ve kept writing, kept dreaming about a launch party someday. And there I was, at Stevan’s book party, there as his publisher, as his former student, and I was given a gift. A reminder. That paper.

That weekend, I put the press aside and began forging through my latest draft again, reading and editing, getting familiarized again. And within a week, Christi Krug, of Wildfire Writing fame, emailed to ask if I’d read from my novel at one of her Wildfire Wednesdays as a Key Player. In Christi’s words, “These are featured readers from the greater Portland community who are working on many creative levels in literary arts.”

She has been getting some really big regional names, published authors, and I feel really honored to be asked to help kick off the fall season. For those of you in the Portland, Oregon, area, the event starts at 6:10 on Wednesday, Sept. 25, at the Cascade Park Community Library in Vancouver, Washington. I’ll be reading two pieces from my novel, to begin the evening and to end it. What an honor. And what a reminder.

I’m a novelist, too. Not just a publisher.

When I went to print out my pages, so I can practice my pieces for Wednesday, my paper ran out. I reached for the ream I had been using, and it was all gone. It seemed like a perfect time to carefully work the new ream open, its bow still attached.

Now if only the paper’s promise, “99.99 percent jam free,” holds true for the writing.

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
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15 Responses to Universe to Laura: Write

  1. I have to believe the Universe will give you even greater gifts than a ream of pristine paper soon, Laura. And I promise I will be at that launch party when that happens!

    • Oh thank you, Michael! For now I’ll just be content to get this draft into shape. I feel like it’s close to what it needs to be, but there’s still excess, and probably a few missed opportunities. Reading some of it out loud for the first time will be exciting!

  2. So amazing! 🙂 A dream come true. I am so happy for you.

  3. If you find jam-free writing, let me know. I still don’t believe it exists! I’ll be at your novel reading in spirit, so best of luck to you.

    • I agree, Phillip, and in fact jam-free writing, now that I think about it, would be terribly boring to write. Thanks for the luck. Once I practice a little, I’ll feel ready, I think. The quick turnaround from invite to event will help me avoid worrying for days!

  4. All the best, Laura! It sounds like the mojo is in you.

    I’m also intrigued by this jazz band bio. Tell all!

    • I was hired as a freelance writer, back in 2000-01, to record the lives of six guys in a jazz band that was founded in the 1950s, broke up for decades, and reunited in the ’90s. Half the members went on to become professional musicians, and the other half became professional other things. If all the print on demand options were around back then, I’m sure it would have been published, but as it was, 9/11 disrupted the economy, and the band ended up waiting to publish it… and waiting… and waiting. I was contacted some years later to update the book for publication, but I had my own things going on then, so I don’t think it ever surfaced. I learned all sorts of things, though. Maybe that’s a blog post for another day!

  5. If we didn’t ever spend time not writing, what in the world would we write about when we did sit down to do it? Nothing interesting, that’s for sure.

    Also, paper. How… twentieth century ( 🙂 ), but I guess there’s not really any more modern equivalent. The same way e-books can’t replace hard copy books as gifts,

    • So true, Anthony! Lives are made richer by doing, and then studied and imagined and re-imagined in writing. I just heard about a book called Hate Mail that has stories followed by pull-out postcards that feature what the author (or protagonist) wishes she said at the time. I haven’t seen the book, and I’m not quite clear on whether those stories are fiction or real, but I love the concept of being able to rewrite the moment and find the perfect words.

      Actually, I don’t print a whole lot in my process, but for practicing a reading piece, absolutely. And I think I’ll print the whole draft, once I trim all the notes and excess and pull it together into one document, because my current goal is shaping what’s there.

      • When I first read your post I thought of a Hemingway quote, but I didn’t remember enough to it to search for it. This morning I remembered a bit more, and here it is:
        “In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you’ll dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dull and know I had to put it to the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know that I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well-oiled in the closet, but unused.”

  6. 4amWriter says:

    I’m glad your writing is back on track. It’s so easy to get sidetracked by projects, kids, house stuff, kids, life stuff, kids… 🙂 Wishing you continued progress!

  7. jmmcdowell says:

    Wishing you all the best for the reading! And I’m happy to hear you’re returning to your own writing. From the tidbits you’ve hinted at, I’m looking forward to reading the completed work!

  8. An inspired moment to be given a sort of “permission” with a push to get back on track, a happy tug from the universe that sat you down just for your novel once more….lovely. I’ve always loved reading and I would enjoy hearing you, I’m sure, though 6 pm is a difficult time for me. I will stay tuned for another event! Best regards.

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