"To be quite honest, I forced myself to finish your book. It's only because I knew you would be at this book club discussion - that's the only reason I finished it. I mean, it was just so hard, so heart-breaking."
I am the guest of honor at this book club who has chosen to read And Life Comes Back together. There is quiche and wine and olives. There are candles and music and chairs in a circle. And I can't believe they're holding my book, my story, my words. Each of them, with their own copy.
(Sometimes I hashtag in my mind. #PinchThisAuthor #IsThisReallyMyLife?)
She looked around the room, asking her fellow readers if they too found it treacherous to read. I understand this. I'm not offended. It's a hard and heart-breaking story. I know; I wrote it.
A couple agree with her, that they only kept reading because the story's timing was impeccable - just when they thought they couldn't handle it any longer, they found themselves laughing out loud.
(Little secret for the faithful readers: I wrote it that way on purpose.)
But one woman shook her head. She couldn't speak through her tears just yet, but she shook until she found her words. "My sister-in-law died in June, and this book was my lifeline. I had to keep reading. I had to know what would happen next, how she would survive. I had to know that she would be okay."
'She' is me. I took her hands in mine, stroking the back of her palm with my thumb. Her silent crying broke loose into quiet, cleansing weeping.
"Amy, I wrote this book for you. I wrote this book for anyone anywhere who has just been blindsided and is now wondering if she'll make it. Look at me, sister. I made it. This widow is a survivor, and you're going to make it too."
Dani Shapiro, in her book Still Writing, talks about writing for an audience of one. She asks me as I study her style and approach, "Who are you writing for? Who are you writing to?"
Here's the right answer, so let's get this out of the way first. I'm writing for a Holy Audience of One, for His pleasure and satisfaction and purpose.
But in the still of the night, when everyone's asleep and I'm tapping out the details of another happening, I always have a person in mind. Someone who might laugh with me, find encouragement, remember that day, or think harder and deeper with me. I'm always writing for someone.
It might be you.