Friday, March 11, 2011

A Spark

I have been a writer ever since I penned a story in 2nd grade about my uncle being hatched from an egg which was left by aliens on my grandmom's doorstep. I was seven then and everyone in my family raved about what an imaginative yet accurate portrait I had painted.

It wasn't until my senior year at the University of Michigan that I actually took a creative writing class. I hoped it would force me to write the stories that were already swirling around my head.

My professor, Gabrielle, was a 30ish grad student and a super talented writer uninterested in coddling her students. She was serious about the need for learning the mechanics of writing, but also open to breaking the rules once you understood what the rules were.

When I sat down with her in a private conference to review my work, she said of my short story, "This is something. This is really something."

I was stunned.

"There's a big writers' contest coming up and I want you to enter this," she continued. "You need to go home and polish it, because the deadline's next week."

I raced through the Diag with a grin from ear to ear. It was a legitimate stamp of approval. I had never considered submitting my work anywhere up until that point.

But, a week later, I did just that. And, although I did not win a coveted Hopwood Award, it didn't matter. I was thinking in a whole new way.

The last week of class, Gabrielle invited me to come hear her read from her manuscript in front of a large audience of her grad school peers and professors. Hers was a remarkable tale which documented everything from her lesbian relationship to her part-time job as a stripper at a blue collar joint on the outskirts of Ann Arbor. I was floored.

After graduation, I wondered what had become of Gabrielle. Then, I heard through the grapevine that she opened a restaurant, Prune, in the East Village to rave reviews. Next, she was writing a column for the New York Times Food and Wine Section. Then, shockingly, she married a man and started a family. And, finally, recently, her memoir, Blood, Bones, and Butter: the Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, at last, debuted.

I have been waiting for this memoir since I heard her early musings in Ann Arbor in 1997. Gabrielle is wildly talented and her tale is worth your time so I hope you check it out.

I thank Gabrielle Hamilton for being the first objective reader to say to me, "This is something." And, I thank her for showing me the vast possibilities.

I don't think I'll be opening a restaurant in this lifetime, but who knows about the rest.

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