So I went to Madison to speak at the University of Wisconsin’s Writer’s Institute and to launch my latest novel, Lucy in the Sky, which is set in hippie times of Madison and Milwaukee in 1969, and thus seemed like the right place to officially introduce the book to the world.
I was in for two surprises, one small and flattering, and the other life-changing. We’ll start with the flattery one.
For the record, I’ve always seen myself as an Antonio Salieri kind of artist. Where Mozart was the musical genius, Salieri was the guy who had good technical chops and tried to make the most of his gifts through analysis, craftsmanship and hard work. That’s me. I even used to say in my classes that, “None of us here is Mozart. If we were, we wouldn’t need to be here.” I didn’t use that line at the Writer’s Institute, but after one session a man of my advanced years came up to me and flattered me by quoting a line from humorist/pianist Tom Lehrer: “It is sobering to think that when Mozart was my age he had already been dead for two years.” The gentleman thus said that he stood a bit in awe of how much I have accomplished in my career, especially when measured against his own whole-life résumé. Well, I mean, I reminded him that comparisons are odious, that we’re each on our own equally worthy path, etcetera, etcetera, blah, blah, blah, but all I could really think was, “Son of a gun, I’m someone’s Mozart.” I found the idea thrilling, but it also served, and serves, to remind me to stay humble in service of the work, my work of helping writers achieve their goals.
Then I went out on State Street and changed my life forever. [Read more…]