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How One Author Makes a Story Important

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The summer of '08, I was the Director and Writer-in-Residence for the Adirondack Summer Workshop in Old Forge. It was such fun and I enjoyed meeting those who participated in the class, most who wanted to make their work-in-progress better. However, there was one student who came to the class and wanted me to assign weekly topics and when I didn't, she was clearly frustrated. I couldn't understand this, especially since I felt writers became writers because they had something to say. Why was she there if she wanted me to tell her what she should write about?

I couldn't help but think of this student while I was reading Michael Greenberg's, Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer's Life, which is a collection of engrossing essays covering all sorts of topics, topics that, in less skillful hands, could be mundane, but I knew I was in for a treat early on when I came across the following intriguing sentence: "I could hear the tuxedo in his voice." Those words excited me and similar, delightful storytelling unfolded page after page, some making me laugh aloud, especially the scene where the author worked as a waiter and had no experience opening a bottle of wine, but attempted it just the same to embarrassing results.

After having a number of curious jobs, Greenberg writes about his career as an author, from closely watching his Amazon ratings to doing the author tour for his memoir, Hurry Down Sunshine. And, I had no idea how taxing, not to mention humorous, it could be doing a reading for an audio book. Then there is the eponymous chapter where Greenberg is reminded of an elementary teacher who refused to let the students break God's second commandment by taking art class and how that memory was the springboard for writing about his high school friend.

All the essays work as stand alone pieces and yet there is cohesion, but more significantly Greenberg's book is an important reminder to writers that they don't need to write "important" stories, but rather, they need to give each story importance. With that in mind, I do hope my former student takes this under consideration.