On October 18, 2008, I gratefully accepted a citation from the Ohioana Library Association for
"Distinguished Service to Ohio in the Fields of Art, Writing and Commentary." The OLA honors Ohio writers and creative artists for their contributions, and maintains a huge library of works executed by Ohioans. We are busy people out here in Ohio. The awards ceremony was in the State House, and our former governor, Bob Taft, and his wife were there, and there were lots of gifted artists and writers and poets there. Bit of advice: Try not to get up at a podium after a poet has said his artfully humble and mercifully brief thank-you. It makes you, Ms. Overkill, feel like popping a verbal Immodium. However. I wanted you, my faithful readers, to know that you, and this strange little forum we enjoy, were at the forefront of my thoughts as I wrote and re-wrote and then re-wrote and still fretted over my acceptance homily. They told me to keep it to 30 seconds, one or two minutes at the most, but I couldn't. It came in at 2:50. Here it is:
I don’t know about you, but I get most of my celebrity news in the grocery line, while waiting for the cashier to look up “Bok Choi” on the produce list. While doing this, I’ve found out that three celebrities share my birth year: Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Prince. As I stand here, I feel certain that, this generous Ohioana citation aside, Madonna and Michael Jackson** need have no concern that I will eclipse their celebrity. Prince is an interesting one, though. He looked at the deals the record companies were offering and walked away from the crossroads. He produces, publishes and distributes his music from his own recording studio in Minneapolis, and by all accounts he’s doing just fine.
These are exciting times to be a writer. Rumors of writing’s demise, I think, were premature. Writing is very much alive; I’d submit that it’s healthier than ever. Let’s face it: Most of us spend many waking hours reading off a computer screen. It’s easy now both to find and circulate good contemporary writing. The Internet has created brand new forums for it; instant exchange of pieces that touch something in us. It’s as though the blood of creativity has found new vessels, and a writer, or for that matter, a musician, painter, photographer—any creative artist-- can find a targeted audience with vastly greater speed and efficiency than has ever been possible before.
Although the word “blog” sounds like something you’d find stuck to the bottom of your shoe, after stumbling into blogging, I’m a true believer. I’ve kept one for three years, and more than 21,000 unique readers visit each month. The number grows by about 1,000 a month. Serving up good content five days a week is a big commitment—but it’s like having your own small magazine. You control the content, graphics, the creative direction. And it really gets interesting when you hear from 40 or 50 readers, exchange ideas, and allow them to expand your horizons.
Writers need to write, I think, and write every day, whether it’s an essay or a footnoted treatise; a haiku or a blog post. The writing muscles need to move, even if the back gets stiff and the tailbone gets sore. The odd thing about writing every day is that you don’t run out of ideas; you beget more, just by writing.
William Thackeray said, "There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up a pen to write."
Thank you, Ohioana, for this honor. I thank my husband, Bill Thompson III, and his parents, Bill and Elsa Thompson, for first publishing my work in Bird Watcher’s Digest, begun in their Marietta living room and now celebrating its 30th year. I thank my agent, Russ Galen, and my editor, Lisa White, for making a book of Letters from Eden. I thank my editor Ellen Silva, Melissa Block and National Public Radio for believing that there’s something going on in Whipple, Ohio, that a national audience would like to hear. And I thank the online readers who are with me each day, who sometimes spit coffee on their computer screens when they open the blog. If they have to wipe their screens, I’ve done my job. Thank you.
And thanks to Kerf for the pictures, for hanging out and making it all such fun.
**Madonna and Michael Jackson share my exact birthday and year. Shazaam. Could serial marriage, reclusive exhibitionism, a private amusement park, sexy personal trainers, a gaggle of nannies, surrogate parenthood, fabulous thighs, a creepy skin condition, repatriation to England, the cloud of pederasty, Kaballah, or a chimp named Bubbles be in my future, too?
I'll take the thighs.