On Thursday night I attended the launch of Alice Kuiper's new book, 40 THINGS I WANT TO TELL YOU at McNally Robinson. It was fabulous! I had SUCH a good time. The place was packed with friends and fans, with the staff having to scramble to bring out more chairs. It's not a surprise though, because not only is Alice an exceptionally talented writer, but she's also an exceptional human being. If you want the truth, here it is: Alice Kuipers is my hero.
In December of 2010, I sent her an email while she was working as the Writer in Residence at the public library. I was nervous about coming in. I'd been thinking about writing for a long time, considering whether or not it was a possible to do it professionally, and I suffered from a supreme lack of confidence. Alice encouraged me to come in and bring some of my work. And with a little convincing, I did. It was one of the best things I've ever done.
Going to meet with her was positively nerve wracking. I remember sitting in the chair outside her office, feeling queasy and embarrassed. I so desperately wanted to hear that there was hope for me, but at the same time I was positive she was going to gently break the news that dreams of professional writing were unrealistic. After all, my entire life I'd wanted to be a writer, but everyone had always told me it was a pipe dream - like wanting to become a movie star. When I was twelve, an auntie once broke out laughing when I told her and reminded me through giggles that writers don't make any money. Defeated, I'd stopped telling people. Instead, I followed other paths, but none of them ever left me feeling fulfilled or happy. I hated every job I tried.
The first thing Alice did when I met her, was sit me down and ask me questions. Why did I want to be writer? What kind of writer did I want to be? What was I working on now? It was amazing. I sat there, flabbergasted, unsure of what to say or how to answer. She was asking me real questions. She was taking me seriously. There wasn't a trace of amusement on her face. She wasn't humoring me. She really wanted to know. And so it began. I saw her every month for her entire residency, each time sending her my work to critique. I took classes she was teaching and grew a lot as a writer. Granted, I still have a long way to go and plenty more to learn (I don't think anyone ever stops learning), but Alice Kuipers was the first person to ever take me seriously. She made me believe it was possible.
And so, as I sit here on a quiet Saturday afternoon, enjoying my signed copy of her latest book (which you should all run out and buy, it's fantastic!) I think about how Alice Kuipers took the time to talk to me, to help me, and most importantly, to take me seriously. It is because of her help that I am working at my dream, and I know I'm not alone. Alice Kuipers, not only are you a fabulous writer, you are an amazing person. THANK YOU.
*If you'd like to learn more about Alice Kuipers and her books, visit www.alicekuipers.com