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OUT & ABOUT: Weiner inspires on and off the page
by Mary Cosgrove
July 01, 2014 10:30 AM | 5508 views | 1 1 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I started reading bestselling author Jennifer Weiner in high school, a newcomer to the “chick lit” genre. After her first book, “Good In Bed,” I was hooked. More than a decade later, I have read every book she has ever written, all 11 of them, and more than once. I use the term “chick lit” to describe her books because it is a recognizable term but it is not intended to discredit what Weiner writes.

Her books are poignant, hilarious and always carry a good message, principally that you should be accepting of who you are. Weiner, a sharply witty and self-deprecating woman, openly calls herself fat. I disagree, however, and consider her to be shapely, curvy and beautiful. I personally have not had considerable weight struggles, but what teenage girl or young woman in her early 20s does not have their fair share of awkwardness and self-doubt? Her message was inspiring to me, her humor and insight entertaining.

I have known Weiner through her books all these years, and last week I got to know a little bit about her as a person when I attended an author discussion featuring Weiner as part of the Page From the Book Festival at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, in partnership with the Decatur Book Festival.

She was sparkling, humorous, engaging and delightful. She spoke about her inspiration for the first book she wrote and also her most recent, “All Fall Down.” The audience was treated to many laughs as she gave us a look into her life and her mind. But something in particular really resonated with me. Weiner said she was always an avid reader, even as a child. Her love of reading ultimately developed into a love of writing and she knew she wanted a career where she could write for a living, which led her to journalism.

She was a reporter in three different states for nine years before writing her first novel in 2001. I felt like jumping on my chair and yelling, “That’s me!!!” I have always loved books, devouring them as a child and into my adulthood. I have a fervor for writing and chose journalism as a career because I saw it as the most practical application of my passion. I have been in journalism going on nine years. And I want to be a novelist.

That is not something I admit readily and something hard for me to admit now. It is like providing people with fodder to poke fun at me — ‘So how’s that novel of yours coming along?’ It is so trite. Only my family members and a handful of close friends know of my aspiration to write a book one day, and if I am lucky, write several. Taking that first step, however, seems insurmountable. Putting ideas on paper paralyzes me.

When the audience question-and-answer portion of the evening opened, I was the first one at the microphone. I had to know how to do it, how to begin what seems like an impossible task. I was shaking like a leaf when I addressed Weiner — I am not a public speaker. Nerves aside, it was completely worth hearing her answer.

Weiner advised me to put my nose to the grindstone. She said set a goal of writing 500 words a day. Even if on the first day all those words are terrible and end up getting deleted. Because the next day, the words will not be so bad. And then the next day, they might actually be a little good. On and on until you have a product that you are proud of. It is such a simple truism. It is almost banal in its simplicity, like asking how to walk and being told to put one foot in front of the other.

Not to degrade the advice, because it is exactly what I needed to hear. Isn’t that how any goal is achieved in life? One step at a time? Couldn’t that apply to anything, like learning how to sail a boat or speaking a new language? Begin at the beginning. I was completely inspired.

As I write this article, the day after asking Weiner the most boring, cliché question that she has probably been asked 1,000 times, I plan on taking the time and writing my first 500 words and taking my first tottering baby step toward my giant dream. I wholly believe that whatever I end up writing will be worthy of going directly into the garbage. But no matter how repulsed I am by what I write, I am keeping it. If I write a book, even if it is never published, never read by eyes other than my own, I want to remember where I started and remember that I can have the courage to follow a dream.

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