My final 2 cents (no refunds)

Marie-Helene Bertino (in green skirt) with her One Story Summer Workshop Class

Last Thursday, I attended my last meeting as One Story‘s Associate Editor. Though I will remain involved, teaching for One Story‘s various educational projects for example, this ended a 6 year journey for me. Besides the friendships I’ve made, I am most proud of the yearly fashion blogs I dispensed on the eve of our Fundraiser.  To that end, I hope you will indulge me as I offer one more piece of fashion advice: smile.  The most beautiful people I know allow their smiles to reach their eyes.  When you smile, people want to be around you.  My Mom said that.  Also, when you smile, people wonder what you’re up to. Garfield said that.

Thank you to Hannah Tinti and Maribeth Batcha, under whose tutelage I received my real world MFA.  Thank you to Tanya Rey, the present staff and the staffs throughout the years who inspired me and who were kind enough to laugh at even my most irreverent jokes.  I will forever remain One Story’s most loyal subscriber.

I am most proud of One Story’s Emerging Writer’s Workshop I taught, co-organized and co-ran with Michael Pollock.  I love working with new writers and was honored when my high school’s Alumnae newsletter asked me what advice I would give to them.  I’d like to leave you with what I told them.  And that, as they say, will be all she wrote (for now).

ADVICE TO NEW WRITERS

Keep writing.  Be curious about how different people live.  Talk to everyone; doormen, waiters, motorcycle guys, your grandparents.  I am sometimes unintentionally glib and sometimes my writing sounds glib, so take time to get to know yourself because the problem with you will be the problem with your writing.  For the converse reason, cultivate hobbies. Run and cook and sing and play the drums and hug your parents and kids and sister and whoever.  Then, keep writing.  Rescue a dog or cat.  Collect stories.  Other people will tell you to read to excess, but I’ll let you slack on that if you promise to ask questions and listen to people.  Listen to the criticism of people you respect and let it make you better.  Don’t write because you think it’s cool, because if you are doing it correctly it is the least cool thing on the planet. Don’t be that jerk who complains when Aunt Barbara asks what you write about.  Don’t say, “that question is impossible to answer!”  If you can’t answer what you write about then you don’t know what you write about, and that’s like not knowing what color hair you have.  Do this right now (now!): figure out in two sentences how to say what you write about.  Cultivate the ability to be so lost in thought that you can’t hear your own name being called.  Be secretive and bold and stick up for the underdog and the little guy.  Drive around America and stop in Kansas.  Backpack around Europe and watch a World Cup game.  Keep writing.  Think about semi-colons and punctuating dialogue for hours. Don’t brag.  Anyone worth his or her salt talent-wise is humble and kind.  This is because they understand they’ve been given a gift and people who have been gifted have special responsibilities and are thankful.  Don’t worry if you hear a “rule” about writing that sounds wrong to you.  There are as many different ways of being a writer as there are writers.  Write with your heart, revise with your head. Shut up and listen.  Sometimes the answer is turning off your mind and getting a beer with your best friend.  When discouraged, don’t listen to anything besides the voice that told you were a writer in the first place; that is the voice that will be there for you when everyone and everything else goes away; it is the voice Kermit sang about that “calls the young sailors.” It’s someone that you’re supposed to be.  Keep writing.  If any of this sounds like a root canal; do something else.

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