Karolyn Sherwood, Author

Please Step Away From Mr. Lehane

When I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish.

Embarrassing Truth #1: When I was in grade school, I was CRAZY for David Cassidy. But that was 40 years ago so you have to give me a break on that. After him came Robby Benson, Ryan O’Neal, Robert Redford, George Clooney, Bono… the list goes on and on. If you’ll forgive me here: When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a writer, I put the ways of childhood behind me. Now that I’m a grown woman (in some senses of the word), I’ve learned to value talent and intelligence over a pretty face—though there’s nothing wrong with a pretty face.

Embarrassing Truth #2: When I was 49, I was CRAZY for both Ann Patchett and Dennis Lehane. (Wait, that’s right now. Oh, well.) I’ve even gone so far as to wish (out loud) that one day I hope to be known as the literary love child of these two great writers (never mind that I’m older than both of them; as a writer, I’m still an adolescent). For those of you who don’t know this already, Lehane wrote Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island, and Live By Night, among others. His stories are intense and suspenseful, if a little grisly—that’s where a dose of the lyrical Ann Patchett might come in handy.

Embarrassing Truth #3: Sometimes I scare myself. More often, I scare others. Take this summer, for example. I went to the Jackson Hole Writers’ Conference for many reasons, but somewhere near the top was the opportunity to have Lisa Bankoff (Ms. Patchett’s literary agent) review my Work In Progress (WIP). That’s not a bad thing, but strangely, when I told that to Ms. Bankoff, she looked a little… nervous.

I promise, People, I’m harmless. I’m simply a dork, kind of like a puppy who’s just been let out of her kennel.

In a few weeks, I’m going to meet Dennis Lehane. I know this because I’m paying for the opportunity. That keeps me just outside the stalker category, right? I don’t have to tell you that I got front row tickets. Dennis Lehane (Let’s call him Dennis, shall we?) is coming to the great city of Des Moines for our first annual book fair. It’s fantastic for the book fair and our city, but it’s a little scary for me. I must NOT behave like a dork in front of Dennis. (Having my husband at my side will help; he’s wise and rational and he works out a lot.) I must somehow stress how much I admire his writing without creeping him out. This is going to take some practice.

I’m thinking of trying Mental Imagery, whereby I picture myself behaving like a normal person in Dennis’s presence. Not like someone who wants private writing lessons, or his personal review and opinion of my latest WIP. Not like someone who wants to observe his writing process, or to dissect his brain during the planning stages of his next novel.
How does he do it?

Did I mention that Dennis now has a publishing imprint, and is looking for young authors?

All right, wish me luck. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes. And just in case the whole meditation thing doesn’t work, I think I’ll slip a Xanax in my pocket as a backup plan.

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