I frequent a Starbucks down the street from my work, and so, when traffic traps me by work, I sometimes wait for it to calm down and become reasonable there. Because it’s relatively safe, and the baristas are nice.
But I also hang out there because once the day crowd of lawyers clear out, the most interesting people hang around. And since I don’t like talking to people I don’t know, I make up stories for them.
My favorite person to make up stories for is this older man. I usually pass him outside where he’s generally chatting with another guy over a cigarette. What’s remarkable about him is his appearance. Wiry, gray unruly hair stands out from under a well worn, dusty blue baseball cap. A matching beard of almost unreasonable length masks his chin. His t-shirt and jeans are clean and neat, but have obviously made the trek to Starbucks a time or two. And if you asked most people, I would be willing to bet that they would call him homeless. Because, outside the Starbucks, he matches almost every stereotype we have in the U.S. concerning the appearance of someone whose home lacks 4 walls and a roof.
But then he shuffles in through the door and generally bypasses the free water to take his seat. It’s usually at one of the tables close to the counter. If not, the view is clear. Because his coffee awaits where he’s marked his spot keeping his Dell laptop company. He sits behind the screen and appears to type, though he could be researching because the internet is free.
He’ll stay at the Starbucks for great lengths of time, wandering outside to chat, returning to sit behind his computer. I have no idea what he does, but I imagine he writes his thoughts about being discriminated against for looking poor. Or researching the topic of conversation happening out front, heading back when he’s learned a fact that makes his argument perfect. Or maybe he’s writing a novel about the evening crowd at the Starbucks.
Whatever he does, I’m glad he does it at the Starbucks. He manages to fulfill one stereotype while breaking another. In doing so, he makes the wait for traffic bearable.
The other week the seniors that I work with graduated from high school. So I went to their ceremony, because when you work with a high school student on their homework and college essays and scholarship essays, you feel vested in their success.
It was a graduation ceremony, filled with awkward moments, speeches that no one listened to, and deafening cheers as the students received their diplomas.
Part of what makes these communal rites important comes from their basis in shared experience. Many people graduate from something, making the ceremony an experience shared across time and space. Watching the students, I remembered my own graduation almost 10 years ago in an entirely different city. But this graduation was much more exciting and happy, marked only by the general bittersweet aura of finishing something you’ve spent a significant portion of your life working toward.
And that’s the thing about shared experiences. As similar as the overall experience is, each instance is unique.
Often, the unique aspect of communal experiences gets overlooked or minimized, diminishing the value of the shared experience. Your graduation may have been like mine, marked by the recent death of a classmate, or it could have been like this one, marked only by the small sorrow of moving on to the next life stage. Or maybe your graduation experience was marked by something else entirely. Or maybe you’re looking forward to a graduation, and you don’t yet know what will mark it. But you probably have an experience with graduation, your story to share when the topic comes up.
And the sharing of your story makes the shared experiences important.
In fact, today is the very last May stop for Jennifer Hudock. Head to Scrivener’s Circle and find their interview, and leave a comment!
And if life kind of got in the way, and you got behind on the tour, have no fear! I’m out of town at the moment, so I won’t be drawing until sometime around the second of June. Take a few minutes and catch up on the tour!
I’ve talked about Jennifer Hudock and her work here before. And I told you how she’s hopscotching from blog to blog to promote some of the really cool things she’s working on currently.
Well, I had a chance to talk with her the other day, and it was fun and a little random.
We started talking about her family, and I asked her if she ever self-censored her work knowing that her daughter might read her work (some of her horror is very intense). Her response was very even-minded. “Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t because she is 15 now. And she watches a lot of horror and she reads a lot of horror. She recently just got into Stephen King and Stephen King’s stuff can be pretty brutal and pretty dark.
“And she’s listened to the Zombie Chronicles, and that’s pretty adult in a lot of places. Mostly when she does have questions about things, it’s a nice medium to open up conversation to get her thinking and talking about more adult subject matter.
And because I love Jennifer Hudock’s work, and I want you to check out the other blogs she’s stopping by (because the authors are all pretty nifty), I’m offering you this deal.
Stop by each of the May Blog Tour stops, leave a comment and you get entered into my random drawing for a free Dark Journeys story. Yep. You follow Jennifer Hudock around, read the various interviews, leave a comment, and potentially walk away with a Dark Journeys story of your choice on me! (And here’s a neat secret – I’m not the only oneoffering a deal)
And in case you miss my first post, here’s the schedule again. Enjoy the tour!
I’ve talked about Jennifer Hudock and her Dark Journeys collection here before. But let me sum up: Jennifer Hudock is a fantastic podcast novelist and she is publishing a collection of her short stories online through Amazon and Smashwords.
In order to promote her collection, she is traveling through the Internet and visiting various blogs and podcasts. At the end of this post, you’ll find the current list of stops. But I’ll tell you one of the stops now:
Jennifer Hudock will be here May 21!
Each host asks their own questions, so, just like in real life, each stop will be different. You know you’ve always had questions to ask an author when you ran into one, and here’s your chance! Leave your questions in the comments, and I’ll do my best to find answers.
Get ready for a fun couple of weeks of learning about Jennifer Hudock and Dark Journeys! This is gonna be good!
Jennifer Hudock and James Melzer created the space and a group of people (including me) moved in and set up. Everyone seems very friendly and supportive, in the way new groups have.
Much like Alice, I’ve been exploring this new land rather tentatively. I’ve been reading (some of) the posts to the forums, followed the links to members’ blogs, and expanded my Twitter feed. And I’ve learned a great deal, pushed myself to trying commenting more on the blogs I read, and am being held accountable to post something here at least once a week.
I’m not sure where this whole new community is headed, but I know I’m not alone. I have offline communities of creative people that I toss ideas around with, but many of them have not transitioned quite yet to online. It’s nice to find a group online that is also supportive of my endeavors, and whom I can support in return.
If you’re a creative type person, and you want a community that wants to help you become the best creative type person you choose to be, check out The Creative Alliance. Free and fun, it’s one of my new favorite places to hang out online.
Did you miss that Wired magazine is doinga big read this summer? They are organizing it around Twitter, trying to get everyone to read the same book this summer. There’s not a lot of commitment, just read the book when everyone else is.
Which book? Well they’re having everyone vote on it now. There’s 10 to on the list, and they come from a variety of different genres (with a healthy dose of science fiction/not easily categorizable). If you want to help pick the book, head here. It has all the details and fills you in.
I know I’m joining in on this insanity. I missed the first announcement in the noise, but I won’t anymore because I started following the organizer, Jeff Howe. I hope to see your #1b1t tweets too! Nothing like the internet to bring us together from around the world.
Last week my job asked if I would be a chaperon for a community service event. The students were supposed to come to pass out flowers to couples walking through Downtown Santa Ana, Ca (where the new job is located).
I agreed to wander around because I knew it would be a good time to get to know some of the students and become more familiar with a town I barely know. And it helped that it meant another day’s pay.
Have you ever agreed to something and realized later where the commitment will place you?
Me too. It happens most frequently when I’m trying to be helpful.
The afternoon started with me and another tutor waiting around 45 min. for any of the students to show. One of the girls did finally show around the same time our supervisor made it (but at least he’d told both of us he’d be there late). So the 4 of us joined the Mariachis late and began handing out roses for Valentine’s Day.
About 2 hours after we started walking through downtown, with me attempting to speak Spanish even 1/10 as well as everyone else in the group (who were all fluent), I looked around and couldn’t help but laugh. The last time I stood out so much in a crowd, I was in a tiny town 2 hours from Nairobi, Kenya.
I loved every meandering moment, understanding around 60% of what the other people in the group were talking about. I can’t tell you what songs the Mariachis played, but I can tell you they were very good musicians. I also learned a way to say “Happy Valentine’s Day” in Spanish and that my accent is as bad as I remembered.
If you don’t often get to take the opportunity to intentionally be the person who doesn’t belong, I recommend jumping at the risk. The fleeting discomfort of the intentional outsider moments is a fantastic way to strengthen your self-confidence. When you can’t completely understand what is happening around you, you become what you can rely on.