During the first part of February, I experienced a writer’s dream: the chance to bring my book to an audience, a big one! Over the past few years, as part of its community Outreach Program, Etruscan Press–through the vision of Phil Brady, its executive director–has brought numerous authors to Youngstown high school students. As part of this initiative, I spent parts of three days visiting East High, Choffin Career and Technical Center, and Youngstown Early College. In addition, I did a distance-learning class with individuals at a women’s and men’s prison–until the connection got cut off at the break! Before the visit was over, I stood before over 400 people and signed hundreds of books.
So that is the spread sheet kind of info, the facts and numbers that gesture toward space and place. Here is the pulse of it. The voice of surprise from an East High student, his hand holding up the book, “So this is you?” The confessions from students at East, Choffin, and Early College, told in a large group or at a small table, “I have a cousin…” or “I have a brother…” with autism. The questions, communicating a desire to be heard by someone who has the audacity to believe that language and story is worth the time. And, the television-framed faces of women and men in a prison classroom, listening to me talk about my family in ways that must have violated the psychological realities of incarceration. Fragments tugging to be named and shaped.
To all of you who let me tell my story, who ultimately said, “I’ll listen,” because you sensed something urgent in my voice, I extend a thanks.