Technically, I don’t meet up with my friends at the retirement center until Saturday, but today is as good a day as any to introduce this month’s writing prompt.
I admit, I’ve never read any of Michael Perry’s books. He’s published several (his most recent hit the New York Times Bestseller list); he’s a Wisconsin writer; my husband loves his work. I know he’s good. Still, I had only admired the covers of his books when I made a date to attend his reading with my husband last week.
Let me say two things. First, It isn’t easy to plan a date night when you’re working hard and minding kids and scraping together money for a sitter. But this night was worth it: I love author readings, my husband loves Michael Perry’s books, and we stopped at a local burger joint for dinner, where I ate the best bag of fries. Ever. Not to mention the company of the man sitting next to me.
Second, the best part of a good book is listening to the author read from it, especially when an author, like Michael Perry, reads so well. It was an excellent event. He filled the spaces in between excerpts with life stories and glimpses into a writer’s world (to which I can relate). He is one of those authors I would love to sit and visit with for a while. Rather, I’d love to sit and listen to him and my husband visit for a while. They would have plenty to discuss. My husband isn’t a writer, but he tunes into life’s small details that I tend to ignore; he makes note of people living on the periphery. He’s a man of many questions, and because of that, he knows a little about a lot. Michael Perry does the same – the details, the people, the questions we all ask – and weaves those observations into great prose. Now, the question for me isn’t so much if I’ll read his book, but which of his books I’ll read first.
Date night and a good book. That’s all it takes to bring to light your next writing prompt.
From Visiting Tom:
I can make no special claim on Tom Hartwig. The path to his door was well worn by a parade of feet other than my own before I first crossed his threshold, and so it is right through the present. I visit him whenever I need a piece of iron cut, bent, or welded. Sometimes I visit in the company of my wife and two daughters; we bring food and stay for supper. Sometimes I visit to drop off a dozen eggs. Sometimes I visit just to visit. I rarely come to Tom seeking anything more than ten minutes of his time and a size-sixty-eleven welding rod. He is not my mentor, I am not his acolyte, we are simply neighbors. And yet with each visit I accrue certain clues to comportment — as a husband, as a father, as a citizen. (I also accrue certain clues regarding the fabrication of cannons, the rebuilding of Farmall tractors, and how to run a sawmill, although due to my profound mechanical ineptitude, any observations I might make in these areas should be regarded as anecdotal rather than instructional).
Neighbors. They are a critical part of our landscape whether we live in the city or in the country. They can make or break our time on the block. I’ve had questionable neighbors, good neighbors, absent neighbors. There was Linda, skin and bones, who lived on the first floor of our Irving Street apartment building. She kept her door open a crack, and you couldn’t help but peer inside as you passed by. Then, there was eighty year old Ruth, who welcomed us to our first house with a strong Irish smile. She stopped by with homemade chicken noodle soup every chance she got. And, the couple down the street whose whole front yard is made up of creeping phlox? Sometimes I wonder.
Tell us about your neighbor, about a time you depended on their kindness, in action or in thought, or about the time you discovered their secret.
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