The tradition of the personal essay is full of self-appointed outcasts. In that tradition, I am not a poet or the press, but an essayist, a citizen thinker.
We’re all twins and clones and remakes of each other; we’re all pairs unpaired; we’re all speaking the same repeated syllable at each other and why is it that I have to go running off into a twinless solitude? What is inside this solitude but me, saying the same syllable to myself over and over and over, trying to make sense of it, trying to rearrange it.
In 2012, I left my job as Events Coordinator at McNally Jackson with the intention of working as a frontline bookseller at Community Bookstore and focusing on my writing. A few months into my new job, I realized what a great opportunity I had to help build an events series at a fantastic independent bookstore. And now, after hosting some of the best events of my bookselling career, I realize that it’s time to give events up.
Why walk away from a job that I’m genuinely good at and get a lot of professional satisfaction out of? The answer is the same as it has always been: I am first and foremost a writer, and the time has come to commit myself fully to that. By giving up events, I’ll have plenty of hours to work on freelance assignments and my book proposal. I’ve been fortunate enough to write for lots of publications I admire over the past couple of years: the Paris Review Daily, Salon, and Poets & Writers, just to name a few. I’m looking forward to taking on even more assignments.
I’m incredibly grateful to Stephanie Valdez and Ezra Goldstein for giving me the opportunity to curate events both in the store and as part of our offsite series, Brooklyn by the Book. They have transformed Community into one of the most vibrant and essential independent bookstores in the country. I’m proud to work for them. You’ll still be able to see me once a week. I’ll be a frontline bookseller Tuesday nights from 5:30-9, so stop by and say hi and get some book recommendations.
When I first started running events at RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, NH in 2007, I felt like my dreams had come true. I could curate literary events and hang out with my favorite writers. Seven years later, I still feel that way. I’m lucky to have fulfilled one dream, and to have learned so much from all of the authors I’ve listened to and the booksellers and publishing professionals I’ve worked with.
Recently I came across a journal from my elementary school years, in which I talked about wanting to own a bookstore and be a famous writer and be a librarian. I’ve never owned a bookstore, and I’ve been in the business long enough to know that writing isn’t about being famous, but I’d like to thank my childhood self for knowing at such a young age what mattered to me. It took me thirty years to have the courage to really figure it out, but here it is: I need to write for myself, and the rest will follow. I need to want something and go after it and see if it can happen. So here goes: I’m not Michele the events coordinator or Michele the writer. I’m me, and writing is what makes me happy even when it makes me miserable, and that’s why I must do it.
One’s life is peculiarly one’s own when one has invented it.