Lessons I’m Taking with Me on the Road after Years of Observing Fancy Writers Visiting the University of Vermont:
Be kind to everyone who has taken the time to read your book or come to your reading. It costs you nothing and it means everything. Your hand is tired from signing hundreds of books on which people have spent $30 of their hard-earned money? Your mouth feels stretched out from smiling at adoring fans who have traveled from who-knows-where to hear you read from your own words on a page? Remember that there are plenty of writers out there who never get a hearing because their work is too bold, too strange, too quiet, too loud. Yes, you are talented, but you are also lucky. At least act grateful. If your hosts take time away from their families, friends, other work, or the Netflix series into which they are currently relaxing at the end of a long day, in order to break bread with you, be kind. You are still at work, and they are still at work. If the university that invited you has spent tens of thousands of dollars on your honorarium, particularly if that university is facing staggering budget cuts and its humanities faculty is quickly dwindling, say thank you to everyone you meet, and everyone at the table in the elegant French restaurant to which your hosts have invited you. If you are a fancy writer, be kind to the relatively unknown black woman writer who sits your right. This is even more important if you claim to be a champion of black women writers. At least don’t put your back to her. She won’t forget it.