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Sometimes the Universe steers us toward certain writers…I think when we need them most. In just the past two years, I was steered toward Carol Goodman, then Susanna Kearsley, then Deborah Harkness. Their books were teachers and salves when I stumbled upon them, often in the most unsuspecting way…I found Goodman’s The Ghost Orchid at a thrift store for fifty cents, Kearsley’s The Winter Sea on my shelf three years after my mother had given it to me but I was too distracted by my grandmother’s declining health to read, and Harkness’s The Discovery of Witches on a new friend’s Instagram account. Each book soothed, inspired, brought me to the places, people and ideas I needed at that moment.

A couple autumns ago the Universe tried to steer me toward William Faulkner. I was familiar with him and his work from Graduate school, but suddenly his books, quotes, and thoughts on writing were everywhere I turned, even in an interview with Carol Goodman that I happened to read. The Universe tried, but I did not heed its suggestion. I’ll never know what I lost by not taking the invitation. Yes, Faulkner’s books are still there for me to pick up, but that moment and what I needed as a writer and person at that time has passed.

Now, I’m starting to suspect that the Universe is trying to steer me toward Joyce Carol Oates. Of course I know her name, but I’ll be honest, I’ve never read any of her work. It started when I was looking through my stack of New Year’s reading and saw her name mentioned in The Novel. There are many well-known authors mentioned in the many chapters of that monstrous “biography” of the novel, but hers stood out. Then today, I was looking through the Book Passage’s newsletter for upcoming author events…one of my unspoken goals is to attend at least one public reading or author event each month…and there on the front page of the newsletter was Joyce Carol Oates looking, not at me, but slightly beyond me. According to the newsletter, she will be appearing at the Book Passage in Marin on January 31st. Finally, on a whim, I picked up Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals, wondering if by chance he had an entry for Joyce Carol Oates and her daily writing practice. I did, indeed, find her listed in the table of contents, and when I turned to her entry on page 62 it started with, “The famously prolific American writer…”

If you’ve been following this blog, you might recall me saying the following in my December 20th post, “Whenever I hear someone described as a ‘prolific writer,’ I get a surge of envy. According to Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, anytime you feel jealousy or envy, it is a message from your inner self as to what you really want.” I took this message from my inner self so seriously that I went on to make the very scary New Year’s resolution to write 30 minutes a day.

So you can bet that this time I’m going to heed the Universe’s suggestion. Not only will I be at that author event on January 31st, but I’ll be picking up some of Joyce Carol Oates’ work to read, starting tonight. I won’t dare to guess at the reason the Universe has led me to this author at this point in time…my job is just to listen.

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