This past week I had the privilege to attend the AWP writers conference in Washington, DC. I stayed at a swanky hotel and met all kinds of impressive people. This story, however, is not about one of those people.
I was sitting in the hotel lobby trying to decide what to do with the rest of my evening. I was exhausted from a day of going to panels, navigating the book fair, and trying my best not to get lost but I wasn’t ready to let the day end.
I was approached by a man, maybe in his early sixties, who looked a lot like the Marlboro man if he’d bought himself a suit and snap on glasses. We began chatting, he told me he was in DC for business and asked what I do.
“I’m a writer.” I replied quite proudly. “I’m here for the conference.”
He immediately scrunched up his face and said “So you are a liar. You tell lies for a living.”
I laughed and smiled at him. This is something I hear a lot. I agreed with him and told him that he better watch what he says before I put him in one of my books and kill him spectacularly (that one never fails to get a laugh). As the evening progressed and other people drifted in and out of our conversation he repeatedly would make the joke “but she’s a liar. It’s what she does.”
To be honest, it started to get to me. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head for the last few days because I’m not a liar. I’m really not. Writers don’t write books to tell lies or trick people. Writers find creative ways to tell universal truths, ways to tell stories of the people who don’t have the language to do so. We write to find ways of entertaining you while touching your heart, teaching you about humanity; love, hate, passion, betrayal. These aren’t lies. Just because I invented the characters in the book doesn’t mean they aren’t people I know. In fact, they are always people I have met, stories they have told me, things I have experienced. I want to tell profound stories about amazing people, about funny people, about people who are you, who are me, who are all of us.
I am not a liar. I am just a girl trying to find a better way to tell the truth.