Every now and then, we may meet a great mind that spurs us into action after one brief encounter. Years ago, I heard Iyanla Vanzant speak to a large group of people and shortly after listening to her, I was so inspired that I booked a flight to Paris, alone. She honed my senses, heightened my confidence and I spontaneously took that risky trip abroad with limited funds. I am here to assure you that I landed on my feet.
Well, this year, after living in a writer’s hovel and in a turtle -like existence, I listened to a live conversation with the prolific Joyce Carol Oates through the Chicago Humanities Festival. When I saw that she was giving this talk, I immediately purchased a ticket. For those on the academic side of literature, the name Joyce Carol Oates rings loud and clear. Her works are in multiple college literary anthologies.
Many in-depth readers took this opportunity to hear what she had to say to the Chicago audience. Rebecca Makkai, an award-winning author and the interviewer for this event, asked well-researched questions which drew Joyce Carol Oates into an hour-long conversation. It was an exchange that was steeped in a wealth of knowledge, reflection and storytelling which left all of us spellbound.
An author of over fifty books, countless criticisms, articles and reviews, Joyce Carol Oates still teaches at Princeton University where she continually engages young minds. After the virtual talk ended, I was inspired to write this short piece. I wanted to express my gratitude for seeing this woman whom I both admire and hold in high esteem. Her works take risks, and she explores subjects that most writers would much rather avoid as though they do not exit.
Normally after an experience like this, I would call my mother and we would talk for hours but that was not possible. So, I wrote and wrote instead. Joyce Carol Oates mentioned that we often find our voices after losing ours parents. But even from afar, I know that my mother would bow her head in agreement with my appreciation for this literary event. I close with a sigh and I think to myself, “What a gem and national treasure we have in Joyce Carol Oates!
March 27, 2021