By Joy Steele
I believe the most profound gift I’ve received as a writer—other than a John Steinbeck Paddywax candle—is the gift of time and undivided attention by my mentor in the NSNC.
In the Spring of 2007, I traveled to Oklahoma City to attend the Will Rogers Writers Workshop. Sponsored by the NSNC and directed by the incomparable Bob Haught, it was my first conference away from home and was more fun than sleepaway camp at age twelve.
The presenters and faculty were so entertaining and informative—Suzette Martinez Standring is a rock star!—I couldn’t imagine anything better.
That’s when I met W. Bruce Cameron. A charming and funny keynoter, Bruce was especially impressive to this fledgling columnist. More than that, he gave me the single most valuable gift one humorist can give to another; he laughed at my anecdote. Despite being signed up for Dave Lieber’s session on marketing and self-promotion, I ditched the session (sorry Dave) and instead opted to hang out with Bruce at the hotel’s restaurant/lounge to glean from his wisdom, and eventually share the story of the time my mother pressured me to wear her underpants.Yes, it was that horrifying.
No, I didn’t do it.
But I’ll never forget the exhilaration I felt as Bruce howled at the absurdity that epitomizes my mother. His encouragement to me?
“That’s funny! You must write that story.”
While honored by his confidence in me, I hesitated, “Maybe after she’s dead. She’d kill me otherwise. She’d be apoplectic if she knew I was telling it now.”
A decade has since passed; I’m forever grateful for the validation given by a brilliant writer and someone whom I’m proud to call friend.
Thank you, Bruce. I may have to write that story nevertheless. Mom isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.