Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Olympics are over...but what is that to writers?

Good evening all!

Sorry it's been a while. I've been wrapped up most of the summer with the updates on my Rock Harbor Chronicles plus I've been working my way through the first draft of "Superhero in Superior."  (Follow up to Missing in Manitowoc, I'm very excited about it!)  Plus, I've been working at farmer's markets getting the word out and getting ready for my very first book club talk in a few weeks.

(Want me to come speak to your book club?  Are you in the Milwaukee/Madison Wisconsin area?  contact me! Otherwise, I can skype a book club anywhere!)

Also I've been wrapped up in the Olympics big time.  How wrapped up?  Well, It's been almost two weeks since the closing ceremonies, and I still have Olympic coverage on my DVR I need to watch.  I mean, I kept up on the stuff USA was good at because it's impossible to not hear the results. But handball, sychronized swimming, table tennis, these are all sports that the USA is NOT good at and therefore if I watch it now or if I watch it in six months, it'll still be a surprise to me.

As I look back on my life, I know the Olympics have been a big influence. My first early memories were of Olga Korbut wowing us all in gymnastics in the 1972 games in Munich, and Nadia Comaneci  in Montreal.  

Granted their routines look laughable today...although Olga's flip was outlawed as being too dangerous.

Every four years, and now, every two, the world gathered to watch athletes compete in games that boggled our minds.  Here in the US we saw a lot of swimming, track, and gymnastics.  (Mostly because in the days before DVR and multi channeled networks, you only got three hours of coverage a night.  In the winter we saw skiing, skating, and, of course in hockey in 1980 Lake Placid, hockey.

I still weep when they play the Olympic hymn and when they light the flame.  I watch intensely (and become and expert at) athletes whose names I will not remember in a month, if I ever learn them doing things I've never heard of.  (human steeplechase?  It's a thing!)  I'm mesmerized by the different nations, so many nations now, which is different from when I was a girl. The USSR of my day is now, what, a dozen different countries?  And guess what?  They all RULE at rhythmic gymnastics.  

My parents gave me their take on world politics when I was a kid.  If a Soviet gymnast fell off the balance beam, my mother would say, "That little girl won't get dinner tonight." And I'd look at those wan, dark eyed girls and think, "Oh I hope they win so they get dinner!"  

I was four when the terrorists shot the Israeli athletes, and while I remember Olga Korbut, I think my parents may have shielded me from that.  But looking back to that, and every time politics worms it's way into the Olympics, I'm enraged.  1980 Summer Olympics, President Jimmy Carter put himself on my list of people I don't like when he boycotted the Games. 1984, Summer Games, Soviet Union, same thing.  Stupid politics.  Munich 1972, and act of terrorism brought on by...politics.  1996 Atlanta Games bombing.  And the 1936 Games...pretty much anything Hitler touched. We could keep going, but those are some of the highlights.

See, it's my belief that the Olympics are the one thing on this planet that should be devoid of anything political.  It's a rare time for the world to come together and play games and cheer and maybe realize that hey, we may not look the same, we may not speak the same language, but we all want fair competition, we all want good Games, we all want to get to know those who are different from us. We want the stories about this runner from South Africa whose mother wasn't allowed to compete outside of her country because of apartheid.  (Wade van Niekerk, for those of you struggling to remember the name.)  We love the story about the US shot putter whose father's customers put together a crowd funding account so he could watch his son.  (Darrell Hill.)

As a writer sports fascinate me because I don't think people get whipped up and passionate about things as much or as often as we do about sports. I mean, I don't watch track and field coverage EVER.  But there was a girl from my home town (Gwen Jorgensen) who won a gold medal in the women's triathalon an no US woman has ever done that, so yes, I was howling at my TV the whole time she was swimming and biking and running.  (I should have been doing anything else.) I was elated,

Writers often try to convey passion. It doesn't matter the genre you're writing.  You try to get passion on the page.  In sports, I think the Olympics is possibly the last best place where pure passion reigns.  Gone are the days of wide eyed amateurs competing. Sports is a huge business.  We won't have a "Miracle on Ice" again any time soon.  Except maybe in men's basketball.  (Which is a farce I will not condone.  Basketball, tennis, golf...they can all go away or become an amateur game again.  It's boring watching the same people you see on TV all the time go for gold when it's so much more fun to watch someone you've never heard of win.)

But still, if you want to see passion, look away from the cynical super pampered pro athletes and look to the Olympics where there is still fire, there is still a true competitive spirit and there is PASSION.  From Michael Phelps down to the tiny little Brazillian gymnast who could barely see over the balance beam (Falvia Saraiva) you know they are going to give it everything because win, and you get the gold. Lose, and you get nothing.

I think we writers can be inspired by that attitude. Give it your all, shut out the noise, shut out everything that has nothing to do with what you're doing. Write that perfect scene, that perfect moment, that perfect line of dialogue without thinking about the naysayers.  Be passionate, give it everything you have.

And, maybe you're not going to be the next Stephen King. Maybe you're not going to make millions on your writing. then what?

At least give us a great story.  Like my two heroes, two young runners one from the US and one from New Zealand. Abbey D'Agnostino and Nikki Hamblin.  They may fade from the annals of track and field.  I doubt anyone remembers their names now, other than their family members and teammates.  I had to look it up and I swore to commit their names to memory. (But to be fair, I had to look up everyone else's name, too.)  But you know what they gave us? They gave us the best story from the Olympics, not one of winning, but one of passion for the sport and love for our fellow man.

It was a perfect story no matter what the ending was.

And isn't that what we're all striving for, as we write?  Not for money, not for gold, but for that perfect moment in our writing that will be remembered long after our names are forgotten?