Writing is solitary, creative, and self-directed—the opposite of life in high school. Those of us who become writers might be tempted to skip our high school reunions.
I’ve been to only one, but the subject is on my mind as my husband and I make plans to go to his thirtieth reunion in the Texas Hill Country. In my highly scientific poll of the six writer friends I happened to see this week, five said they have not attended any.
One said he goes every time, but he’s one of those weirdo extroverts.
If we weren’t part of the in crowd, or if we couldn’t wait to graduate and move on, or if we can hardly remember our teachers, much less the majority of our classmates, why should we attend?
I can think of three reasons why writers should make the effort:
To learn from our interactions with others. Like the novelist E. M. Forster said, only connect. It’s just for a few hours, and these are people you have something in common with. Use the time to network: reconnect with those you’ve lost touch with and reach out to those you don’t remember at all.
Promote yourself and your work. Watch their eyes light up when they find out you’re living the thrilling and glamorous life of a writer.
Try to leverage your connections into something mutually beneficial. Think of it as a game. Is a classmate a member of a book club that might enjoy your novel? Do you write about a topic that would make a good program for an organization a classmate is a member of? Can you get a mention in your school newsletter—or offer expertise that the school might hire you to provide?
To satisfy our writer's curiosity. Are the cool kids still cool? Does anyone still dress like they did in high school? Did the nerds make it big? What are the jocks doing now, all these years later? Who lives in other countries, and who never left home? Who looks so much better than they did in high school—and why? Whose career is most surprising, given what they were like in high school?
To sharpen our observational skills. Pretend you’re doing research for a job, or explaining the experience to a reader or client. How would you describe the energy in the room? The people? The food? Come up with five adjectives for the whole thing. Come up with a hook for a short story based on what you see, and its first line. Note your most interesting observations for use in your work at some point.
If you go, you might rekindle relationships that could benefit you personally and professionally—and no one has to know that the writer’s life is not that glamorous.
—Ann Kellett, a proud Wampus Cat from Conway, Arkansas.