Meg Wolitzer and Me!

Who knew that I would find commonality with a well-known, accomplished novelist, Meg Wolitzer, You may wonder how this happened. It was not from her novels or an interview, but from listening to The Moth, True Stories Told Live on NPR. Having not heard the introduction, I missed who was telling the story, but the story caught my attention immediately. I stopped what I was doing, sat down and made listening to the radio my only undertaking. Her story was about her childhood, summer experiences at sleepover camp. Most sleepover camps, she explained, consisted of the all-important Color War and the sappy songs they sang, about how new friends were great and old friends were better and we all get along in all kinds of weather. I laughed, knowingly.

Then, one summer she went to a new camp and she loved it. Her fellow campers talked about such things as philosophy and important events and they shared their hearts and souls. Meg found herself more at home at this camp and she was most excited when she was on the camp's theater stage. As it happened, the acting instructor was a well-known actor who knew lots of well-known people and took her job very seriously. I think it was about this time in the story that I realized it was the author, Meg Wolitzer speaking. Meg loved the acting, but felt, no matter what she did, she could not please this acting teacher. Martha, one of her very good friends at camp, however, could and did please the acting teacher, a lot. Martha was one of those girls who was lovely to look at, wearing long flowing hair and even longer flowing hippie skirts. She would be the kind of girl who inspired sweet woodland critters gathering around her feet and a chirping bluebird perched upon her finger (picture scene: Lily Tomlin dressed as Snow White in the wonderful film, Nine to Five). Martha was pretty much what most of the girls wanted to be, and who most of the boys wanted to date. Meg, on the other hand, was well liked, but not for her looks, rather for being funny, sometimes outlandish and other times, really out there. The acting teacher never did warm to Meg, nor give her the encouragement and accolades she shed upon Martha. The good news is that all these years later, Martha and Meg are still the best of friends. The even better news is that as an adult, Meg is certain that what she most appreciates about herself now, are, among other things, the very same characteristics that the acting teacher dismissed back then.

Such was the story, more or less, that Meg Wolitzer told on the Moth Radio stage. Her voice sounded almost familiar. Her style was warm, self-effacing and funny. She reminded me a little of me. I also went to summer sleepover camps as a child.  Furthermore, I experienced both the more typical kind of camp, as well as the ones with a particular focus and a bit more serious, which was more than OK with me. Additionally, I had an experience where a professional acting teacher put me down as I tried to express my acting passions one summer at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC, though I was a teenager, not a child, at the time.

Meg's story telling often made the listeners laugh and I’m pretty sure they were laughing  with her. She just sounded so normal, like a regular person, not like a famous novelist, whatever that means. I found myself thinking, that could be me talking about sleepover camp and what worked for me and what didn't; what made me feel good and what made me feel jealous and unsupported. I too could be telling a story, making people laugh, after-all, I do that sometimes and when they laugh, I feel good. Maybe now and then, they are laughing a bit at me, but also, (hopefully) they are laughing, mostly, with me. I related to and found commonality with Meg Wolitzer, the Moth storyteller and famous author. What caught me up was that she is this well-known and respected writer. I, on the other hand, am just a regular person and a wannabe writer. But then I thought, Meg Wolitzer is also just a person, a person who lives her life and does her job and maybe, just maybe, Meg Wolitzer is a little like me.

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