Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Where do the artists and authors come from? Does anyone keep track of these things?

So, when I was an adult, I learned that I went to the same high school as amazing dark fantasy author Carol Berg, which would have really blown my mind when I was actually in high school. You see, it felt like Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth, TX, was - for all the many good things about the school - a place where soldiers, lawyers, and medical professionals came from, not artists or authors or creative thinkers. The curriculum was religion combined with college preparation. The creativity that happened there, at the time, felt like something for a college application, not something that people did or taught because they were truly passionate about their field.

Naturally, I was completely wrongheaded. In fact, one of my classmates is listed on IMDB as a Shakespearian actor who studied in London. One of my Odyssey of the Mind team members, last I heard, builds sets for plays and operas in St. Louis. There was at least two other authors present when I walked those halls beside me while I was there, and a few folks who dropped their life and fled to New York and LA to work in Television and Film, who are still working in those fields. One of my classmates (who I do not even recognize or remember though he did graduate in my year) just opened a movie theatre/fine dining establishment in New York. Like many high school kids who thought he was living in a suburban wasteland, I was completely and totally wrong.

College, as well, I thought I was the lone speculative fiction writer in a sea of passionate New Yorker-wannabes. Naturally, I was also wrong. Every day that passes, I learn more and more about the people I went to school with. At World Fantasy Con, in Saratoga Springs, I met someone whom I actually went to class with who was trying to start her career in Fantasy Fiction, and we exchanged memories of Dr. Pipkin, with his sonorous voice and passionate love affair with the poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge.

Basically, I was wrong every time I ever started to believe this.

Where do the artists and poets and creative types come from? Look around you. See if you can figure it out. I bet you'd be surprised who it is.

Let me tell you something very important: We creative types are everywhere.

I was at Ace Hardware yesterday buying twine, and the gentlemen who showed me where the twine was located, when he finished helping me, went back to his conversation while stocking shelves. He was talking about Renaissance Fairs, and the costumes he likes to wear when he attends - the roles he likes to play. I smiled to myself, because it made me think that he was probably an awesome guy, who went home at night and did interesting things with interesting people if anyone bothered to ask him about it. He makes his own costumes. He researches the past and recreates it. When he's done stocking the shelves at Ace Hardware, he studies history and incorporates what he learns into his own life and costumes.

Awesome people are everywhere.

Feel surrounded? Feel like you're in a wasteland? I know some of you do. Some of you live in the suburbs of Southern Cities where politicians must talk about Jesus and the Creation of Earth some 4000 years ago just to get elected to public office. Places where people beat you up for being different. Places where ironic cool folks look down their nose at you for not listening to the right bands, or attending the right church, or voting the right way.

Take heart. When I was in the middle of nowhere, driving half an hour to go to a private, parochial school that built itself around the myth that college was meant for everyone present, I was surrounded by creative types who probably felt the same way I did. Too bad we rarely seemed to find each other. Now I know that I need to look a little harder whenever I feel that. Because cool people really are everywhere.

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