Freshmen professional writing majors from Champlain College were in attendance at this year’s Burlington Book Festival, learning about and exploring all aspects of the writing and publishing industry . Check out what freshman Victoria Muzyk learned from Madeleine Kunin’s presentation below, and be on the lookout for more student reviews and experiences in the next few days!
By Victoria Muzyk
The easy take on this assignment is to say I was scared of doing something wrong. Now, that could be getting lost on the way there to spitting on an author as I spoke to them. In all honesty, I’ve been horribly lost on my way to events before and I have spit on quite a few prestigious members of society, so I wasn’t afraid of either of those things happening. I was scared I’d show up at the festival and no longer feel passionate about writing, more importantly, my writing. I have a story within me, that I know to be true; the issue at hand is whether or not I posses the desire to write it. I have worked on pieces where I kill half of the characters just because they begin to frustrate me. I have also allowed myself to write cliffhangers for the simple satisfaction of irritating my readers. So anger is no stranger in my written works, motivating myself is challenging but far from impossible, and material is not at all scarce. The main issue is with my own mental state, it’s if I can look at myself in the mirror and know for certain that writing is my desired career path.
My dad gave up his dream of becoming a lawyer for the US military when he was eighteen years of age. Now, that was a total of thirty-four years ago, the exact amount of time that he has wanted me to be a lawyer. He has never pushed me to be one, he has only hoped I would want it for myself. I hate negotiating, though I am quite good at it, and I also hate pantsuits, so I never saw myself persuing a law career. Then I sat through a less than forty-minute seminar with one woman and I was second-guessing everything about my future. Even scarier, I was contemplating whether I truly desired to be all that I had wanted nothing to do with these past eighteen years. I mean, she made me want to be a lawyer, the chosen career path my dad had pretty much prayed for me to also desire. It was total chaos in my head, yet I never silenced the brilliance that was leaving Madeleine Kunin’s mouth. She discussed the 1950s white picket fence family portrait that has been painted in all of our minds at some point or another. She stated the three policies she knew would have to be enacted so America would no longer be one of the three countries that does not have paid maternity leave. Then she said, “Pessimists are usually right, but optimists change the world,” and my mind stopped circling over the ten-year plan I had written for myself over a year ago. You could have snapped your fingers in front of my face and I wouldn’t have taken my eyes off of her. She was the closest thing to honesty that I had experience in years; she was magic.
Madeleine Kunin went on to discuss her latest book. She said the first question to herself was, “Why did you write this book?” The easy answer, she stated, was to inform the world that she did not believe her résumé was complete without it. Much like me, she didn’t jump to the easy answers in life. She knows the controversial aspects of her latest work, and she is aware of the strong negative opinions of it. She went as far as to say half of them, but she also told us that it was her truth. She may not be one hundred percent right, but she believed in every word written on each page. “Having a uterus,” she specified, “should not be a pre-existing condition.” I have never felt as proud to be a woman in today’s day and age as I was when I was sitting in on her lecture. Of course, she knows none of this, seeing as how I wasn’t able to weave my way into her fellow admirers cluster. That’s okay, though; I didn’t need to tell her all of the power her words had for me or praise her in respect because I hope for her to read it instead.
Through the entirety of her standing at the podium, I was frantically asking myself if I had made a mistake with my future. Then, Madeleine Kunin said one last thing before reading an excerpt from her book’s last chapter and opening the floor for questions. She said, “If you’re not on the table, then you’re on the menu.” I knew right then and there that I was going to write my book. Making a difference is what I hope to do in my life, but I don’t need to be a lawyer in order to fulfill that desire. I am a writer, no doubts included. While I have much to learn and even more to say, I’m not worried about being here at Champlain. I’m not paralyzed at the thought of no one but my family reading my book.