Sometimes the best stories are the ones that have yet to be written, the ones that are our own. In order to truly know someone, you have to be familiar with their story.
At Brickhouse Books, each of our employees has a unique background that ultimately led them to where they are today. All answer one fundamental question: How did I get here? Here are just a few of our stories, plus some from other fantastic writers! What is yours?
Emily – Editor
It’s a Start
In January I read the cover piece in New York Magazine chronicling seed moments of great careers. Beginnings: The Breakthrough Moment. The first joke that Seth Rogan thought was funny. Kevin Smith’s convenience store job that led to the movie Clerks. George Clooney, Martha Stewart, Shaun White, Yo-Yo Ma—you get the idea. It was a brilliant piece, because it sawed down the pedestal. It was more proof that everyone starts somewhere and often that start feels like nothing out of the ordinary.
My writing has flared up again lately. Yes, it sounds like a disease. It can feel like one. For the first time, I am taking it seriously. Often the sheer volume of the garbage ideas disgusts me. I start a new document, type type type. Another new document, a few more words. Repeat until I have to rush off to work. I do not have writer’s block. I have completion block.
Meet Alan, my coworker. He has terrible British teeth, a voice too quiet for customer service, a gentle kindness, and he is embarrassingly late. He found out that I write, so he asks me what I’m working on. At first it was really nice. I probably shared that day’s story. The next day it happened again. And then again. And then again. My answers became more and more vague, then snappy. All of a sudden sharing my art felt like a burden, a contract. I have started to avoid sweet, sweet Alan, who is nothing but a fan, yet elicits expletives in my head every time he asks me what I’ve been writing about. If you give a mouse a cookie, he is going to hold you accountable for it.
His curiosity is appreciated, when I have finished something I am proud of. But I feel desperate when I’m not writing or when my work is mediocre. I’d rather lie and say the words do not exist. Have you ever seen a mediocre band live? Improv or stand-up comedy that isn’t funny? There is nothing more painful to watch. Doubt taps my shoulder. What if I never have a good idea again? I know this is a self-inflicted cycle. Alan can’t make me feel anything, but he does encourage me to reach deep inside myself and affirm my most terrible fears: that my life will be a tiny, quiet, insignificant failure and then I will die. And you know what? It might be true. The End is not warranted for just any human life. Consistent art making is hard to do. I see you, art school attendees, contracted novelists, creative business types.
It’s ridiculous and greedy to say that my whole life will have been a failure if I never make a masterpiece. I am the luckiest girl in the world, with a family that supports and loves me. I made friends—another version of a family—that love me. I fell in love, I traveled, I had dirt and tar under my fingernails, I made mistakes, I swam in the ocean day and night, I heard live music and I even got on stage. I have helped others. I’ve actually had a lot of interesting experiences, but in my head, the place where it all happened, they all sound sadly ordinary.
I’ve been devouring nonfiction, for the same reason I loved reading Beginnings. Because I am just a person who is serious about getting my art out there like these formerly normal people were. I want my ordinary to become a sensation. Nora Ephron says it well in an essay The Story of My Life in 3500 Words or Less, “I can’t get over this aspect of journalism. I can’t believe how real life never lets you down. I can’t understand why anyone would write fiction when what actually happens is so amazing…On the other hand, perhaps you can make this stuff up. So I write a novel.” A good story is one that tells the truth. Even if none of it really happened.
I work as a cashier at a grocery store. I would, in fact, wish this job on my worst enemy. To survive, I stare off into fluorescent space, dreaming, writing, with many interruptions. The other day I was watching another cashier. A typical week’s worth of shopping consists of boxes—fresh or frozen, meat or canned protein, some things that are green or red or purple or orange and require four numbers to ring up, cold heavy liquid so sturdily packaged that it requires two paper bags to avoid parking lot disasters, paper towels, and treats. What caught my eye on this order were leggy stems leading to a protective collar of plastic for bursts of delicate purple. The bouquet rings up as “Lavender Passion” for $8.99. All the food stuff, the stuff that keeps us alive, was manhandled into a bag, a real life version of Tetris. But don’t even think about bagging those flowers. Those flowers are beautiful, and beauty must be handed back to the customer with care. That beauty will sustain our customer each day from a vase on their kitchen table as they return home with another day’s wages. Even if they have a job they would wish upon their best friends.
Playing with words is one in a series of career changes for me. How did I get here? When left to my own devices I chose to read. When I tired of that I chose to walk. When I returned my head was full of beauty and I had to preserve it. My mason jar is a piece of paper, my peaches only petty schemes. The most brilliant works are often simple, and one day I hope to master that simplicity. I won’t let you know how it goes—too much pressure. However, a little of the right sort of encouragement will be accepted. Here’s to hoping for a breakthrough for you and me: the idea that gets both of us to the top of our hypothetical mountains.
Until then I’ll be I’ll be editing here at BrickHouse, helping other writers make their dreams come true. It feels like my biggest breakthrough yet.
Monica – IOS Online Editor
On My Way
As long as I can remember, I have been in love with reading. From carrying three books with me just so I wouldn’t get caught without a story, books have been an integral part of my life.
My passion soon turned into a dream for a future career, initially as a high school librarian, but has now shifted into a focus on book publishing. Due to the kindness of Harper Collins and my fellow book blogger John Jacobson, I expanded my horizons to starting a website of my own: Monica the Novelista.
Working on a book reviewing website has taught me so much about social media and the world of literature, not to mention opening doors to opportunities I never before believed would be possible. Not only have I been inspired to start a charity that provides gently used books to hospital patients, it also led me to Brickhouse Books.
While my dreams of working on book press tours are relatively far away, nothing is more exciting than getting a little taste of a world I can’t wait to fully become submerged in. Books have always been my lifeline, stories and characters my escape from the mundane.
I believe that no matter who you are, there is a book out there that can reach you on a deeper level. My dream is to help get you there.
Adrian Koesters- Author of Many Parishes
I was born in Bon Secours Hospital in Southwest Baltimore, and most of my childhood was spent back and forth living either with my grandmother in her house on South Stricker, just off Lemmon in the Union Square neighborhood, or with other relatives. At sixteen I moved to Washington State, and then at 19 to Nebraska where I have lived most of my adult life. Nebraska is now my home, but “Home” is Union Square, also the title of my first novel (not yet published). I also lived in the Govens area and on Roland Avenue.
My first book of poems, which I was delighted to have published in 2013 by BrickHouseBooks, details the Many Parishes of my childhood and adult life, and features a number of Baltimore locations and experiences, with a section of persona poems called “The Nuns Who Never Existed.” My second book, also under consideration at BrickHouse, is titled Three Days with the Long Moon. Both volumes are often poems of place, and how place has shaped my perhaps more than unusually odd and mixed perspective as a poet. In that sense, I feel I am still a true daughter of Baltimore, where everything always looks the same, and nothing seems the same way twice.