Jean McBride is a writer, artist and marriage and family therapist in Fort Collins, Colorado. Her book, Encouraging Words for New Stepmothers is a staple for many new stepfamilies.
She is currently at work on a mystery set in northern Colorado.
Her blog, Two Old Horses and Me, explores what we can learn about aging and life from two senior citizen horses.
How John Nichols Got Me Writing Again by Jean McBride
A few weeks ago I was in Taos, New Mexico, which happens to be one of my favorite places in the world. I was with two friends on a long weekend trip to celebrate our birthdays. I swear every time I cross the border from Colorado to New Mexico, magical things happen. It is, after all, dubbed “The Land of Enchantment.” It even says so on the license plates.
I’m not talking big magic, like making things disappear, or turning a dog into a human being or vice-versa, though I suspect all are entirely possible. I’m talking about subtle, life transforming magic that you’re not really aware of until later when you reflect on what happened.
That’s how New Mexico works for me. The magic is as soft and beautiful as the landscape.
So on Saturday we were doing our part to keep the Taos economy flourishing. We were in the Moby Dickens bookshop buying cards and books. I’d noticed a poster in the window announcing a reading that day by John Nichols. That can’t be the John Nichols, I thought, and continued browsing. We were about to leave when one of the women in our group wanted to go upstairs to look at more cards. I was still recovering from a bicycle accident and was ready for a nap. But I figured I could handle a few more minutes. I mean, how often does one get the chance to have nothing else to do but leisurely wander around a bookstore in Taos?
At the top of the stairs the store owner greeted us. “Are you here for the reading?”
“We’re just looking at cards,” I said.
He was undaunted. “It’s John Nichols,” he said.
“The Milagro Beanfield War John Nichols?” I asked.
He nodded, a huge grin covering his face.
My heart started to race. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. New Mexico magic was afoot. The Milagro Beanfield War is one of my favorite stories. I’ve loved it since the early seventies, when it first was published. Then somewhere in the eighties, Robert Redford directed a movie from the book, and I fell madly in love all over again. It’s become my healing movie – something I watch at least once a year, sometimes more. The setting, the story, the music, and the characters – I love all of it. In fact just prior to the trip, I’d commented to my husband that I thought it was time to watch Milagro again.
Of course we stayed. And Nichols didn’t disappoint. He read from his new book, On Top of Spoon Mountain. Then he answered questions. It was like attending a master class on writing. He was honest, warm, engaging and funny. He talked about the bazillion re-writes he does, and how he labors over each word. He told us about the many novels that were never published. He described his schedule of writing all night and sleeping in the day. And with a look of pure adoration, he talked of life in northern New Mexico.
By now it had been a good two hours since we’d hiked up the stairs. Instead of feeling tired, we vibrated with energy. Of course we queued up for the book signing. Nichols took a few minutes with each person, then wrote something personal in the book they offered. I overheard snippets of conversation about writing, music, health, New Mexico, family, fishing, and the publishing industry. There was no quick dashing off his name and writing something like: “Hope you enjoy the book.” He took time. He listened. He connected with each reader.
I’ll remember John Nichols when I’m signing my first novel. And that means I’d better get back to a daily writing practice. For inspiration, I keep this at my computer:
September 15, 2012
Well, as a writer from Fort Collins I know you’ll be fabulously successful one day!! Just remember: One word at a time. It’s easy. Que no?
With much love from Taos,
Thanks for sharing this wonderful story with us, Jean. I also loved The Milagro Beanfield War and have just put On Top of Spoon Mountain on my To Be Read List.