I know I am going to die someday and I was afraid I wouldn't be allowed to because of all the students who want to study writing with me. I imagined myself as one hundred, long after my colleagues and friends passed on, standing in front of a class saying, "Okay, get out your fast writing pens and notebooks. Give me the last time you had watermelon. Go. Ten minutes." So I wrote this book Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir and my challenge was to capture in the book the way I teach a class. And I think I did it. I'm excited to find out what people think.
Also my last book was a memoir, The Great Failure, about the two most important men in my life: my father and the Japanese Zen Master I studied with for 12 years. I lost a lot of zen friends when they read the book and it surprised me — and hurt. But I also became free after the book was published. I wanted to see if my next book (which is Old Friend) could not mention zen but embody it and give the reader a deep flavor of it and also be a book that wasn't about me and also was as bossy as I can be and also funny.
I wrote it in airplanes, on hikes in Bandelier here in New Mexico, on my front porch, by the Rio Grande, in line in a pharmacy, at a cafe sipping hot chocolate, at my mother's in Florida, in Taos at the Mabel Dodge House, in a hotel late at night in Paris. It is my full heart singing.
This is my eleventh book and it is rare as a writer to be satisfied — that's why we keep writing. We think in the next book we will achieve something. I think I finally feel I achieved what I set out to do. And now I'm on to three new books I'm working on.
I'll meet you all in heaven cafe, writing for eternity — and maybe at Powell's next week.
[Editor's Note: Don't miss Natalie Goldberg's reading at Powell's City of Books on Burnside on Friday, February 15th at 7:30 p.m.
Preorder a signed first edition of Old Friend from Far Away while supplies last!]
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The author of the national bestseller Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg teaches writing workshops throughout the U.S.
Books mentioned in this post
Natalie Goldberg is the author of Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir