HOW ONE OF MY FAVORITE ROCK STARS BUSTED INTO MY WORLD (OR HOW KISMET MAKES REALLY COOL STUFF HAPPEN FOR WEIRD EX-GROUPIE WRITER GIRLS WITH SPARKLY HEARTS)

So I have to share something kick ass that happened to me recently.  It all started last year when I was living in France.  (You know it’s going to be a long, boring story when it begins “It all started last year when I was living in France,” but bear with me.  It’s kinda cool.)  So there I was in this medieval French village, surrounded by ancient stone walls and ivy, guzzling whisky with one of my French musician friends.

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For reference (I know some people are visual learners), this is me in France, surrounded by stone walls and ivy, drinking wine, which is kinda like whiskey, but purple and less likely to make you get in brawls with bartenders.  Not that I’ve ever been in a brawl with a bartender, or anyone, except maybe my brother, when I was about ten, and he pissed me off, and I chased him with a frying pan, fully intending to kill him if I caught him.  Lucky for him, he ran fast and lived to tell the tale.  This probably explains why he flinches when I bust out the frying pan to make him eggs in the morning.

As we guzzled, my friend showed me a video of this band he said was one of the biggest up-and-coming bands in the world and one of his favorites ever.  The band was Vintage Trouble, and I was gobsmacked.

You all know I’m a huge rock-n-roll enthusiast, ex-groupie, so loving music isn’t rare for me, but this was really one of the most powerful responses I’ve ever had to music. My heart of course will always belong first to my beloved Roger Clyne, whom I followed for almost two decades, but I LOVED these guys.  All four of them seemed to be performing with their blood and bones, not just their instruments, which is usually the thing that makes me love a band (and is also really rare).

I obsessively watched videos of their live performances for days and promised myself I’d see them in concert when I got home.  I listened to them enough that when I hear their music, it instantly takes me back to France, because they were the soundtrack for that time in my life, which happened to be one of the top ten best times of my life ever.  But I discovered them at the beginning of my months in France, and by the end of it, life (and lots of wine) had happened.  Also, I had to teach at an MFA retreat the second I got back to the U.S., and I had to edit my soon-to-be-released novel, The Long Ride Home, and my career gobbled up my play time, and I forgot to look up my new favorite band so I could see them live.

Fast forward to now.  Friday, my beautiful friend, mind-blowing National Book Award finalist Beth Kephart (READ HER STUFF–IT WILL BOGGLE YOUR PRETTY LITTLE BRAINS IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE), referred a friend who was looking for a good freelance novel editor.  The friend turned out to be Debra, an awesome Penguin Random House editor, who wasn’t looking for an editor for herself, but for a musician friend.  She didn’t give me the name of the friend right away, but we emailed a ton, and I totally dug her. She was super cool and someone I wanted to hang out with more.  After a few days, I kinda figured the musician who needed an editor had found someone else, but I was happy, because Debra was delightful, and I felt like I’d gotten an amazing new friend out of the deal, so yay!

But then, Sunday, her friend wrote me.  He had researched me and my writing and said I had heart and guts and poesy flair (which made me think he was so cool, cause I’d way rather people notice my heart and guts than anything else, and no one has ever described me as having “poesy flair” before—I’m totally putting it in the special skills section of my resume).

His book, which sounds freaking incredible, is about everything I’m passionate about—resurrection and salvation, Egyptian, Greek, and Christian myth, the Mother Goddess.  I was super, super excited as I read his synopsis.  My heart was pounding, the way hearts tend to do when synchronicity is at work.  At the end of his email, he attached a video of the band he’s in, saying, “I’m the guy whipping up the shamanistic fury on the drums.” (He had me at “shamanistic fury.”) I clicked on it, expecting it to be a small, local band from Boise or something.

Well, the video was of the band that I had been obsessed with in France, Vintage Trouble, appearing on the David Letterman show.  I was astounded.  He was the drummer for that band.  The whole thing felt as kismet-y as it gets. I wrote him a letter, telling him I said, “Holy canole, Batman,” when I saw what band he was in, but what I really said was, “Holy shit!” (I can admit that now, as I’ve spoken to him extensively, and I’m reasonably sure he has no problem with swearing.)

Speaking of my letter, in true Tawni “I don’t know how to restrain my emotions” fashion, I wrote him a gushy Tawni-esque email about kismet and how I loved the ideas in his book and have a history of obsessing over his band. I giddily pushed send, and then went, “Um, crap.  That was really unprofessional. Tawni needs to tame her inner-Tawni.  There goes that client.”  But he wrote me back even more delighted with me and my gushiness.

I have to say, more good things happen in my life and career when I am honest and real than they ever do when I’m trying to be “professional.” There is a lesson in there somewhere. I talked about that very thing to my beautiful friend, brilliant author and profound thinker, Maureen Wanket, yesterday.  (READ HER STUFF TOO. IT’S GORGEOUS! IF I PUT IT IN ALL CAPS, YOU HAVE TO DO IT.  IT’S THE LAW OF THE UNIVERSE.) We decided together that the cult of cool is bullshit, and those who wear their hearts and truths on their sleeves are the real cool kids.

And then yesterday, Richard and I decided to have a phone chat to nail down the particulars of our contract. I will be honest.  I have never been so nervous about talking to a potential client.  Rock stars wow me, particularly uber-talented rock stars whose music I adore.  I thought I would be tripping all over my tongue.  But I forgot he was a rock star within 30 seconds. We talked for hours, and I think we talked about everything but the particulars of our contract—God and mythology and art and writing and music.  He was an actor in New Mexico during the time that I was an actor in New Mexico, which was wild.  (He was in film and television though, and I was in theater, so we never crossed paths.) He was in Nice, France just days after I left last year.  He told me he’d picked me to edit his book because of my energy and the way I wear my heart on my sleeve, and also because of a blog I’d recently posted about Egyptian mythology, which I almost deleted because I thought no one ever read my mythology blogs. (I can’t believe someone though I was cool because of one of the least cool things about me–my nerdy obsession with Egyptian myth.  I’m so glad I didn’t delete it.)

We ended our conversation with him saying that no matter what happened with the book, he felt like he’d just found a friend for life.  So did I.  I told him I’d been nervous about talking to a rock star, and he was about as gracious as a man can be.  He said, “Are you kidding me?  You’re the rock star. You’re the guru. I’m the novice.  I’m here to learn from you.”  In a world full of mansplaining (seven out of ten men I talk to don’t even mention my work, and one of the three that does tells me what’s wrong with it or that I was “lucky” to get published), I couldn’t believe that one of the most accomplished men I’d ever spoken to said those words to me.  (I said he had me at “shamanistic fury.”  I lied.  I think he had me at, “I’m here to learn from you.”)

So yeah, as I promised Richard, I WILL be following through on my vow to go see Vintage Trouble live now.  I’ve given up being a groupie for eternal Lent (I like being a writer more, and the pay for being a groupie is crap), but I’m definitely down for attending a rock show or ten. Because how can I possibly understand Richard’s novel without understanding his music?  (We talked about me seeing them in France in July, and I’m trying to come up with a justification for writing the trip off as a business expense.  Work with me here.)

Richard told me he cared more about his writing than any of his other art forms, and considering how successful he’s been with both acting and music, that has to mean something.  I’m so excited to dig into his manuscript.  And maybe soon, you will be buying a mythology-based, best-selling novel by kick-ass Vintage Trouble drummer, Richard Danielson.  I would not be surprised in the least if it happened.

Because life is magic like that.

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This is me back in my groupie days, not at a Vintage Trouble show, because I’ve never seen them, but that will soon be rectified.
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