Passing of the Pen

03 May, 2011

by Julie Ferris

That’s what we’re calling it. The official sign-off, hand-over and next phase of the Narrator position. I’m not eager to give it up, but when I see Stacie again today, I realize “how can I not?”

Standing in the middle of the hotel lobby, she’s the brightest thing there. She’s been through the PR ringer, having her poster made, providing quotes for a press release, learning the blog system and now, today, taking some photos with me. Her look is bright and excited, mingled with a bit of overwhelmed awe.

I take her to my favorite seat, the plush couch in the lobby bar and before I can even settle in enough to ask the questions I had on my mind—turning the tables one last time and choosing the writer as my subject—Val is there, describing the time capsule in the lobby and reminding us that the Marcus company is very into history and preserving generational linkages. I thought it was appropriate as Stacie and I build the first link in what should be a very long chain of storytelling.

I don’t have to ask her anything, actually. She just starts telling. I worry as I listen if she is a better ambassador than a writer. She’s already describing to me the room we’re sitting in, how she’d depict the feeling of the plush couch that hasn’t been replaced in a long time “Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s good. Good, really. Look,” she says, bouncing on the cushion “it’s what makes it so soft.” Before I can comment, she’s telling about the baseball fans she saw in the lobby the day she took some head shots there and just as I laugh and agree that I’ve seen many a sports-reveler in the hotel, she is on to the next subject.

I’m convinced (not that I wasn’t prior to our ad hoc “all this is now yours” ceremony) that she’s the perfect heir to the throne. (I’m unabashed. It is a throne. It was such an amazing seat of honor, and not just because it was plush and well-worn). It’s not just that I’ve finally met a woman who talks more than I do (friends of mine will laugh at that; I think, after getting to know Stacie, I suspect friends of hers are giggling as well). But her talk is measured. She catches what surrounds us—from the bearded man who made an entrance and enjoyed his solitary glass of water in the lobby and mysteriously reappeared in the café when we walked through, to the staff and guests walking past us wondering about the cameras. She’s so full of things to say and so eager to not just say them, but write them.

That was the best part of talking with Stacie today. I had questions in mind, but all skirted the real subject: Writing. I was nervous to talk about writing. Writers are fickle (at least I am). It’s such a heartfelt, soul-releasing endeavor to mold words on a page and it’s so subject to critique that to discuss it raw and in the open is a delicate enterprise and Stacie has been reading my words. She’s seen my enterprise and now, she sits with me, suddenly there, gathering the words with me. We could both tell this story. Betwen us, it would be a choose-your-own-adventure and oh so different. Is the hand off today the doorway to a critique of what was experience as much as storytelling, craft as much as guest service?

When I interviewed for this position, interested parties asked me what I hoped to gain as a writer by the time I was done. I knew I wanted more stories than I could tell and more flexing of my pen than I could stand. I wanted to fatigue my muscles, douse the page in water because it overheated and beat my best time in a sprint across the sentences.

I reached many of those goals; I have measures of success ticked off in my notebook. But as I pass the pen, like a baton in a relay, I know that the next runner can be faster. Her way with words will reach different ends and move her to places I didn’t achieve during my residency.

Today we photographed me introducing Stacie to some of my favorite hotel staffers, my favorite hotel nooks and crannies and the memories of some of my stories. I tried to retell them but she already knew. It was a final tick in my notebook. Someone read my writing; someone is picking up where I left off.

It’s my turn to read, and I cannot wait to see how this story ends. Best of luck to you, Stacie, you have the pen that preserves the Pfister.

About the author

Julie Ferris

Julie is a devout Iowa Hawkeye fan despite her new Wisconsin roots, loves to read and is a sucker for good creme brulee and bad puns.

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