The Joy of the Small Things in Life

The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

On October 25, I attended a lecture given by Alexander McCall Smith at the Boston Public Library.

McCall Smith is my favorite living writer, so the opportunity to hear him speak was an amazing opportunity. Apparently he was supposed to speak at the BPL last Spring, but the Volcano Incident kept him in Europe. All the better for me, as I was in Italy and would have been unable to attend the lecture.

His lecture was a funny, touching one, like his books. His main point was one quite close to me, a person on the brink of great wide world: find the joy in the little things in life. It isn’t the great, massive things that ultimately matter. It isn’t the grand adventures that we set out on, not the jobs we hold or how much we make (but I’m sure this helps), rather, it’s those moments of laughter, of friendship, of joy that create our lives. When I look back on my life, while I have had bright, brilliant memories, its those little moments of elation: I don’t remember why we laughing, only that we were, that we were having fun. That we enjoyed ourselves.

It isn’t the drama. It isn’t the news that defines our world, though it certainly impacts us. It’s the people we know and how we spend time with them. It’s that kind hello, that sweet smile. The invitation for a walk, the hug from a friend. That’s what our life is.

These ideas, the idea of friendship, of warmth, of love, are throughout his serial works, from The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency series to 44 Scotland Street. That’s why I love them so much. You care for them, even the ones you didn’t like as much (Bertie’s mother the terrible Irene is one).

The highlights of the evening:

After the lecture, there was a brief question and answer session. I tentatively raised my hand, a thousand questions whirling about. I didn’t expect that I would be picked.

I blanked.

Somehow my mouth managed to say, “Do you laugh while writing your books?”

His response: “Yes. Sometimes my wife knocks on the door and asks me what’s so funny.”

He then recounted a scene in the forthcoming 44 Scotland Street book The Importance of Being Seven, where Bertie meets a boy who collects penknives.

That had me on cloud nine. Seeing my favorite author speak, his answering my question…and a book signing to follow.

Cue waiting in line. There, I chatted with those around me about Alexander McCall Smith’s books, travel and art.

Soon enough, it was my turn to speak briefly with Mr McCall Smith. We spoke no more than a minute or so, in which I thanked him for the speech and answering my question. I told him that his books made me happy and were an inspiration to me as a writer. He inquired about my work, and after I said I had written a novel that “wasn’t terribly good,” he said just to move on to the next one. Simple advice.

It was a pretty awesome night.

I’m still on cloud nine.

6 thoughts on “The Joy of the Small Things in Life

  1. Beth,
    You are so correct! it is those little moments that count such as seeing your first child for the first time. Being happy that someone close to you excaped a close call with their maker. Or just a plain conversation over food or wine, I know you are still too young to experiece those moment, but theyu wil come and you too will remember, with joy!


  2. How great to meet an idol. It’s so frustrating when your tongue trips you up in the presence of someone you really admire. Inspirational stuff about the importance of the little things in life.


    1. I hope that when* I meet AMS again, I’ll be able to have a longer conversation than the minute or so that we spoke. I had a lot that I wanted to speak with him about–writers/books that we both enjoy, the writing process, etc.

      *Optimistic thinking!


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