Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Olympic Aspirations of Writers

I went with my wife and two children on the cusp of 9 and 12, to Lake Placid, an upstate ski town in New York best known for hosting the Winter Olympics in 1980, when the U.S. Hockey team upset the Soviet Union with a 4-3 victory.  

“Do you believe in miracles?” said the television announcer.  I wasn’t even a hockey fan back then, just as I turned 13, but I marveled at the underdog rising to victory.

My kids ski.  So does my wife.  They also ice skate.  I have mastered warm-weather sports like biking, walking, baseball and just lounging on a beach.  I just can’t relate to the idea of enjoying being out in the freezing cold and then doing something that surely leaves me flat on my ass or with a broken leg.  But they love it and I support them, so I tagged along and hung out in the town.

Lake Placid has what I believe is the tallest mountain in the Northeast, Whiteface Mountain, not that any of that means anything to me.  My highest point is walking up a few steps to get to the cozy lodge we’re camping out in for four nights.

To the town’s credit, they do play up themselves as an outdoor pleasure zone.  You can do bobsled rides, rent a snowmobile, go snow-shoeing, ice skate outdoors on a frozen lake, frolic in the snow, ski, snowboard, and go on a dog-sled ride.  They have spectator sports as well.  We watched ski-jumpers going high and far and we saw Stars on Ice, a gathering of former Olympians doing an ice skating performance.

It snowed while we were there, with temperatures mostly in the 20’s.  It was quiet and peaceful.  But every day was cloudy and overcast.  I felt like I was at the bottom of a dirty refrigerator.

Lake Placid struggles to find a balance between highlighting its rich history of housing both the 1932 and 1980 Olympics – and emphasizing the lively winter sports fare available today.  There is an Olympic museum that pays homage to that history but The Olympic Center also holds some U.S. and even world championships for some winter sports.  I asked one of the caretakers if they’ll ever get the Olympics back and he seemed certain it wouldn’t happen.

“The Olympics are too big for us now,” he said.

Just 37 years ago this was the place to be and now he bemoans that the supersized Olympics would find their facility offerings cramped and inconsequential.  It’s amazing how things change, but I guess it’s similar to athletes.  One day you’re at the top of your game and then the next minute you’re leaving the sport.

Our windows for success can be small.  Standards change.  Competition copies each other.  New players and strategies develop.  It’s hard to get to the top and even harder to remain there.

Maybe the book world is similar in that it’s hard to break through and be a best-selling author.  Even though we hear of a number of authors hitting the best-seller lists over and over again, it really is quite a rare feat, given the millions of authors penning books.

Lake Placid can be – and is – a living, breathing place where sports of the winter flourish.  It also remains holy ground to historians.  When I went to Rome’s Coliseum, and to Greece, and Barcelona, and Montreal, I too, felt the reaches of Olympic history shouting at me.  But these are not burial grounds. They are monuments to human achievement that continue to inspire and motivate athletes of all sizes, ages, and capabilities.

What places serve such an inspiration to authors?  Is it the library or bookstore?  Is it being at a book exhibit in a museum or visiting the house of a long-dead writer?  What is most similar to Lake Placid, where lots of writers can gather, reflect on history’s successes and then focus attention to the practice of their craft?  Where’s the writer’s church, White House, or arena?

Writers get inspiration from everything and everyone.  Writers live twice – first in the unfolding of events that they participate in or witness; then, in the free release of their wild imagination and analysis of the world around them.  Maybe they don’t need a special building, site, or gathering place to feel connected to the past while pondering the future.  A writer is a writer wherever he is always, practicing his craft in the way he thinks even if he’s not in the act of writing.

One thing Lake Placid could improve on is its bookstore.  There was just one in town -- and it failed to live up to expectations.  I figured an independent bookstore in a town of skiiers with disposable income would fill its shelves with lots of books of great variety.  Instead, the store felt empty and sparse. It needed to double its offerings – and it had room to do so.

The town has plenty of good restaurants.  It’s definitely doing well and as long as people value winter sports or believe the Olympics mean something, Lake Placid should do well.  Writers will still soar high because there’s really a Lake Placid everywhere they go. Writers train their whole lives for a shot at getting to a grand stage.  They won’t have to jump off a mountain to gain fame, but they do have to climb their own mental mountains to achieve.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 

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