Saturday, October 26, 2013

Read this.

All I have to say is: Wow.

The same student who sent me this link also recorded Dorothy Allison giving a talk at UW Madison this last week. I am blown away. I will see if I can get permission from Allison to post her talk - not the parts where people share - here on this blog. Because that, too: Wow.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mothering and Loneliness

This is a writing from a student a few weeks ago. I love her process of at first grounding herself in where she is - a garden in early autumn - then heading into dread about winter. Then, she really goes inside the fear, exploring what it is really about - motherhood.

Natalie Goldberg says in her latest book True Secret of Writing that weather is never a surface level thing. It is real. It is grounding. You can connect very deeply just by talking about weather, especially if youlet it open up to what is going on underneath, as Maggie did here.

Write your season right now. Go outside and write, even if it means long underwear and gloves. Write what is there, out there and inside you, then see what is inside even that.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Alice Munro and Almost-memoir

Alice Munro: "The constant happiness is curiosity."
From an NPR interview with Canadian short story writer Alice Munro, recent Nobel Prize winner in Literature:
Still, as a woman of her generation, she felt conflicted about taking time she needed to do her work, telling WHYY's Fresh Air in 1996: "There tends not to be the feeling that this is what you deserve. I still find it hard to think that I deserve this time — to this day. I can be made to feel guilty if a friend phones just to chat ... Also just about all the things that I could be doing to be a better homemaker, as I was trained to be."
A friend referenced this quote to me recently. She was blown away that such a famous writer - fourteen collections of short stories and many awards - would feel this way. Then I told her I do, too. My friend insisted - but you have to write. It's a part of your living. Yes, and? Somehow no matter what we are doing and how valued it is, there's always a doubt - maybe I am not doing enough, or not doing what I should be doing.

Munro doesn't write memoir - she writes short stories - but they are highly autobiographical. She is exactly the kind of writer - one who has lived in the same region her whole life and writes strongly of place - that Natalie Goldberg suggests for her students to read. As a person, too, she is delightful. One of my favorite quotes of hers is in this NYT article: "The constant happiness is curiosity."

Keep reading women authors, never doubting the significance of fiction, too, to enlarge our sense of empathy, as this recent NYT article says research now shows. We learn how to write everywhere, not just in our own genre.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Karinthy and Little Me

I received an email from a student with a passage from the book A Journey Round My Skull.
The book itself a sort of very early (1937) Jill Bolte Taylor's My Stroke of Insight. I am just now reading the book, which is good but not amazing, writing-wise. The content is interesting to me because I am interested in perception and neuroscience. As far as the writing goes, Karinthy's self-commentary is accurate, as Oliver Sacks notes in the introduction: he begins the book a bit over-analytical, and full of excess detail, so, while I enjoy the humor and insight, it often feels like he is showing off.

However, by the time he gets to the section my student sent me (3/4 way through the book), he has calmed down his narrative to a more straight-forward style, with plenty of self-awareness. This passage, in particular, is him interrupting his narrative to discuss the act of writing memoir itself. Amazing internal discussion.