Eastern tiger swallowtail on Lobelia (image by author)
“Writing is like lying down in the road and asking people to stop and look at you, and today, I got run over.”
This line, spoken by the young Lawrence Durrell, is from the PBS production of “The Durrells In Corfu”. Lawrence has just hosted a public reading to celebrate an early piece of his writing and no one, other than a confused and elderly man unknown to him and a small cadre of close family, attends.
Lake Michigan shore in January (Photo by author)
I am listening to Willie Nelson and enjoying him a good deal. Willie’s unmistakable voice–warm and full of feeling yet rational and sure–is calm and energizing.
Calm and energy are two qualities I am in need of this winter. I am depressed. Or so I think.
Oddly, I don’t think I’ve ever been depressed before. At least not like this.
Alice Munro, master of the contemporary short story, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature, and non-possessor of a MFA degree.
No, a MFA is not needed here–not at the august literary journal, The Missouri Review, that is.
Here is an excerpt from an encouraging email I received last month from TMR about the writing backgrounds of the winners of its prestigious Jeffrey E. Smith Editor’s Prize contest:
“Writing contests can feel intimidating, especially for writers who are honing their craft on their own, outside the imposed structure of a workshop or graduate program. I’ve heard writers ask, “Do people without MFAs ever win these contests?” The answer is yes. It has happened before and will happen again.”
And this is good, of course, and it’s encouraging to read something like this.
But isn’t this, writers, our just due?
When did a MFA degree become de rigueur in the literary world?
Women’s March On Chicago 1/21/17 (photo author)
It’s five weeks since Donald Trump assumed the office of the presidency of the United States.
It feels like more. A lot more.
President Obama was quoted, soon after Trump took office, as saying that he was heartened by the uptick in political activity that surfaced after the election, and exploded in the days immediately following January 20th.
I have lived through dark days in American history, and have witnessed, and partaken in, dissent, protest, and organizing.
But I have never seen what we’ve seen for weeks: an outpouring of agitation, discussion, organizing, and protest across the country. I have had moments of pride and amazement as I’ve watched resistance to the Trump administration involving every demographic within our borders and beyond.
Throughout all of this, I’ve struggled.
(Image by author)
Writers, I have put down my pen for much of this August and am reading.
It’s been wonderful, deliciously so, to allow myself big chunks of time each day to just read. I have a list as long as my arm of novels and stories I’ve been wanting to tackle, and am thoroughly enjoying working my way down the list!
But not all is delightful.
Like all writers, I have a life. That is, a life apart from writing. I know, it can be hard to believe that writers can find the time and resources to earn degrees, land jobs, fall in love, marry, buy houses, produce children, pay taxes, unclog drains, and weed the garden.
That our lives, on the outside, can appear so boringly, or brightly, normal to the casual viewer.
Blue Dancers, Edgar Degas, c 1899
What happened on Wednesday?
For starters, bored with a story that wasn’t coming together, at least not in the way I want, I took an abrupt writerly turn and with little planning or forethought, pulled out of the dusty bins of my laptop a story that I wrote some time ago.
Some time ago? I wrote this particular story years ago.