Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Most Beautiful Thing...What's Yours?

If someone asked you to describe your "most beautiful thing" what would you choose?  A thing? Say a fire opal or a brilliant sapphire?  A length of sari silk?

Or maybe an experience like a sunset?  My sister and father collected sunsets while I was growing up.  They sat on the front porch steps rapt to see each one, every night.  I enjoy them too, and often my husband and I will drive  to the West to savor a particularly spectacular sunset.

Or, would you choose something more ephemeral, an emotion, an interpersonal interaction, the way your child looks at ice cream?  The puppy's adoring look?  The way your lover looks into your eyes?

I have to choose for April 24, since Fiona Robyn is having a Blogspash to celebrate her new book, The Most Beautiful Thing, and this blog will be one of many connected in that flow of ideas.  I have a choice in mind...come back on April 24 and check it out!  Meanwhile, go to Writing Our Way Home (click here) to learn more.  And consider buying Fiona's ebook.  It's a lovely exploration of the mind of a young man who has a lot to learn about relationships but is learning how to let that happen.

Photo credit: Creative Commons, with thanks.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dangerous Voices of the Fiction Writer

One of my MFA classes has provided a lot of food for thought this semester on the subject of voice.  I've thought of voice as your unique sweet spot, the writing position that you and only you can take and from which your best work will come.  But in this class, we've discussed fiction writers who position their narrator in a different, non-self place with every book, and think of themselves as writing from a new position with each novel.  I've worked so hard on finding MY place this idea is almost shocking to me.

 The up-side of the shock is liberation.  I hate the idea, espoused by some, including the "teacher" I once had at the Mendocino Writer's Conference, that you have to avoid writing in the voice of an oppressed minority person.  The implication that as a writer, you only can feel and imagine what YOU would feel and experience based on your own life, is a straight-jacket to creativity. Write what you know, stick to that: no, I don't want to be that writer.  I love reading Susan Straight, Gayle Brandeis, Madison Smartt Bell, and others who have respectfully imagined their way into someone else's life.  I love the risk, the danger, but the reward in understanding from imagining that different life.

Still, the idea of putting on a new viewpoint with every new work is challenging.  I hope to rise to the occasion, though, since I would like to create work out of ultimate empathy: writing as if I'm another person, out of different experiences of humanity that I can imagine.