Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Craft Book of the Month: January 2011 "Take Joy"

Week Two

Once again, I find there is so much good stuff in a writing book (last time it was Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages) that I am tempted to stretch my commentary to two months. I find gems--many of them-- in every one of Jane Yolen's chapters.

For instance, in Chapter 2 (The Mystery That Is Writing), she writes
Fiction is more than a recitation of facts or author embellishments. It is reality surprised. It shakes us up and makes us see familiar things in new ways. Fiction is like wrestling with angels--you do not expect to win, but you do expect to come away from the experience changed.
Rembrandt's "Jacob Wrestling with an Angel"
She talks about how a story takes place. (She uses a Japanese phrase I hadn't heard, even after living in Japan for three years, that of saku-taku-no-ki, which is the sound a chick--from inside an egg--and its mother--from outside the egg--make as they tap their beaks on the same spot so that the egg cracks open and the chick can emerge.) "In just that way a story begins, with a physical tapping on the outside: a line of a song that won't leave your head, an article in the newspaper that strikes a chord, a fragment of conversation that loops endlessly, a photograph or painting that touches you deeply, a repeating dream. And then the answering emotion that taps within--sometimes days, weeks, years later. The moment they come together, the story starts."

Finally, she talks about an editor who taught her the most about writing novels, "a wonderful woman named Linda Zuckerman."
Until I worked with Linda, I wrote my novels like a nervous tourist visiting an untidy continent, map and guide book in hand. I was so careful to tread on the properly outlined paths, I never saw the life by the roadside. I gazed in awe at the cathedral; I never noticed the half-starved cats on the cathedral grounds... Linda gave me permission to breathe, to take time in my books, to look about the landscape--both outer and inner--and finally to trust that the reader would follow, even at a leisurely pace, where I led.
(When I googled Linda Zuckerman, I found that she lives in Portland! What a mecca of talent this town is.)

Wrestling with angels.

Noticing the half-starved cats on the cathedral grounds.


I admit that sometimes my writing feels like I'm in a race. It is good to have Jane Yolen, via Linda Zuckerman, give me permission to breathe.

Hope your writing week is going well. Spare a thought for the people of Brisbane and Queensland, Australia (another city in which I have lived) as they undergo terrible flooding. It makes Portland's current sogginess feel completely small potatoes. See you here for more "Take Joy" next week.

1 comment:

If comments be the food of love, comment on. Give me excess of them... (With apologies to The Bard)