Monday, February 25, 2013

Reads for Writers: Robert Fulghum Provides a Masterclass

From Kate's Writer's Crate...

As a reader, I always love finding books that appeal to me. As a writer, I am twice as pleased when the authors also provide Masterclasses for me within their books.
            Masterclasses take place when performance artists or musicians work one-on-one with students. Writers don't generally have this option, but I have found some books to be Masterclasses for characters, dialogue, backstories, plots, settings, voice, and/or creativity.
             Robert Fulghum's voice is unmistakable. Most famous for his book All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, he has written many more including It Was On Fire When I Lay Down on It, Uh-Oh: Some Observations From Both Sides of the Refrigerator Door, and Maybe (Maybe Not): Second Thoughts From a Secret Life.

The author writes about his life as a series of funny and sometimes sad anecdotes which cover his childhood adventures through his careers as a working cowboy, professional artist, folksinger, bartender, parish minister, teacher, and amateur philosopher. He has been a part of the tragic and triumphant moments in people's lives and shares them with his readers in poignant detail. These short tales make you laugh, occasionally cry, and always illuminate our humanity.
As a minister, Fulghum officiated at many weddings—over a thousand, in fact. My favorite story of his begins on page 9 of It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It.
As he states,
"…I always look forward to marrying again, because most wedding are such comedies.
Not that they are intended as such. But since weddings are high state occasions involving amateurs under pressure, everything NEVER goes right…"
He then goes on to tell the "quintessential wedding tale. One of disaster. Surprisingly, it has a happy ending, though you may be in doubt, as I was, as the story unfolds."
It's hilarious! 
The author has a way of making many things funny: holiday stress, family secrets, obsessions, and even funerals including a surprisingly funny story covering the battle between a "Band of Brothers" and an acerbic widow over the service for a VFW member in Uh-Oh starting on page 173. His buddies and his wife loved the man in their own ways, but did not agree in how to honor him.
Whenever I find myself in need of a laugh or a change in perspective, I randomly open any of these books and dive in. You may find the author climbing trees, wearing a beanie while walking to work with a briefcase to observe other's reactions, playing a favorite game of making up occupations with newly-met seatmates doing the same on airplanes, or relating the real biographies of the unremembered people behind famous inventions and songs.
His delightful observations about love run through these books so it's no surprise he wrote another book entitled True Love: Stories Told To and By Robert Fulghum. In his book Uh-Oh, he had suggested he would love to hear other people's tales of love. This book contains some of the letters he received recounting stories of best friends, soul mates, love affairs, and the kindness of strangers. Again, the stories are a combination of funny and sad showcasing the beauty of love in all its forms.
If you enjoyed these books, Fulghum also wrote From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives and What on Earth Have I Done? Stories, Observations, and Affirmations.

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