Monday, July 22, 2013

Reads for Writers: Barbara Kingsolver Provides a Masterclass

From Kate's Writing 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 within their books.
            Masterclasses take place when performance artists and 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, backstories, plots, settings, voice, and/or creativity.
                Barbara Kingsolver's High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never is a wonderful book to read any time of year, but summer may be the best season for it. The essays are short enough to finish them on car trips between children's squabbles, but deep enough to give you plenty to think about while schlepping all the accoutrements for a day at the beach from the car to the shore.
                The author shares glimpses into her life along with asides and insights that cement the need for good writing in our souls. As a writer, she shares her experiences and the benefits of this profession. I find great encouragement as a writer when I reread this book. Some favorite examples are:
(page 36) …because in the valley between real life and propriety whole herds of important truths can steal away into the underbrush. I hold that valley to be my home territory as a writer.
(page 97) I can hardly remember how I wrote before my child made a grown-up of me, nor can I think what sort of mother I would be if I didn't write. I hold with Dr. Steinberg: by working at something else I cherish, I can give my child room to be a chip off any old block she wants. She knows she isn't the whole of my world, and also that when I'm with her she is the designated center of my universe.
(page 244) Writing is no curse. The writing life has incomparable advantages: flexible hours, mental challenge, the wardrobe—you can go to work in bunny slippers if you want to. The money, well, that is sometimes a snag, but if you keep your nose to the grindstone the benefits accrue.
(page 250) The artist's job is to sink a taproot in the reader's brain that will grow downward and find a path into the reader's soul and experience, so that some new emotional inflorescence will grow out of it.
                Some of the taproots in this book for me include:
(page 15) Every one of us is called upon, probably many times, to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, a marriage, a move, loss of a job or a limb or a loved one, a graduation, bringing a new baby home; it's impossible to think at first how this will all be possible. Eventually, what moves it all forward is the subterranean ebb and flow of being alive among the living.
(page 53) If there is a fatal notion on this earth, it's the notion that wider horizons will be fatal.
(page 156) How is a child to find the way to her own beliefs, unless she can stuff her pockets with all the truths she can find—whether she finds them on a library shelf or in a friend's warm, strange-smelling kitchen.
(page 202) Where does it go when it leaves us, the memory of beautiful, strange things?
                This book is funny and sad and full of wisdom. Enjoy!
What book of essays do you love?

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