Monday, December 22, 2014

Reads for Writers: May Sarton 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.

          In honor of the “home for the holidays” sentiment, I write about home for the December Masterclasses. This year, I’m highlighting The House by the Sea: A Journal by May Sarton.

          Sarton wrote poetry, novels, and a series of journals about her life including I Knew a Phoenix, Plant Dreaming Deep, Journal of a Solitude, A World of Light, as well as The House by the Sea. These journals give a detailed look into the life of this writer and how much her homes through the years, complete with cats and dog, meant to her.

          Poets observe life in more detail than most other writers to capture moments in time wondrously in their work. Sarton reveals this truth in her journals.

Wednesday, November 13th, 1974

          “The refrigerator has pots of freesia and daffodil bulbs in it to stay cool for a month or two and then come out to plant in the window, which is really like a small greenhouse. It is lovely now because of a white cyclamen and three Rieger begonia, one bright red, one greenish white, and one salmon pink. When the morning sun streams in, they glow in their transparencies.” (page 17-18)

Saturday, November 16th

          “A serene dawn. I saw the sun first bathing my bureau in rich orange light, sat up, and caught the red disc just as it stood for a second exactly on the horizon’s rim. It is so silent all around that a moment ago when a single wave broke I was startled by its gentle roar.” (page19)

Thursday, January 8th, 1975

          My hope that I would have a whole series of empty days, days without interruption, days in which to think and laze, (for creation depends as much on laziness as on hard work), was, of course impossible. [Jody, a writer hitchhiker, had written she would be stopping by and turned up now.] …I felt dismay at the prospect…She came yesterday, in workman’s boots, overalls, a thin short coat…and a tam-o’-shanter, carrying the usual canvas tote over her shoulder. And I was suddenly delighted!

          …In her knapsack three of my books and a slim new blue notebook in which she jots down poems. I liked her face at once, the quirky mouth and keen blue eyes behind huge gold-rimmed glasses, mousy hair all over the place. (page 177-178)

Sunday, May, 16th, 1976

          Another of those silken days…I am in an ecstasy of birds and their plummeting flight past the terrace. It is very thrilling when a bird closes its wings and shoots along like a torpedo through the air. The elusive oriole is everywhere now, in and out of maple flowers and apple blossom…Out in the field the killdeer give their sharp peep, and the tree swallows go scooting around in the evening. The air they inhabit with such grace is intoxicating in itself, cool and gentle. What days! (page 256)

Tuesday, August 17th

          It is time to close this journal. I need to stop recounting days, one by one, and begin to think about and make notes for a new novel. I am longing to live in an imaginary world again, with people about whom I can know everything and tell the whole truth. That is not possible in a journal intended for publication. (page 287)

          May Sarton also writes in detail about writing, friends, family, gardens, interruptions, disappointments, poetry readings, politics, and many other topics. I mostly chose descriptive paragraphs where readers could picture moments in full color with audio backdrops.

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