Tuesday, January 15, 2008

THE WRITER'S VIEW


The Writer's View, originally uploaded by Flemming Gade.

For most of my life, my view as a writer was similar to the one from Hans Christian Anderson's window--not without its magic, but distinctly lacking in human warmth.

As a professional waitress and mom living in a small seaside town, I didn't know a single novelist or poet, published or un. I was strictly a closet writer No one but my family and a few close friends knew about my crazy dream to write a novel, and through some mysterious process that involved query letters and agents and secret meetings in New York, to actually get it published. I lived for the slow season when I could upplug the phone, shut the door to my room, and lose myself in my private passion: words and the world I created from them. If the winter months spent in that room were lonely, I accepted that as an occupational hazard.

That hasn't changed. As a full time writer (though I don't feel much like one lately) I still spend way too much time alone, fighting my simultaneous fear of failure and success, battling characters who won't cooperate with my plans, and those who force me to wade (or sometimes jump headlong) into the kind of experiences and emotions I try to avoid in real life.

But in spite of my isolation, through the internet, I now have what writers had to move to Paris to find in the twenties, or enter a costly MFA program in the nineties to encounter--friends! Real ones! In fact, I'd be willing to bet this solitary writer now has more friends than Hemingway did!

A whole community of writers and bloggers who believe that stories can change the world, a community who believe that the fate of fictional characters, or the meticulous or messy arrangement of words and motion, and feeling into a poem or an essay is worth whatever sacrifice it takes.



The other night I was listening to Philip Pullman being interviewed by Charlie Rose. I found myself nodding when he said (and I'm paraphrasing badly here; he was far more eloquent) that he wrote because we live in such a fabulous, miraculous world and he wanted to remind his readers how precious it is.

In other words, he writes not because he's a mad ego-maniac, as we writers are often reputed to be, but because he feels he has something to give and he wants to give it.

When you come right down to it, is there another reason to begin this epic struggle with self, with words, with blank pages and empty screens? If we truly wrote "for ourselves" as so many writers say with understandable defensiveness, why move beyond the safety of our private journals? Why post on a blog, or god forbid, seek publication--subjecting ourselves to the crazy-making mix of rejection, elation, despair, intoxicating praise and bitter criticism ? Why invest so much time and hope if we didn't believe we had a story to tell that someone--maybe just one person--really needed to hear? Why do it, if not to share, as Pullman said, our love for this startling and wondrous world we find ourselves in, and the even more startling goodness that the people in it often rise to exhibit?

Though my novel deals with murder, betrayal, and the even more lethal crimes of the heart, the real subjects of THE LIAR'S DIARY are music, love, friendship, self-sacrifice and courage. The darkness is only there for contrast; it's only there to make us realize how bright the light can be. I'm sure that most writers whose work does not flinch from the exploration of evil feel the same.

When I worked conventions and conferences as a waitress, we used to say that all the professional group, clubs and religious organizations we served had a character. In fact, I was so convinced that invisible servers like my co-workers and me had a unique insight into the identity of "the best people on earth" that I once wrote a blog post revealing our secret.

Since my illness, however, I've begun to change my mind. The kindness, generosity, and yes, the love, that's been shown to me my fellow writers, bloggers, Gather members and others from the literary community has been overwhelming, healing, and incredibly inspiring. To learn more about what a group of writers with the hearts of lions have planned for me, visit Susan Henderson's Litpark, or Laura Benedict's blog. Then tell me, honestly tell me, that these aren't the best people on earth.

***After my last post, the wonderful Amy McKinnon of The Writer's Group Blog asked me to post a photo of Hank. It's a request no grandmother has ever been known to refuse.

hank in the laundry basket

43 comments:

zhoen said...

(o)

Patry Francis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KG said...

Look at that wonderful pumpkin Hank! Soooo cute. And such a smile. :) Just the best.

This online wordy community continues to amaze me. Your post about it inspires me. Can't wait to hear about this project with your paperback.

The healing vibes to you to continue!

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Count me in as another writer who has been amazed and thrilled to been embraced by this blogging community. Truly one of the perks i didn't expect!

And the picture of Hank is worth, oh say, a million words! What a sweetie.

The Writers' Group said...

Patry, this community of ours was totally unexpected. I had always heard what a cannibalistic group writers were, but that's not been my experience at all, for which I'm grateful.

As for Hank, oh my goodness! He's delicious. How do you stop yourself from gobbling those cheeks and burrowing his neck for a good sniff of baby. Nothing smells as sweet. He's gorgeous and what's more, his smile will see him far in life. Thanks for posting.

Amy MacKinnon

Marilyn said...

First of all, Hank is adorable. :) There are few things I have faith in these days...but the blogging community is one of them. The unceasing love and support that's shown in this arena never ceases to blow me away. That's a wonderful idea and I'll make a note to give a mention on 1/29. Much love to you...and may your healing continue. xoxo

Ric said...

My life has been enriched beyond measure since I found this world on the internet. Lots of other people going through what I'm going through and - like you - willing to share a laugh, encourage, hold my hand, lend an ear, encourage some more. And write about - in amazing ways - the heartbreak and triumphs we all share.

Being there for each other - a family. I'm so glad I found you.

Lisa said...

Patry,

I'll always remember that it was you, Simply Wait and The Liar's Diary that were my introduction to this warm and supportive group of writers. I consider my dialogue here to be part of my DIY MFA program :)

xo

Sustenance Scout said...

Oh my we're ALL so glad we found you, Patry! You've shown the way with such grace and insight that the rest of us couldn't resist joining this dynamic online community you and writers like those at the Writers Group set into motion. I love that you talk again about motion within your reference to writing and can't help but think again about your moving scene reference when you were watching out the hospital window. It's all so fluid, isn't it? The writing, the blogging, the befuddling demands of family life, the daily rhythms of life in general. And it's all so worth it.

No wonder Hank charmed all those strangers in the waiting room! He and my four-month-old nephew Evan would look spiffy together in their Red Sox gear, especially with their blue eyes and big smiles. Enjoy! K.

saraarts said...

Hee! Hank! What a merry little soul! I can see how he could brighten just about any environment.

And I am sure you are much, much nicer than Hemingway, who was kind of a jerk in spite of his fondness for polydactyl cats. I also like your writing better.

Fred Garber said...

Story telling is at least as old as....fire....maybe ....no dirt! We love to tell what happened, or may have happened, or should have happened or will happen. I keep coming back to my favorite blogs to see what is gonna happen next. And yours is one of the best because you write with so much heart!
And that grandkid is great!

paris parfait said...

That boy is just too adorable for words. And the blogging community of writers and artists has made such a difference to all of us. I was thinking earlier today that if we'd had the internet and email 20 years ago, so many things might be different now - including long-distance romances that couldn't work then but might with the advent of modern technology. I'm so glad your wonderful book is coming out in paperback soon and that so many people will be collaborating in its promotion. I'm all for everyone reading your book! And I'm looking forward to the next one. xo

Sky said...

well this picture tells the tale, ms patry. i now know that no matter what you and ted say about moving, no matter that you might allow us to think you MIGHT consider relocating, it will NEVER happen! hank is the glue that will keep you stuck in the NE! well, i understand fully why that is so. who could give up looking at that beautiful face and kissing those cheeks with the kind of kisses that make noise and leaves both the giver and receiver in rolling laughter?

this blogging community is amazing! i love the idea of a "celebrate patry and Liars Diary day!" what a great way to promote the release of the paperback. i am so glad the blogworld brought you into our lives. we are grateful for you and your rich talent which entertains us and encourages us to explore ourselves. i will certainly participate on the 29th if i am able. i am about to have my next procedure but don't have the surgery date yet. it will be before the end of the month, i expect.

congratulations, patry, on the fabulous success of your first novel. i am still hoping to see you here again promoting yet another novel or simply vacationing with us. x0x

Laura said...

Oh, what a delightful, delicious, darling baby boy! I know I would never want to let him out of my arms if I were you.

You're so right about needing to write for other people as well as for ones self. I used to think I was writing only for myself, but Pinckney always said it was impossible for a writer to do that. Writing is always about communication: thoughts, emotions, just needing to understand we're not alone. I think I do it sometimes now to know that I'm alive and not just the queen of laundry and garbage detail.

I can't imagine that anyone would really take anything away from my work--I hope only to give them a few hours of relief and entertainment. But what fun it is to try!

BTW--I read Elisabeth Hyde's THE ABORTIONIST'S DAUGHTER this week. Have you read it? It reminded me so much of your work in its tense but perfect pacing and deep understanding of personal relationships and family. Just the thing for when Hank isn't along to keep you enthralled!

Larramie said...

What an privilege to have an opportunity to honor you, Patry, and THE LIAR'S DIARY.

Now about darling little Hank's jacket...isn't it time for him to become a New England Patriot? ;)

Laura said...

Amen to what you said...if only I wasn't sooooo tired the night Charlie Rose had Pullman on, I would have loved watching the interview!

Hank is absolutely gorgeous! What a sweetpea!

Fred and I (and of course, Max too) are hoping that you're feeling better!!!

Best always,

Laura

rdl said...

He is way cuter in real life! I think i am in love with your baby. :D

Sandy Kessler said...

you surely do have friends - lymnphoma will not rule my life either !!

floots said...

well said and thank you
keep spreading and sharing the light
cheers

Therese said...

Patry, I, too, am astonished at the affection, support, and camaraderie I've found since I started blogging.

About writing for publication, you said, "Why do it, if not to share, as Pullman said, our love for this startling and wondrous world we find ourselves in," which sums up my view entirely. I've always felt that writing is for readers.

When I hear from a reader that my novel made her rise from despair about a bad relationship, say, or dare to engage her mother in a long-overdue discussion, I am overwhelmed. We affect people with our words (you certainly do) which is a gift to ourselves as much as to others.

Remarkable, isn't it?

p.s. Hank is as adorable as they come!

Anonymous said...

I was thinking the window photo was one of the most gorgeous photos I'd seen--so perfectly capturing the possibilites we writers feel in creating our little worlds of fiction. To me it says so much about writing and life.

Then I saw Hank.

xoxox
Tish

Mother of Invention said...

Hank is a sweetie and certainly no refuse!

I am inspired by bloggers who write for themselves even though they have never had many readers or commenters. They simply love expressing what they feel and would do it anyway in the absence of any readership. It is nice to get feedback though and know you may have made a difference in someone's life.

Carleen Brice said...

I have a similar post up now, Patry, though targeted toward a specific person. I'm delighted to help spread the word about The Liar's Diary and so glad I got connected with all you novelist-bloggers!

easywriter said...

Oh what a darling boy! And what a wonderful post, again.

I'm thinking of you every day Patry.

kyra said...

i feel lucky to have found you.

and what a beautiful boy!

marja-leena said...

My comment yesterday must have disappeared to the ether, so here it is again. Your words about the wonderful friends found through blogging are right on! How else would I have found you? What a sweetie of a grandson you have - thanks for sharing! Take care, good health to you, Patry!

Sustenance Scout said...

Tish's comment is just so sweet. Thanks for the smile, Tish! K.

Amber said...

Aww! What a sweet baby!! That is pure medicine for you, I bet.

This is a wonderful post. All of it. The writing wisdome, and the human wisdom. Thanks for it.

There are lots and lots of people out here pulling for you. ;)

:)

Sally Crawford from London said...

Patry,

I am setting aside special time to read your 'writer's view' - literally and metaphorically the only thing that matters, and to meditate upon it.

Stay with that brilliant gaze outwards and inwards.

Blessings,

Melba said...

Maggie is on my lap and we are admiring how cute Hank is!
Please let me know if there is anything I can do.
We are always thinking of you.

I emailed you a few weeks ago...just know I am here for you!
XO,
Melba

Patry Francis said...

I have so much I'd like to say about each of these comments, but while I was napping the days away on the couch, they got a little ahead of me. Just know I savored and appreciated each one of them--and even without my pain meds--I love you all.

Sustenance Scout said...

It does us all so much good just to touch base even via the blogosphere, Patry, and to know you're getting the rest you need. Sweet dreams from Denver! K.

K Cutter said...

Oh, I want a bucket of Hank!

Maryanne Stahl said...

you so gracefully get to essentials! friendship, art, the sea, a grandson's radiant smile...

he's gorgeous, your grandson is, and so is your great big heart!

Laini Taylor said...

Hi Patry! I KNOW. Writers are wonderful, and if I had never found blogging, I would know so few. I also don't really have local writer friends, so this online community has been so vital to me -- and yours was one of the first blogs I found. I was so excited! Your book was coming out a few months before mine and you always had such wonderful posts about the process; it made me feel less alone! I followed the link to LitPark and it IS wonderful what they are doing -- you can count on a January 29th post from me too! I hope you are well! xoxo

♥Nova said...

Hank is such a cutie pie! I love his blue eyes!

I love your writing so much, Patry, and am so grateful that I happened upon your blog one day, and now I simply can't stay away.

colleen said...

I swear I can see the resemblance.

About a year into blogging I remember making an analogy that blogging might be the version of going to Paris like Hemingway did.

I thought the first photo was Wyeth. I do love what Wyeth has seen out his windows.

I'm off to see what the writers are planning ... Thanks for staying in touch here.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

What a CUTE baby! I love my little nephews so much. All that baby joy. Isn't it funny how babies and animals bring people together.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

By the way I checked the local Library here in Naples and Liars Diary is checked out both book and audio cd :D
YAY.

punk in writing said...

"The darkness is only there for contrast; it's only there to make us realize how bright the light can be."

I couldn't agree more. As a student I spent a year living in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The greatest lesson I learned there was to celebrate life and love.
I have never know people who loved and lived like those who experienced death, personal tragedies and loss. Death only seemed to make love stronger.

I recently discovered a short story that I wrote while living in Belfast. I wasn't sure what to do with it, but after reading about you I think I'm gonna clean the cobwebs from it and post it on my blog.

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