Writing is as personal as desire – and as uncontrollable. Words are my road trip, volatile lover, relentless boss, weapon, and instant transport out of where I do not want to be. Most often when I write, I walk a lifeline between intuition and discipline. Without the first, the stories are dead on the page; without the second, my reader would be lured into lush and meaningless chaos. I am afraid – always – that when I sit down to write that the words will be gone.
I learned to write by reading. My childhood was periodically terrifying. There were two shelters: books and the outdoors. I was the serious child who carried six books home from the library, and came back the next morning, every book read. Scheherazade, in the 1001 Arabian Nights taught me that stories could save a person’s life. As long as there was a book to read, I could sleep peacefully no matter the family chaos. As long as I could escape into the woods near our house, I would be safe till it was time for reading.
When I was twelve, my mother gave me a book of Dorothy Parker’s poems. A month later, I sent my first submission – a poem in the style of Dorothy Parker – to The New Yorker. When the form rejection came, I tacked it on my bedroom wall. It was proof. I was a real writer.
Now I teach the same way I write. I pay attention to story, then craft. You choose from my cabinet of tools and techniques. You try them out. We discover what works for you – and we discover what is missing in your writing life, not just when you’re at your computer and with your notebook, but in the whole of your life. We are in relationship with our writing as we are in relationship with our lives.
“The Map of How to Write” by Mary Sojourner