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One of my students brought this little gem to my attention:
A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.
–G. K. Chesterton
English author & mystery novelist (1874 – 1936)
The other day, at a bookstore event, I was asked “How much of your writing is ‘black’ and how much is ‘universal.’” Holy cats. Are people STILL asking writers that????
This is one of those moments where I wish I could go back and say something different that what I said. The question caught me off-guard. I am pretty sure that the man, (who was white), didn’t mean anything neccesarily offensive by the question. But, it’s two days later and I am still, annoyed, alarmed, and more than a little pissed off.
Let me explain.
On your marks, get set, GO! The goal is to write a short novel of about 175 pages (50,000 words) by November 30, which happens to be my birthday. Shall we all sit down and get our collective scribble on? Yes, let’s. Here’s the NaNoWriMo website.
People have been asking me about the three-minute story I wrote for the Pen/Faulkner Gala. If you recall, the theme was Lost and Found. Here’s what I wrote. It’s called “Some Thing Blue.” (If you have a windows machine, you can click here to listen.)
Well, I am getting ready to hop a plane to go to DC for the Pen/Faulkner gala. Over the last few days, I’ve been scrambling trying to make sure my sister who lives in Port Arthur, Texas is safe from Rita, trying to get my students’ papers graded, trying to take care of a few home repairs. And I looked down at my hands and feet. Oh no! I had to drop everything and go a manicurist.
You may be wondering what this has to do with the MFA degree.
Hey, I just wanted to remind everyone of the Christopher Isherwood Foundation Awards. They give grants of $3,000 to writers of fiction who have published at least one book. It’s not very hard to apply. Click here for more information.
When I was about twenty-three, I wrote a novel called “Evangeline.” It was about a twenty-something named Fern who was from Evangeline, Louisiana. The plot was that she had come to Atlanta, determined to make a new life for herself.
As you can probably guess, I am struggling with the beginning of a new novel. I came up with the idea months ago… I worked on it while I was on book tour. I have written over one hundred pages, but I have only one twenty-page chapter to show for it. I am not quite sure how I feel about this…
Novels are like houseplants. Sometimes they just die on you for no reason at all. I have had several projects just give it up. It’s such a worrisome phenomena. There is no telling when a project will just stop speaking to you.
This was published in the New York Times July 10th:
IN elementary school, I spent a great deal of energy trying to explain the difference between atheism and devil worship. Until second grade I answered the commonplace query: “Where do you go to church?” with this: “My father says that we don’t believe in God.” Adults took this information with shocked silence, but children lack restraint. “You’re a devil worshiper?,” they asked. I didn’t think I was but I asked Daddy who assured me that we were not. “Atheists,” he explained, “don’t believe in the devil either.”