Friday, May 11, 2012

Commencements and Neat Finishes


Dear readers and writers,

This is the graduation season, the time of commencements of later lives and endings of academic endeavors.  I missed my husband's diploma ceremony at Claremont School of Theology/Episcopal School of Theology at Claremont last weekend because I was in New Haven (saw lots of good pictures!), but today I went to ceremonies for Scripps and Pomona Phi Beta Kappa students and tomorrow I will go to my daughter's MBA ceremony.  I was very taken with what the scholarship winner at the Scripps PBK initiation said, urging us all to shamelessly follow our passions.

One of her introductory remarks noted that it's neither the start nor the end of anything; life is continuous and so are our passions.  That reminded me of something I heard at Libby Grandy's critique group way back when: where you choose to end to your story, whether memoir or fiction, will cause it to be a tragedy or a comedy.  But of course, there is no end.  Chekhov said of his short story characters that he liked to return them to their lives once the story was over.  The neat "happy ever after" or the disastrous tragic death scene are not real enough to satisfy.  We all enjoy trying to guess what the characters will do next, and we don't really want to find the author dictating their future.

Enjoy your speculations about what you read, and if you like, share some of your favorite final ambiguities in the comments!

cheers,
Laura
Image from Creative Commons, with thanks!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Inspiration from Anne Lamott


Dear readers and writers,

I just saw a fascinating selection of ten things a writer named Leeann Tankersly learned from Anne Lamott, one of my own favorite writers.  For my part, I have a top two.  The first is, I feel AL gave me permission to write "shitty first drafts" instead of waiting until it's all perfect to write anything down.  If I waited, perhaps nothing would ever appear on that sheet. The second is the advice her father gave her brother about how to write a long paper about birds, "Bird by bird, buddy."  Just start. Do something. Go forward. It's easier once you've begun.

So what did Leeann Tankersly pick?  I'm only going to spoil one of hers.  Do click on the link and read her whole posting, it's full of interesting ideas.  But here's the quotation I liked best: "'having a child can help you slow down, which is one of the first steps toward paying attention' – love this, though, I will admit a certain level of agony in the slowing down. makes you feel mental, like you are forced to crawl through life stopping to look at every last rock, leaf, ladybug. perhaps AL is saying, yeah, that’s the point."

cheers,
Laura
photo credit: Creative Commons, with thanks!