I can’t think of a better way to end this writing year than an appreciation of the beautiful sentences I’ve jotted in my journal in recent weeks, such as this one:
“The afternoon was golden and the wisteria vine on the porch was in full unshattered bloom.”
--Carson McCullers, “The Haunted Boy”
As the term drew to a close and my own creative energies returned, I began reading and rereading McCullers, Carver, Wharton and Munro. I treated myself to a hard copy of “Best American Short Stories, 2013,” a well-curated collection by Elizabeth Strout. Despite many years of experience and publication, I need reminding: What makes a good short story?
My less rushed non-teaching days are a tapestry of reading, writing, walking, swimming, seeing friends, cultural activity, doing the laundry. I try not to get too wound up by holiday obligations of any kind—particularly gift and greeting card frenzy—as to do so would cut into whatever free time I have between terms, not to mention my budget. Simplicity at this time of year is my friend. Yes, it is a new year, but a writer’s life unfolds on a different continuum. My journal, unlike a date book, is ongoing. It doesn’t end because the year, we are told, has ended. And the long, retrospective, generic letters from far away don’t satisfy; I prefer the effort of consistent, personal contact on email, Facebook, or telephone. I still have two friends who send me snail postcards and letters. Brava, a correspondence! A party or two is fine, with people I enjoy talking to. Otherwise, I’m not a party person. I need to recover from the chatter of a party and to settle down again into my own thoughts. My husband is a screenwriter—a collaborative medium—and doesn’t require as much quiet as I do to write. He’s always sharing ideas, dialogue, and plots. I keep mine to myself for a very long time. He is social and solitary , I am solitary and social. True, I am looking forward to a getaway at Christmas, and to spending time with our daughter and son-in-law, but the draft of a new story and my journal will be in my bag.
Dear reader, I’m not Scrooge, just a writer.