[Julie Schumacher (complete listing of author’s books) has written one of the most appropriate books for summer — her latest YA novel The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls available in bookstores and online retailers today. After all, what could be better than a book about a mother/daughter summer book club?
According to The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, May 2012:
“The result is a story that explores the way books can and can’t inform lives, as Adrienne’s summer leads to some surprising, even tragic events; that makes this a natural for book-club discussion by reluctant and eager attendants alike.”
If reading can and can’t inform lives, what about writing? In today’s guest post, Julie Schumacher explains why and what writing does for her.]
There are two terrific essays called “Why I Write,” one by George Orwell and the other by Joan Didion. In his essay, Orwell confesses that as a boy, “I had the lonely child’s habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons.”
Didion, who begins her essay with “Of course I stole the title for this talk from George Orwell,” notes that “In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind.”
Writers, I think, are both shy and egotistical. On the one hand, they like being left alone, hermit-like, scuttling into their libraries or burrows where they can chew on the bones of their own odd thoughts; on the other hand, they want to exercise god-like powers, re-ordering the world according to their liking – killing a character off here and there, inventing a new, pink planet, slowing time down. And once they’ve re-ordered the world, they want to emerge from the burrow and show it off to other people.
I usually start writing a piece of fiction because I find that my thoughts are stuck on a particular remark or event or idea. There is something in my head that I keep returning to – something that makes me feel restless. It’s as if I’m staring at a painting, and I’ve been told that if I look at it carefully enough, I’ll see the “magic eye” 3-D image hidden inside it. I write to try to find my way to that image. Through draft after draft, I wait for it to rise up off the page and announce itself – here I am, in plain sight, you idiot – and make sense to me.
“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” That was E.M. Forster’s more sophisticated way of phrasing the same concept. Perhaps Forster didn’t know about the magic-eye image.
If I had to come up with a list of reasons why I write (and lists are incredibly gratifying, aren’t they?), it would have to include the following:
1) I write because stories take the random and bewildering stuff of our lives and try to make sense of them. (And it seems to me that we’re supposed to make sense of them.)
2) I write because not writing is worse.
3) I write because my ninth grade English teacher, Mrs. Pritchett, read my short story out loud in front of the entire class, and I thought, “This is the highlight of my life.”
4) I write because it’s hard to talk about the weird and misshapen things that lurk in the underlayers of my imagination – but I can write them down.
5) I write because I am not good at math or other reasonable things that make sense to most people.
6) I have no idea why I write.
7) I write because, when I was ten, I composed a rhyming elegy for a litter of orphaned, newborn rabbits that I tried to raise in a cotton-lined box in my bedroom, but all of them died, refusing the eyedropper of lukewarm milk and stiffening into tiny beautiful brown tufts one after the other so that I had to bury them in the back yard during individual funerals, and I was so heartbroken I couldn’t stand it – and I found that the elegy made me feel better.
8) I write because writing is:
e) all of the above
[Hint: the answer is e]
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EST tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.