Tag Archives: Readers

Reflecting on words.

29 Nov

Have you ever come across one of your previous pieces of writing and thought: Did I seriously write that? It’s SO good! That happened to me last night when I came across a blog post I wrote on October the 20th, titled The finding place of my words. As I read my own words, I was amazed. There were certain connections I made on that brisk fall day back in October that still apply to how I feel right now. I don’t know what it is with writers wanting to write about words or the creative process. However, in my case, it provides me with perspective, which is discussed in more detail in my blog post titled, The magic of first lines in literature.

Last Spring, as I was walking across the quad of my college campus to get to class, I had to stop and take in the scene that was unfolding before me. As I looked around, I saw tons of college students sitting on the quad reading. However, as is customary for Asheville, they were all different. Each student’s reading experience was unique. One guy was lying in a hammock he had strung up between two nearby trees, and his book rested lightly against his bent knees. I also saw a girl who was lying on her stomach on a flowery blanket with her bare feet casually in the air. She was holding a book out in front of her, careful to block the sun from her eyes. The third student I spotted was my personal favorite though. She was sitting in the grass with her back up against the trunk of a tree. Her long, dark hair covered the sides of her face, making it possible to only focus on her eyes, which were moving so fast across the pages of her book that I could tell she was a very focused reader. I think the image of the third student stuck with me the most because I could see so much of myself in her. As a reader, especially when it involves a book I am reading for pleasure, it takes a lot to break my focus. Often times, I get so absorbed in the words that I lose the ability to fully comprehend what is going on around me, outside of the world of words that I so often call home.

Though I don’t know whether the students that I observed were reading for their own pleasure or for a class assignment, I like to believe either they were reading something for pleasure or were at least reading something they were interested in. I enjoy sticking to this belief simply because it is very closely related to how I imagine myself when I am reading. In so many ways, words have always been my refuge, but they have also been the place I have returned to again and again if I need to re-evaluate something or find my sense of balance.

“All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.” – Ernest Hemingway

Not all words provide us with the strength to change or the reassurance that we are moving in the right direction in our lives. However, if a series of words can come together into a sentence that causes us to stop and read the sentence again and again, it’s almost like magic. Whether they fill us with a sense of happiness, loss, sadness, anger, loneliness, or hope…words matter. They have the ability to reach a place inside us that not many people can even describe. It’s almost as if the most precious of sentences we have ever read reside in a place so deep within us and so personal that it takes a certain kind of experience for the words to resurface.

“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music the words make.” – Truman Capote

“One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.” – Hart Crane

Words matter. They are precious stones that have been washed by the countless waves of the sea, and they lie in the sand, waiting for us to uncover them. But the most precious words, the ones that are the rare deep blue stones, they are not so easy to find. They reside in the crevices of rocks, thrown to those places by the most violent of waves. But they have triumphed. They have overcome the turbulent waves of the sea, taking refuge until we are able to bring them out into the light. So don’t wait. Start searching.

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The magic of first lines in literature.

14 Nov

Throughout my time spent as a writer and a genuine lover of words and literature, I have been told over and over of the crystal importance of the first line. From a fiction summer workshop professor to a news writing professor, I have been told the same thing: The first line of any poem, article, short story, or novel is what stands between your reader picking up a different piece of writing or sitting down to spend the evening engrossed in your words on the page, so you’ve got to make it not just good…but damn good.

I remember the very first time a first line of literature completely pulled me in. It was Christmastime in South Carolina, and instead of playing outside with all the other kids on my block talking about what we hoped to get for Christmas, I was sitting in my room reading the very first line of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenburgs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”

I don’t know what it was about this first line that grabbed me, but after I read it, I couldn’t help wondering who the Rosenburgs were and why they had been executed. Maybe it grabbed me because of how the summer was described as “queer” and “sultry,” or maybe even though I didn’t know why the main character, Esther Greenwood, was in New York, I wanted to find out just as much as she did. Or maybe I just liked the way each word in the sentence combined to form the perfect combination of sounds and emotions.

I don’t remember putting down the book that first night, after being completely hooked by the first line. I most likely fell asleep with the book in my hands, only to wake up the next morning and keep on reading. That’s when you know you’ve found an incredible work of literature: when life stops until the last page is turned. To this day, the beginning of The Bell Jar comes to mind when I think of first lines. However, is another first line that has held just as much impact for me as Plath’s words did. Here’s the first line of Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons, which is also an incredibly amazing, though quite depressing read.

“When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy.”

Yes, I warned you it was morbid. However, first lines aren’t exactly supposed to make you squeal with joy. They are supposed to make you think. They are supposed to make you want to stay up late into the night just because you want to know what happens to a character that has entered your heart, though you have told yourself over and over that the character isn’t real. First lines are supposed to cause you to stretch your mind and question your beliefs. If first lines often stated things that we strongly believed in, they wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. It’s the first lines that keep us up at night that are the most powerful. Though we may not openly admit it, we like to be challenged. Being challenged allows us to open our minds to other possibilities, which helps us to grow as people and as a society. It’s the first lines that have you begging for more even after you have turned the last page that hold the most promise. And it’s those gripping first lines that push readers of all ages to come back to literature, again and again. It’s not just enough to read one book and be done with it. We must read them all. We must make each book a part of us, another world waiting to be discovered, another life filled with all new characters and places that we are ready to welcome home.

Diving below the surface.

6 Oct

I want people who write to crash or dive below the surface, where life is so cold and confusing and hard to see. I want writers to plunge through the holes—the holes we try to fill up with all the props. In those holes and in the spaces around them exist all sorts of possibility, including the chance to see who we are and to glimpse the mystery.-Anne Lamott

Today, I finished reading Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. This quote from the book really stuck with me. Over the past few months, I’ve been drawn more and more to books about writing and what it takes to be a writer. Though I don’t read the books in order to remind myself why I write, I do read them in order to remember that many of the emotions that I feel as a writer don’t enclose me. Rather, they allow me entry into one of the most special worlds I’ve ever known: the world of writers.

I first began to write because I felt like no one understood what I was feeling. Writing was the way that I could be completely myself without having to explain why I felt or didn’t feel certain emotions. As I sat in my childhood bedroom at the age of 8 with a journal and pencil in hand, I realized that I didn’t have to hide. I could pour my entire self into my words, and the only person who had to read those words was me. However, more recently through this blog, I have started to understand the strong sense of community and belonging that I’ve been looking for for so long. It’s been right here, waiting for me to discover it. The world of writers is one that is very hard to explain to those who aren’t writers. However, for those of us who are writers, we know what our world is like. We wake up in it every morning. We plunge into it on a daily basis when we sit down at our computers to write out what is itching to be released. We know what it’s like on the bad days when the words won’t come, when it’s too pretty outside to sit in front of a computer that holds the daunting blank Word document. However, we also know the joy of the little victories: completing a chapter, getting an article published, the sense of relief that comes when another writing project is finished. Even though those little victories can keep us afloat for longer than we imagined, it’s the recognition we want. I don’t mean being the next New York Times Bestselling author or making millions of dollars. I mean being told by one single person that our words have touched them or helped them in some way. That’s the prize, “the big kahuna.” It’s what keeps me coming back to my desk, day after day, to share my story.

I haven’t opened the Word document that houses my memoir in a matter of months. Even though I could use the excuses of college classes, friends, work and other random responsibilities that pop up for juniors in college, I’d just be fooling myself. I’m naturally an introspective person. However, the kind of introspection that my memoir has involved has brought me face to face with memories that I never thought I’d have to experience again. However, for many writers, that’s what writing is. It’s facing our demons and learning to accept them so that we can move on to a better and more fulfilling life. I know from experience that it’s incredibly hard. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I keep trudging along though. I keep on “diving below the surface” of my life for the chance of impacting just one person, for the chance to be part of the reason that they feel even just a little less alone.

Writing Quotes.

9 Apr

Over the past few days, I’ve been looking for quotes that explain what I’ve been feeling as I’ve been writing my book. Through the quotes I’ve come across, I’ve realized that all writers struggle with loneliness, dark days, insecurity and days when it feels as if those that aren’t also writers can’t understand what they are feeling. I’ve compiled a list of quotes that either resonated with me or helped encourage me to keep on digging up memories of my past to ultimately share my story with the world.

  • “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” -Anton Chekhov
  • “Tears are words that need to be written.” -Paulo Coelho
  • “Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.” -Natalie Goldberg
  • “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” -Stephen King
  • “With writing, we have second chances.” -Johnathon Safran Foer
  • “When you’re missing a piece of yourself, aching, gut wrenching emptiness begins to take over. Until you find the link that completes your very soul, the feeling will never go away. Most people find a way to fill this void, material possessions, a string of relationships, affairs, food…I bear my soul, with words, for all to see.” -Jennifer Salaiz
  • “You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.” -Stephen King
  • “I am simply of the opinion that you cannot be taught to write. You have to spend a lifetime in love with words.” -Craig Claiborne
  • “If a story is in you, it has to come out.” -William Faulkner
  • “A story isn’t a charcoal sketch, where every stroke lies on the surface to be seen. It’s an oil painting, filled with layers that the author must uncover so carefully to show its beauty.” -Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
  • “To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make.” -Truman Capote
  • “Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.” -Anne Lamott
  • “Sometimes a book isn’t a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. Sometimes it’s the only story you knew how to tell.” -Tahereh Mafi
  • “When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that.” -Maya Angelou
  • “You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won’t really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we’ll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away.” -Anne Lamott

Living And Breathing For Books.

4 Apr

Last night I watched You’ve Got Mail, a romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks that’s actually quite old. Anyway, the movie is about 2 bookshop owners who are essentially at war. One bookstore is small and has been around forever, and the other bookstore is a huge mega bookstore that ends up putting the small, quaint bookstore out of business. Of course, this isn’t all of the story. There’s love too. But I want this post to focus on books.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’ve dreamed of owning a bookstore one day. The thought of waking up early and walking/driving to a store filled with books….books that wouldn’t be able to “light up” until I came to turn on the lights. A store full of all sorts of books: fiction, nonfiction, local authors, poetry, classics…and not to mention a bargain section. Books for only one dollar….ah, who could not love that? Of course, the bookstore would need to have super comfy chairs. Not the stiff ones, but the kind of chairs that you just seem to sink into. I’d love to have chairs like that littered around, as well as some smaller rooms in the bookstore. Smaller rooms full of all kinds of reading nooks that could fit any kind of reader. Reading nooks with comfy cushions, reading nooks looking out behind the bookstore to see a view of mountains. Just thinking about it makes me want to see it, but not just in my mind.

Then again, I love discovering all kinds of bookstores. Used bookstores…the bookstores packed with so many books that you can almost smell the pages aging as you sit there reading. It’s the fun part about being a lover of books. Enjoying the hunt of finding the perfect place to get a cup of coffee, sink into a comfy chair and lose yourself in the world of words. Nothing sounds more perfect to me. I live and breathe for all the emotions that books evoke within me. And though it is sad when a book ends, the great joy is knowing that there are so so many more to be read.

  • We read to know we are not alone.-CS Lewis
  • It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.-Oscar Wilde
  • Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.-Charles William Elliot
  • In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.-Mortimer Jerome Adler
  • Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.-Joyce Carol Oates
  • You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.-James Baldwin
  • The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.-Alan Bennett
  • For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.-Anne Lamott

A New Blog Look And My Writing Journey.

31 Mar

“Everything you’re ashamed of, all the parts of yourself that you keep secret, everything you want to change about yourself – it’s who you are. That’s your power. Deny it and you’re nothing.”-Fame

Last night after I watched Fame (the 2003 version…sorry to disappoint), I was messing around on WordPress and decided to change the look of my blog, while also adding a few widgets (or the various things located along my sidebar). I added a countdown to Ireland. As many of you know, I’m studying abroad in Ireland this summer, and I just had to have a countdown. I’ve also got one on my computer that’s broken down in days (it’s 87 days, by the way). That seems so crazy. 87 days until I’m in Galway, Ireland. WHAT?! Ah, so so cool.

Anyway, I’m happy for a new look on here, and I hope you all enjoy it as well. I figured it was time for some change, especially since it’s Spring. Also, in terms of change, I feel like I have changed a lot since beginning this blog back in November. As crazy as it seems, I began this blog 5 months ago. I’ve blogged every single day for the past 5 months. How cool! However, I owe it to all of my amazing followers who’ve given me nothing but support and encouragement. Really, all of you are so awesome!

I feel like I’m a very different person than I was back in November. When I began this blog, I didn’t really know where it would lead. At the time, I didn’t know that in 5 short months I would have established “Tuesday’s Tunes,” “Photo Fridays,” and above all, the beginning of my first novel, a memoir of sorts. I was thinking today about the journey my writing has taken. I haven’t ever been in touch with my own writing as I have since beginning my novel at the end of January. Though I’ve always had a love of writing (despite a 2 year hiatus when I was trying to figure out what I wanted out of life…which I still don’t quite know the answer to), it hasn’t always been this raw, this natural, this true. A lot of what I wrote growing up was fiction: mostly short stories and some poetry too. There were a few times I attempted writing about my own struggles when I was younger, but back then, I didn’t fully understand everything. I still had so many more questions to answer and tons of obstacles to work through. Also, I wasn’t mature enough yet to attempt to understand the reasoning behind my own emotions that I felt as I was going through all my surgeries and physical therapy sessions. However, that doesn’t mean that I’ve got it all figured out now. I definitely don’t. Writing this book is a journey. A journey filled with pain, fear, love, hope, and dreams. And it’s a journey I finally want to take (which has not always been the case).

It’s exciting to know that I’ve reached this point. Yes, the entire process of writing this book will have its ups and downs, but right now, during one of the high points, I’m finding happiness in the fact that I’ve finally found my voice. I’ve found my voice in the sense of finally knowing how I want to share my story. Through writing, yes. But for a while I didn’t know what I wanted my voice to sound like for future readers. However, I’ve begun to understand that there’s only one thing I want my voice to be: authentic. If I’m writing about a memory that’s sad or emotionally hard, I’ll cry through it. If I’m writing about a memory that makes me angry, I’ll be angry. The only way my readers are going to be able to feel all the emotions I went through is if I shed every tear and let out the anger right along with them.

True Writing Lies In Vulnerability.

29 Mar

“Your task is not to seek love, but to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”-Rumi

I came across this quote by Rumi this morning, and for a while, I just sat and stared at it. Do you ever come across those quotes that seem to say what’s in your heart better than you’re able to say it yourself? Well, this quote did that for me this morning. Through the process of writing my book, I’ve broken down a lot of barriers inside myself. Barriers that housed the pain, the fear, the details of the really hard memories. Now that the barriers are slowly being bulldozed to the ground, my true self is showing. I kept so much hidden for so long, and now that everything’s being exposed, I feel so vulnerable. It’s scary to think that through my writing everyone will be able to see so much more. They’ll see all the pieces, rather than just the parts that are relatively put together.

Though allowing others to see all that I went through is a big part of writing this book, it means that I’m pouring out every memory, every ounce of pain and fear, to put myself in an extremely vulnerable position. Last year in my Freshman English class, my professor (Dr. Cox), who is now one of my writing mentors, pointed out that reaching the point of vulnerability in our writing was the best place to connect with others, and ultimately, who we truly are. Dr. Cox also told me that writing isn’t “true” unless it costs the writer something. Though I understand what Dr. Cox means, it’s scary to know that by sharing so many details of my life, strangers are going to get a picture of who I truly am, inside and out. Though I have no doubt that putting myself in a vulnerable position will allow others to better connect with who I truly am, I feel like I’ll no longer have certain memories that are mine and mine alone.

However, through this book, I want to connect. I want to show other kids and families that have kids with Cerebral Palsy that they are not alone. I want to show them that I’ve been there and I understand. However, to do that I must break down all these walls in order to share the memories that will put me in the most vulnerable position possible. However, though vulnerability is scary, it’s also raw, true and the most honest portrayal of myself I can provide to my readers.