Thank you, thank you, to the writers who read their work for Some Writers Reading on Saturday, March 25, and thank you to the Grand Marais Public Library for sharing their lovely space for this “disruptive public event.” We writers sat in a loose circle in comfy chairs; people who were interested pulled up chairs around us. Comfortable and casual, and a whole lot of fun. Thank you again to Arrowhead Regional Arts Council for awarding me a 2016 Career Development grant, which made possible my time in Grand Marais. Good place here to note: Funding for ARAC programs and services is provided through appropriations from the Minnesota State Legislature, the Arts and Cultural Heritage Amendment, and a grant from The McKnight Foundation. Yay, Minnesota!
As we settled into our seats in that welcoming library space, I said I hoped to listen for the different worlds each writer creates in their prose — a physical description of the world, an emotional landscape, the world inside someone’s head. We heard all that — and so much more.
Shelley Odendahl talked about creating four different time periods for one character, spanning several thousand years, for her romance novel. Gene Glader described his research into Grand Marais’ downtown history, block by block, inspired by the accelerating rate of change in the area in the decades he’s lived there. Joan Crosby read a delightful passage about the year she and her husband lived 40 miles up the Gunflint Trail, off the grid, before that was a thing. Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux read an engaging passage from her middle-grade novel, and when she couldn’t find the second excerpt she’d planned to read, she performed from memory, encouraging us to act it out with her. Sandy Bloom read a powerful and poignant passage from the novel she’s created by fictionalizing her partner’s years as a young nun, living in an isolated convent. Staci Drouillard recounted an interview with an elder, who remembered walking the mile-long “Old Road” into Grand Marais with his grandmother, a journey long enough that she packed a lunch to share with the little boy. Shoshanna Matney read a moving passage based only tangentially on childhood memories, but still a brave choice with her (supportive) sibling in the audience; she talked about creating fiction from the smallest piece of real life and trusting imagination to take it from there.
Enthralled with the Q&A and conversation after each writer read, I didn’t take very good notes. But here is some of what sticks with me:
— When you grow up reading The Chronicles of Narnia, you are always looking for doors into other worlds.
— Responding to change, and planning for change are not the same thing.
— Roads are conduits between worlds, bridging distance, culture, time.
— When we name something, we have a responsibility to preserve it. Writers do that by storytelling.
— Writing true is important and essential and the only kind of writing worth doing.
— Things often (usually?) fail to turn out the way you planned. This is good.
— Making stuff up is fun. Revision is usually not.
— There are as many ways to write a story as there are writers, but there might be only a few reasons to write.
And everyone promised to get a copy of their book to Steve Harsin at the Grand Marais Library. Surprise of the day… Steve has a novel manuscript in progress, too!
Continue to part two of my musings, Increasing “the ambient intelligence.”