What I learned from Alice Munro’s Nobel Prize win in literature

Oh Alice Munro:

“For years and years, I thought that stories were just practice, till I got time to write a novel,” she told The New Yorker in 2012. “Then I found that they were all I could do, and so I faced that. I suppose that my trying to get so much into stories has been a compensation.”

Thank you for your well-timed win and wisdom, Ms. Munro, if I may call you that.

(Though I prefer to call you Alice.)

Your words in  The New Yorker were exactly what I needed to read right now, as a writer and as a human being:

As a writer who wishes to breathe life into the characters who infiltrate my dreams, but doesn’t yet know exactly what those characters really want or where they are going.  As a woman who yearns to give life to ideas stirring inside my heart — but often lacks the time or the energy. As a human being who is constantly wondering what in this life is practice and what is for real.

Thank you for writing real women, real marriage, real life … in a way that allows the reader to envision the beauty that exists even in those very real, raw circumstances.

I’ll be honest. I’ve only read Runaway, and selected short stories of yours, but you’ve always been a writer I’ve wanted to read more of.

And I love your name.

Alice.

Munro.

It’s a name that deserves celebrity.

I love that you’re Canadian, and that my Canadian best friend loves your writing, and that those two things together make me want to read more of your stories.

I love that your first collection was only published when you were 37. It offers this exhausted and overwhelmed 38 year old mother of three a glimmer of hope.

I love that you’ve lived to be 82, and I wonder if you always knew that you would live this long or if you always thought, like I do,  that you were only one year away from dying — a victim of a tragic disease or an automobile accident.

Too bad. So sad. No book for you.

I wonder when your heart stops breaking. Does it?

I wonder when you run out of vivid memories to weave into your stories.

I wonder when you stop caring what people think and just write what you must so that a weight is lifted from your shoulders, and you can move on.

I love that picture of you — the one in which you’re sitting on the edge of the railroad track in The New York Times’  article. You look defiant, brave, and yet serene.

I wonder what takes more courage? Writing your truth or having it read by others?

Or sitting on the edge of a railroad track?

I win too, from this celebrated win of yours, Alice Munro.  Through getting to know you better, I am reminded that writing about what you know is enough.

Writing about relationships, memory, your life in your town. It’s enough.

I don’t need to fabricate tales of magic and mystery. I don’t need to create a romance that is one for the ages.

My life alone offers enough content for me to mine — life itself is a gift to any attentive writer.

Isn’t it?

What would you say, Alice Munro?

To a grown woman who still imagines herself a girl?

To a writer who still imagines herself on the slow road to a Nobel Prize in literature?

What would you say?

Would you say,

“Slow down?”

“Don’t worry?”

Would you say,

“It was all worth it?”

“It doesn’t mean a thing?”

Oh, Alice Munro. You’ve taught me a thing or two just by winning a damn award.

Getting old is better than being dead, you said, to the New York Times reporter.

“I’ve done what I wanted to do,” you said. “And that makes me feel fairly content.”

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