Whose writing do you want to make out with?

When I was a little girl, I would swing high on the swings next to Rachel or Lisa or Debbie who would be fisting two Twizzlers while simultaneously reaching with their feet for the moon.

Rachel or Lisa or Debbie would say, “I love Twizzlers so much.”

And I would say snidely, “If you love them so much, why don’t you marry them?”

There is a period between the ages of 6 and 7 in which this is the response to pretty much any sentence containing the word, “love.”

And while it’s easy to shrug this off as an immature, but age appropriate reaction to the word “love,” I’d also like to suggest that it also demonstrates a need for a word or expression that illustrates how one can love something inanimate so very, very much.

Is that really love?

Or is it something else?

After-the-QuakeI need a word for when I want to make out with good writing.

Last night, I finished reading Haruki Murakami’s short story collection, “After the Quake.”

As I do when I finish all of Murakami’s work, I sat in bed and absorbed the final words of the penultimate sentence in the book.

His writing does that to me.

It makes me want to bathe in it.

Soak up every last character description; every musing; every carefully thought-out analogy or metaphor.

In this particular instance, I was so grateful to Murakami because I have been struggling with a particular element in my own writing — how to describe the way music makes me feel. How to show, and not tell, how a character may be transported back in time in an instant at the first note of a song or by the tapping of certain keys on a piano.

Music plays this very role for the main character, Satsuki, in Murakami’s story, “Thailand.” A driver who picks her up at the airport slips a cassette tape into the car stereo and in an instant Satsuki recognizes the jazz tune “with some emotion” from a record her father used to play over and over as a child.

I read the passages on this page three or four times. The first time, as an engaged reader, but the following times as a student of the craft.

How does he do it, that genius, Murakami? What words does he use that don’t sound trite?

And how does he keep the reader’s interest when the reader does not know the music that he is describing?

I struggle with this a lot — how can a reader reading about Van Morrison appreciate Van Morrison if she has never heard him?

Right now, if I could aspire to any writing, it would be to Murakami’s. He is the moon I want to reach with my feet. He is the Twizzlers I want to double fist.

His is the writing I want to make out with.

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.”

Book deal? I write just for fun.

Three people, in as many months, have told me their creative efforts are “just for fun.”

This was in the context of showing me their wares — a brilliantly crocheted flower vase or a cat carrying-case re-purposed from a plastic water jug — and me remarking astoundedly, “This is fantastic. Are you selling them?”

Each smiled and said matter-of-fact, “No. It’s just a hobby. It’s just for fun.”

Once, I had a creative hobby that was just for fun. Once.

I used to be a scrapbooker.

<Pause for effect>

Yes, for about two years, I scrapbooked. I even had a scrapbooking friend — Debbie — who took me to a midnight scrapbooking event at a local crafts store in Tucson.

It was pretty much what you imagine.

Then I had kids, and unlike many moms who go scrapbooking crazy after birthing photogenic children, I just went plain crazy. Said craziness left me no time for cutting decorative borders and captioning weekends spent at the Jersey Shore.

My one creative hobby since then, which has only increased over the years since my day work has become more marketing focused, is creative writing.

In the last two years, especially, I have become a pretty serious creative writer and even started this year submitting some of my pieces to literary publications. No published pieces as a result of those submissions… yet.

So when each of those above-mentioned creative types told me they weren’t selling their pieces — not at a crafts fair, not to fancy shmancy boutiques on the lower east side of some city — I was taken aback; impressed, actually.

And I wondered.

Would it be possible for me to write … just for fun?

Without any expectations?

Of course, I do this already.

There are pieces (many) I have written that are sitting in a file somewhere, on a floppy disk in WordPerfect 2.0, that will never see the light of day, let alone end up in a literary journal. There are drafts of posts I don’t have the heart to delete sitting in limbo in a folder on the backend of this blog. There are starts of stories I never felt compelled to finish.

Were those all “just for fun?”

Before I get too didactic, let me clarify that I’m talking about the process, here. The intention.

Can I really write just for fun? Without the hope that what I write will become more than just an exercise,; will become

THE ONE?

The one that gets noticed?

The one that hits the right chord with the right person?

The one that gets me the top literary agent?

The one that enters me into the roster of authors that appear in a Prentice Hall Language Arts textbook?

The one that ends up sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard wrapped in a gorgeous cover with my name on it?

If “just for fun” means the same as, “for the sake of my sanity,” then yes, I write just for fun.

Or if “just for fun” means “I self-laughed a lot when I read my own blog post back to myself” then yes, I write just for fun.

But, more than anything, I write so that I will be read.

The reading by others is what makes my writing fun. This I know.

I just wish, sometimes, it weren’t so.

Just on a whim … all we are is just on a whim

Let’s move to San Fran

just on a whim, you and I.

We’ll bring the kids, too.