Wednesday, April 17, 2013

There's more than one way to ...

By Julie (and really, by Elizabeth, too)
Following up to Pamela's Monday post, here's a photo of the group (minus Kim--ironically our ONE Mainer) at the Dallas Museum of Art Monday evening, posing with Elizabeth Strout after her on-stage conversation with Skip Hollandsworth, author of the Texas Monthly article about our favorite Texas bad boy and co-author of the Bernie movie script. Strout wrote the beloved, Pulitzer prize-winning novel in short stories, Olive Kitteridge, and is now touring in support of The Burgess Boys, a novel that returns the reader to Shirley Falls, the fictional Maine town she originally visited in Amy and Isabelle.

Elizabeth LYND (popping her head into the picture there at bottom right) and I had an interesting conversation following the event. During the Q&A, someone from the audience asked about Strout's writing process. Elizabeth L. asked her to expand on part of her answer. Strout had mentioned that she writes in notebooks and hundreds or thousands of individual sheets of paper inevitably end up everywhere--some to be used, some to be discarded. Elizabeth L. was curious how much went in the wastebasket, and Strout explained that a LOT of it ends up there, or filed away somewhere, not in any real organized fashion, perhaps to be used in something else.

While in line, I mentioned to Elizabeth L. that someone almost always asks the writing process question during the events I've done for Calling Me Home. I jokingly said, "Does it matter?" What I meant was that each writer seems to have a different process; no across-the-board method works for every single one of us. I wasn't saying it wasn't an important question, but rather that what works for me won't work for you, or Elizabeth, or Pamela, or Susan, or Joan, or Kim, and so, in a way, my process or Elizabeth Strout's process is irrelevant to anyone else.

But Elizabeth L. came back with a really good point. She said (loosely quoting), "It matters because it says to me, well, if this process works for Strout, and this other process works for Julie, and this other process works for Jamie Ford or Cheryl Strayed or Chris Cleave or ... you know ... then maybe my own, mixed-up seeming process can work for me. It gives me permission to have my own process if all these other successful writers have achieved publication with so many different processes."

I was nodding (vigorously!) and saying, "Yeah, you're absolutely right." I made a mental note to add something about that the next time I answer a writing process question.

After all, as I said to Elizabeth Lynd, there is more than one way to skin a cat.

(What does that really mean? I've always wondered ...)

1 comment:

  1. And then Julie sent me off to search A Way with Words to see where the heck the skinning cat line came from--and it's not definitive at all.

    It was an interesting talk. And there are so many ways to do it right!


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