Re-Finding Inspiration

Monday, November 28, 2011
This weekend provided lots of time to be thankful--Thank you, WOW! and our wonderful readers!

The holiday weekend also gave me lots of time to clean up the house. It is the perfect procrastination technique and it impresses my in-laws. I don't know about you, but most of the time when I find myself in such a cleaning frenzy, it is because I'm trying to find something: missing car keys, important to-do lists, CDs, a favorite pen, the book I was just reading mere pages from the end?

My oldest took a look at the flurry of activity and wondered if I was hunting for the "Island of the Blue Dolphins," which she has just been assigned in school after reading (and re-reading) it two years ago.

A (very) worn library copy of "Island" covers a
great book for reading and writing inspiration.

"I let my friend borrow it last year and she says it hasn't found it even though she's cleaned up her room," my daughter said. (The room-cleaning habits of 10-year-old kids could fill a book, so I'll stop myself before I wander down that narrative path.)

Alas, no "Island" in all my cleaning and so a library trip now appears on a new to-do list...another piece of paper for me to lose. I did find my teacher's copy of Telling Stories: An Anthology for Writers, which is edited  by Joyce Carol Oates.

Telling Stories is a superb collection of great tales, grouped in eight wonderfully named sections, such as "Dramatic Monologues," "Re-Visions: Reappropriations," and "Genre: Horror." Her introduction will hasten many readers to stop reading, to drop the book, to run get a notebook and pen, to start to tell a story. In fact, she begs that we tell our stories because we all have a strong instinct to be storytellers.

I hadn't picked up the well-worn copy in nearly a decade and was amazed by my margin notes, underlining, and check marks throughout. I was also amazed I have apparently left some stories unread.  (Unread stories: another addition to the to-do list.)

I wish I could share more than just mere snippets here, maybe turning this into a psuedo-guest post by Joyce Carol Oates? Since she is so prolific, perhaps she might not notice? Nah. I wouldn't do that, but I will leave you with a sentence from her introduction that speaks to me and, I hope, to you:

"Every book, every story, every sentence we read is a part of our preparation for our own writing, so it's wise to choose our reading carefully, as an athlete trains carefully, as a musician practices at his or her instrument for hours and for years in pursuit of excellence, of fully realizing a talent."
Again, many thanks to our fantastic readers. Thank you for, go grab a pen and paper and start telling your stories.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a North Carolina-based writer and editor. Follow her on Twitter @Eliz_Humphrey as she documents her reading of the short stories she missed reading in Telling Stories.


Karen Wojcik Berner said...

Joyce Carol Oates is Yoda for writers. I will have to check out that book. Thanks.

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