Developing the Inner Witness

Here is sure evidence that I am a born writer: By high school, I couldn’t walk down the hallway or open my locker without a little story-teller voice whispering in my ear, “With stealthy steps, Elizabeth paced the institutional hall, fluorescent lights buzzing overhead, until she stopped, suddenly, at a combination lock.” My every lived moment was instantly narrated. Call it a self-consciousness, psychosis, or literary genius, regardless, I had an instinctive, even impulsive need to relate events which was only released by writing.

Over the years my inner narrator has served me well, mostly because I’ve learned to work with her. She’s the story-teller in me as well as the essayist, the self that happily hops on a train of thought and rides it across the page. As a teacher, I’m particularly good at facilitating the development of my students’ reflective voices. “What’s your story?” is a great question to begin with, but it must be followed by “What do you make of your story?” before creation really begins. What do you think—and feel and wonder and deeply know—about your experience? (more…)

Author / Authority

large_4485740950What gives YOU the authority to write?  Not a nice question, but it’s certainly one writers ask ourselves.  I’m asking it afresh as Hannah, Delivered heads to the book stores next month.  Was I deluded to think this novel belongs in the world?  Surely I’ll be found out to be a fraud!

I’ve yet to work with a writer who doesn’t question his or her right to tell a story, or to devote tremendous time revising it, or to launch it into the world.  A colleague of mine wrote a gorgeous memoir which her agent had difficulty selling.  At long last she got bids from two different publishing houses.  Later she told me how relieved she was.  “If I’d only gotten one offer, I’d have thought they made a mistake.”  I found my colleague’s comment deeply disturbing, but indicative of the strange mental games writers play with ourselves to convince ourselves we really do have authority.  One pat on the back’s not enough, but two?  You’re in! (more…)