There’s an important essay going around that, if you haven’t read it yet, you should read now before finishing this post. It’s called On Pandering by Claire Vaye Watkins, who is known to me by her fantastic 2013 debut collection of short stories, Battleborn, which won five literary awards.
The essay is actually a speech Watkins gave as a lecture during the 2015 Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop. Either way, the content rattled me.
A year ago, I began volunteering at a retirement community teaching a memoir writing class to a handful of dedicated writers. I refer to these writers collectively as “my ladies,” because except for the occasional man who pops in now and then, the regulars are all women (above).
Most of them — perhaps all— have never undertaken a creative writing class before. But they show up each week, notebook in hand, and after I give them the writing prompt I’ve prepared, they turn to their notebooks uninhibited by the constraints of craft, and write away. I’ve yet to witness any signs of writer’s block. In the 30 minutes or so they have to write before we share, most of them fill several pages.
As we come down the home stretch of 2015, I have much to be thankful for. In September, I officially launched workshops for Fresh Pond Writers and a month later received my first acceptance for a short story.
That story, “Williams,” which imagines a future where Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams is awoken from his cryogenic sleep was inspired two years ago by an essay from the brilliant David Rakoff about cryonics. I’m not a big fan of baseball and didn’t know that Ted Williams had been put into cryogenic suspension until I read that essay.
More recently I wrote a story called White Bear, which was directly inspired by this poignant video by Rosanna Wan, “A Tale of a Sickly Whale.” There is also a song by Neko Case, This Tornado Loves You, that keeps working its way into my writing, though I’ve yet to figure out the narrative. It’s a work in progress.
I’m struck by how these pieces have touched me and inspired me to produce stories. I’m grateful for the art that has fed my own art and it makes me wonder if any specific piece of art has ever inspired you to craft a piece of writing.