Day 257...and Candace has been reading The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art, by Joyce Carol Oates, because she is a writer herself, of fiction and poetry, and this is a book that helps you have faith in yourself as a writer. She wanted me to read it, so I am, and it's such fine clear writing in several short--some very short--essays written for various purposes and published elsewhere, here gathered.
For example, I have already read "To a Young Writer," which begins and ends Write your heart out, because it appears in Letters to a Young Writer, edited by Frederick Busch, and I enjoyed that book. Loved reading Oates again, because Write your heart out is good advice. If you've got a heart, and you're a writer, what else are you going to do?
There's some repetition in the book--of childhood stories or locales, of favorite books, like Alice in Wonderland--but that's OK. It ties things together, and this is a quick read. I loved "Notes on Failure," because, yes, failure or just "not making it" in the eyes of the current culture or marketplace, so often deepens us, as writers or any kind of artist, and frees us to do what we do in our own way, anyway.
I'm halfway through the book and feel that Joyce Carol Oates is the Barbra Streisand of writing, in versatility, perfect pitch, and pure, clear voice. Also they share some sensitivity and honesty. I recall that Barbra Streisand had severe stage fright for a time, preventing her from doing live shows, and the "Notes on Failure" chapter applies here. Also, these two women share perfectionism, I sense, or intense devotion to their art.
I was reading it between matches and during warm-ups at the Big 12 Junior Varsity tournament today, where other people were reading, too! A coach was reading a mass market paperback mystery. Parent spectators were reading hardbacks, library books, trade paperbacks. One was 1776 by David McCullough.
And one of the players, the one who writes poetry, was reading while lying in a heap with her teammates, resting after eating during the long break. I'm not sure, but it might have been The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
"You must change your life," said Rilke. So that's what I keep doing. I worked as an actor and director in Chicago, wrote for an encyclopedia, edited two poetry journals, shelved and retrieved materials in several libraries, walked beans, and was an assistant professor of English. Now I serve as Poetry Editor and Editor at Large for Escape Into Life, an online arts magazine, write & edit as a freelancer, blog "eight days a week," study the random, tend perennials, and listen to birdsong.