Thursday, April 3, 2008
I recently discussed 'killing your darlings' with another writer. Seems that us writers have favorites and cling to them even when they are all wrong. A phrase that seems particularly expressive or alliteration that sings or a detour in the middle of an essay that leads nowhere, but sounds good. They jump out at us and we embrace them because they make us as a writer feel good. "Look at that, I wrote that, isn't that literate? Isn't that creative? Isn't that just exceptional?"
Often these darlings are just that 'exceptional pieces of writing' -- but they just don't fit the voice or the form or the topic. The wrong word in the wrong place no matter how beautiful the word is still the wrong word.
But essay writers know that often an essay starts with a 'darling' of a different sort. A favorite anecdote perhaps. A scene -- like the one of my husband walking across the parking lot with me as we enter a quilt show admonishing me to "don't even try to talk about those 'blankets' to me." And him standing with his arm around the guest speaker at the quilt show, grinning like an idiot while I snap their photo and listen to him tell her, "Quilts? Oh yeah, I like quilts, yep I like quilts a lot." It begs to be turned into an essay.
Recently I experienced an 'essay moment' while thumbing through my most recent issue of Mid-American Review. It is published by Bowling Green University and they actually published one of my book reviews there. Bowling Green was my Dad's home town and it is the college I would have loved to graduate from, if I could have had that opportunity. So I have a soft spot for the university and the publication. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't subscribe because I'm always intimidated to try reading it.
This whole intimidation factor came into play when I read a poem that appeared in the magazine. Now, poetry is even scarier to me than literary short stories. I started reading with the expectation of not understanding a word, but it spoke to me and I truly felt my world shift and my creativity soar and well, I turned it into an essay.
Of course my first choice to submit it was Christian Science Monitor. They always get first dibs on my kinder-gentler essays. This one though had a four letter word in it and well, it wasn't the usual fare I send their way.
To my surprise the editor liked it. And even more surprising, she did very little editing. And well, my little ode to poetry and all its angst is up on their website today in celebration of Poetry day or week or month, whatever it is.
It is one of my darlings. One that made me feel a bit vulnerable admitting my unsophisticated reading limits and the fear factor when addressing poetry. I don't know how readers will respond to the piece. For me it is a milestone. I feel it is one of my better efforts. I hope this darling proves to be worth keeping.