Wednesday, March 17, 2010

For the love of writing

I just finished reading  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  I absolutely loved it, despite it's stupid name.  When I first saw it on my mom's table, I wrote it off as one of those cheap novels that is written specifically for numerous dumb-downed book clubs that have sprung up all over the place (thanks Oprah.  Oh, and I'm not referring to the Capitol View Manor Book Club of which I was part or the Jefferson City book club that I have visited!).  It's unfortunate name hides a wonderful tale.
It was one of those books where, about halfway through, you're suddenly struck with the awful realization that the book will eventually end.  And then you find yourself completely conflicted.  You can't put the book down because you absolutely must find out what happens next yet, to devour the book means that you will soon finish and that, you realize, is simply unacceptable.  So you begin to ration your reading in order to make the book last longer.  It's as if you believe with your whole heart that not turning that last page will somehow keep the characters and places and everything else wonderful about your new found world...alive...indefinitely. 
It did end, though and I did mourn my great loss at not having another page to turn.

But I realized something about myself as a result.

The book is composed entirely of letters between various individuals.  Every character is introduced and fleshed out through the letters that they exchange with others in the book.  It was a fascinating concept, to say the least.  And it made me yearn for the time when folks exchanged lengthy correspondence.  It has truly made me want to stop using email for anything other than business exchanges and appointments.  The internet and technology are wonderful tools, don't misunderstand me (I write a blog, for crying out loud!).  It's just that we have all but lost our ability to let loose our thoughts via a medium that demands more than 100 character statements.  Twitter seems to be the technological equivalent of "twaddle"-- the word that Charlotte Mason used to describe "dumbed down literature with an absence of meaning."

So, what I learned about myself from reading this book is that I really do want to write.  And not just letters.  And not just blog entries.  I want to write more.  I always used to think that I didn't have it in me to write a novel.  I'm not a great teller of tales, per se.  But I do love to write about people I know and places I love and things I observe along the way and there's no reason that I couldn't tweak those a bit and form them into more than just journal entries.  I would like to write essays, too.  I think of Barbara Kingsolver, one of my favorite authors, and how she writes gorgeous novels (Who else thinks that The Poison Wood Bible is one of the best books in the world?) and telling nonfiction, as well.

This is all good and fine, I suppose, but I know that I have issues to overcome for writing to ever become something that I really "do."  Thus, I am going to start with correspondence.  Real, tangible, paper correspondence.  The boys and I are going to participate in The Great American Postcard Swap.  The group is currently being finalized but once it is finished the festivities will begin.  We will start with Alabama and the family from that state will send one postcard to the other 49 families that are participating.  Each week we will move onto the next state.  Our only requirement is to send a Missouri postcard to everyone else on the list one time but at the end of it all, we will have postcards from every other state.  How fun!!!

Further, I have chosen to participate, myself, in something called Postcrossing.  It is a postcard swap on a grander scale.  Once registered on the website, your name is put into the database.  You receive a name and an address of someone from anywhere in the world.  Once you send them a postcard, you log it onto the website and then you are eligible to receive postcards.  And so it continues, as long as you want to participate.  I've already received my first name and address--a young woman in Russia.  I am so excited about this new adventure and we've got to put up that huge world map so we can start pinpointing all the locations from which I get postcards.

So, if you're lucky, you just might be getting a real letter from me sometime in the near future.

You've been warned!


  1. Thanks for visiting my blog, Holly, and I look forward to getting to know you too! I've noted the "Potato Peel Pie" book as I too belong to a bookclub and we are always looking for suggestions. (On my own I tend to read mainly non-fiction). And good luck with the postcards--sounds fun! If you want one from us in Calgary, Canada, email me at rkawchuk dot yahoo dot com.

  2. Oh, I loved that book too and didn't want it to end. Hoping the author has another one in the works! I've been doing Postcrossing for years and really enjoy it. I just received my second postcard ever from Australia the other day!

  3. I was so surprised by my reaction to 'The Poisonwood Bible'. It's been years since I read it but the word "mesmerizing" is how I remember feeling while reading it. The characters were incredibly real, despite the very unexpected and unfamiliar surroundings and plot. I now realize that description is pretty much how I define a great book. It takes exceptional talent to write in such a way. "Memoirs of a Geisha" is another example. I know a book has passed this watermark for me when I actually keep the book and do not donate it to the Friends of the Library! I want to possess this potion forever!