“No tears and the writer, no tears and the reader.”
“What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.”
What an exciting evening! I was lucky enough to hop on a train with my friend and writing buddy, Nancy, to a reading by Elizabeth Strout of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Olive Kitteridge. The reading was sponsored by the Rutgers MFA in Creative Writing program and it was just wonderful. Elizabeth held everyone in the room spellbound as she shared a chapter called “Security.”
Olive came alive in the very first paragraph and she marched through the pages in a way that was totally unique. Her voice, the characters around her, the detail, the things said and left unsaid, the sense of place — everything that makes for a truly satisfying read was there in abundance. What a pleasure!
But that level of artistry doesn’t come easily. When someone asked about her writing process, Elizabeth didn’t mince words. “I write a big mess and then have to make it not a mess.” At one point while writing Olive Kitteridge, she left home and immersed herself totally in pulling together the fragments of her novel. She rented a cottage in Provincetown and “lived inside those stories for the summer” in order to finally finish the book. Being so intensely involved in her characters was tremendously demanding; it took a lot out of her, Elizabeth told us.
On the plus side, Elizabeth said, “One of the things that I love about writing truly is that there’s no judgment; the characters just are who they are. That’s one thing I love about writing: the freedom.” I can’t wait to curl up with Olive and I’m going to treasure my signed copy:”To Karin, With warm wishes….“
It’s always great to be reminded that mastering any craft, from woodworking to writing takes energy, dedication, and commitment. If we stay the course, then one day, we too, may garner glowing reviews like this one from The New Yorker: “Strout animates the ordinary with an astonishing force.” Bravo!