What a delight” An evening spent with a gifted writer and teacher in a lovely church with scores of devoted readers, old and young, sharing the moment with me! An evening hearing Julia Alvarez, author of the much beloved How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies, which has just been reissued in a 25th anniversary edition.
Almost as wonderful as hearing Julia speak about writing: hearing the testimonies from young women about how her books had shaped and changed their lives. What greater joy can there be for a writer?
By turns delightful, funny, humble, feisty, and bold, Julia covered the waterfront in her talk. A few highlights to inspire us all:
Little details: “It’s the little details that really reach the reader. You’re putting them there with the details: they feel like they’re experiencing the emotions…. You focus on the particular and the huge concepts will be embedded in the details…..that’s what gives you the big story.”
Finding material: “Writers research by constantly keeping open their eyes and the ears.”
Why she wrote Butterflies: “It was a desire to get the story out and a way for me to understand my mother’s generation…. You write in order to find things out.”
On fiction: “I became interested in character and fiction is truth upholding the character….We live history through personal stories…. Fiction involves you in the human elements of history.”
“On writing: “Who knows what the gasoline is that drives a writer? I was just obsessed. I wanted to understand. I couldn’t stop. I was inside the story….We co-create: the books we write are also changing us as writers.”
On mistakes: “When you write a novel, it’s not like you’re writing a recipe. You just start trying things….I needed that messy part to find the voice. I was surprised at how it evolved.”
On creativity: “A lot of writing is happening all the time. Writing is not just happening when you’re writing.”
Why writing matters: “Literature is one of the most important ways you can change the world. It’s not big, it’s not fast, but when you read a story, you’re becoming the other who isn’t you and what a powerful thing that is in understanding other people and their realities.”
Writing advice: “Be him or her on whom nothing is lost.”
Bravo, Julia! And now, inspired with that mysterious gasoline and the desire to touch our readers’ hearts as Julia has, let’s all write on!
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