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Two for the Money, Two for the Show

This morning has been one of entertainment and revelation, as well as finding two more writers I want to get to know much better now that I know so little about them. Odd phrasing, I know, but true, nonetheless.

I met John Jakesthrough a short article he did for the June issue of The

Cover of "North and South (North and Sout...

Cover via Amazon

WriterMagazine. Though I’ve dabbled in his books, I never stopped to pay attention to the one behind the words. That privilege came with his article.

Jakes talks about how plot, while important, seldom brings someone back for a second reading of a book. Rather, it is a character that calls the reader back for another look into the life represented within the confines of the book’s covers. That reasoning is one I can agree with without reservation.

At fifteen, Louis Bromfield’s marvelous novel “The Rains Came” leaped off the school library’s shelf and into my waiting hands. This story for more mature

Cover of "The Rains Came"

Cover of The Rains Came

audiences both surprised my composition teacher and dismayed her. She felt I wouldn’t be able to grasp the complexity of its story, characters, and plotline at a mere 15 years old.

I devoured this story of colonialist India with it’s coming revolution for sovereignty and its interwoven native characters and English colonials, its love stories—both adulterous and forbidden inter-racial unions, and its political statements. I couldn’t put it down. The depth of the story spoke volumes to me. I wanted more and took the time to find just that.

I went to the public library to find more books by this author. I came away with his Pulitzer winner, “Autumn Leaves” and counted myself fortunate that it was available. I’d discovered a world beyond kid’s literature. I could read something again with the depth and knowledge of Tennyson, Homer, and Shakespeare and get away from what was “acceptable” for my age bracket.

I understood perfectly what John Jakes spoke about. I’ve reread Bromfield’s books half a dozen times since that first introduction. Now I can look forward to reading Jakes’ marvelous volumes of “The Kent Chronicles” and “North and South,” along with anything else I can find.

English: Joyce Maynard at the 2010 Texas Book ...

Once I put way The Writer, I found Canteen Magazine online. I was looking for a new market. I found much more than that. I perused a past issue, while I sorted through the offerings, and came across one of the best writer’s articles I’ve read in months.

Of course, I’d heard of Joyce Maynard but never read her books. There are so many books out there and so little time, I hadn’t yet come to hers; a situation about to change soon.

In her article A Storytelling Life, October 3, 2011, (from Issue Two), Joyce talked of her mother and the early training in storytelling that she obtained by continual exposure. Joyce says:

“THERE YOU HAVE IT. My legacy. Daughter of a master storyteller—for whom allegiance to the truth took second position after reverence for good drama—I took to heart the lessons of two stories told to me when I was very young. One was of the princess locked in a room each night with a pile of straw, instructed to spin it into gold. That was what a writer had to do, I knew: Study a pile of dry sticks and grass, and figure out a way to make it glittering and precious. But the legend I loved even more came from Arabian Nights. It concerned Scheherazade, a young woman condemned to death, who kept a man from killing her by telling him a new and irresistible story every night. Spinning a tale well, I figured, could actually save a person’s life. Possibly mine.”

Throughout the article, phrases spring out to grip the throat of the reader, forcing one’s full attention to the detail given in spare, sharp words. Hers is an example of living without adverbs, of allowing the story to be about character while placing them on a train called “story line” and taken for a ride to allow the reader to see the characters from all sides. Her sentences flow into one another with such ease of statement that one is seldom aware of individual bits of punctuation, while the words place vivid images into the mind without effort.

Maynard explains: “But I learned more than craft under my mother’s ceaseless tutelage. She instructed me in the essence of what well-told stories are meant to accomplish—the idea that the joy of writing well might actually redeem and even trump the raw material of painful experience, thereby revealing deeply meaningful truths to the reader. Days when I’d come home from school, upset by some injustice or the hurtful behavior of a friend, my mother’s words of consolation seldom varied. “Never mind,” she said. “You can always write about it.”

Along with John Jakes article, Maynard’s example of what’s important to any kind of writing will have a special place in my new reference notebook. Take an opportunity to read these articles for yourself. You can find them at:

The Writer Magazine: http://www.writermag.com/en/The%20Magazine/Current%20Issue.aspx

Canteen Magazine: http://www.canteenmag.com/posts/joyce-maynard

And if you happen to come across others that are of special note, drop the link in a comment here for everyone to share.

Happy reading, all, and happy learning. A bientot,

Claudsy

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  1. May 24, 2012 at 6:15 am

    Have you ever read any urban fantasy by Charles DeLint?, I was just curious

    • claudsy
      May 24, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      I haven’t read him in a long while. Not that I get much chance to read anything non-work related lately. I used to love those stories, though.

  2. May 30, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I’m glad you came across us (Canteen)! Email me your address, and we’d be happy to ship you a few back issues–if you liked Joyce’s essay, we have much more content that is similarly themed (writers on their own creative habits, successes, and failures). info at canteenmag dot com

    • claudsy
      May 30, 2012 at 11:39 am

      Thank you so much, Stephen. I’ll drop you an email today. I always enjoy reading who others do their job and why. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far, too.

      I’m glad you came by and that you enjoyed this piece.

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