Being the Assistant Director of the Writing Program at the University of Massachusetts, where that very famous writing teacher Peter Elbow used to dwell, you certainly know what I mean. You certainly know what you are talking about when you talk about writing! (And I invite your comments, as always!)
Getting back to The Huffington Post, though, I am going to have to decide very shortly which book to serialize. I have to let that book editor know my decision soon. (As in, tomorrow! :)
Whatever I decide, I don't want to put aside the many interesting issues that you and I discussed on Friday, including the many questions that are raised by the ideas of serializing a novel on-line. Because this I truly believe is the future of writing and publishing Peg!
I think it makes sense, if you are willing, to continue talking about these writing -- and reading -- issues, right here, write on Sister Mysteries. All that you said the other day about traditional narratives, and "disrupted" or what you and I consider "feminist" narratives, there is so much to talk about there, especially because Castenata -- for all its being an antiquated murder mystery, a 19th century whodunnit asking over and over again, "is Sister Renata guilty? did the nun kill her cousin?" -- it is a feminist narrative!
And so, now I finally see Peg. I finally know why I am writing this book.
For years you have been asking me, "Claud what is the point? Why are you writing this Sister Mysteries thing?" And now, 16 long years later, on the anniversary of starting the tome, I FINALLY HAVE THE ANSWER PEG (some questions take longer to answer than others! :)
I am trying to re-invent storytelling Peg. (HA! no small task there!) I'm trying in these books Peg to DISRUPT what you and I would call traditional or PATRIARCHAL NARRATIVES!
I'm also trying to bring attention ( and work against!) the "binary" nature of stories: in journalism we call it the "he said/she said" quality of story-telling.
In Castenata we've got a very strong and readily apparent binary at work -- the "he said" portion of the story composed by a man, Antonie, who is writing wildly erotic tales about his cousin, Renata, tales that turn her repeatedly into a seductive flamenco dancer :) !!
And then we've got Sister Renata's version of the same events, the so-called "she said" part of the story, in Sister Renata's diaries, in which she claims to be the devout nun.
Antonie's cleverly constructed and tantalizing stories "frame" Renata, very literally -- she ends up in prison, accused of his murder. This of course conforms precisely to the feminist notion that men "frame" or "entrap" women all the time with their "patriarchal" gazes; according to all that feminist theory you and I read in grad school, men (and patriarchal society) objectify women in all kinds of ways, but most specifically, they regard women either as "virgins" or "whores," -- and that is playing here too.
Renata is desperate to get free, to free herself from Antonie's "stories," and the accusation that lands her in jail. And as I've said so many times, I am determined to "free myself" from the traditional storytelling mode!
So Renata and I have got a lot in common: we are trying to tell "true" stories to free ourselves! I've always said about Sister Mysteries that it's up to me to tell Renata's true story, one that frees her -- and me too!
As I've said to you over and over again in the last couple of months, the emergence of blogs is really key to my being able to write the nun story -- one that bounces back and forth in time, and between links, the way Castenata and Sister Mysteries do. Until this new technology emerged just a few years ago, I could not possibly write like this, saying, for example,
"hey Peg, remember what I wrote the other day about serializing a novel on-line," and voila, have you be linked right there!
Peg it is getting ever more clear to me as I write in this "new" way that writing on blogs is truly a revolutionary thing! It is so incredibly freeing. I just love it. I discover so much about writing as I do these posts. And as you so often have said in the past, the writer MUST be engaged in discovery as she writes, at the same time that the reader is discovering as she reads. In your words, "No discovery for the writer, no discovery for the reader."
The writer needs to be excited about what she is writing because otherwise the narrative feels dead! That's true no matter whether the writer is writing fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose!
Hey, so no wonder then so many people are blogging. They are discovering their voices. They are finding out what they feel and think! They are finding out that they love to write!
It's really incredibly exciting when you think what the internet and blogs have done: a ton of people are now writing, every single day, all day long. You'll love this: my niece, Megan Kirsch, is a student at Wisconsin. She started a blog for her sorority, Alpha Chi Omega. She called it "Living Outside the Lyre." She told me in an email the other day that she started it "as a joke" for the sorority.
But then, all of a sudden, her sorority friends all started reading it because it turns out SHE IS AN AMAZING WRITER PEG! Isn't that cool? I got a link to it and now I am going to repost one of her pieces very soon in MyStoryLives. Peg, she has that natural gift -- she has a great voice, a sense for telling detail. And a terrific sense of humor.
So who knows, Peg. My niece Megan, like so many many young (and older!) people, may just keep writing. Because of a blog that she started "as a joke," she just may turn out to be a writer!
How incredible is that? I am thrilled by this. I am delighted to think that people, via blogs, keep discovering that they love to write, that they CAN write.
I think this is the future Peg. And yes, I think it would be incredibly fun and wonderful for you and I to put together a textbook to use with students like Megan, students who are the "next" generation (or THIS generation) of student writers, students who grew up with the internet.
Let's talk about it right away, or as soon as you have time!
"Peg" is otherwise known as P.M. Woods, Ph.D., Assistant Director of the Writing Program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of a fabulous novel, "Spinning Will."