Coincidence is a strange thing. Just two days ago I downloaded an Anita Shreve novel on my kindle and started reading it for no reason other than that I saw the title and suspected I hadn’t read it. Over the years, I’ve greatly enjoyed a number of Anita’s books so when casting around for ‘a good read’, this seemed a failsafe choice.
So, I’m currently enjoying The Lives of Stella Bain.
I was astonished and saddened to read today that Anita died two days ago – too young these days at only 71. An obituary piece is here in the Boston Globe.
The sad thing about the death of writers you like and admire – Helen Dunmore being another – is that somehow you expected that they would always be there, writing away, crafting more for you to appreciate and enjoy – forever…
Now, too late, one can only appreciate what they contributed throughout their life and thank them for doing so.
Interviewed recently in the Sunday Times, Anne Tyler responded to criticisms that not enough happens in her books. She commented:
“I have noticed as a woman writer … that an event like war is considered a more real literary subject than just a wedding. I feel so sort of ‘Oh, I’m so sorry I haven’t been to war.’ Then I think, no. What motivates me when I’m writing is that I’m actually awed over and over again just by the fact that people manage to endure. Just that. They have nothing particularly to look forward to, and some of them have really hard and humdrum lives, and they go along.
I mean, it’s a miracle, if you think about it – that we’re all putting one foot in front of another is a miracle. To walk down the street and practically every person walking towards me, for instance, has had a huge loss. You know? I’m just so interested that it’s possible.”
Thank you Anne for some of the most cheering and motivating words I’ve read in a long while.
I was impressed by an interview with the writer Edith Pearlman published on the excellent University of North Carolina Lookout site.
In it, in response to the question ‘What is your creative process?’ she said:
Each short story takes several weeks (five days a week, about four hours a day) to write, in many, many drafts, all on the typewriter. The draft then marinates in a drawer while I work on the next story or piece. The marinated story finally gets withdrawn, re-revised, typed at last into a word processor, and presented to my dear friend, colleague and ruthless reader Rose Moss, who usually sends it back to the typewriter for another few weeks of revision. So each story takes about a month and a half in total time.
When asked for her advice for new and emerging fiction writers, she added:
Revise. Revise each story from beginning to end at least three times. When I say revise I mean rewrite completely.
Although reading sage advice about the process doesn’t in itself help the quality of the output, I found this reassuring ammunition against those who imply that short-story writing is a quick and simple process…
An article in the Daily Telegraph yesterday focused on ‘older writers’ with the headline that ‘It’s never too late to write a book”. However it was a bit disconcerting to find that the featured authors looked (and indeed were, in relative terms) so young. One even talked about having four young children – so not that old then!
A bit more encouragement for the truly ageing amongst us, highlighting the achievements of Diana Athill, Mary Wesley, and the vast number of lesser-known first time authors/writers over 60 etc would be much appreciated.
And no, the argument that publishers are looking for ‘social media’ experience and “longevity – someone they can get several books out of” isn’t acceptable. There is a vast market of over 50s who are looking for books that resonate with them – not necessarily by older people, but not automatically by the latest up and coming 20 something authors either (end of rant).
NB Good to see the Prime Writers Group – looking forward to seeing their numbers swell.