Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Freedom to Write

When I was in high school, my English teacher wrote, "This student will probably never communicate effectively in writing." That searing comment discouraged me from writing for almost twenty years until I found a wonderful teacher in Los Angeles named Terry Wolverton who encouraged anyone to put their ideas on the page. Because of her insights and support, I began to write with ever increasing confidence. I realized that I did not want to react to negative critics but was willing to listen to constructive critique. My role model as a writer is Audre Lorde. She came to writing later in life, primarily as a poet, although her work encompasses all genres. Her collection of essays entitled "Sister Outsider" is the one book I would take with me for an extended stay on a deserted island. My favorite quote from her has become my signature: What are the silences we swallow day by day? If we wait to speak until we are not afraid, we will be sending messages back from the grave. Her struggles and triumphs with breast cancer are recounted in "The Cancer Journals." Her experiences as a young lesbian in New York are fictionalized in "Zami: A New Spelling of My Name." As one of the founders of Kitchen Table Press, she also provided opportunities for other women of vision to have their work published. My mentor this past year has been Susan Straight, whose fiction leaps across the boundaries of her readers' expectations with stunning characters, fluid prose and engaging plots. I first read her work and widely recommended it to my students when her book "I've Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots" was released. Her thoughtful and judicious critique has sculpted the raw stone of my ideas into an emerging work that is exciting for me to create and hopefully will equally infuse my readers with the passion and joy I have known during the creative process. This has been my answer to the question: who has inspired you to write? What is yours?

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