Like Alice Robb In last week’s blog, “In Praise of Writer Buddies,” I own the label of hermit scribbler,” a solitary figure at one with my keyboard even when I’m at the Village Books Writing Table, at my favorite library haunts in Ferndale and Burlington, or Café Adagio and the Swan Café at the Co-op.
I’ve been thinking about another label. I posted pictures and text about four Ruth Ozeki events I attended during Whatcom Reads. Dee Robinson responded with the following post: “Methinks Linda is a Ruth groupie.”
The Groupie designation originated in the sixties when teenage girls hung around and/or traipsed after rock groups, a phenomenon which became so prominent that the New York Post complained “Groupies—girls who chase boys in rock groups—are now getting so way out in their adulation that the whole mess warrants a federal investigation.” I entered the sixties at age seventeen, but neither I nor anyone I knew in my central California hometown of Visalia displayed excessive rock group admiration.
I like to think that my interest in Ruth Ozeki and other authors from whom I can learn, is admiration of a different sort. I was pleased at the FB reply by my library/FB friend Gayle Anderson Helgoe: “Me thinks that Linda is a groupie of all things literary…books, authors, writing, libraries and (of course) bookstores.” I smiled at Gayle’s comment, for I love being perceived as a supporter, enthusiast, and fan of “all things literary.”
Even so, I admit to a smidgen of groupie-ness. I showed up, always early, to all of the six publicized Whatcom READS! March 3-5 events, except for the showing of “Halving the Bones” at the Pickford which occurred while I was in class—and I’ll watch it on DVD. I took a dozen pictures, fourteen pages of notes, purchased four books, and had them all signed.
Writer and FB friend Kari Neumeyer posted, “Will you write a Red Wheelbarrow Blog about all the things you learned? I wasn’t able to attend any of the events, but I …listened to the audio book…and am interested in what she had to say.” When Red Wheelbarrow decided to do a series of blogs, I seized the opportunity to share some things that struck me.
Despite my background in journalism, I prefer to avoid the Who/What/When/Where /Why-And-Sometimes-How approach to reporting. Instead, I will do “BulletSpeak” quotes, notes, and paraphrases of Ozeki’s insights, serious and funny, on the writing process.
- Researching is fun. It can keep you from writing.
- I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than move commas around. (Also a distraction from writing)
- Fixing sentences is like hanging wallpaper.
- Unlike some writers who work from an outline, I don’t. I allow a book to grow in fractals, in branching patterns.
- Writing a book is a long process. I abandoned it 4-5 times. It emerged in fits and starts and proceeded in a jerky way. Every new path ended up improving the story.
- Technology is always failing. Pencils don’t.
- You don’t need an MFA. Just go to the public library and check out books to learn what you need to do.
- My mind is a great garbage patch of detritus spinning around.
- I don’t always know where characters come from; they can emerge from anywhere. Nao (the main character in A Tale for the Time Being) came to me in a persistent voice. She wouldn’t leave me alone. “A girl’s voice washed up on the shores of my imagination.”
- “When you perform an audiobook, the producers put a pillow over your stomach to muffle growls.” (Note: I also listened to the audiobook—Ozeki’s rendering is outstanding.)
- Ambition is about the future. Figure out a way to live between the dualities of patience and impatience. Buddha said to find the middle way; use generative tension.
- Serve your fellow man. Serve others first. If there were a splinter in your left hand, would the right hand ignore it?
- Spiritual practice is about now. I try to be comfortable with the unknowing. I try hard when I meditate not to write the novel.
Her last directive is one we hear often:
- “Writers: Just sit down and write.”
My next undertaking will be to launch a blog. I will begin with prompts based on Ruth Ozeki’s preface to the Whatcom Writes! Anthology called Choices. She suggested twenty, some crazy like studying one’s face in the mirror for three hours (!) and some fun like this one: “Go to a library… Roll dice and write down the numbers until they resemble a Dewey Decimal call number. Find the book with the closest corresponding number and read it as though it were the voice of God.” Watch for it at lindaqlambert.com (currently under construction) on April 1st.
BIO: Linda Q. Lambert is a January 2016 graduate of the Stonecoast MFA Creative Writing program at the University of Southern Maine, the mother of four sons and three daughters, an active member in Red Wheelbarrow Writers, and a retired library director.