We, the Chicks, love our monthly featured writers. We’re excited to get to know one another and to introduce you to those who make our community so wonderful to be a part of. This month, meet Rody Rowe.
What I find most rewarding in writing is when the work has crispness and clarity and the metaphors tumble out fresh, creating a story-world that has both emotional and intellectual integrity. On these days I come away from the writing desk more alive, the doors to my heart and mind wide open and so grateful for the writing life. Robert Frost once said, â€œNo tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.â€ Holy ground for me is when writing helps me find my tears and helps other people find theirs and the surprises move both writer and reader to a new place.
For thirty-five years, I was one of those unique persons who had an audience for everything I thought, heard, read or dreamed. Every week I would write five to seven pages around a theme and several hundred people would show up to hear me deliver what I had written. I tried to never lose sight of what a privilege this was, or take the task lightly while not taking myself too seriously.
A deadline every week forced me do my â€œsit in the seatâ€ time, keep my hand moving and be willing to write really crappy first drafts. I was reminded again and again that much of writing is a skill like any other. It can be improved with practice and helpful feedback. So I have always cultivated a few people who really care about me and are willing to be lovingly critical to help me get better.
Someone said that good writing doesnâ€™t give facts about the rain it gives people the experience of being rained on. So the most rewarding times were when people got out their umbrellas!
I donâ€™t have that audience anymore since retiring this past spring but have begun to feel a part of a wonderful, gifted group of writers through the Red Wheelbarrow community. This new, gracious community is critical to me in supporting my emotional health and creative energy.
What have you discovered in your life as a writer?
I have discovered that writing itself is the gift, the prize, the payoff. It is the most satisfying emotional-intellectual-spiritual discipline of my life. A day where I am able to produce a few pages or even one really good sentence is a fine day.
Years ago my honest response to any one asking why I spent the time and worked so hard at writing would have been, â€œWell the pleasure of writing, sure but the final goal is to get published, of course.â€ People who are published are writers. People who arenâ€™t published arenâ€™t writers or at least not good writers.
So, I worked the poetry scene hard for a decade. The result was I got a handful of poems published in a few journals, was one of the principal readers at a small festival and won an amateur prize, but it meant very little. Would it be nice to have some of what I write get published some day? Sure. Is this very important to me? No. What I really want, I discovered, I get from the daily grace of writing.
What projects are you working on now? Where are you in the process?
I always have a few poems I am not ready to abandon yet, but most of my time right now is focused on a childhood memoir. I am close to having a strong first draft. I also have sixty pages of a new novel going and am re-reading a novel I completed several years ago and think it may be worth one more re-write.
Who are the writers you have admired in the past and why?
The book that changed my life was Silas Marner by George Eliot. Here I was plodding through this tenth grade reading assignment. Old miser Silas, half-blind, sees something that looks like his lost gold on the floor but when he goes to touch it, he feels the curly head of a baby. Thank God, I was in my room alone because I started to weep! Who knew words could surface such joy! After that I was hooked, even though I was a bit disoriented for a while to find out George was really named Mary Anne!
Anyway, I love the fine storytellers of the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries like Irving, Conroy, Kingsolver, Patchett, Bloom and Sue Monk Kidd. Naill Williams is less well known–an Irish novelist with a great gift for the metaphor. Try his Four Letters of Love or As It Is In Heaven. Also if you havenâ€™t discovered Kent Haruf, give him a try. His writing is deceptively simple and unadorned â€“not a word seems to be wasted or out of place. Read Plainsong first and then Eventide. The poetsâ€”Oliver, Kenyon, Collins, Berry, Neruda and Gallagher, to name a few. If you are looking for a couple of theologians who can write try Barbara Brown Taylorâ€™s An Altar in the World or Frederick Buechnerâ€™s Wishful Thinking, a Theological ABC.
I also have a ritual of reading Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury every spring and A Childâ€™s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas and portions of Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame every Christmas. They never fail to get the juices flowing.
Lastly, I have a few quotes taped to my writing desk that have continued to provide guidance and encouragement:
â€œWriting is like driving at night with your headlights on. You can only see two or three feet in front of you, but you can make the whole journey that way.â€ E.L. Doctorow
â€œI am certain of nothing but the holiness of the hearts affections and the truth of the imagination.â€ John Keats
â€œHow can you be sure anything you write is good? You canâ€™t. You canâ€™t. You die not knowing. If you have to be sure, donâ€™t write.â€ W.S. Mervin
â€œNot knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.â€ Emily Dickinson
Thanks again, Rody, for letting us get to know you a little better and for inspiring us to write for the love of it!