Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Manifesting Great Things

Today I bought Janet Fitch's new book Paint It Black. Janet tops my list of contemporary writers for her first masterpiece novel, White Oleander. The magic of her words, woven into her signature hybrid of poetic fiction, is mesmerizing. She is a leader in our craft for having the rare ability to leave a reader with the sense they actually had an experience. It's haunting. I then worked on revising a difficult chapter of my own novel for several hours. I took a break to walk through the city. San Francisco has gotten dark and cold in the space of a week, reminding me of how fast things can change when you aren't paying attention. I thought about why I was stuck with my writing. I decided, after I witnessed a street fight between a quarrelling couple, that it's because my writing is vulnerable and telling. My characters explore their emotions and motives deeply. They scatter on the page, like photographs, or soundbytes until I can make sense of it. But I can't capture a scene or chapter, with any satisfaction, unless I tell it as it's felt. It's refreshing that another writer (JF) seems to approach writing similarly, and without reservation. I considered how inspiring it would be to have Janet as a mentor.

I thought about another mentor of mine, Chris Abani. We haven't been in touch for a month or so, but we texted today. While at Centrum he told me to explore PhD programs, and turned me on to Percival Everett's writing. When I visited the website at USC where Percival teaches, I learned that Janet teaches there, too. I sent her an email, and told her how much I loved White Oleander. Since I didn't think she'd actually read it, I babbled on a bit about my work as an advertising copywriter in NYC and SF, my transition to becoming a professional commissioned artist and my recent goals as a fiction writer.

I came home ready to dive into my writing. I closed the window to my email, but my eye caught on a new message. It was lyrical and encouraging. It was a personal email from a mentor: Janet Fitch.

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