In a time when so much divides us–religion, politics, and even something as simple as distance–books bring us together. We write them; we read them; we discuss them. And much can be learned from a good story, fact or fiction. One of my favorite aspects of blogging on a regular basis comes in sharing a good book with you, many times through author interviews.
Below, I’ve highlighted quotes from a few of my favorites, as the authors and/or their books touch on themes to which I’m particularly drawn: connection, compassion, and grace.
1. Margaret Noodin (WEWENI) tells us what inspires her most in writing poetry:
I am inspired by the systems all around us – water systems, forest systems, the way swamps evolve over time, all of the life that constantly changes and recharges everything that is connected. I suppose, ultimately, all the old stories about “mishomis-giizis” and “nokomis-dibiki-giizis” (the sun and the moon) are at the core of it. The fact that all of this life is happening across vast distances and inside tiny molecules reminds me of the way we put sounds and meaning together to make words that allow us to actually communicate ideas and perceptions to one another. None of this is new, but taking time to notice all the influences of the universe certainly leads me to write.
2. Ellen Urbani (LANDFALL) offers perspective on the tiny accidents in life that carry us along our journey and are reflected in the stories we tell:
I believe in the possibility of almost anything, and I have seen it come to pass in my whole life – not just my writing life – that the strangest and most unpredictable string of circumstances leads to an outcome I can best describe as miraculous. Albert Einstein said, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous,” and if I could bring myself to believe in a God that would be a convenient theory. But I’ve long suspected life is not so simply explained. (And I don’t suspect for a minute that Einstein did, either.) Instead, like the esteemed man, I believe in mathematical probability, and in the environment’s tendency toward patterns and order, and in the verifiable fact that highly unlikely things happen in the natural world every day. Call it magic. Call it coincidence. Call it signs or God or karma or science. Regardless, it has been my experience that if we live with our eyes wide open and our hearts in the right place, if we shoulder life’s hardships without allowing them to hollow us, and if we learn from our mistakes and follow the clues they carve for us, we often land on precisely the path upon which we need to stand.
3. Shann Ray (AMERICAN COPPER) speaks on compassion when asked about the dark characters in his book and how they reveal truth and beauty:
Mentors, revision rounds, and more and more reading all develop surprises in me that are triggered by each character. All this helps me try to generate a multi-layered foundation of compassion for each of them. Human complexity has such refreshing beauty. Even our evil, though it is deplorable and it harms us so very much, can with grace become a conduit toward the most profound truths of love and humanity. We see it all over the world: The Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, the restorative justice practices in Colombia, the reconciliation ceremonies led by the Cheyenne over the Sand Creek Massacre, and the Nez Perce over the Big Hole Massacre. Love is quieter, but I believe, more powerful in the end.
4. Liz Prato (BABY’S ON FIRE) shares an important piece of advice for anyone writing stories:
“What story would you tell to a dying person?” I might be paraphrasing, but I remember this as something Tom Spanbauer said. You would want it to be worth their limited time, right? It doesn’t matter if you make them cry, or laugh, or think of life in a new way—whatever—you want your writing to provoke genuine emotion. Surprise, even. That’s the best we can do—surprise each other, surprise ourselves, with the quality of mercy and grace.
Happy New Year! Here’s to another 365 days of writing, reading, and taking time to notice the compassion, grace, and connection in stories all around us.