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Writing-and-reading is a reciprocal relationship. Of course this is true, if I sometimes forget it, as I write. Bestselling American author and comedian David Sedaris makes it plain:

Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it’s just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it.

David Sedaris

And don’t we love those books the most? The ones that invite us to bring our “stuff” to the narrative? To bring our anxieties and passions, our joys and fears? How else to truly connect with story, if we don’t add ourselves to the mix?

I recently finished Tove Jansson’s (autobiographical) novel, Fair Play. (Yes, my Jansson fascination continues.) Those who have read any Jansson will not be surprised that it is a quiet story–a story of two women, partners in life and art–that feels incredibly brave at the same time it is a meditation.

Written in short chapters accumulating in just 100 pages, the reader watches the artists–one woman is a writer, one a visual artist–go about their daily lives of work and play, as the two remain open always to creative possibilities. Yes, there are arguments and bickering; they don’t always agree on their art or their life’s comings and goings. But the space they give each other to be the artists–and humans–they need to be, is more touching (and romantic, really) than any standard-fare romance could be for me.

The space to create is at the heart of this engaging read–and I’m going to hold onto that feeling as I write. Readers aren’t a byproduct of writing; they’re partners in it. They are a vital part of the creation.

Which is why community–no matter your art–is so important. Thank you for being here!

What are you reading? What are you writing this week?

Did you read any of Jansson’s famous Moomin books for children, when you were a child? Have you seen the trailer for the first full-length film based on Jansson’s life?

Interested in author interviews, book reviews, essays, and more? Check out my handy-dandy categories, above. Are we social? Find me at FB and on Twitter and IG @MoonRuark

34 thoughts on “a bit of writerly advice for October 29, 2020…

    1. Haven’t read her _A Winter Book_ yet, but it’s on my list. Thank you for the reminder! And, yes, her settings and descriptions are so evocative–really make me want to travel to Finland. Also, I’m impressed you read Jansson in school. I struggle to think of a single book in translation I read as an English major. (Maybe that’s us Americans–the world (and literature) revolves around us, we think?) I appreciate you being here and commenting!

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  1. Hello “Rust Belt Girl,” The title of your blog drew me in a couple of years ago. It’s time I introduced myself. I’m just another kid from Akron. I moved away back in the 1970’s with a scholarship and have lived in the Rockies ever since.

    Just finished reading The Secret Life of Bees. I took it back to the library and picked up a non-fiction piece called: Sweet Taste of Liberty by W Caleb McDaniel. And, I agree with your premise, reading a lot supports my writing.

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    1. Ah, Akron! Welcome, and I’m so glad you introduced yourself. Well, the Rockies are gorgeous, so who could blame you? But Akron’s looking up these days, I hear. (The keynote writer/speaker at a recent online literary conference I attended was David Giffels, “the bard of Akron,” a memoirist/essayist who writes about the city a lot.)

      Somehow I skipped _The Secret Life of Bees_. _Sweet Taste of Liberty_ sounds fascinating. It reminds me of Terry Gamble’s _The Eulogist_, a historical novel set in Civil War-era Cinci. What an interesting border place that city must have been!

      Happy reading to you–whether you’re snowed in or drenching wet as we are here on the East Coast.

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  2. I’m enjoying Art & Fear, which I heard about in Atomic Habits. I wonder of Jansson is tame for me? You tell me. Tamer than White Oleander, or same? I’m also reading No One’s Home, a thriller by a CLE author. It’s set in Shaker Heights. I tell you, I feel too noob to think of my audience. So I selfishly write for me.

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    1. Wow, _Art & Fear_ sounds amazing, Kelly! I’m glad you mentioned it, and I hope you’ll be talking about it on your blog? Yes, Jansson’s probably too tame for you–ha, talk about knowing your audience! But, along the lines of your _Art & Fear_, what was so revelatory to me about Jansson’s _Fair Play_ was the showing of a couple’s cooperative artists’ life. So often in novels, the plot’s at the fore (obviously) and the characters’ work is just set pieces. In this book, the characters’ work and art is the story.

      LOVE Shaker Heights as a setting (don’t always love the books set there, but that’s me)! I haven’t read any D.M. Pulley, but she was on a panel at Lit Youngstown’s Lit Festival last month–seems nice! How do you like that thriller?

      I don’t think it’s selfish to write for you. We avid readers share enough of the same anxieties and passions, that I think when you’re writing for you, you’re writing for many others like you. Just write…I want to read the next one!

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  3. Perhaps it’s the seasons; meteorically, politically, and socially but I find myself looking to destress, returning to old friends …books I have read before. And like greeting literal old friends, there is much to catch up on, new things to learn, and nuances to discover.
    In the spirit of full disclosure some of these “old friends” include books from my childhood. For me, anything by Elizabeth Enright is worth a reread. No matter my age “Gone Away Lake” and “The Saturdays” will remain some of my favorites.
    I won’t bore you with a list of my old friends, because these are my friends and I’m sure yours are just as valuable.

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    1. I love your old books as old friends philosophy, and I hope it helps with de-stressing. We’ve got enough stress right now! I appreciate your mentioning Elizabeth Enright and can’t believe I’ve never read her–for me or to my kids.

      I was a Judy Bloom girl and I started reading my boys E.B. White before they could talk. Those early-discovered books always hold a special place in the heart of a reader, I think. One of my boys’ love of fantasy has opened me up to the kinds of books I wouldn’t pick up on my own (including C.S. Lewis’s, which I was late in discovering). We also love the recent books of Katherine Applegate. In fact, I think some of the best writing can be found in Children’s Lit.–no room for anything but concise, engaging, and evocative prose.

      Thank you for being here, Poppy. Keep de-stressing!

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    1. Good for you. Some snow-set romance novels sound like the perfect escape for the holiday! I was just talking with a friend, last night, who is a huge romance novel fan, and who has a commute long enough she could get a lot of audiobooks read on the way to and from work. But she doesn’t do audiobooks–maybe that’s not right for romance, romance in the car? I came late to audiobooks, but now I’m like an audiobook evangelist. It’s made my drive to and from my boys’ school so much nicer! Right now I’m listening to: _The Heretic’s Daughter_ a historical novel about the Salem witch trials here in the U.S. Good to listen to around Halloween!

      Thanks for stopping in, in the midst of your crazy busy-ness!

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      1. I would totally do audio books and have done a few romance novels like that 😊but I’ve just been busy with work that I sometimes find myself logging off at 8pm or up before sunrise to do something before a deadline… I can’t focus if I have a juicy romance playing in the background! 😅

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  4. I always have numerous books in progress: John C. Fremont’s report on his 1842 expedition (very readable, actually), a collection of essays, Thunderstruck by Erik Larson and for fiction, West of Here by Jonathan Evison. Recently finished the wonderful book on psychotherapy, Maybe You Should Talk To Someone by Lori Gottlieb.

    Writing: edits on my book, blog, transcribing high school notes and diary for a possible book, and trying my hand at telling a fictionalized family story using the storyboard technique and writing it as a screenplay. That will be a real stretch!

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  5. We have that in common, Eilene, juggling multiple books–I think it’s fun to see how they work together. I’ve only read one book by Erik Larson–the WWII Berlin one–but it was great. He has an amazing way with nonfiction. Evison’s book sounds interesting–sprawling for sure, covering so much time, history, and geography–and so many characters. I just took a One Story class on historical writing–led by novelist Maaza Mengiste–that was so helpful in my thinking about using historical fact in fiction. I’m sure you’re an archival research pro, but I’m still a picker–a little YouTube here, an interview there.

    I’m enthralled by your mention of using a storyboard to tell a family story as a screenplay–super inventive. I hope you take notes on the progress and talk about it at your blog!

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    1. I recently signed up for Masterclass and have been watching a video course by Ken Burns. I love his work and though I doubt I’ll ever do a documentary film, his methods of sharing history can be applied in other formats. Life is learning, and I think you share that value.

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  6. Well, I’m reading three different books with three different students, so does that count? 😛 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by A. Christie, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, and the Source of Magic by Piers Anthony. So that’s a murder mystery, scifi fantasy and straight up fantasy… and personally diving into historical fiction. I think I’m covering a lot of genres! Hahahhaa. And writing to-do lists? 😛

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    1. Yes, that’s a lot of genres–and a lot of reading. Enjoying a little historical fiction around here this weekend, with _The Heretic’s Daughter_ by Kathleen Kent, about the Salem witch trials. A little spooky! (My to-do lists are also spooky, but much less fun). Hope you’re having a great weekend!

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    1. It was very interesting–and unlike any book I can think of in its treatment of partnership and the writing life. (And, at 100 pages I think it counts for Novella November!) King’s _On Writing_ is one of my favorite craft books–really inspirational, I thought. Thank you for being here and for commenting. I’m off to check out your website!

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    1. Oh that sounds good, Barbara–and interesting to read during election season, I’m sure. I lived in Richmond, Virginia, for a good decade and visited Colonial Williamsburg–but never Jamestown. Fascinating times and places. Enjoy your reading–there’s never been a better time for escapist reading than right now, I think.

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