My Writing Mentors
I find myself drawn to authors
Who write honestly about their lives.
The joyful, the horrific, the messy in-between,
Obsessive prose that consumes their lives,
Resulting in pages vibrating with voice.
I have many mentors,
but I have just one hour,
to write this Tuesday-afternoon-blog.
Time is ticking,
So here are authors who first come to mind:
Bill Bryson finds the humor in the subtlest of objects--
From him I learn to look for life’s minutia.
Anne Lamott finds light within the darkness--
From her I learn to find hope in the hopeless.
Erik Laarson finds stunning events from history
and infuses them with real, human emotions.
From him I learn that we live history.
And one day, we too will be pegs on a timeline.
Toni Morrison writes about lives so different from my own.
But are our lives really all that different?
Don’t we all travel down different pathways of pain?
Isabel Wilkerson writes about a Great African-American migration,
About the South when I live--
About the escape of those who felt trapped by it--
And she teaches me a history I should have learned in high school.
Pat Conroy rewrote his childhood over and over again
Hoping to make sense of it.
I don’t know if he ever did.
I don’t know if I ever will.
Ernest Hemingway, the opposite of Conroy,
Wrote simple, direct, and unadorned.
There’s so much we can say,
In just a few well-connected words to form a sentence.
Harper Lee, with just one book,
(I don’t count the second)
Never expected the success that came with Mockingbird.
She taught me that you write what you know--
And sometimes the whole world resonates with it.
Langston Hughes, my GOD, LANGSTON HUGHES!
Montage of a Dream Deferred,
Mother to Son,
I learned it’s okay to be jealous of a writer’s talents.
This list is short,
One day I'll add more,
Mentors who speak to me when I read their work,
And admire it from a distance--
As a fellow writer reading away, just traveling through.
“The hard silence between frustrated people always feels cluttered. But holy silence is spacious and inviting. You can drink it down. We offer it to ourselves when we work, rest, meditate, bike, read. When we hike by ourselves, we hear a silence still pristine with crunching leaves and birdsong. Silence can be a system of peace, which is mercy, easily offered to a friend needing quiet, harder when the person is one's own annoying self.”
Book 18 of my 52 Books a Year Challenge
A book by hospice chaplain Kerry Egan,
Who tells the stories of those she met,
As they transitioned from this life to the next.
Patients recall life stories:
Babies they gave away and regained;
Promises kept, then broken;
Bible passages that illustrated deeper stories
when impending death robbed their voices;
The fear of not being reunited with loved ones after death;
Lies on top of lies, shed by a shaman;
Appearing angels to ease the passage;
Shame from blame of a child’s death;
The duality of a fatherhood experienced twice.
On Living tells us more about life than it does about death.
To live without regret,
To say now what you’re saving to say at the deathbed,
Because you rarely get the chance to have that Hollywood soliloquy.
Every life is full of experiences that make us remember we are alive--
The fears, regrets, pain,
The risks, revelations, joy,
The heartbreak, the hardship,
The heart-felt, the companionship,
The promise of another day to revise the life we’ve lived.
On Living is an important reminder,
That we are not remembered by our deaths,
Rather, we’re remembered for the lives we’ve lived.
And if we want to be remembered,
Then we need to make sure our lives have meaning.
About the Author
Brian Kissel is an Associate Professor of education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His focus is writing instruction. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Hattie and three kiddos: Charlie, Ben, and Harriet.