Tuesday, 20 June 2017

"Wait for me! Wait for me!" - Joan Lennon

Last month Lucy Coats gave us an excellent post titled Comfort Books and Writing Heroes which introduced me to the also excellent Robin McKinley.  Thank you, Lucy!  I've been gobbling her books up and loving them.

                                              Robin McKinley with the hellhounds, Chaos and Darkness

And then, at the end of Rose Daughter, I came across the Author's Note, and this description of the writing of books:   

"I've long said my books 'happen' to me. They tend to blast in from nowhere, seize me by the throat, and howl, Write me! Write me now! But they rarely stand still long enough for me to see what and who they are, before they hurtle away again, and so I spend a lot of my time running after them, like a thrown rider after an escaped horse, saying, Wait for me! Wait for me! and waving my notebook in the air."

That's how it is for me, so much better put than I've ever managed!  Often, as writers, we recognize aspects of other writers' practice, but often, also, it's not absolutely, totally, down-to-the-last-detail how it is for us.  But this is.

McKinley had other things to say in these notes that I found interesting and thought-provoking, such as:

"If you're a storyteller, your own life streams through you, onto the page, mixed up with the life the story itself brings; you cannot, in any useful or genuine way, separate the two."


"The thing that tells me when one of the pictures in my head or phrases in my ear is a story, and not a mere afternoon's distraction, is its life, its strength, its vitality.  If you were picking up stones in the dark, you would know when you picked up a puppy instead.  It's warm; it wriggles; it's alive."

But the real snap moment for me was that throat-grabbing, demanding wind out of nowhere, and then, that galloping horse.  And I'm adding the painting below as an encouraging metaphor, for myself and anyone else who needs it, of those wonderful moments when the book decides to trot back, even if just to encourage us to keep on chasing.

Xu Beihong Galloping Horse

Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.
Out this month, for ages 11+: Walking Mountain.


Sue Purkiss said...

Beautiful picture!

Lucy Coats said...

So glad you enjoyed Robin's books, Joan. And also glad you were inspired to write this!