Writing on Wednesday: Shoe Burnin’ Stories and the Writer’s Authority

Shoe BurninAs I mentioned in my post back on December 26, “Call for Names,” I’m working on a short story for an anthology to be published later this year (yes!) … and I really appreciate all the input I got from everyone. But, alas, I’ve abandoned my original story idea for another one, so I might be sending out another call for names soon. Or I might end up writing an essay instead.

In the meanwhile, please LIKE our Facebook page, The Shoe Burnin’, so we can rally more interest in the event and the book. The actual event will be February 9, 2013, at Waterhole Branch, Alabama, just outside Fairhope. Time and venue TBA.

It’s been such an emotional week for me, with my mother in the hospital (and me here with her, in Jackson, Mississippi). She will be discharged back to Lakeland Nursing Home this afternoon, and I’m staying around to be sure everyone is on board with orders for her follow up care. During my hours in the hospital room with her every day, I pulled up some of my old blog posts about Mom, and worked on combining a few for my entry in the Shoe Burnin’ anthology, but I’m not sure they’re a good fit.

I still might return to a fiction story…. Possibly set in the 50s (instead of the 70s) in the South. It will be a racially charged story involving a light-skinned, mixed-race girl who tries to enter white society. When her dark-skinned baby is born, she’s faced with unthinkable decisions.

Hoping to be back in Memphis tomorrow… and back at my writing desk.  I’ve been reading John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction (as a follow up to reading his book, On Becoming a Novelist) and am gleaning some pearls. Like this one:

“… the great writer’s authority consists of two elements. The first we may call, loosely, his sane humanness, that is, his trustworthiness as a judge of things, a stability rooted in the sum of those complex qualities of his character and personality (wisdom, generosity, compassion, strength of will) to which we respond, as we respond to what is best in our friends, with instant recognition and admiration, saying, ‘Yes, you’re right, that’s how it is!’ The second element, or perhaps I should say force, is the writer’s absolute trust (not blind faith) in his own aesthetic judgments and instincts, a trust grounded partly in his intelligence and sensitivity—his ability to perceive and understand the world around him—and partly in his experience as a craftsman; that is (by his own harsh standards), his knowledge, drawn from long patience, of what will work and what will not.”

I’m praying for some of that authority. That humanness, trust, and patience as I continue to be my mother’s caregiver, and to write stories. Both are labors of love, requiring all that I can give to the task. And then some.