“…stories were always with me, floating through my mind, collecting.”On October 28, I wrote a blog post for the San Diego Book Review, entitled “Writing: Early On.” Check out the excerpt below and let me know what you think!
My father, a jovial, patient man, made paintings, mostly watercolors and pen and ink drawings. He wrestled big logs into his studio and carved them into abstract pieces. The smell of wax drifted from his studio when he polished the wood, to “bring out the grain.” He told me that by high school he’d figured writing and painting were both harsh mistresses; if he wanted a family, he had to choose. He chose painting and earned an MFA in painting.
At age sixty he enrolled in a poetry class at the local university, VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) and took poetry classes for twelve years. His legacy was 1,000 poems. He’d edit a poem, and keep five or six versions. I watched his mind at work by following the trail of edits.
Wide, tall bookcases stood on either side of our living room fireplace. An early reader, I pulled books off the shelves and attempted to read them. I stumbled through my parents’ books: Gulliver’s Travels, Arabian Nights, <em”>Kidnapped, David Copperfield, Treasure Island, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and Rebecca.
Mother, a voracious reader, taught me to write my name when I turned four. We visited the big downtown library where I acquired my first library card. My joys were roller skating on city sidewalks and reading. When I turned five, my father and I began visiting museums and art galleries. To my questions about why an artist painted a strange body or a sky with three suns he’d answer “what do you think?” When I asked what to write about, he’d say, “use your imagination.”
Later, fascinated with Japanese painting, my father wrote haiku, a seventeen syllable Japanese form of poetry. He gave me books on haiku. He and I critiqued each other’s attempts. I wrote haiku through high school, along with mostly limp poems. In college I composed an epic poem for a final paper in Art History class. I figured it was an A or an F. The professor gave me an A…