Thursday, July 7, 2011

Years of Writing

"Challah and Raspberries" is a one-act play I wrote at least 25 years ago. It was produced a few times in a few different cities. Rachel recently suggested a friend consider it for an evening she is planning to produce. I needed to find a copy. Oh dear! I spent a whole morning looking carefully in a big box and an old trunk. I finally found a carbon copy -- yes, from THAT long ago. When I left NYC two years ago I had a general clean-out/throw-out fit. I was positive I had saved a couple of clean typescripts of that play. I guess not.

What I do have is a LOT of paper and a LOT of diaries. And a number of publications with my work in them. The earliest diaries, from age 12 to about 21 are at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe. I've written about that and that they have helped a couple of researchers understand growing up rural in the '40s and '50s. As I looked I found copies of things I don't remember writing and really don't want to reread -- ever. I don't want to revisit that awkward young writer who was in some ways an awkward young woman in general. A part of me says, "just chuck it." But I won't. I should get a couple of file cabinets and put stuff in order so I don't have to spend hours looking for other things. Maybe...

Some people write with a compulsion to tell stories and to publish them. I don't think I had that compulsion because there's a quality of ambition I didn't have. I've published stuff since high school but always lived the life I was expected to live, with husband, family and community involvement. That gave me satisfaction. Then I discovered theater and that was a nice period although the truth is I do not have a talent for drama. I see life as quieter, more contemplative and that's mostly what I've written about.

Now I am working on a much researched biography; it's going slowly. And some short stories, poem and some memoir type pieces, segments that may be woven together some day. The people who come to my "Writing With the Whole Brain" class at the Academy for Advanced Learning mostly want to write memoir pieces too. I find they have wonderful stories to tell, they are very intelligent and good with words but most have had no background in the craft of writng. Writing isn't just talking with your fingers on a keyboard. Writing is a craft -- a playwright has to learn craft -- thus "wright," not "playwrite." My respect for craft increased greatly because of that.

I try to give these students craft pointers: attention getting first sentences, use of active verbs, vivid and imaginative similes and metaphors, dialogue, telling details in description, how to let their memories capture the ambiance as well as the drier facts. Most of these things I didn't understand when writing all those pages and diaries in my trunk. That's why I don't want to read them. I'll groan and be embarrassed and definitely get rid of them. But they are also who I was so a part of me doesn't want to take them to the recycling place.

I think of the old saw: if I knew then what I know now.. But "then" was a time when young women were not encouraged to do such things. I was reticent about my writing and so no one felt a need to encourage me and so on ... I think of the "might have beens" but have learned enough to know that is a useless exercise. What is now is what is. What I have now is more than I've ever had and that is good.

1 comment:

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

June -- wonderful! How fortunate you are to have saved your life in words. Your memoir will open some dramatic doors of childhood and adulthood.

You misplaced your one act. This happens to folks that move. The wrong papers get thrown out or they are purposely thrown away. Whatever was the reason you found your work and I'm sure it will be a fantastic night when you watch it unfold. --- barbara