Sunday, May 30, 2010

Buried Treasure

One of the reason I buy used books on Amazon is that, occasionally, you can find really good deals. When you're buying upwards of 60 to 100 books a year for school, those savings can add up.  It doesn't always work out that way, once you add the exorbitant $3.99 shipping charges to the used book cost.  But sometimes, you can find a used book in good condition for a dollar or so, making the entire cost of the book with shipping a bargain.

Nice, right?

Yeah, but I confess that it isn't the only reason I buy used books on Amazon.  One of my little secret pleasures is opening the front of the book and looking for inscriptions on books that were given as gifts.  I find them more than you might imagine.  "To Carrie: This book made me laugh out loud. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Love, Marti. Jun, '01".  "To John, Happy 29th birthday. Love, Mom".  There is a little thrill in holding a book that someone thought highly enough of to give as a gift to someone they cared about. 

I just recently ordered some books for the class I'm hoping to teach on memoir and life story writing.  One highly recommended book among all of my writer friends was Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Non-fiction by a Two-Time Pulitzer Prize Winner, by Jon Franklin. I opened the book this morning and got a lot more hand-written inscription than I'd bargained for.  It went as follows (with punctuation and writing style preserved as much as possible):
Dear Luke -

A few years ago, at a lovely luncheon, a woman asked the three editors there:

"There is a young woman who graduated from Tulane who is volunteering at the Jr. League thrift shop with me. She'd give anything to be a writer. What advice would you have for her?"

The other two said something polite, like read & write.

But I tackled the Q head-on.

"If a young man with a Tulane degree said to you, 'I'd give anything to be a doctor, what should I do?', you'd think he was too stupid to be a doctor. It is very clear how you become an MD - you take pre-med, you get into med school, you graduate, you do an internship & learn more; you do a residency & learn more... You are a doctor and you keep studying what the best are doing.

"Writing is the same thing. It's not a magic muse that teases you with its ellusivity. It's a craft, with best ways of doing things. Like magic, there are creative ways of creating the illusion, of moving scenes from one time & place to another.

"So you become a writer like you become a doctor. You study, you practice, and you do an apprenticeship and you keep studying and practicing."

I love this book. It's the most useful book on writing that I've ever read. I want to share it with you.

And finally, when people ask how you'll make a living with a major in creative writing... tell them that you come from a family where there is a tradition of earning a living with words.

Love, Aunt Cathy
Xmas, '02
 On the next page, is an additional little note: "Luke -- You're doing the right things. :-)".

Aunt Cathy, I'm officially adopting you.  You're not just Luke's Aunt Cathy anymore.  You're my Aunt Cathy. My faux Aunt Cathy. And the faux Aunt Cathy of every budding writer out there who feels at times as if we're trying to catch quicksilver. I'm not sure if your words were what Luke needed to hear, but they were what I needed to hear.

"It's a craft, with best ways of doing things."

And how.  Thank you for your sensible words of wisdom, Aunt Cathy. See you at the faux Fourth of July family barbecue.

P.S. If you are interested in buying the book from Amazon, please use the tag to the right for my Associate store.  It won't cost you anything, but I get a bit of dosh. Thanks.

1 comment:

  1. great bit of inspiration there.. many thanks!


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