On Plumber’s Block and the Birth Process, Part 2

Guest Post

Yesterday, I asked a question that I will now attempt to answer. That question was: Are writers truly alone when they enter their private writing spaces?

My answer is no. Or at least no, they are not alone most of the time.

Who goes with them, you ask? Oh, lots of people.

I will tell you who goes with me:

For starters, in this year as the Milton Fellow, provided with the all but unfathomable luxuries of time and money and space for my writing, most days when I sit down to write, my editor and friend, Greg Wolfe, enters the room with me. Not because he ever actually enters the room or because he’s constantly checking up on me. He’s been as kind and generous and open-handed with this gift as anyone could be. In fact, Greg is one of the kindest people I know and one of the most universally supportive of my writing, but don’t tell him I told you so. [Read more...]

The Boy Who Believed in Airplanes

This is Jeffrey Overstreet’s last post as a regular contributor to Good Letters. We thank him for the thoughtful words and reviews he has shared so faithfully and wish him well in his next pursuits.

Matthew was a high school senior, two years ahead of me. He was a gifted musician, a generous friend, and not too cool to hang out with a sophomore like me. I learned a lot from him. His interests in books, music, and movies influenced mine.

But one Saturday afternoon in 1987, as we emerged from a matinee of Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, Matthew startled me into silence by complaining about the movie. He was smarter than me, a better talker. I was too intimidated to respond. But I disagreed. Fiercely. What he found dispiriting (and “way too long”) I found enthralling and transcendent.

It may have been that afternoon, as I wished for the eloquence to argue, that I began my journey into film criticism. [Read more...]

Halos and Other Important Things

By Jessica Eddings-Roeser
Guest Post

In second grade my mom put me in an art class taught by a fluffy-haired blonde who took us to a museum to sketch a Madonna with child. Before we began, our teacher asked us what we noticed about the painting. I raised my hand.

“She has a golden crown.”

“It’s a halo, not a crown,” my friend Sarah corrected.

“I want one,” I said.

“You can’t have one,” she said. “Only angels have them. Or if you die and go to heaven.”

I didn’t like those options. [Read more...]

Shaping the Heart

The following post is an edited version of the commencement address given at the graduation ceremony of the Seattle Pacific University MFA in Creative Writing program on August 3.

I’d like to share a few thoughts that have emerged from the two texts we’ve been studying together: Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses and Richard Rodriguez’s Brown: The Last Discovery of America.

Though they are vastly different books—one an old-fashioned Western elevated to the heights of tragedy and the other a collection of essays that dance around questions of race and ethnicity—they focus on the same subject.

On the literal level they are concerned with the border between the United States and Mexico, but because they are ambitious works of literature they have other goals in mind. These authors are interested in the borders between cultures, customs, sensibilities—how people eat and drink, how they regard their possessions, how they endure the vicissitudes of life. [Read more...]

Finding Poetry and Meaning in Internet Clicks

Three minutes, maybe four. Six minutes, maybe seven. A little bit of time.

This morning open Google chrome to my homepage the University of North Carolina Asheville. Once it’s loaded, a quick glance at upcoming events. A post Civil War lecture.

First thought: Living in the South, I really should know more about the Civil War and its aftermath. Click.

The link takes me to the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement’s Appalachian Studies Authors Series. I’ve already received an e-mail message and read a story in the Asheville Citizen Times about this series. [Read more...]