Friday, September 30, 2011

Periphrasis: Speaking Around

I’ve been rewriting this week—rewriting not my own work but rather essays written by other scholars.  By far the greatest problem with the texts I’m working with is a lack of clarity and conciseness. The authors of these articles are erudite people with impressive credentials, but they are unable to communicate their knowledge simply and directly to their designated audience. Untangling meaning from convoluted, wordy sentences reminded me of a sentence from George Orwell’s famous essay “Politics and the English Language” (1946). “The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not.”

I recognize that academic prose tends to be inflated and embellished, but I also know that periphrasis, or circumlocution (the use of unnecessarily wordy and indirect language), is not exclusive to academicians. I’m finding that pruning and recasting cumbersome sentences written by others is making me more conscious of my own verbal vices.

You will find listed below twenty extreme examples of circumlocution. The first is from George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language”; number 15 is my contribution. The others are from unknown sources. (I know some of these are posted on various sites. But I have had a list that includes most of them in my files since 1978, so I know they are not original to the posters.)

  1. Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.
  1. An ave reposing in the digital flanges is of greater monetary value than a duet in the shrubbery.
  1. A mobile section of petrified matter agglomerates no bryophytes.
  1. Desist from enumerating your fowl prior to their emergence from the shell.
  1. Scintillation is not always identification for an auric substance.
  1. A plethora of culinary specialists has a deleterious effect upon the quality of purees, consumes, and other soluble pabula.  
  1. A chronic disposition of inquiry deprived the domestic feline carnivorous quadruped of vital quality.
  1.  It is in the realm of possibility to entice an equine member of the animal kingdom to a source of oxidized hydrogen; however, it is not possible to force him to imbibe.
  1. Persons deficient in the faculty of determining values move with impetuosity into places which purely spiritual beings view with some trepidation. 
  1. If John persists without respite on a constant prolonged exertion of physical or intellectual effort, he will develop into a youth slow and blunted to perception and sensibility.
  1. Immediately upon the absence of the domesticated carnivorous feline, the common rodent proceeds to engage in sportive capers.

  1. Unselfish concern for the well being of others has its genesis in the personal domicile of the individual.
  1. Cautiously survey the perspective prior to going forward precipitously.
  1. Aberration is the hallmark of Homo sapiens while longanimous placability and condonation are the indicia of supramundane omniscience.
  1. Consumption for nutriment of the round fruit of any of various wild or cultivated trees of the genus Malus regularly during the time occupied by the earth in one revolution on its axis causes the medical practitioner to remain absent or afar. 
  1. If a large solid-hoofed mammal becomes available to you without compensation, refrain from casting your faculty for seeing into the oral cavity of such a creature. 
  1. Each vaporous mass suspended in the firmament has an interior decoration of metallic hue. 
  1. He who locks himself into the arms of Morpheus promptly at eventide, and starts the day before it is officially announced by the rising sun, excels in physical fitness, increases his economic assets and celebrates with remarkable efficiency.
  1. Superfluous chronological dispatch institutes riddance of valued effects.
  1. A body of persons abiding in a domicile of silica combined with metallic oxides should not carelessly project small geological specimens.
What are your verbal vices? Do you notice the verbal vices of your favorite writers, or do you think they are free of them? Finally, how many of the inflated proverbs can you translate into simple English? I will post the answers Monday, and I’ll give away a book from my contest stash to one randomly selected poster (Sorry--U. S. addresses only).

The Answers:

  1. I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor yet bread to the wise, not yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. (Ecclesiastes 9.11)
  2. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
  3. A rolling stone gathers no moss.
  4. Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.
  5. All that glitters is not gold.
  6. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
  7. Curiosity killed the cat.
  8. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it.
  9. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
  10. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
  11. While the cat’s away, the mice shall play.
  12. Charity begins at home.
  13. Look before you leap.
  14. To err is human; to forgive, divine.
  15. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
  16. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
  17. Every cloud has a silver lining.
  18. Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
  19. Haste makes waste.
  20. People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

Susan and Irish, if you'll send your contact info to me at jangarho at gmail dot com, I'll send you each a book.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuesday Review: Always a Temptress

Always a Temptress
By Eileen Dreyer
Publisher: Forever (Grand Central Publishing)
Release Date: September 27, 2011
5 Stars

After ten years of war, all Major Sir Harry Lidge wants is some time at home with his family and freedom to begin the life he’s dreamed of. But when the infamous assassin known as the Surgeon is killed where Drake’s Rakes are gathered to celebrate the wedding of Jack Wyndham, Earl of Gracechurch and his former wife, Olivia Grace, the assassin links Lady Delores Catherine Anne Hilliard Seaton, Dowager Duchess of Murther in the insurrectionists’ plot the Rakes are committed to thwarting. Harry is assigned one last mission: to find out what Lady Kate knows about the poem that will unlock the plot. Thus, Harry is forced into close contact with the woman who betrayed him, the woman he has struggled unsuccessfully to erase from his memory.

Kate is a scandalous figure in society—wealthy, shocking, and indifferent to the whispers that follow her. Few people are allowed to see the courageous and generous woman behind her public persona. She is determined that Harry, the man who abandoned her once will never touch her again, physically or emotionally.

Through kidnappings, a marriage of convenience, nightmares, and attempts on their lives, Harry and Kate battle each other and their own hearts. Even a decade apart and a mutual sense of betrayal are not enough to eradicate the attraction that sizzles when the two are together. But the forces that threaten them are powerful and relentless, and only by trusting in one another can this hero and heroine claim victory over their enemies and their past and achieve their happy ending.

Although the focus is clearly on Harry and Kate, secondary characters add vitality and humor to the story. Kate’s private army of unusual servants and her friend and companion Lady Bea are particularly colorful. While the darkness of the book is relieved by wit and verbal sparring, the costs of war in all its forms is not sugar-coated.

Always a Temptress, the third book in Dreyer’s Drake’s Rakes series (following Barely a Lady and Never a Gentleman), combines edge-of-the-seat suspense and complex characters with sizzling chemistry and rapier-sharp dialogue and subtly weaves in threads of social issues like the position of women in a patriarchal culture and the effects of war on the warriors. The result is a book that makes the reader think and feel, laugh and cry, remember and reflect.

I’ve read and enjoyed Eileen Dreyer’s contemporary categories, mysteries, and fantasies. I was disappointed in her first two historicals. I found them interesting, but they lacked the emotional punch and compelling heroes I expected from this writer. Always a Temptress did not disappoint. It is a book I will remember and reread. It will keep me looking forward to the two more Drake’s Rakes books that Dreyer announced in her newsletter this week.

Are there authors that you have followed from genre to genre? Do you expect your favorite authors to always give you five star reads?

Friday, September 23, 2011

I'm Celebrating Banned Books Week!

Sponsored by: American Booksellers Association
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
American Library Association
Association of American Publishers
Center for the Book in the Library of Congress
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
National Association of College Stores
National Coalition Against Censorship
National Council of Teachers of English
PEN American Center

Tomorrow begins the annual celebration of the freedom to read. Banned Books Week 2011 (September 24-October 1) will be the thirtieth year that a focus on books that have been banned or challenged has been observed. According to the American Library Association (ALA), the goal of the observation is "to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society." Each year there are hundreds of challenges to books in schools and libraries in the United States. According to ALA, at least 348 such challenges were reported in 2010, just a fraction of the total challenges of which 70-80 percent goes unreported.
In his book Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other, Nat Hentoff writes that “the lust to suppress can come from any direction.” Those who bring the challenges come from all across the country and hold various political viewpoints. Since they often claim to be motivated by a desire “to protect children,” schools and school libraries are the most frequent targets, and sex, profanity, and racism are the most frequent bases of objections. Challenges significantly outnumber actual bans, but challenges may result in voluntary censorship by school administrators or boards of education who are eager to avoid controversy.

As a voracious reader and as one who has spent a lifetime in classrooms as student and teacher, I know that I am directly affected by attempts to censor books. So are you. None of us wants to see our freedom to read what we choose abridged. ALA reminds of ways that we can be actively involved in protecting the right to read within our communities.
1.     Stay Informed
Battles are fought on the local level. It is due to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community that so few challenges result in bans, but knowing what’s happening in your community is the necessary first step. Attend library board meetings, school board meetings, and PTA meetings so that you are aware of what’s going on locally.  Support national organizations that are dedicated to preserving the freedom to read. The Freedom to Read Foundation, for example, was founded to protect the rights of people to freely express their ideas and to read and listen to the ideas of others. The organization exists “to promote and defend this right; to foster libraries as institutions wherein every individual's First Amendment freedoms are fulfilled; and to support the right of libraries to include in their collections and make available any work which they may legally acquire.

2.     Challenge Censorship.
When challenges occur in your community or when state or national legislation that would limit reading freedom is being proposed, write your representatives or other public officials to express your opposition, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper that lets your community know that the challengers are not speaking for you, and report censorship to ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.
3.     Support Banned Books Week
This year the sponsors of Banned Books Week are offering everyone the opportunity to participate in a virtual read-out by creating a video of themselves reading from their favorite banned or challenged books. More information is available here. You can also follow Banned Books Week on Facebook, watch Banned Books Week videos on YouTube, and follow the hashtag #bannedbooksweek on Twitter. You can participate in special activities planned for this week by schools, colleges and universities, and libraries near you. You can make sure you get caught reading in the week ahead and let those around you know that you are reading a banned or challenged book.

Between May 2010 and May 2011, nearly fifty books were challenged, restricted, removed, or banned in (as reported in the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom). These books include modern literary classics, recent fiction bestsellers, YA books, nonfiction, even a children’s book. My personal celebration is to read (or rather reread in all cases but one) a banned or challenged book each day of the eight-day celebration. These are the books I’ve chosen:
1.   The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (2009) by Sherman Alexie
YA novel, NYT bestseller, 2007 National Book Award Winner, banned because of violence, language, and sexual content
2.   Speak (1999) by Laurie Halse Anderson
YA novel, NYT bestseller, Printz Honor Book for literary excellence in YA literature in 2000, center of major controversy in 2010, challenged as “soft pornography” that “glorifies drinking, cursing, premarital sex.”
3.   Forever in Blue, the Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood (2008) by Ann Brashares
     YA novel, final book in a popular series about four friends, takes place summer after their freshman year at college, challenged because some of the characters are sexually active and drink alcohol.
4.   The Awakening (1899) by Kate Chopin
Novel, originally charged with being anti-religious and immoral by 19th-century critics, reclaimed in 1969 and recognized as important feminist work, accepted as canonical work of American literature, challenged because cover showed bare-breasted woman.
5.   Water for Elephants (2006) by Sara Gruen
Novel, NYT bestseller about life in a circus and the realities of aging, challenged because of sexual content.
6.    Snow Falling On Cedars (1994) by David Guterson
Novel, PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction 1995, deals with prejudice against Japanese-Americans in the Pacific Northwest during and shortly after World War II challenged because parent found some passages “lewd, vulgar, and profane.”
7.   Song of Solomon (1977) by Toni Morrison
Novel, uses African myth and African-American folklore to explore themes of identity, rituals of manhood, naming, and reading, National Book Critics Circle Award 1978, cited in awarding Morrison 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, challenged because of language and sexual content.
8.   Jubilee (1966) by Margaret Walker
Historical novel, based on life of Walker’s grandmother, one of the first novels to present the nineteenth-century African American historical experience in the South from a black and female point of view, winner of Houghton Mifflin's Literary Fellowship Award, challenged as “offensive” and “trashy” view of the Old South that promotes “superiority for white people.” [Note: challenged in 1977 by KKK and accused of producing “racial strife and hatred.”]
How are you celebrating Banned Books Week? What banned or challenged books have you read?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday Review: In Total Surrender

In Total Surrender
By Anne Mallory
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Four Stars

Andreas Merrick is a man of great power and wealth, ruthless in achieving his ends and accustomed to being in control of himself and his dark and dangerous world.  A tortured soul, driven by the need for revenge, few are allowed to see beyond his scarred, intimidating surface. From his first glimpse of Phoebe Pace, he is both fascinated by her and angered by his inability to ignore her.

As a creature of light, warm and affectionate, who connects easily to others, Phoebe is Merrick’s opposite, but she is a match for him in intelligence, loyalty, and strength of will. She displays not only extraordinary competence in covering for her father’s absence but also admirable tenacity and courage in her refusal to be intimidated by Merrick. It’s rare to find humor in a story that has such darkness at its core, but Merrick’s responses to Phoebe’s persistence and his unwilling consciousness of her presence, no matter how determined he is to ignore her, are amusing. She keeps escaping from the narrow confines he uses to define her, and his control over his responses to her keeps slipping. In one scene he finds that she has entered his office, despite three locks.

“What are you doing?” He had meant to bark it or hiss it or emit it the way some feral animal might. Instead the question emerged strangled.”

As their relationship builds, Merrick, who trusts almost no one, begins to trust Phoebe even as his growing feelings for her impinge upon his carefully constructed view of himself.  She becomes more important than the hunger for revenge that had driven him for most of his life. But even as his enemies are destroyed and questions about his past answered in surprising ways, one secret remains, one that could cause Phoebe to leave him in his darkness.

Mallory crafts a complex hero and heroine who are larger together than they are separately. Merrick is a tortured hero both as the result of evil visited upon him in his childhood and as a consequence of the need for revenge that has consumed him. Because much of the book is in his point of view, the reader understands Merrick’s darkness and his futile struggle to resist Phoebe’s ability to lift the darkness. Phoebe is just as unusual. She possesses a sweetness that could have been cloying had it not been tempered with strength and a remarkable clarity of vision.

The weakness in the novel is that Merrick and Phoebe are such splendid characters and the interaction between them so compelling that everything else pales in comparison. The secondary characters lack dimension. Even the villain seems a toothless tiger, still roaring but essentially powerless. The best moments aside from the dance between Merrick and Phoebe occur when Roman, Merrick’s brother and hero of an earlier book, One Night Is Never Enough (March 2011), briefly appears.

Have you read any of Anne Mallory's Secrets books? Who's your favorite tortured hero?  

Friday, September 16, 2011

The 2011 Lists Begin

Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, is always the first with their top ten of the year announcement. Yesterday the journal announced its top ten romances of 2011. In fact, there are eleven novels on the list, including three contemporaries, four European historicals, two American historicals (one of these an Inspirational), one fantasy, and one time travel. Eight are part of a series. According to the announcement, all eleven novels “feature smart, strong, and witty women . . . falling in love with men who truly cherish their wonderful, authentic selves.” [I think the antecedent of there is intended to be “women.”] Congratulations to all the authors who were recognized.

I’ve read seven of the books on the list and reviewed one. (The ones I've read are marked with an asterisk.)Since these lists are of necessity subjective, I was interested in what reader review sites thought about these books. I lacked the time and inclination to do an exhaustive search. I checked only sites that I visit, and some books were reviewed more widely than others. I did check for reviews of An Unlikely Suitor beyond my usual review range, but those I found did not use an alphanumerical rating system.

The List

Animal Magnetism* by Jill Shalvis (Berkley Sensation, contemporary)

All About Romance—B; Cheeky Reads—4 hearts; Dear Author—C; GoodReads—4.03/478 ratings; The Season—8; Smexy Books—C.

Call Me Irresistible* by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Morrow, contemporary)

All About Romance—B+; Dear Author—B; GoodReads—3.92/2168 ratings; The Romance Reader—5 hearts; The Season—4 stars; Smexy Books--B

Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage* by Kieran Kramer (St. Martin’s, European historical)

All About Romance—D+; Dear Author—C-; GoodReads—3.33/184 ratings; Mrs. Giggles—70; Night Owl Romance—3.5; Smexy Books--C

The Counterfeit Bride by Nancy J. Parra (Avalon, American historical)

All About Romance—B-; GoodReads—3.57/7 ratings

How to Marry a Duke* by Vicky Dreiling (Hachette/Forever, European Historical)

All About Romance—C; Dear Author—D; GoodReads—3.87/306 ratings; Night Owl Romance—4 stars; The Romance Reader—4 hearts; The Season--9

The Lady of the Storm by Kathryne Kennedy (Sourcebooks/Casablanca, Fantasy)

GoodReads—3.76/123 ratings; Night Owl Romance 4.5 stars

Lord Langley Is Back in Town* by Elizabeth Boyle (Avon, European historical)

All About Romance—C; GoodReads—3.67/123 ratings; Night Owl Romance—4 stars;

The Naked King by Sally MacKenzie (Zebra, European historical)

All About Romance—B; GoodReads—3.75/118 ratings; The Romance Reader—3 hearts; The Season—7.5

Only Mine* by Susan Mallery (HQN, contemporary)

All about Romance—C; GoodReads—3.96/381 ratings; The Romance Dish—4 stars

The Return of Black Douglas by Elaine Coffman (Sourcebooks/Casablanca, Time Travel)

GoodReads—3.96/28 ratings;  Mrs. Giggles—80; Night Owl Romance—2.5; The Season—6.5

An Unlikely Suitor* by Nancy Moser (Bethany, American historical-Inspirational)

GoodReads—3.83/80 ratings

I made a note of this list. I’ll be looking for those that will appear in the weeks and months ahead. My personal list has a top thirty-two right now, and there’s still three and a half months of reading left in 2011 plus a goodly number from earlier in the year that are still on a TBR shelf.

How many of the Booklist Top Ten have you read? Do you compile your own top ten list? If so, what’s #1 on your list as of today?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday Review: Bring Me Home for Christmas

Bring Me Home for Christmas
By Robyn Carr
Publisher: Mira
Release Date: October 25, 2011

Becca Timm knows that a proposal from Doug Carey, the law student she’s been dating for the past year, is imminent. He’s an ambitious guy from the right kind of family, just the kind of son-in-law her mother ordered, but Becca has unresolved feelings for Denny Cutler, a former boyfriend, feelings that haven’t disappeared in the three years since he broke her heart. She needs to see Denny and get over him before she can plan a future with Doug. Since her twin brother Rich is planning to join her ex and two other Marine buddies in her ex’s new hometown for a Thanksgiving week hunting and fishing, Becca decides to tag along.

Denny has found a job he loves and friends as close as family in Virgin River. He’s looking forward to guys-only time with his closest friends from his old life. The last thing he expects to see is Becca, and he’s not shy about revealing his feelings.

When jealousy leads to an argument that leads to careless action that leaves Becca with a broken ankle and Denny with a load of guilt, Becca’s week in Virgin River becomes weeks. Denny insists she stay in his apartment, and proximity plus chemistry produces lust and love in heaping measures. But Denny’s found the place he belongs in Virgin River, and as much as Becca likes its citizens, it’s not her home. Can Christmas in a place where taking care of one another is more than a holiday tradition change her mind?

This is the fourteenth novel (plus two novellas) in Carr’s Virgin River series. I always enjoy another visit to Virgin River, and reading BMHFC was a delightful head start on the upcoming holiday season. I love the holiday traditions, and seeing Becca fall in love with the town was as much fun as seeing her and Denny admit they still loved each other. Carr promised “sweet and sentimental” for the second Virgin River Christmas book, and she delivered. It’s a sweet story, low on conflict, and a lovely gift for devoted Virgin River fans. It’s probably not the best choice for a reader new to the series. If you have never read a Virgin River book, I suggest you begin with Virgin River, Shelter Mountain, Whispering Rock, and A Virgin River Christmas. As for me, I never miss a Robyn Carr book. I’m already looking forward to Hidden Summit, which will be released December 27.

Have you been to Virgin River? What’s your favorite Virgin River book? Are you a fan of “sweet and sentimental” Christmas romances?

Friday, September 9, 2011

My Own Voice

I have a love/hate relationship with craft books and materials. I draw inspiration from them. I keep a quote from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird where I see it every day in order to combat my perfectionist tendencies: "Don't look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance." I turn to them for specific advice. When I reached an impasse in my current WIP recently, I spent a couple of weeks working my way through exercises from the plot section of Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. But I have also gone through times when I find reading books or articles on craft paralyzing, when the voices of the experts drown out my own voice and I write paragraphs only to trash them because they are “wrong” according to experts. For me, timing is key to whether the study of craft will be help or hindrance.

Someone recommended a book on voice a few weeks ago, and I read it at exactly the right moment for it to resonate deeply with me. In The Writer’s Voice, poet, essayist, and literary critic A. Alvarez writes about the writer finding her voice as a process. It begins, he suggests, with reading because it is creative reading that makes us aware of “the presence behind the words” and teaches us to distinguish between the false and the true. 

A vital part of finding our voices, according to Alvarez, is falling in love with the voices of others—sometimes promiscuously as we rush from book to book enraptured by the beauty, the power, the authenticity of the voices we hear in the pages we read, sometimes discriminatingly as we immerse ourselves in the work of a particular writer, certain that this is the voice of our true beloved, the one who knows answers to all our questions about who we should become as writers, questions that we cannot even articulate. 

I can remember periods of promiscuity, of reading great numbers of writers wildly and enthusiastically, finding in each new author a turn of phrase, a trick of characterization, a rhythm or cadence that I determined to emulate. I can also remember periods of faithful attention to a single writer, working my way through every poem or novel I could find, making copious notes, living with the sound of one voice falling on my inner ear by day and reverberating in my dreams at night. 

Imitation is proverbially the sincerest form of flattery, and writers have been flattering other writers by imitating them no doubt since creative uses of written language began. We learn skills by imitating, but no one wants her work to be labeled derivative or, even worse, to be accused of plagiarism. Alvarez uses a famous quotation from T. S. Eliot (“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.”) to explain that good writers move beyond mere acquisition of skills (imitation) to incorporate other voices into our own in ways that preserve the integrity of both voices (stealing).

When I think about my own voice in these terms, I remember poems carefully crafted in my undergraduate days that a professor tactfully suggested were “too Dickinsonian.” I think even at nineteen, I knew he was right, but decades later and with far greater confidence that my poet’s voice is my own, I still hear echoes of Emily Dickinson in certain lines. The same thing is true of my romance fiction. I have found my voice although I can be hesitant to trust it. I no longer imitate, but when I read a passage I often hear the echoes. Occasionally a friend will read a few pages and remark, “That sounds like X.” I know then that my friend hears the echoes too. Reading Alvarez felt as if I were being given permission to stop worrying about these echoes and end my “anxiety of influence,” to borrow a lit crit term.

I think Barbara Samuel, who has long been my favored expert on voice, would agree with Alvarez. She recognizes the role creative reading plays in forming voice. She includes three questions about reading history on her voice worksheet:

  • What are your top five favorite novels of all time? What was your
    favorite book when you were 12? Fourteen?
  • Can you point to a writer or a book that made you want to be a writer? Who/What?
  • What book do you most deeply wish you’d written? Why? What parts of it make you swoon? Characters? Voice? Plot?

We all know the importance of having a “fresh voice,” a “strong voice.” If we don’t, there are countless agent and editor interviews, blogs, and tweets to remind us. But writing that speaks practically and encouragingly to as-yet-unpublished writers about what voice is and how one discovers (or uncovers) one’s own fresh, strong voice is in scant supply. Alvarez and Samuel offer practicality and encouragement. I recommend Alvarez’s The Writer’s Voice with the caveat that he may be too academic for some tastes. I believe writers of literary or commercial fiction will find Samuel’s words inspiring and useful. 

Finally, in this reflection on voice, I share the closing lines of a favorite poem by a favorite poet in the hope that the journey she describes may be yours as well.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

From “TheJourney” by Mary Oliver

If you are a reader (and Alvarez says reading well is as much an art as writing well), are you aware of the “presence behind the words”? Which authors’ voices do you particularly love? If you are a writer, what are your thoughts on your voice? Which writers echo most loudly in your work?