All Good Things….
There’s a trick to the ‘graceful exit.’ It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, or a relationship is over — and let it go. …Ellen Goodman Stories, films, lives – all things come to a close. Sometimes neatly, sometimes not. And so, after nine months, I am bringing the Editor’s Corner to what I hope is a neat and graceful end. Over the past thirty-seven weeks, we have covered topic both minute and sweeping, and yet, in the end, I find it fitting to return to the beginning. To our words. I originally wrote the following back in March of this year as a guest piece for Karen Sanderson’s blog. I now amend, update, and present it to you as my parting thoughts. My thanks to Niamh and Plum Tree for this forum, and to all who have traveled with me on this writer’s journey. Enjoy.
You Are Your Words We humans are creatures of custom. It frames our existence and structures our lives. In the course of my daily custom, once I begin to feel the dream-webs lift from my mind, I brew a fresh pot of tea, play with the kittens, and allow my thoughts to mosey along paths both cosmological and mundane, reasoned and stochastic. The other day, I started thinking about words. Magical, mystical, wickedly creative, oh, the glorious power of words and we who wield them. “In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was God.” This is not just a Judeo-Christian notion. The Popol Vuh – Mayan Book of Creation – speaks of how Sovereign Plumed Serpent (who later became Quetzlcoatl) and Heart of Sky came together at the beginning of time:
“…And then came his [Heart of Sky’s] word, he came to Sovereign Plumed Serpent, here in the blackness, in the early dawn…. they joined their words, their thoughts….And then the earth arose because of them, it was simply their word that brought it forth….”
Now this notion (naturally) draws me down a whimsically syllogistic rabbit hole: The Word is divine; the divine create with words. Writers create with words; writers are divine. Hey, makes sense to me. Ok, we writers may not be divine, but we do cloak ourselves in Creator’s motley as comfortably as jeans and broadcloth. Mind blowing for gods to shape the universe in the round of a word, yet that’s what we do every day. Out of the chaos of random thought, the void of the blank page, we create whole worlds and the beings who live in them. Earthsea, Darkover, Yoknapatawpha County, OZ and East Egg, Wonderland and Wessex – the list of literary terrae nova are legion. Even places we think we know, like Richard Wright’s Chicago or Edith Wharton’s New York, are, in authorial hands, transformed into alien landscapes ripe for exploration.
And so we string one word after another, counting our hours from phrase to sentence to paragraph to tome. We weave tales of myth and wonder and supernal genesis. For words are creative. With them we name things and by naming them bring them into being. They are active, breathing life into those named things, making them romp and fly and do handsprings through the treetops. They are descriptive, coloring and shaping the world that it might be recognized and marveled at in all its beauty and strangeness. And that is without even touching upon the mind and heart, the emotional power of words. The power that reaches out across our inherent aloneness and makes people feel and think and remember, even change their lives. For words are lash and cradle, warming spark and unholy conflagration. They heal and nurture, wound and kill. Complex stuff. God stuff.
Which brings me to a story. More memoir than fancy (though there are tangential Dragons); just a little something I thought I’d share. Two years ago, my book, The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook, was making its way into print. In anticipation of this event, my publisher invited me to the Book Expo of America in New York. Sign some ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies), generate book buzz, and spend two days in Gotham with all stripe of book folk – authors, publishers, agents, librarians. Commercialism be damned, for a writer, what could be more delicious? Not to mention the swag! A convention neophyte, I was quite unprepared for the booty laid out like Smaug’s hoard, just there for the taking. From simple promotional bookmarks and house totes, to signed copies of the year’s (hopefully) hottest titles, one was limited only by one’s interests, greed, and in the case of acquiring a major author’s John (or Jane) Hancock, no small amount of stamina. Even though I was hobbling about on a broken leg at the time, I returned home with several bags – now weekly filled with groceries – and a far from shabby passel of books. For all that, my favorite BEA keepsake was from the folks at the American Heritage Dictionary of English Language: a modest white 6” x 4” oval magnet, adorned in black Arial with the deceptively simple gnome: You Are Your Words.
Every morning since, I rub the sleep from my eyes and focus on this reminder of how I am defined by the words in my life. They are my tools, my paint and canvas, soil and seeds. I shape them, play with them, with luck make them croon like an armadillo and pirouette on the wings of a damselfly. They represent me to the world, my ideas and dreams. Whether tripping across page or tongue, they have consequences, so I must choose them with care. They are my children sent into the world, and I am responsible for them, in all their beauty or ugliness.
Happy Holidays, my friends. Write well.
The Last Edition of the Editor’s Corner To Go To the Archives Click On the Highlighted “Editor’s Corner”
I will try to respond to messages as I am able. At times it may be in the form of a post or a direct email response. Guests who post, I will forward messages addressed to them. It is up to them how they decide to correspond. — Shawn MacKENZIE – MacKenzie’s Dragonsnest