Saturday, May 27, 2017

Gut-wrenching or deeply stilling



These notes on writing were made by Octavia Butler, author Kindred, Parable of the Sower and so many other utterly compelling fictional worlds. She was the first science fiction author to win the MacArthur Genius Award, and the first African-American woman to win widespread critical acclaim in that genre. Some of her papers are on display in an exhibition called "Octavia Butler: Telling My Stories" at The Huntington in San Marino, California, where the author's archives reside. These notes are sound advice for anyone endeavoring to tell a good story, anyone striving to shut out the clamor and surreality of the news and build a suspenseful, well-paced world within.

I have begun writing the book, but it is so very slow. I have accomplished a mere 953 new words in addition to the sample chapter I wrote for the proposal. I am picking my way through the thicket of facts and personal truths, looking for the right details, in the right proportion, with the requisite intensity, delivered in a way even those who might resist this particular story, can open their hearts to hear.







25 comments:

  1. Octavia Butler has been such a hero to me that she changed the way I think about not only writing but how alien civilizations might grow their ships organically like trees. She pried my head open. Keep going! Pages and pages and pages. Love and thank you.

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    1. R, somehow I knew you would love her. She pried my head open, too. I love that you put it that way.

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  2. Can you believe I've never read so much as an Octavia Butler short story? I will. I will right this wrong. Those notes are absolutely wonderful. "Build a world with selected detail."
    Yes.
    And that is what you do. And your current project will be amazing, as they all are. Because you are.

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    1. Ms. Moon, perhaps her most well-known and most accessible work is Kindred, but Parable of the Sower might be my personal favorite. And thank you (and Rebecca) for the encouragement!

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  3. My nana was a wonderful story teller. I used to listen to her for hours. Oh how I wish I would have taped her!

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    1. Birdie, I know what you mean. I now think I should have been taping my elders all along. But you can still write down what you remember.

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  4. Wow, what an intense, exciting and a little bit scary thing to do.
    I would love to be in your brain and see how you bring all the different parts of it together to achieve your end goal.
    Maybe you should write a book about this process of getting the author's thoughts and heart onto the page. Now that would be fun to read!

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    1. liv, i'm collaborating with a subject to write her book. she has the story, but she's not a writer, so they've paired her with me. it's a very heavy story, really, but she is a bright soul.

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  5. These are works I will look for, never having read anything by her. All the best as you weave your magic with this story.

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    1. jenny-o, octavia butler is definitely worth your time. and thank for the good thought.

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  6. I'm thinking you need to make a field trip out here to see the Butler papers. The Huntington library and gardens are fantastic. We could go together and have lunch, too. Come on!

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    1. Elizabeth, I love that idea! Stay tuned. As for getting our emergency first responder boys together, I'm sure we can make it happen. At the very least my son would be willing to talk with Henry by phone. Just let me know when he wants to connect and I'll let my son know. He loves his work by the way. He says he is one of the few among his friends who are actually happy with what they are doing at this stage. He might have been made for this.

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  7. I love those notes. Brilliant advice -- which I should take more often. If your 953 words are well-chosen and produce intensity, as Ms Butler suggests, I'd say you've done a good day's work!

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    1. Steve, i love your point of view! I will take it to heart!

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  8. This is a challenge you are meant to cope with - brilliantly.

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    1. Thank you for your faith, Sabine. xo

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  9. I have two decent novels trapped in my head but it's so hard for me to get it down on paper. One of these days I'll take a writing class and just get on with it.

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    1. Expat mom, maybe when you are back in the UK and all the noise from the US news abates somewhat, you'll find the mental space to begin!

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  10. Thank you for the introduction to Octavia Butler. I'm #3 in line to read Parable of the Sower at our public library as of just now. Good to know that you are working on a book about her.

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    1. am, no, no, i am not writing a book about Octavia Butler. She would not need me to write her book, that's for sure. She is several leagues beyond! I am writing a book for a woman who has a story to tell. I interview her and then write her story. I'm a ghostwriter, except I'm not really a full ghost in this case as my name will be on the book, underneath hers.

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    2. Thank you for the clarification! I can imagine you writing a book about Octavia Butler. Interesting to learn that you are a ghostwriter. Do you do that in connection with preserving family histories?

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  11. My favorite book of hers is "Wild Seed". When my family first read it, we spent much time discussing and wondering how to find our web. Did not realize we were our web. Reading "Parable of the Sower" was like reading the news.

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    1. Kristin, I am just realizing I have never read Wild Seed. What an oversight. Downloading it right now! Thank you, friend.

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  12. Wish you best of luck with writing the book. Keep writing, do not give up.

    Greetings from London.

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    1. A Cuban in London, I will not give up because I have a contract, so giving up is not an option! Thank you for the good wishes.

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