Is there any life event more bizarre than a school reunion?
After spending Memorial Day weekend in the company of fellow Simon’s Rock alumni, most of whom I had not seen in decades (what, you think I’m going to say how many?), I can tell you definitively, no.
For a fiction writer who enjoys playing with the nature of time and memory, it was a rich, if weird, experience. (And I wasn’t the only one to appropriate a famous title in reflecting on the experience; my good friend, fellow alum, and now professor Jenny Browdy did the same in her post about the reunion, memory, and the passage of time.)
I can tell you one thing for certain: forget about self-improvement. Basic personalities remain remarkably consistent from decade to decade. The gossipers still gossip; the clueless remain clueless.
Simon’s Rock is where I began to learn to write. I say “began to learn” because I am still learning. It’s also where I encountered some of my earliest writing influences, including Vladimir Nabokov, author of the book from which I nabbed my blog title.
I well remember the environment of Simon’s Rock: the small, seminar-style classes and the one-on-one time with professors that got me so motivated. I also remember trying way too hard. In one of my first writing courses, my professor said something about avoiding use of the verb “to be.” I’m sure he was simply trying to encourage us to enliven our language. I took him literally, however, and there followed a year or so of tortured, unnatural-sounding prose. (Try it yourself and see!)
While on campus for the reunion, I visited the alumni library and pulled my senior thesis down from the shelf. Since I got my B.A. in creative writing, my thesis consisted of two short stories and an essay. I confess I had completely forgotten the content. So I spent some time reading through the first short story.
This cemented my idea that we don’t change. It’s not that I haven’t grown as a writer, but I was amazed to see the common stylistic and thematic threads in the story. Even the way it begins, with the words, “I remember…”
I think someone once said that many writers have only one story in them, which they tell over and over. I am feeling rather that way.
If you’ve been writing for more than a decade (or even less), how has your writing evolved? Do you revisit the same themes and ideas from story to story or book to book? Comment, please!
Back from exploring my roots, I’m ready to return to the present and forge ahead. During almost a week without Internet access, I made good progress on my current novel. I’m up to about 84,000 words and have reached a point where I need to do a quick read over the whole manuscript in order to prepare to write the final chapter.
San Mateo County Fair Literary Arts Events
I’ll be busy June 9 – 17 at the numerous literary arts events taking place at the San Mateo County Fair. If you’re in the area, please come by. In particular, look for me on the following days:
Sunday, June 10: 4:30 – 6:30 p.m., ANTHOLOGY LAUNCH PARTY
Tuesday, June 12: 7:00 p.m., FAULT ZONE READING
Saturday, June 16: 2:00 – 4:00 p.m., AUTHOR DAY