Friday, October 2, 2009

Kate DiCamillo on Writing

Kate is the author of the book I am reading with Jaden the other day; The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. It was so good so I got on her site and read about an experience she had in college. She was givin the writing assignment of describing something. She left it til the last minute and then went to the store. Read her description of the homeless woman that was singing to her as she left and asked her to hand over her change. She was sitting on a bag of dog food with purple nails and a tamborine.

The teacher read it in front of a class and she was thinking she was an amazing author, the next big one. Then he asked the class why it was worth reading.

He had to answer the bored class, "It's not the reading" Kate slouches in her chair.
"The person that wrote this took the time to see the person she was describing.
That's what writing is all about. Seeing. It is the sacred duty of the writer to pay attention. To see the world.

Kate then goes on to say that during a time that she was fight despair, wondering if she had the talent to do what she wanted to do, she thought back to these words.

"I cannot control whether or not I am talented. but I can pay attention. I can make an effort to see."

Her story makes me recall being a city worker and taking care of the flower beds on Broadway during college. I was out in front of the Rio Theater, when it was still in business and a homeless woman sat down on the brick planter I was watering. It was in the heat of the afternoon, she was in dark pants, a white top. Long dark hair. Big smile. And a huge daddy long leg in her hair. I didn't tell her it was there. I was a bit paralyzed for some reason. I sat there with my hose watering the flowers and thought about statistics I recalled from a course as to why she was homeless. Went off her medication and ended up on the street? I faintly recall the only help I offered was directions to the library. But we talked and I watered and stood there in my hiking boots, tank top, and shorts.

After reading Kate's site I am going to make a better effort to see things. I go through the intersection at Wal-Mart and don't look at the people that hold the signs thinking that if I do I will end up like Liz Smart or something. I need to start offering a genuine smile and LOOK at them.

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