“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” — Mary Oliver
In my experience, the same thing works for being a writer: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
I like to tell stories about life as it is lived by real people. I like to include some magic realism, because it exists if and when we look for it, and go where the stories and their characters take me. Sometimes it takes a while to tell a particular story, sometimes a story just flows, sometimes life intervenes. The important thing is to pay attention, be astonished, and tell about it in a story, a poem, an essay and living. Each new day, each new moment, a gift. I have a love affair with life. I enjoy telling about it in stories and poems, stories about heroes and monsters, celebrations, songs, strange characters, hidden people that are there but seldom seen, mundane events that aren’t so mundane once you look at them. Is it possible to live long enough to wear it all out, to have nothing left to say? At eighty, I don’t think so. There is so much yet to be explored, so many stores yet to tell, poems to be written.
The sun is out
On the veranda my wife hangs laundry
In the distance thunder
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The days move swiftly by
While the nights move slowly and are filled with dreams.
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A young boy and his mother, carrying his baby sister, run for their lives toward the Sumida River Park as sheets of fire fall from the sky. Falling asleep, he wakens as the sun comes up and realizes he is the only one in the park alive. What is going to become of him? That is the story of eight-year-old Seiji, a story published several years ago in “A Rainbow Feast: New Asian Short Stories” edited by Mohammad A. Quayum. The story was written quickly. I’ve been working on a novel about seiji for the past three years. Some stories take their time to be told. Others appear quickly, like “Grandfather and The Raven” and the story about old Genjiro Yamada and his monkey friend Yukitaro.
The point? Be patient. Stories come as they will. My job as a writer is to be ready when a story is ready to be told. Forty-one years ago I went to Mexico City, where I lived for two months. It was an unforgettable experience in which I fell in love with the city. Returning home to Minneapolis, I wrote a poem, “Mexico City Dream Trip,” which was published in 1974.
I began writing a novel about it. Several years later, frustrated, I set it aside and forgot about it. Finally, in 2013, I began again. “The City Has Many Faces, a love story about Mexico City is the result. It is ready to go to my editor, then will be published later this year.
Mexico City from the mountains which surround it it seems to be a sea of moving lights, & once inside it, it is like being caught up in a dream that captures your whole imagination & you don’t want to wake up from it.
No matter what you try to do, the city has its hold on you, shimmering there in the mountains cloaked in smog & sounding like a volcano about to erupt, swelling & subsiding & beckoning & whispering in your ear.
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More next time.