One of the best things about my life is the immersion in Story. Most of the year I’m immersed in students’ stories, the honor of reading, the pain of witnessing all they survive. In the summer (with apologies to my colleagues who are working year-round), Story enters me like air, breathes me. Fiction. The books, the movies, the TV shows fill me with characters and actions and insights that have fancy and impossibility and terror and one tick away from reality, which is a comfort. Fiction feeds me, whether it is poetry or playwriting or the elusive art of short story, or a fine lie. I haven’t read enough this summer, yet, but Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses swept through me with its sparse, elegant prose. As a trainer for leaner business practices once said, “Apple has won the market share because they offer a few, elegant choices.” I’ve thought about that a lot since I heard the phrase. My writing is more like a PC, lots of too much. Maybe that’s why fixies (fixed-gear) bikes are so popular. Simplify… Let the operator or reader have room. Support her with elegance, sound structure, gorgeous choice. And of course, I had to read the second Hunger Games book, Girl on Fire. Had to. That book is scary and plot-based, and as my friend, Sharon Hashimoto, put it, teaches about conflict. Every moment is driven by conflict. My writing tends to be driven by folly, the delicious sound of words, the whim of associative logic. Conflict, hm…. Story is a powerful and sustaining force. I am very lucky to ride it.
By Kate Gray