By Kaye Wilkinson Barley
I have written all my life.
I write to understand.
I write to comprehend my feelings.
I put those feelings down on paper in an attempt to bring order to the chaos often accompanying those feelings.
But it was never for public consumption.
Not until I was 60 years old.
When I did, finally, at the suggestion of Kathryn Stripling Byer, North Carolina Poet Laureate 2005-09, submit my first piece, it was accepted for inclusion in a regional North Carolina anthology.
It was a piece I wrote while my husband was living in North Carolina and I was stuck back in Georgia for a period of time that seemed unending. A rough time. That someone felt as though that piece, written straight from my heart, was worthy of being shared with others was a surprise, and brought some much needed joy.
A statement from one of the editors of the anthology, Dr. Celia Miles, stayed posted on my laptop for years. “I hope you’ll continue to write,” she said. “You were born to write. Your writing has honesty.”
It helped me write the one novel that I had wanted to write for as long as I can remember. You know the one. The one that Toni Morrison was talking about when she said, to you, ““If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”
I think my writing style comes from simply loving to tell a story. That love of storytelling is how I developed my voice. And, I’ve been told it’s a distinctive one.
As far as the craft of writing, I will be the first to admit - I know nothing. If my writing passes any sort of craft test, it comes from having been a reader since the cradle along with being lucky enough to know some excellent editors who have graced me with their help and expertise.
I have, of course, read some of the best books on how to write that all writers read. And I love them. Especially Stephen King’s “On Writing,” and Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird.” I love and recommend them, but have I learned anything from them?
Except that one bit from Ms. Lamott about the first draft always being terrible? I don’t think so. My fault – certainly not theirs. My fault because I always find myself reading for the story. The entertainment. The simple joy of words, excellence in pacing and beautiful phrasing. Yep – even in “how to” books.
Learning through reading, for me, comes, I believe, without my conscious thinking. And, it comes from reading books written by good writers. Writers like Louise Penny, James Anderson, Margaret Maron, Pat Conroy – along with others.
All that said, I have not one word of advice regarding writing.
Unless you have yet to discover that it can save your sanity. If that’s the case, then my advice is to write. Tell a story – be it to friends, family, the public or to yourself. Tell a story, “the” story, “your” story. But first, do it for yourself.
Kaye Wilkinson Barley lives in Boone, NC with her husband, Don, and their spoiled little Corgi, Annabelle. Kaye has had several short stores and creative non-fiction essays published, one photo/story book and one novel; WHIMSEY: A Novel. Kaye and her husband are avid photographers. Her blog, Meanderings and Muses ( http://www.meanderingsandmuses.com/ ), is a place where she shares stories and photos. Anything and everything from a memory, a book review, a recipe, or a political rant.
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