Thursday, May 31, 2007

Do You Hear Voices?

I once spoke at an event for the Gullah/Geechee Nation about how I came to write The Spirit of Sweetgrass. I told the group how my main character, Essie Mae, basically wrote her own story. I simply penned it for her. When it was time for questions, a hand raised. It was attached to one of my favorite fellow writers, Fred Robinson. Fred was there in my writer's group when I first began sharing my work several years ago. Matter of fact, he's still in that group. It was a pleasant surprise to see his friendly face there, supporting me.

"About these voices you mentioned," he said. All eyes turned to him. "Do you really hear voices when you're writing?" I thought it was a joke. I thought he was ribbing me.

"No, I don't really hear voices," I said politely, waving my hands around. "Not like I have multiple personalities or anything, ahem, it's more like I feel it inside. Feel the story wanting to come out." I laughed a little. Nervously. Gee, thanks, Fred.

Turns out Fred wasn't kidding. Instead, he was actually just paying attention.

This week, I learned that Fred Robinson is one of the winners of this year's SC Fiction Project. His short story "The Leaky Roof" will be published in all its glory in the Post & Courier very soon. Fred will get the recognition he deserves. I am so thrilled for him!

So I wrote him a note telling him how excited I am for him, and he wrote back. Said he finally just listened to "the voices" in his head and wrote them down. Ha. How about that?

Well, I'm working on my third novel now and the story has been swimming inside me. I've been so concerned with how this will work, or what will happen or should the story go this way....and there are multiple voices trying to be heard, but there's too much distraction lately. I can only clearly hear my two little children around me, laughing, whining, playing. So inspired by Fred, last night I asked my husband to watch the kids. I turned on the bathtub, filled it with bubbles, got in, soaked, and just...listened. Listened for anything that God would put on my heart. Listened for any story or voice that needed to be told. Then quite miraculously, I let the water out, climbed the steps to my office, and dutifully, excitedly, wrote the character--the voice--that needed to come out.

Thanks so much, Fred, for the inspiration when I needed it most. You gave me back my own advice. Boy, I needed that.

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