Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ride Me On Language

Five days with Dorothy Allison at the Tomales Bay Workshop has me feeling a desperate urgency to "get naked on the page." I also feel sad, like I just said good-bye to an old friend I might never see again. And I feel, of all things, southern-proud, half-wishing my tongue still held onto home as gracefully as Dorothy's does. At 62 years old, Dorothy has long silky gray hair that she's constantly brushing away from her face. Her glasses cannot conceal the fire that burns behind them. When she talks, people listen hard, laugh often, even cry. She loves profanity.

Over the course of thirteen hours of workshop, she told us that writing is hard, thankless work, that salvation sometimes comes in the form of poetry in the middle of the night, that she sold 30 years worth of her journals to Duke University to pay for her son's college education. About my writing, she said she didn't believe the narrator, that she's hiding herself, that she needs to get emotionally raw. She also said it was "a damn good story."

And my favorites:

"Writing is deliberate seduction:
Take risks, put embarrassing stuff on the page, be DARING."

"You have permission to take revenge.
But you better be honest about how you were a motherf*^#ker too."

"You are an anthropologist of your own culture--write from where you came from. Write from hurt. Hurt has power."

"After we had a baby, I lost a year just staring at his feet."

"I get up in the night, an’ I need a story. I need a book. I need somebody to invite me into a world they have imagined whole. Or stolen. I genuinely don’t care. Just take me there. Ride me on language. Charm me. Fascinate me. Scare me or excite me, but take me out of myself. We are lonely. We are scared. We need story. That does not change."

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