|Posted by nancyfreund11 on May 26, 2014 at 1:25 PM|
Partly, I write this post because I want to be sure I can easly find and click Dani Shapiro's excellent speech from Arianna Huffington's Thrive event. I have been reading her writer's guide 'Still Writing: the Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life' and let me tell you, when I finish this thing -- which will NOT be soon, because I'm only allowing myself tiny paragraphs at a time, to make it last -- but when I DO finish it, I'll have to post a review to Youtube that will be so glowing, it's going to light up the night sky.
People gush about Dani Shapiro and her generosity and intelligence and willingness to be vulnerable on the page and in life and in conversation.
These are real people I've met and had dinner with -- numerous real people -- quite different in personality and background, in fact. And I agree with all of them 100 per cent.
I didn't know Dani Shapiro, and I confess I didn't know her writing before I applied to the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano. I'd applied before -- unsuccessfully -- and I'd been aware of and then reading One Story for some time, but until I was actually accepted (!) to attend this writers' conference, I had not yet discovered her writing. (Nor Meg Wolitzer's, who I'll just add was another instructor at Sirenland 2014. Her novel The Interestings is stunning, and her character Ethan Figman is someone I want in my life forever. If you haven't read it, run, don't walk! I DID know 'The House of Sand and Fog' by Andre Dubus III, the third Sirenland 2014 instructor -- my instructor, as it happens, my incredible instructor in the most astonishing, creative, vibrant, supportive, intelligent workshop I've experienced -- and now I know more of his work, including his memoir 'Townie' and his latest novella-short story collection 'Dirty Love.' Continuing the tangent here though, I just want the blog record to state I am blown away by all three of these writers -- by their writing and by their truly invaluable instruction). An excellent workshop is worth gold.
But for now, back to Dani. Knowing the conference was coming up in April, I spent my Christmas holiday listening to her memoir 'Devotion' on Audible.... my first experience with an audio book memoir on the iPhone, in fact. I was in Florida, walking two miles back from the gym after it closed and it was getting dark, and it was still hot and humid and I was deathly afraid of alligators as usual, and I was wearing fluorescent yellow nylon, super sweaty, (ready to run zig-zag if I had to, and reminding myself that in the end it was a frightened stingray that took Steve Erwin's life, not an alligator), and I was walking on the golf cart path and pissing off golfers because I had on headphones and didn't hear their little electric vehicles approaching -- but I simply could NOT get enough of this woman's story, the difficulties of her upbringing, her parents' incredible long-term spiritual conflict, her own childhood voicelessness -- told through my iPhone in her own beautiful voice. It was magic.
The thing is, she's been through some really difficult things, and rather than hide them away, she has found a way to put them out there, and make everyone's difficult things ok. Not ok to talk about, not "fair game for writing," but part of life. Important to understand. MAYBE I should go so far as to lean toward the word: NORMAL. It's so much more meaningful, so much more valuable than "guidance for writers," which, in and of itself, can be pretty awesome as well. But reading 'Devotion' or 'Still Writing' or watching this video featuring Dani Shapiro isn't about writing -- it's about life. I know mine's better for having found her work. Hope maybe yours is too.