We’re proud to be counted among the “finest ‘little magazines’” who “only accept postal submissions” in Nick Ripatrazone’s essay for the Millions about the demise of the SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope for the initiated).
Here’s the thing: I don’t really like to write.
This isn’t what I’m supposed to talk about; it isn’t what writers are supposed to write about. We’re supposed to write about how we have a passion for the craft, a burning zest that flows out of us and spills onto the page like lava.
We’re supposed to be like the girl in the first creative writing workshop I ever took—a sophomore-level class in a hundred-year-old building where the afternoon light lit up the dust motes as they floated by the windows—who said, without a hint of pretention or irony, “I have to eat. I have to breathe. I have to write.”
Maybe she really meant it. Maybe she was just trying to impress the professor (Padgett Powell, who definitely didn’t look impressed). Regardless, her words embodied the spirit of what writing is supposed to be: a labor of love.
Another professor once told me that he had to “steal time to write,” and he said it in a near whisper, as if he was talking about some illicit affair. Writing was the mistress he pined for when he drove his kids to soccer practice, the dirty little secret that waited behind a glowing computer monitor as his wife slept beside him.
I want to feel what they feel: the thrill that comes with creating art. I want my words to pulse with a terrible truth, to cut to the core of our being with sentences as hard as diamonds. I want what J.M. Coetzee describes in his memoir, Boyhood: I want my words to “spread across the page out of control, like spilt ink. Like spilt ink, like shadows racing across the face of still water, like lightning crackling across the sky.” I want, I want, I want.
But I don’t really like to write.
What I like to do: I like to cook and eat. I like exercising, working in the yard, fixing up the house. Sleeping and having sex and watching movies. All of these things I prefer to writing. I could live out my life doing these things and be content. Since I don’t really like to write, I often think I ought to just stop. Put down the pen. Move on. It’s easy. It’s over.
Come visit the Sewanee Review at AWP! Our table at the bookfair is D35 in the South Hall. Leigh Anne Couch (managing editor) will be at the table on Thursday, and Thomas Sanders (our Aiken Taylor intern and social-media whiz) will be tending to the table on Friday and Saturday. In fact, we’ll be part of the Sewanee Literary Block, sharing a table with the School of Letters and right next door to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.
Oh, and be sure to bring your trapper keepers and sticker books … we have stickers for you!
Although no replacement for last night’s magnificent poetry reading by Dana Gioia—the 28th recipient of the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American Poetry—this video of Gioia reading his poem “California Hills In August” at the San Francisco Public Library offers a taste of his magnificent poetic and oratory verve.
To read more about Dana Gioia’s illustrious career, as well as a brief history of the award and a list of past recipients, visit the Sewanee Review’s website.
Join the Sewanee Review for a lecture by David Mason on the work of Dana Gioia, 28th recipient of the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American Poetry. The lecture will be given at 8:30 pm in the McGriff Alumni House on the campus of the University of the South.
"It is of the opinion of Lemony Snicket, author, reader, and alleged malcontent, that librarians have suffered enough. Therefore he is establishing an annual prize honoring a librarian who has faced adversity with integrity and dignity intact. The prize will be a generous amount of cash from Mr. Snicket’s disreputable gains, along with an odd, symbolic object from his private stash, and a certificate, which may or may not be suitable for framing. It is Mr. Snicket’s hope, and the ALA’s, that the Snicket Prize will remind readers everywhere of the joyous importance of librarians and the trouble that is all too frequently unleashed upon them."
-Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, announcing his new literary prize.