portrait of an idol

In my mind’s eye, six-year-old me is still sitting in the back seat of my dad’s sun-baked, forest green 1998 Ford Windstar. Entranced, I watch as from his coat pocket he produces a shrink wrapped copy of Room For Squares — the first studio album released by John Mayer in 2001. With a smile still untouched by Hollywood hecklers and the heavy burden of fame, then 23-year-old Mayer appears at once enigmatic and blissfully naive, gazing out from behind the tiled cover.

From the moment the disc was loaded in that old stereo system, my childhood would forever be colored by that sound.

Fourteen years and six concerts later, I’m still reeling from the sublime sense of understanding that comes with discovering music that resonates on a profound level for the first time. Throughout all my phases and brief fascinations, my appreciation for Mr. Mayer has never faltered.

Over the next few years, I would log countless hours with him on my pink CD player, totally entranced by his knack for hauntingly hopeful pop melodies. I used to spend whole afternoons sprawled out on the little pink rug in my bedroom, which at the time was big enough to fit my entire body length but now looks closer in size to a welcome mat. I would close my eyes and try to decipher the meanings behind his witty lyrical turns of phrase, which awakened my love of poetry long before I ever decided to become a literature major.

By the time I was seven, I had been vocal enough about my enthusiasm to compel my parents to take me to see him live in concert. A deep, spiritual feeling of inner peace washed over me as soon as that man stepped on stage — a phenomenon that has remained consistent at every show since. There is something to be said for an artist who is able to bridge the musical gap between parents and their adolescent children. Never one to issue records with parental advisories, Mayer embodies what I have coined the road trip phenomenon — one I’ve often spoken about with friends, who remember him for being the only artist everyone in the family could agree to listen during long cross country drives.

I wholeheartedly accredit Room For Squares as having been essential to the development of my soul, both as a human being and an audiophile. Since its 2001 release the album has gone platinum, selling over one million units. In the sixteen years since, Mayer has worked earnestly to expand his musical wingspan to encompass not only the acoustic pop style that rocketed him to fame, but also the genre on which he built his foundation — the blues.

As a teenager, Mayer worshipped at the altar of musical idolatry in much the same way as many would go on to worship him. Convincing his dad to drive him down to the local record store, he would hunt the racks for the discs that would become his greatest inspirations. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, and Albert King sat beside our young hero in that twilight dimension in which their spirits lingered just behind the veil. Patiently, they rewinded track after track as Mayer played along into the wee hours of the morning. This is where the blues was reborn, in the small bedroom of a thirteen year old boy in suburban Fairfield, Connecticut, in 1991.

Flash forward to 2017, and Mayer’s standing in the musical world is quickly approaching legend status. Returning to the stage to perform solo after a four year hiatus, his 2017 world tour is well underway. With a devastating new album called The Search For Everything, Mayer explores the depths of love, loss, pain, and the complex process of moving on.

This is where my story comes full circle. Being a super fan, I am signed up to receive everything from Google Alerts to Tweet notifications to official tour email updates. Basically, every time the man exhales, I am notified. When the news came through earlier this year that he would soon release a new album and launch the US leg of the tour, I was ecstatic. As I read the fine print of the email, I caught a small detail that would change my life forever: a select number of VIP meet and greet tickets will be available at each venue of the North American tour. My heart practically jumped out of my chest. Pulse racing, I embarked on a single-minded mission — if there was any way I could make this happen, any way at all, I was going to do it.

Months later, on April 9th, 2017 at Boston’s TD Garden, my father and I followed the twenty-two other VIPs backstage, where we waited in front of a black curtain while security explained how the procedure would go. “No kisses, no piggy back rides, no funny business,” they told us firmly, with a knowing twinkle in their eyes. Tears elbowed their way to the edge as I realized the moment I had been dreaming of since I was seven years old was now only seconds away. I took a deep breath as they waved me through the curtain.

Flashback to July 12th, 2008…and here we have 11 year old me, standing in front of the John Mayer promotional BlackBerry truck before his concert at what is now the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts. IMG_1221Before…

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And after: Nine years later, same girl, same t-shirt, same idol. Some things never change.FullSizeRender (1)

John and I have been through a lot over the years, but I think it’s safe to say we’ve both “glo’d up” since 2008.

There are not enough words in the English language to describe how it feels to have your one actual, literal Wildest Dream come true. Mr. Mayer was absolutely lovely, gracious, kind (and extremely tall). If there is any artist that truly appreciates their fans, it’s him. All I can tell you is that the little girl standing in front of the BlackBerry truck in 2008 would positively die of happiness if she only knew what the future held.

So now, I’ve got some thank-you’s that need issuing.

First of all to my father, without whom I could not have accessed the beautiful music that shaped my childhood.

Next, I’d like to thank the scout from Aware Records who signed a young Mayer after his performance at Austin’s SXSW in 2000. You found him when we needed him most.

Lastly, to Mr. John C. Mayer — no combination of words will ever be able to express just how much you mean to me (and so many others), so we’ll just keep repeating this as long as we live:

THANK YOU.

 

Margeaux Sippell, Intern

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CE Current Project Roundups: Brand New Books

Some of our favorite projects at CambridgeEditors involve helping writers develop and edit their books and manuscripts. Our editors get great satisfaction in helping aspiring authors turn their passions into a reality as they move through the exciting steps of the publishing process. These past few months we’ve received many new fiction and non-fiction projects from writers all across the country that explore matters of science, history, art, and personal discovery. Here are three intriguing new manuscripts that our editors are currently hard at work on!

Richard Galehouse: The Power of the Plan

 Over the past few months, one of our top editors Laura Paquette has been working with writer Richard Galehouse and The University of South Carolina Press to help publish his book Power of the Plan, Building a University in One of America’s First Planned Cities. The work examines the process of urban planning and the construction of The University of South Carolina. 

Daphne Binder: Israeli Architecture 

             Independent author Daphne Binder is currently partnering with our own creative editor and experienced fiction writer Ursula DeYoung for help editing a chapter of her book on the history of Israeli Architecture.

Lorri Devlin: A Reluctant Medium

Author Lorri Devlin is currently working with us on her in-progress manuscript about her journey coming to terms with humanity’s potential for psychic ability. Devlin’s work A Reluctant Medium features a series of interviews with people all across the United States and explores the relationship between personal intuition and the power of embracing ideas that appear to defy reason.

CambridgeEditors is so proud to be working with all of these talented writers and we look forward to seeing their finish works hit the shelves!bookshelfpic

-Paige, Intern

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Robert Pinsky Speaks To CambridgeEditors About The Role of The American Poet

Last week, CambridgeEditors posted a blog entry discussing the Writers Resist movement and the efforts of our nation’s writers, artists, and poets to speak up against dangerous political injustice, and to continue displaying their rights to free expression.

In our blog, we highlighted the reading of a new poem written and performed by nationally-acclaimed poet Robert Pinsky. His writing gave a collective, unified voice to the struggles of the American people and sought to regain our own ideals of democratic, unrestricted communication.

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The author of nineteen books of poetry, essays, and translations, Pinsky was honored with the National Endowment for The Humanities Fellowship in 1974, and was named the United States Poet Laureate and Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1997. Pinsky is currently the only poet to ever serve three terms as America’s national poet, a role that entrusts him with the great responsibility of raising the national consciousness and appreciation for both reading and writing poetry.

Almost twenty years ago, Pinsky founded the Favorite Poem Project: a collaboration of thousands of people from all across the country reading video recordings of their favorite works of poetry as a way to “ demonstrate that poetry has a vigorous presence in the American cultural landscape.”  The final product was a collection of short video documentaries showcasing individual Americans, reading and speaking about poems that have personally impacted them from iconic writers like Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath, and Pablo Neruda. The project also generated more than 18,000 letters from people all over the country, and has been used by our nation’s teachers to encourage their students to consider the power of poetry in their own day-to day lives.

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In an interview with the New York Times on April 3rd, 1998, Pinsky described his reasons for creating The Favorite Poem Project as a way to express the important link between poets and national freedom. He tells The Times,

”America is not; contrary to popular opinion, a country that ignores its poets. We are a nation with a powerful film industry and visual arts but we, too, are a vital part of American culture.”

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Today, Pinsky continues to work as an advocate for bringing the messages of poets to a larger audience, giving readings at universities across the country. He also contributes and edits for publications like The New Yorker and The Best of the Best American Poetry.

In addition to his own ongoing writing projects and work with Writers Resist, Pinsky teaches creative writing as a faculty member of Boston University’s MFA program and is currently in California serving as a professor for the graduate creative writing program at Stanford University.

Recently, CambridgeEditors was lucky enough to get in touch with Dr. Pinsky himself and ask him to further describe his personal experience with Writer’s Resist as well as share his thoughts on the way poetry has impacted American culture. CambridgeEditors could not be more honored to have had the opportunity to correspond with Dr. Pinsky ourselves, and gain further insight into what he believes is the role of American writers and poets in 2017.

Below is the full transcript to his interview conducted over email on March 8, 2017:

 CambridgeEditors: How did you become involved in the Writers Resist movement, and what motivated you to participate in the rally in New York City?

Pinsky: Poets have a stake in truth, and the need to resist falsehood in the Trump administration is clear. I was grateful to be invited by Erin Belieu of Writers Resist and Suzanne Nossel of PEN, to take part in what will be an ongoing resistance.

CE: Which other readings and poems from the protest were particularly impactful or memorable for you?

Pinsky: Jill McDonough woke us all up, and warmed us on that cold day, with a wonderful reading of Seamus Heaney’s “The Republic of Conscience.”

CE: What qualities do you believe make writing and poetry an effective form of resistance in the fight for democratic ideals against political injustice?

Pinsky: Poetry, uniquely, gets under an audience’s skin— or to be more precise, into the audience’s breath and vocal cords. Even if we don’t actually say a poem’s words aloud, we imagine saying them. The First Amendment recognizes that literal and figurative and vital aspect of “speech.” The process I mean is demonstrated by the videos at www.favoritepoem.org.

CE: Both your piece and Rita Dove’s reading at the event have been called “inaugural” or “counter-inaugural” works in opposition to President Trump’s official inauguration ceremony. How do you feel about this title?

Pinsky: “Inaugural” refers to a beginning, and resistance to a sinister regime, resistance to what now calls itself “alt-right.” resistance to nativism, anti-Semitism, racism . . . that resistance is, in a word, just beginning.

CE: And what is your opinion about the Trump administration’s decision not to have an official inaugural poet read at the ceremony?

Pinsky: Given issues regarding health care, public education, income inequality, exploitation of women, official falsehood— given such issues, these ceremonial matters have little or no importance.

CE: Your poem,Exile and Lightning”, deals with America’s multicultural ancestry and legacy as a nation of immigrants. In what ways do you believe that writing and art have contributed to shaping this legacy?

 Pinsky: Our music, nearly all of it based somehow on the blues, our feature films, based on our city immigrants and urban fantasies of pioneers as well as pioneers, our fiction with its visions of limit and freedom, the poetry of Dickinson and Whitman — all of that involves the hybrid, fluid nature of American culture, its core of improvisation and blending.

CE: As our country moves forward under this new political administration what do you believe are the best ways for writers, poets, and artists to continue to combat injustice and continue the effort to protect our rights to free speech and expression?

Pinsky: First of all, there are our responsibilities and rights as citizens that we share with everyone: our right and duty to tell our representatives what we think. Second of all . . . well, second of all, every writer, every artist, makes a decision of their own.

Our staff would like to sincerely thank Dr. Robert Pinsky for taking the time to share his thoughtful, passionate views with us and our readers and for once again reminding us all about the power of words.

Not only do we all have the ability to share our ideas and make our voices heard, we have a responsibility to inspire courage and strength in others through beauty and art. It’s time to come together and tell those people who try to silence that creativity that we will never stop speaking out. Every day will continue to make decisions of our own.

– Paige, Intern

 

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Why Writers Resist and Refuse To Be Silenced

“You choose your ancestors our

Ancestor Ralph Ellison wrote.

Now, fellow-descendants, we endure a

Moment of charismatic indecency

And sanctimonious greed. Falsehood

Beyond shame. Our Polish Grandfather

Milosz and African American Grandmother Brooks

Endured worse than this.

Fight first, then fiddle she wrote.” – Robert Pinsky

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Video of Reading:( https://pen.org/multimedia/robert-pinsky-writers-resist-nyc/)

Those are the opening lines to a new poem by former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, titled “Exile and Lightening,” which he premiered at the Writers Resist Rally in New York City on January 15th, 2017, honoring the birthday of equal-rights advocate Dr. Martin Luther King. The piece looks back at the struggle of America’s first immigrants to fight against prejudice and intimidation, while at the same time calling for people everywhere to continue to “fight and make music” in the face of fear of “Their enemies” who “have delivered/Themselves to destruction.”

Pinsky’s poem, which served as a sort of counter-inaugural reading, coming the week before President Trump’s inauguration ceremony, showcases America’s legacy as a land where “the children of exile” can seek strength and meaning through poetry, science, and art.

Unfortunately, this is a legacy that he and the thousands of others who took up the Writer’s Resist cause across the globe believe is now under threat from the very people meant to protect it.  In more than 90 cities including Boston, Los Angeles, London, and Hong Kong, literary advocates gathered together to protest their frustrations with America’s current political climate, reading works dealing with the values of democracy and free expression.

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Poet and Boston University graduate Erin Belieu sparked the movement with a Facebook post urging writers to “Come together and actively help make the world we want to live in.”  Belieu worked with a national network of writers, journalists, and literary societies across the country to organize over 90 demonstrations. The most significant event was in New York City, where more than 2,000 passionate writers, artists, and readers converged on the steps of the New York Public Library to fight for their right to free expression. The NYC protests were co-organized by PEN America, the world’s most prominent literary and human rights organization. Since 1921 PEN America has participated in numerous high-profile initiatives to prevent the censorship of ideas. PEN’s organizers described the effort as a “literary protest” to “defend free expression, reject hatred, and uphold truth in the face of lies and misinformation.” In a time of “alternative facts” where the Commander-in-chief has dubbed the national press “the enemy of the people,” we must protect our rights to free speech now more than ever.

Since America’s beginning, words have always held an essential power in the fight to establish and maintain democracy.  Thomas Jefferson was not chosen as the author of The Declaration of Independence because he had more political experience than any other delegates, but because he was considered the most skilled and eloquent writer. When Congress asked the more established John Adams to pen a document to the King of England expressing the colonists grievances, Adams instead wrote a letter urging Jefferson to take on the task by telling him he “wrote ten times better” than the other Congressmen and his writings were remarkable for their peculiar felicity of expression.” Clearly, he understood the power of language as our greatest weapon.

When America’s Founding Fathers proudly signed their names to the bottom of the Declaration of Independence they understood that they were putting their lives at risk and may be hanged for their treason. However, they also understood the essential need to stand up against injustice and defend those precious fundamental rights to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. So they took up the pen, and they signed. Today, literary voices all over the world are issuing the same kinds of declarations in order to demand change in the current unjust political administration. On February 23rd, sixty-five influential authors and artists signed and sent a letter to President Trump requesting that he rescind his executive order on immigration, arguing that the order “hindered the free flow of artists and thinkers ­and did so at a time when vibrant, open intercultural dialogue is indispensable in the fight against terror and oppression.”

The letter (which is available to read in it’s entirety on the Pen America website was supported by influential literary figures like John Green, Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Franzen, Stephen Sondheim and many others. These authors urge Trump to recognize the harmful consequences that the immigration ban imposes upon global and cultural expression. Their petition concludes with a warning for the president about any further efforts to silence international artists.  It reads:

“We strongly believe that the immediate and long-term consequences of your original Executive Order are entirely at odds with the national interests of the United States. As you contemplate any potential new measures we respectfully urge you to tailor them narrowly to address only legitimate and substantiated threats and to avoid imposing broad bans that affect millions of people, including the writers, artists and thinkers whose voices and presence help foster international understanding.”

We at CambridgeEditors wholly support this message of art and literature as an essential component to peace, democracy, and global cooperation. Only through free, uncensored communication can people truly feel that they are able to come together and share their beliefs without fear of oppression.

We proudly stand with Writers Resists’ efforts to protect freedom of speech. As such, we urge all readers, writers, and artists across the world to keep demanding that their voices be heard.

– Paige, Intern

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“Boston Review” Poets Protest Political Disaster

On Monday January 30th, The Boston Review and The Harvard Bookstore held a reading event titled Poems for Political Disaster at the Cambridge Public Library, where a panel of distinguished poets recited pieces in response to “political trauma, catastrophe, and terror – at home and abroad.”

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The politically charged atmosphere of the event could not have been more relevant, coming less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump passed his controversial immigration ban forbidding all refugees from entering the United States for 120 days, blocking entry for all residents from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen for at least 90 days, and permanently banning all refugees from Syria.

Rallies and protests immediately sprang up around the country in reaction to this latest executive order, that for many was seen as a complete destruction of an America that once inscribed the Statue of Liberty inviting “their tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

People all over the nation are searching for any opportunity to speak out against mistreatment and injustice. Addressing crowds outside of City Hall on Friday, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh promised to protect the city’s immigrants and minority residents during these uncertain times.

“I will never turn my back on those who are seeking a better life,” he said.

Political arts magazine The Boston Review used its own platform to assemble a force of powerful literary voices to read poems from the Review’s latest chapbook anthology, “Poems for Political Disaster.”

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Lucie Brock-Broido, Jorie Graham, Major Jackson, Ricardo Maldonado, and Nathan Xavier Osorio as featured speakers at Poetry for Political Disaster. 

“Remember the necessity of language as a powerful weapon,” said Boston Review editor Stefania Heim who introduced the event.

The night covered a range of significant issues from the shootings in Ferguson, Missouri, to Middle Eastern immigration and ongoing discrimination against Latin Americans.

Renowned Witter-Bynner prize winner Lucie Brock-Broido opened the reading with a poem about the 2015 American Security Against Foreign Immigration, chronicling the abrasive techniques used to interrogate a Syrian family attempting to enter the United States.

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Brock-Borido’s piece served as an eerie prediction of an incident that occurred this past Saturday, wherein a 5-year-old Iranian boy was detained without his parents for hours at Washington Dulles International Airport in response to Trump’s latest ‘Muslim Ban.’

Pulitzer Prize winner Jorie Graham continued the evening’s focus on immigration, choosing to read a poem by Iraqi poet Saadi Simawe in lieu of her own work. Graham gravely reminded audience members that Simawe would not be allowed to enter the country as of today.

Graham’s reading was particularly impactful for the way it strived to represent a poignant voice who was recently stripped of the ability to speak for herself.

“I was especially glad to see poets reading poems they hadn’t written. It’s incredibly important right now to amplify those unamplified voices,” said 22 year old attendee Miles Hewitt following the reading.

Puerto Rican poet Ricardo Maldonado focused on the nation’s underrepresented bilingual voices, sharing both the Spanish and English translations of a work from his newest project: a series of letters addressed to government officials involved in the Vietnam War, such as President Nixon.

Boston Review poetry editor Timothy Donnelly ended the reading with one of his own works, a piece he called “Poem of Hope Almost at Equinox.” Donnelly’s decision to conclude the night with a glimmer of hope, rather than one of fury or despair, speaks to the incredible ability of writing to provide people with a source of comfort, connection, and empathy.

Poetry and literature are not Band-Aids. They are not solutions to pain and anger. Rather, they are way for writers to leave an impression on humanity. Writing provides a way for people to organize and express their thoughts and emotions into something meaningful. Putting words down on paper creates something tangible that they can then share with readers who are also looking for an outlet.

Hearing poets express their own trauma to a crowd unites both the writer and the reader in a moment of mutual understanding. These events serve as active reminders that we are not going through any of this alone.

“We’re in a moment in history where people are just looking to see what they can do,” said poet and author Monica Youn.

“After the election I was flailing and just in a state of confusion,” said Youn. “The Boston Review gave me the opportunity to focus on what I could do – I could write.”

– Paige, Intern

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Hi, Nice To Meet You

I’m Paige, and I’m the newest intern here, at Cambridge Editors. First impressions, much like first dates and the first day of school, are always pretty intimidating. So for now I’ll just stick to the basics. I’m currently an English and Journalism student at Boston University and a contributing editor for The Odyssey with lofty dreams of one day becoming a publisher or fiction critic.

As well as adjusting to my new role as an editorial intern, I’m also getting used to being back in Boston, after spending last semester studying abroad in London. Even though I had an amazing time exploring Europe this past autumn and seeing some incredible literary landmarks (like Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and The Sherlock Holmes Museum!) it’s good to be back home in Beantown and under the familiar glow of the CITGO sign.

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Now if this actually were a blind date I’d also let you know that I’m an Aries, an extreme coffee enthusiast, and the proud parent of a very tiny dog. Of course since Cambridge Editors is a literature-focused company, what you really want to know, to test if we’re compatible, is what’s on my bookshelf.

I love dialogue driven, witty literature and have a particular fondness for works from the 1940s and 50s. I also have a decades-long passion for anything related to Harry Potter or Roald Dahl. Some of my favorite novels include Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger, Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. A few recent reads I’d also recommend are: How To Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran and The Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty. And although I usually stick to fiction, I also enjoy learning about American history and once spent a summer finishing three separate biographies of Thomas Jefferson.

A few of my other interests include musical theatre, vintage shopping, and running (if the weather is cooperative).

This Spring, I’m thrilled to get an inside look at the editing process from Dr. Weiner and the rest of the staff here, and I hope to make every moment of this new experience enriching and worthwhile.

 

Paige, Intern

 

 

 

 

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(Just Like) Starting Over

 

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And we’re back.

New Year’s Eve has made its grand entrance and promptly fled, leaving 2017 to stare us in the face — this Friday marked a pivotal change of hands in America’s political sphere.  Whether we like it or not, life has caught up to us. Noses are back to the grindstone. Days are getting longer. The mundanity threatens to swallow us up.

During times of stress and uncertainty, let me remind you of one great, forgotten comfort: Literature. Imagine the classic image of the easy chair, and yourself curled up in it, lost in the rapture of your favorite novel, fireplace blazing beside you. If, like me, you have neither fireplace nor easy chair, you might at least have a book. Wherever you are, be it a shack in the wilderness or a simple office cubicle, you can always escape to someplace far, far away. Surround yourself in the blanketing embrace of a book and whatever stress you labor under will be left behind with reality.

Perhaps it’s time to revisit our favorite books — hidden between their pages are pieces of our former selves. Just as Dr. Seuss dredges up forgotten memories of childhood, Fitzgerald, too, brings us back to adolescence. There’s a reason high school English curriculums insist upon the greats; I can confidently say that if I hadn’t been exposed to Hemingway and Bronte when I was eighteen, I would not be who I am today.

From each beloved novel we can extract certain strengths. From Jane Eyre I gained confidence in my natural abilities as a woman. Jane taught me that it is possible to extract yourself from an unhealthy situation. It will hurt so much at times you may feel unable to go on — but if Jane convinced me of anything, it’s that you must always keep going, no matter the risks.

From Hemingway, however, I gleaned something else entirely. A Farewell to Arms taught me the power of simple sentences and the importance of getting to the point. Juxtaposed with Bronte’s flowery language, there is a marked difference in the writing’s tone and purpose. I learned from those examples that each style has its time and place. As a writer, those choices are ours to make. Imitating the classics is a great way for nascent writers to develop their own style.

No matter what stage of life or career we are in, it’s helpful to take a step back every once and awhile to recall why we write in the first place. What stories inspire you? What writers do you want to emulate? What kind of writer do you aspire to be? Take a walk down memory lane, cull through your personal library, reread the books that shaped your desire to write. Reminisce, reminisce, reminisce.

 

Margeaux, Intern

 

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