Friday, October 03, 2008

Who am I?

Last night I dreamed I was sitting at Toni Morrison’s feet. She was reading aloud a chapter from a novel she’d just finished writing about a young girl growing up in a faraway country. I marveled at Morrison's brilliance and wondered how much her evocative imagery was aided by the richness of her cultural roots. (I briefly envied her that.) Then she handed me the book and asked me to read to her. As I recited the words, I kept thinking to myself, "How can anyone write so beautifully? Where does a story like this come from?" I no sooner asked these questions than, still fast asleep, I "woke up" with an epiphany: This wondrous story had come from somewhere inside of me! And then I had another, more electrifying thought: Is it possible that I still don't know, even after all these years, who I am?


  1. Dreams are powerful teachers. Wonderful post.

  2. We as women are always changing and evolving. I think we all know on some level who we are, but there are those of us who spend so much time tuning in to our inner selves that our subconscious minds can give a preview to the next transformation...even in our dreams!

    Beautiful observation.

  3. What an amazing post, Prill! I'm envious you remember your dreams. Speaking of writing, I must say I am really enjoying your book. I especially LOVE your jouranl entries!

  4. Prill, I'm not sure we ever know who we are. The writing process certainly helps with that. In fact, it helps so well that we keep discoveing new things. That's what happened when I wrote This Is the Place. It started out memoir. But then I realized I had grown over the years and needed to add some of that growth. So I made it into fiction which in a way, was closer to the truth.

    It's funny, but I just attended a seminar on a cruise about the value of dreams. And how we can interpret them. What a joy dreams are for writers.

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson

  5. Thank you all. I'm always a little anxious about posting such personal thoughts.

    Barbara, when I wrote Defying Gravity, I imagined it as the kind of book one doesn't have to read from cover to cover. Originally, I wanted the focus to be entirely on the women. I didn't plan to include my story at all (which, as you've undoubtedly discovered, is told via the intro, journal entries and epilogue). But my son Gabriel convinced me that I, too, had a story worth telling and suggested that I mine my journal for nuggets of insight and honesty.

    And Carolyn, you're so right about the writing process being a revelatory one. The dream left me with the feeling that we are ALL so much freer, so much more gifted than we realize.

    P.S. I created an index for this blog yesterday. It's located in the sidebar. I keep trying to find ways to add value--to make this blog worth people's precious time to read. Any suggestions in that regard are welcome.

  6. I will check out the index and give you feedback. I have been wanting to do something similar. You'll give me a jumping off place.

  7. Anonymous9:48 PM

    Brilliant post! I love dreams. I have been guided by them time after time and always find they are right on.

  8. Anonymous11:57 AM

    Hi Prill - It is good to question yourself. You bring good advice to your readers. May I be allowed a criticism? If you read women's magazines while getting a pedicure, go to expensive cultural events and view the world from your Westport front porch, it will be difficult for you to escape your milieu. In order to write meaningful stories you need context. I know that you learned a great deal from your travel and if you want to translate that "newledge" and "nowledge" to an audience you need to step off of the front porch and onto the first page of the rest of your life. Have you read "The Syringa Tree" or seen the play? To acknowledge vulnerability is fine AND then it is time to harness your ability to the yoke of your brain power and pull on down the road. Shades of B.B. King. Go Prill. Sincereme.

  9. Anonymous--

    I just ordered The Syringa Tree on Amazon. Reviewers have mentioned parallels between it and Alan Paton's "Cry the Beloved Country," which I love (and have taught).

    But I suspect that getting off my front porch, as you term it, requires something more--and perhaps something less--than reading a book, going to an off-Broadway production, or visiting a foreign country. I read widely, see many plays, and have traveled all around the world, staying in huts and tents and 5-star hotels.

    No, I think what you're saying (and correct me if I'm wrong) is that in order to write the novel I want to write, the novel that I have in me to write, I need to be willing to step outside myself and look at the world through my characters' eyes. Then I need to put pen to paper and document what I see--not what I think I see or what I think I should see, but what I truly see.

    As I write this, I'm becoming clear that I AM stuck in my point of view.

    (You are talking about my novel, aren't you?)

  10. Anonymous1:40 PM

    Hi Prill - The answer to all of your questions that require an answer is, "yes". You know that. The world is waiting for you to state the obvious, that there is need for great change in our social systems worldwide. In order to creep up on that message so as not to be deemed a Communist or a pedant, you need to frame a story whose central character fights for truth and justice and the way forward for ALL PEOPLE IN ALL NATIONS...slyly like a wise storyteller, an artist who allows the world to judge the import and meaning of her art. Yes.

  11. Dear Anon-- My novel, alas, is not that lofty in scope. My central character, a 60-year old widow, is fighting despair (in other words, she's battling herself rather than the system) and seeking to find a way to make her life count when life itself feels meaningless. Although she ends up, in her own way, championing truth and justice in the Africa section of the book, her story is a humble one and my hope is simply to tell it honestly and well.

  12. P.S. I strikes me that perhaps you have enough fire in your belly to write the book that you describe. Have you ever considered this?