Friday, April 8, 2011

Writer as Miracle: Happy Birthday, Barbara Kingsolver!

Today is the birthday of one of my favorite writers, Barbara Kingsolver.  The story of how she moved from being an academic and a technical writer to a woman who makes a living as a creative writer has probably inspired tens of thousands of people.

She was pregnant and suffered insomnia.  Her doctor suggested that she clean the bathrooms with a toothbrush, so that she had motivation to stay asleep.  Instead, she decided to write what would become her first novel, The Bean Trees.  She moved her typewriter into a closet so that she could write on her typewriter and her husband could sleep.

Notice that she had always been a writer.  In addition to the academic and technical writing she had been doing as part of her work, she had been writing poems and short stories (for most of her whole life).  But The Bean Trees catapulted her into popularity.  She's continued to write fantastic novels and wonderful essays.  I love how her novels weave themes of social justice into compelling plotlines with characters who are utterly believable.

I love her essays too.  If I ever give up this South Florida life and move to a farm, her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle will be partly to blame.  That book makes sustainable living sound doable.

This week has been somewhat hectic for me--several evening obligations after days at work where I've been filling in for a dean who's away giving a paper at a conference, while still covering the needs of my department.  Last night, some 15 hours after I got ready for week, I discovered that I had spent the whole day wearing non-matching earrings (luckily, I wore my hair down, so I'm guessing that few people noticed).  I've been wearing earrings since 1979, and I've never worn two different earrings.

If you've been having a similar week, a week where you wonder if anything you do is worth doing, here's a quote from Kingsolver to inspire you:  "What a writer can do, what a fiction writer or a poet or an essay writer can do, is re-engage people with their own humanity. Fiction and essays can create empathy for the theoretical stranger."


Kathleen said...

Love your earring story! I enjoy Kingsolver, too, and need to catch up on her work! Once it truly warms up here, she'll be a reason to walk to the library, taking the long, woodsy route!

Unknown said...

I would suggest that wearing two different earrings might also re-engage people with their own humanity. Why don't you do it on purpose tomorrow! ~ Thanks for your thoughts on one of my favorite authors as well.

paulapooh said...

I have started reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I too am inspired to live a sustainable life. Once I have completed this book I plan to read more of her writings.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Kingsolver = one of my absolute favorites. Thanks for the reminder.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott said...

Thank you everyone for commenting. My post and your comments make me want to return to Kingsolver! Perhaps this week-end.