Orange and Tiger-Breath

Upon smelling nail polish remover my six year old daughter commented, “It smells like orange and tiger-breath.” How amazing her ability to completely embody her strange and beautiful self. It is a talent she has – to wholly, obliviously stroll by the structures and limits of language into pure voice.

Recently, I’ve been moved by something Anne Fadiman stated in the introduction to “The Opposite of Loneliness” by the late Marina Keegan:

Many of my students sound forty years old. They are articulate but derivative, their own voices muffled by their desire to skip over their current age and experience, which they fear trivial, and land on some version of polished adulthood without passing Go. Marina was twenty-one and sounded twenty-one….a twenty-one who understood that there were few better subjects than being young and uncertain and starry-eyed and frustrated and hopeful.

How often we try to skip our own skin. How often we try to sing in the voice of another. But of all the pitch-perfect notes I hear, I must own the ones off-key because they are mine. She was twenty-one and sounded twenty-one. To speak in the clearest “I” possible…it’s a rare talent indeed.

To Balance Silence and Sound

If a writer’s power begins in sound then an editor’s power begins in silence. What we say matters. What we omit matters.

But too often we see the blank page as the enemy, something to overcome, a wall that needs to be scaled or torn down. Whether we’re looking from a writer’s viewpoint or an editor’s, publication is given power, and that power is mostly deemed positive. Truth is the silence of the sheet can be a shield; it can soften a blow. Or it can be static, white noise to amplify the voices that need to be heard.

I often state it’s more important to be a good person than a good writer. Only recently did I apply this philosophy to my role as an editor. (more…)