Postcards From the Margins: A Fiction Writer’s Blog

Vincent Van Gogh's  "Wheatfields With Reaper at Sunrise," St.-Remy:  September 1889
Vincent Van Gogh’s “Wheatfields With Reaper at Sunrise,” St.-Remy: September 1889

I’ve been blogging for about a month now, and it’s dawning on me that a fiction writer’s blog might not be the same creature as a nonfiction writer’s blog.  Pull it up on Google–What do fiction writers blog about?–and, who knew?  I’m not the first person to ask the question.

What’s great about nonfiction writers’ blogs is that these people write to solve a problem! Creating a more GLBTQ tolerant culture in the Catholic Church, e.g.  Or exposing people to a variety of styles of prayer.  These are topics of some of the essays I’ve recently tuned in to from Twitter feeds, from websites like Killing the Buddha, which a few of my readers (if any are out there) may think I am getting paid to plug.  I’m not.  I am a passionate God-and-Heaven questioner.  Maybe even a seeker–although I prefer a secular slant on that:  a person who thinks about why we’re here, and if there’s something next.

So if fiction writers don’t blog to solve a problem (we actually like to make problems)–why do we blog?  Some people think we shouldn’t, saying it only takes time away from writing the stories we’re working on.  I’ve certainly found this to be true, but I’ve also found I can make time for blogging, and that it’s engaging for me as a kind of warm-up at the start of my writing day.  If I give the blog draft I’m crafting twenty minutes with my first cup of coffee and then return to it later in the afternoon when my story-making/story-telling brain is fried, I find it energizing and more than worthy of my writing time.

Of course some fiction writers do blog to solve a problem, which might be “How to write fiction”.  I think I’ll leave that to the experts, or possibly to the more intimate setting of a class.  One of which I will be teaching soon:  “What We Write About When We Write About the Sacred,” with co-teacher Martin Connell at The Loft in Minneapolis (Tuesdays from June 17 through July 29, 7:30-9:30pm).  We’ll try to help you figure out what is sacred in and to your fiction writing, and how to bring it, fully, to the page.

And I don’t write exclusively fiction–I’ve got a wonderful friend at Edina Magazine who is kind enough to send the occasional assignment my way, and one of my publications (Ars Medica, Spring 2012) is an essay about a poetry-writing project I did with severely disabled adults.  Yes–that’s poetry.  I love reading it and, rarely (thank goodness, perhaps?) write some of my own.

Maybe the bigger question is, why do any of us blog?  One reason is unapologetically clear in the paragraphs above:  to promote a class or a publication, a reading or an event.  I have no problem with that if we are diligent about promoting other peoples’ work as well as our own.  Speaking of which, my friend and fellow Loft Mentor Series participant, Chrissy Kolaya, has just published a new book of poetry, Any Anxious Body.  She was kind enough to allow me to include this remarkable poem of hers in my blog today.


He was already sure
what he would find there–

dark spot
against the brain stem.

It could mean

all sorts of things

none of them good.

In a speech he delivered weekly
the high points were

limited mobility,
a slow spreading.

He wished 
just once
the spot could mean

a sliver of genius,

an abundance of kindness, that’s all,
no need to remove it,

an enviable ability
to remember one’s dreams, or skill

at seeing others’ pain
and knowing
just the right thing to say.

I love this poem because it’s a lot of the things I’m passionate about as a writer.  While it may not be God-and-Heaven seeking per se, it is sacred-seeking, certainly.  It reckons with illness, honors kindness, petitions for empathy. It’s about neurology, for goodness sake!  Who doesn’t love science in poetry? Did I mention I used to work as a neurology-specializing physical therapist?  I loved that work, and was passionate about it.  By that standard it, too, will undoubtedly find its way to my fiction-writer’s blog.

Whatever that turns out to be.




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