Saturday, May 11, 2013
3-7-13 RMB A Gentle Breath
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
I am at the midpoint of Starting from Scratch: A Different Kind of Writers’ Manual. You are in a section discussing characters, learning about them by learning about people, even giving us questions to go out and ask real people, living characters.
Whether as individuals, women, men, black, white, writers, whatever, each time you say “try this” it opens doors. So much of what I read emphasizes self analysis, look inside, find your inner motivation, define your plan, work your strengths, and on and on about building up oneself. What I have read of your work is markedly different.
You encourage people to open their eyes, look around, learn by doing, relate to one another, learn from one another, find our differences and indeed, celebrate them.
When our small Writer’s Circle first developed I told one of our founders about a friend that I thought would be a good fit. She heard me speak of this friend many times. I talked about how dynamic, intelligent and wonderful she is. I told her that we had been friends for ages and were like family. I thought I had described her well.
They met. They hit it off. My friend joined our group. Shortly after, I chatted with that co-founder of our Writers’ Circle. As we talked she smiled, cocked her head and said “The more I know you the more I like you.” We had known each other several years at that point.
Not sure what had brought this on, I probably said something terribly literate like “cool”. She continued with compliments about my character until I had to ask “Where’s this coming from?”
She said that in all of the times I mentioned our new Writers’ Circle member over the years prior to the two of them meeting, I never once mentioned she was black. I was not conscious of the omission. This friend that chatted with me is one of the most evolved, enlightened souls I have the privilege of knowing. To have her compliment my character was an honor.
That conversation drove home the awareness of how often we steer our lives in this direction or that. We decide who to introduce to whom, not only based on who will get along, but who will judge who. Who will look down on who (or should that be whom?). Don’t introduce straight friends to gay friends, blacks to whites, upper class friends to your less cultured friends, Pepsi drinkers to Co’Cola drinkers.
When I got to know the friends adopting the boys, the two “married” women or should I say officially registered partners, I carried their picture with me. I showed off this family to my real family, to friends. I knew I was doing it to show something more than my beautiful boys’ faces. I was getting people used to picturing a new kind of family. We fear what we don’t know. Society fears this kind of family.
Not one to speak up, to engage in sharing anything about myself, I felt odd pointing out this area of my life. I would not normally point out any area of my life. I also felt it was important, especially when talking with someone that might be prejudiced. I blatantly challenged them to grow. My friend’s photos gave me a way of bringing up the topic without standing on a soapbox and making any declarations about myself or my beliefs, other than that I believed in this family.
I would like to see life evolve that way. Instead of having to face off with one another, can we come together just by knowing one another? It is hard to explain what I mean (umph, some writer I am). There are different kinds of revolutions, different kinds of heroes.
Some go to battle, march through streets, make demands in person and in print. Others coax, mention, show and enlighten with the ease of a gentle breath, barely noticeable.
I dare say Rita Mae Brown you are both kinds of revolutionary. You did your share of marching, right into the battle zone, and still do by continuing to stand for what you believe. You also etched characters into existence that cross cultures, class, gender, lifestyle and personality. These characters enlighten through example, humor and the relating of their lives. Fine writing draws us to them, with the ease of a gentle breath. No one picks up a Rita Mae Brown book and thinks “time to get enlightened”, but it happens.