Friday, March 13, 2015


In The Writer’s Almanac, one of my favorite source for blog topics, I recently read a birthday piece on the novelist and travel writer Pico Iyer who said: "The less conscious one is of being 'a writer,' the better the writing. And though reading is the best school of writing, school is the worst place for reading. Writing should ... be as spontaneous and urgent as a letter to a lover, or a message to a friend who has just lost a parent ... and writing is, in the end, that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger."

That’s exactly it! I’m writing my blog as a letter to a stranger. After a long pause in writing for our community magazine, a pause in which I took up blogging, I recently wrote a brief piece on Thomas Wolfe and his Look Homeward, Angel. I never could get into any of Wolfe’s lengthy novels, and so I’d never been interested in him at all. Seeing as how he was born just a few hours from here in Ashville, North Carolina, I thought I’d look into the topic when I saw it on the list of suggested future topics. In just a few hours I was able to turn out what I think is a nice piece.

How? I re-discovered that I could take a few pages of basic, dry information, from Wikipedia and a few North Carolina travel websites in this instance, and, with a bit of paraphrasing and some judicious juxtapositioning, turn them into a fairly interesting article. At least it’s interesting to me: all I want to know about Wolfe and his work in a nutshell, and as it relates to me and my neighbors. I don’t know the tastes of these relative strangers in my community, but I tried to make it something they’d like. I remembered that I’d done it before for things like Audubon, table forks, the opera, and the end of the American Revolutionary War. (If it wasn’t for the South, we Americans would all be British.) I sincerely hope the 'strangers' in my community will find the article interesting and not too dry.

I do know and love several of my regular blog readers – and you know who you are – but I certainly don’t know every one of you. That’s why I try to make my blog interesting to a stranger. I can’t be sure what background you have, what makes you chuckle, what makes you sit up and take notice. I write only about what interest me, of course, and I hope it interest you too.

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