6/27/2005

Voice

One of the techniques I love best that's used in story-building, whether prose or poetry, is the idea of circularity, of looping back a metaphor or image, giving a sense of layering. I've discovered recently that pantoums are built on this idea, with it's ever expanding weave of circularity.

So these thoughts on Isis, the Isis Foundation, and most recently Voice/Witness/Censorship have all come around to a moment back I guess over ten years now, while I was sitting in the office of Lance Olsen, then director of the Creative Writing program at the University of Idaho. After having worked there as a secretary for a couple of years and discovering, as a staffer, I could take classes for $5 a credit, I decided to take another, more serious step on my writing journey - formal workshops. I went to talk to Lance first to get permission since I wasn't a 'real' student but to also find out the magic formula...not so much the gestures and incantations necessary to be a 'real writer' but rather I was looking for a litmus test to see if I had to potential to be a writer.

The conversation was much like two people who apparently spoke the same language but couldn't actually communicate. Finally he asked me what I wanted to get out of writing classes and I said something wonderfully pithy like "To find my voice." To which he looked at me blankly and said, "What do you mean by voice?" A question that has haunted me ever since...I knew what I didn't mean. I didn't mean Point of View for narrative, but that other thing...that distinctiveness that makes a piece by Toni Morrison different than Mary Shelley or Danielle Steele different from Isabelle Allende. I've often asked writer friends and mentors to describe to me what it looks like when I write well, to which I get blank stares much like Lance's expression of "what the heck are you talking about?"

Then it hits me reading my blog entries... I said it, came full circle to it.

When I express my take on anything, prose, poetry, whatever, write my one inch square experience, then that's my Voice, distinctive from any other.

And yeah, after 10 years, it's really that obvious...which must mean it's true, at least for today. *grin*

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