Friday, March 5, 2010

An unexpected gift

Last Wednesday evening, my hubby and I rode the light rail down to the Phoenix Art Museum. Thanks to SRP (Salt River Project is one of our electric companies here in Arizona) admission is free on Wednesday late afternoon to closing. This evening, however, we were there to hear Francine Prose, an American writer of note, give a reading and book signing. While I have not read any of Ms. Prose’s books, I have heard of her work. One of her more recent books is Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife. Tall, slender, and poised, Ms Prose read one of her short stories entitled “A Simple Question.” The audience was transported back in time and place to Nazi Germany and into the life of Vogel, a good German jeweler and his encounter with Herman Goering. Fantastically good story.

The event was sponsored by Arizona State University, Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and the MFA Program of Creative Writing and thus the audience was filled with students, both formal and informal. All ages and both genders, too.

When the Q&A began, so did the meat of the evening. Ms. Prose told us of her life-long fascination with the topic of World War 2 Germany and all it encompasses. I nodded with a smile, as I am currently obsessed with a particular subject that won’t let go of me, either.

The jewel of the evening was a question I did not hear, but the answer alone was worth the whole evening for me personally. It was one of those casually said statements that jolt your insides and leaves a great gift behind. Paraphrased Ms. Prose said, “Writing is when you are not yourself.”

If you read my post on losing my notebook, you will remember that I agonized over someone reading it and thinking that I was what I wrote. I’d had this gift of leaving myself behind when I write all along, yet I felt ashamed that I did. I saw it as something dark inside me. But if Francine Prose can stand before an audience of 200 people and proclaim that this is not only all right but necessary to the act of writing, then I am finally free to let go and in fact – GO!

Special thanks to ASU for bringing Francine Prose to Phoenix. For more information on upcoming Visiting Writers, see their website at: www.asu.edu/piper.