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My friend Maria recently told me about this New York Times article: Does Your Language Shape How You Think? The article offers an interesting examination of the differences in languages that might influence the flow of conversation. Case in point: “I saw a friend last night.” In English, the speaker of this sentence wouldn’t have to specify if the friend is male or female. In French, the speaker would have to specify. So those fights we see often on TV between couples would never even take place: “You said you were with a friend, but it was another woman!” “She is a friend!” “You didn’t say it was a female friend!” And so on.
Personally, I’ve always believed that the biggest flaw in the English language is that there is no gender-neutral pronoun. We do have “one” (”one must take care of oneself”), but it doesn’t always work. Take, for example, some recent Taylor Swift lyrics: “When you’re fifteen and someone tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe them.” Notice how she’s forced to follow “someone” (singular pronoun) with “they” (plural pronoun) because she has no gender-neutral singular pronoun to follow the gender-neutral, singular ”someone.”
I wouldn’t mind waking up one morning to find someone defaced my garage door with this!
I’ve recently realized that I tend to classify friends into groups. ”She’s my writer friend.” ”She’s my teacher friend.” I think I do that not because I don’t recognize the other dimensions of those people, but because it’s so rewarding having friends that understand where you’re coming from. Trading lesson plan ideas with “teacher friends” and exchanging rough drafts with “writer friends” makes me grateful that I have so many interesting, talented, and passionate people in my life.
So I wasn’t surprised when I found out that my “writer friend” Jen has started an awesome yearlong blog project for ChicagoNow.com called Stop and Blog the Roses. Calling herself a “spoiled American,” Jen blogs daily about three things for which she’s grateful, “no repeats,” in an effort to be more like her husband, her mother, and the Dalai Lama.
Jen and I met in a New York writing class about two years ago and continued to be each other’s readers and cheerleaders after the class ended. Others I’ve met through my grad programs, classes, working, and interning. Once I was even able to bring my friend Bisanne in to talk to my creative writing students about screenwriting. I think these friendships are so important in any profession. It’s different from having a mentor. It’s having a peer, someone who can inspire, who you in turn can inspire, and then laugh about other things over coffee when the school day or the writing workshop is over.
So, in the spirit of Jen’s blog, today I’m grateful for all kinds of friendship–the people that keep you going, make you think, make you laugh. Cheers!
Check it out–I just found a whole book of essays compiled for a Virginia Woolf conference a few years ago. The forward is written by Ruth Gruber, author of the first doctoral thesis focused exclusively on Virginia Woolf in 1935. She was invited to tea by Woolf herself at 52 Tavistock Square in Bloomsbury, London (the very same building I had an emotional breakdown outside of last April). I’m excited to take a look through these essays and see what my fellow Woolfians have to say!
In the latest Writer’s Digest, Sherman Alexie shares the following writing advice: “Every word on your blog is a word not in your book.” In line with this philosophy, I’ve spent the bulk of July working on my second novel and not so much time blogging. It’s a book about the world of student publications at an Idaho high school, and is told from the revolving perspectives of four very different teenagers.
One of my college friends is expecting her first baby and posting weekly pictures of herself on her Facebook page. She grows in each picture as the weeks go by, and it’s fun to see her progress. I feel a little bit like this regarding my novel. I have a daily word goal of 1,000 words, and after each writing session, I like to double space everything and see how many pages I have. Each day, it continues to grow, and one day, it will be complete. It’s not quite the same thing as having a baby, but I look forward to the day when I can finally hold the finished manuscript in my hands.
I’ve also been trying to read as much as I can while the summer days are long and relatively free of obligations. Some titles on my list include:
Prose, Blue Angel and Reading Like a Writer; Friend, Lush; Woolf, To the Lighthouse; Bell, Virginia Woolf: A Biography; Senate, Whose Wedding is it Anyway?; Gibbons, Ellen Foster; Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night; Schulman, P.S.; Hart, Summer at Tiffany; Moore, Lies of Silence; McCafferty, Sloppy Firsts; Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London; Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being; Kinsella, Shopoholic & Baby; MacPherson, Elbow Room; Wallace, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men; ed. Benedict, Muses, Mentors, & Monsters. I also recently subscribed to the coolest new literary magazine out there: Electric Literature.