You might have noticed that I haven’t written in my blog, for ahem, one month. I had pledged to be a weekly blogger and I had been fulfilling that promise. But then I went to teach at Hollins and the blogosphere seemed so far away. Hollins University is a a woman’s college in Southwest Virginia, smack in the heart of the Blue Ridge. And I’m teaching at the graduate program in children’s literature and writing. And its’ heavenly. Imagine sixty or so graduate students and a dozen faculty members in this bucolic setting, spending their time, all day every day, doing nothing but talking, doing or thinking about children’s books. Really my idea of heaven. And imagine that you’re surrounded by hazy blue mountains and there are horses everywhere. Yes, the campus has barns. Lots of them. And white fenced pastures where future Secretariats gallops around. And then there are these bunnies everywhere. I’m not kidding. Margaret Wise Brown is our most famous alum, and, I swear, she got the idea for Runaway Bunny when she lived her at Hollins. And, of course, the Hollins Library, has egobs of her papers and you can go there and look at them or see original art from Good Night Moon in their museum and just feel like anything is possible. That Margaret Wise Brown will step out of the boxwood hedge and take your hand and help you finish your manuscript.
It sounds great, doesn’t it?
It is. We always have these awesome speakers every week. Each one you would fly just to hear them. Oh, I’m an exaggerator and a romantic but this place puts me in that kind of mood. Last week, I was hanging out with the magical Nancy Willard. I think I even saw her pull out a wand. If you haven’t read her books, you need to. That Newbery Award was not a mistake. And then we had Virginia Euwer Wolf, who is so nurturing and honest that it makes you want to be that way too. She makes you want to dig deep and write with your full heart, and just be real. Faculty member Candice Ransom did the same thing. She gave an address a few days ago that was so raw and funny and brave that it has re-confirmed my suspicions that compassionate candor is the way to go in life and in prose. I’ve always been somewhat honest in my head to myself, but it’s almost been hard for me to express my opinions out loud that were controversial in anyway. Probably why I became a writer. So I could get out my truths in other ways. But Ginny Wolf really alerted us to the fact that, so often, we are not honest in our head. We lie to ourselves and that hit me hard.
For too long, I have had this self-identification. I am a writer. And it’s true. I write. But I realize not enough. And that goes for reading too. For me, I have hung onto my identity as a reader because that who I was as a child. But as an adult I have never really matched that. And maybe it’s not possible. So many responsibilities. So much to do that at night I often feel like I only have fifteen minutes to read and I go for more and stay up into the night reading that I pay for it. I regret it. The next day I am bleary eyed.
So what has being here at Hollins taught me? For one thing, turn off the TV.
Now I’m not actually a TV watcher. But I do love movies. And there have been times that I will watch a couple a week. That’s four hours. I could really get pretty far into a book with four hours as I’m a fairly speedy reader.
But there is something social about movies. You watch it together. Experience it together. Can talk about it together. I get that. But since I’ve been here on campus (I’ll be here six weeks), I have not seen a movie once. Okay, I did cheat and one night when I pulled out my back I ate my dinner in front of the TV and watched my favorite parts of Moonstruck. But afterwards I felt a little ug–that I really would have preferred to read a book.
So I think I might actually go out and see Brave this weekend. My good friend has a three year-old and she really wants to take her to it. I have been wavering, waffling about it. I want to go but I am trying to keep to this pledge idea.
But guess, what? I’m going. My mother once said that statistics show that people who go on a very harsh diet end up not sticking to it. It’s too hard to maintain long term.
So while the no movie thing has been good, I’m saying to myself, it’s okay to see one movie. And maybe even another movie in another couple of weeks.
Of course, all of this is choice. But I want to make sure that I am not fooling myself. That I am a writer who writes and reads. Not someone who identities herself as being a writer but when I comes down to it–is something else.