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words, words, words....

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 13 August 2011 in Uncategorized

I have been spending the past two days at work on book revisions, making my way page by page through, so far, two-thirds of a lengthy manuscript, guided by insightful comments from a fine editor, and also by having been away from it for a bit, so that I see (and hear it) with fresh eyes and ears. The repetitive phrase...SLASH. The cliché description...DELETE. The murky parargraph...CLARIFY.

I love this process. It is not exhilirating the way the first blast of creativity can be. But it has its own satisfaction to it.

I am not...my guess is that few writers are...aware of the eventual reader of a book when I am at this stage of working on it. That is another, remarkable kind of satisfaction that comes much later. And keeps coming, again and again. Today, for example, I got a very moving letter from a 12-year-old girl who has been diagnosed with clinical depression. She said that in my book "Gathering Blue" she was struck by the phrase "Pain makes you strong" and she was going to try to start thinking that way instead of feeling sorry for her own incapacity.

Another letter, in the same batch of mail, was from a man. He didn't say where he was, but he said this:

Thank you for your wonderful characters and stories. They remind me that even though the world at times can be a scary place, and people don't always treat each other as well as they should,  there is always beauty and love to be found. I have found a piece of that love and beauty in your wonderful books.

I don't repeat these things here as testimony to myself! But as a reminder to myself as a writer, and to other writers if any are out there listening, that these words that we arrange and rearrange and rearrange again, on a page, make a difference to individuals. The phrases and paragraphs that we labor over and grow to love...they affect people, sometimes in profound ways.

It's important work, I think. We should take pride in doing it as well as we can.

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Comments

Guest
Annie Monday, 29 November 1999

Extremely well said. I think the idea of what your work can mean to a reader is a particular good one to hold close, especially as writing and reading can seem like such solitary exercises.

Guest
Aditi Monday, 29 November 1999

As a glasses-wearing daughter of a Harvard prof growing up in Cambridge, I can further attest to the value of identifying with a character! I remember thinking that Anastasia and I would have been best friends. I also remember how much I loved discovering new book-friends - including Anastasia, Annemarie, Meg and so many of your other characteris - at Wordsworth and Harvard Book Store as a kid; just wondering what you are doing these days for bookstores in Cambridge? It seems so many of the great places I frequented as a kid are now gone...

Guest
Lois Lowry Monday, 29 November 1999

Oh my yes, it was a sad day when Wordsworth closed its doors! But now we have Porter Square Books, which is wonderful (and also serves coffee). Barnes & Noble is in the Coop (mixed feelings about that) so we are soldiering on here in Cambridge.

Guest
ojimenez Monday, 29 November 1999

What a powerful way to aid humanity in its search for an end to suffering!
Your comments make me wish I could create worlds, and people them using just words...
Cheers!

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