A week ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Sue Monk Kidd speak to an auditorium of rapt fans on "The Writing Life." Four of us trekked into Chicago to see her. (**And, thanks, J.T., S.P.J. and K.K. for a wonderful night!!**) Eight pages of notes were insufficient to capture all the words of wisdom Kidd shared--her own and those of her favorite authors--but I'll pass along a few paraphrased highlights from my messy notebook:
~Discovering our personal stories is our spiritual quest. Your job is to become "the greatest version of the grandest vision you have for yourself."
~You're called to "a place where your deep gladness and the world's great hunger meet." You must find the "necessary fire" that inspires your creativity.
~Creativity is a spiritual experience and we need to find the one place where we belong (in a literary-truth sense). "Go into yourself and see how deep is the place from where your life flows." (Rainer M. Rilke)
~"No art ever came out of not risking your neck." (Eudora Welty)
~Every true creative assertion requires courage. Writers must have: "Something to say, the ability to say it, and the courage to say it at all." (Maya Angelou)
~All American fiction boils down to two plots: Somebody goes on a trip or a stranger comes to town.
~Writers need to be able to differentiate the expression of their truth from the expression of their public personas (that is, their true "place of belonging" vs. their ego).
~"The imagination needs to browse." (Thomas Merton)
~Quoting Zola's "If you ask me what I came to do in this world--I came to live out loud," Kidd asked us to ask ourselves: What does my out-loudness serve? And, referring to a Wordsworth poem about "making sounds on the page" as a way to get others to respond, she urged us to learn to make that true sound that will inspire the world to "call back" to us.
It's funny, trying to write down these little soundbites...they hardly do justice to her talk. She was a delightful, inspirational speaker who, despite New York Times bestselling success, seems to have remained grounded and still humbled by the mysteries of crafting fiction. I know just about everyone and their sister has read The Secret Life of Bees by now, except me. It's on my towering TBR list. I did read--and fell in love with--her novel The Mermaid Chair and greatly look forward to any of her future work. Any other Kidd fans out there?