How Many Lives Does A Writer Live?

When you apply to the undergraduate Creative Writing program at UH, you have to submit with your portfolio a one-page statement of intent. What in the world is a statement of intent, I wondered the first time I applied. I don’t remember what I wrote for my first application, but suffice it to say that I know the one I submitted with my second application was much better—written from the heart rather than from the mind. Every once in a while when I’m on my computer, writing and even when not writing, I’ll click over to that statement of intent to reread it. Today, I want to share it with you.

img_0422

When my first application to the University of Houston’s competitive undergraduate Creative Writing concentration was not accepted, I spent the next year and a half wondering if it would even be worth trying again. I did not reapply immediately because I felt I needed time to practice my writing—and really practice, because an attorney told me once that one “practices” writing just like one “practices” law—it is always practiced and never perfected. I have spent my entire life, then, practicing creative writing, and while my work has greatly improved over these years, I can see that I still have a long way to go. This is why I decided to reapply: for the chance to continue practicing writing under the instruction of people who are as successful in it as I dream of being, and who will care about and want to facilitate my success. Professors who can see my potential and encourage me to become better, to reach higher, and not to let rejection discourage me from trying again.

My ultimate goal in creative writing has always been to write a fiction novel and then have it published, and then to write another. That will always be what I will work toward, but in the undergraduate concentration, I will work toward the Creative Writing degree I want. I will try to complete some shorter stories that may be sent to literary magazines, and therefore hone my ability to employ the techniques of storytelling in a smaller number of pages. I will try as much as I can to return to the imaginative freedom that thinking creatively gives me, which I feel has been lost to me in all these years of school and analytical essays. Above all, I will continue to practice writing. The feedback I requested after not being accepted before stated that more unpredictability was desired from my writing, and while I have been working on that, I feel that it could still greatly benefit from more professional instruction. I hope you will afford me that chance.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” wrote George R.R. Martin.

How many lives does a writer live?

A Writer Reads: “Another Good Loving Blues”

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT for Arthur Flowers’ Another Good Loving Blues

🖤

fullsizeoutput_1739

🖤

“I am Flowers of the delta clan Flowers and the line of O Killens—I am hoodoo, I am griot, I am a man of power. My story is a true story, my words are true words, my lie is a true lie—a fine old delta tale about a mad blues piano player and a Arkansas conjure woman on a hoodoo mission. Lucas Bodeen and Melvira Dupree. Plan to show you how they found the good thing. True love. That once-in-a-lifetime love.”

“And on that progressive note they walked hand in hand off into the wooded sunset. I’m told they made a good team, I’m told they made a good life together. Now I’m not saying they didn’t have their share of life’s little trials and tribulations, and your definition of happy may be different from mine, or theirs, but my understanding is that Melvira Dupree and Lucas Bodeen found the good thing.

“And they lived happily ever after.

“The end.”

From the first and last pages of Arthur Flowers’ Another Good Loving Blues, 1993

My Honors class, “Voices of Mississippi,” just finished Arthur Flowers’ book, and a question posed to us in class last Thursday asked about the abruptness, even almost absurdity, of an ending like that. Is the narrator reliable? Did Lucas and Melvira live happily ever after? Why wrap it up that way, why the last two lines, why?

Why, indeed.

Samantha doesn’t believe they lived happily ever after, because love is just not that simple, and throughout the book the characters’ relationship wasn’t simple. “It’s too Hollywood,” she said. I see her point.

I believe they did have their happily-ever-after because that’s what I want to believe, and that’s what the narrator implies, no matter how reliable he is or isn’t. Because sometimes a reader just wants a happy ending, and since one is given on the page, what’s wrong with that?

The rest of the class didn’t voice specific opinions, and there was a lot of back and forth, and a lot of trying to dig into the text in other places, and most of what was said wasn’t important enough to stay with me.

But…from a writer’s perspective…whywould Arthur Flowers wrap the story up in this way? What does it even mean?

On the surface level, I think Arthur Flowers believed that Bodeen and Melvira had their happily ever after. We actually briefly video-chatted with Mr. Flowers in class last week, and I just realize now, I should’ve asked him myself. But I didn’t. But…I think he ended the story that way because for him, it was true. And I think he ended the story that way because that’s how he intended to do it.

Maybe he ended the story that way to make people like me and my classmates debate about why he ended the story that way.

On a slightly-below-the-surface level, I think Mr. Flowers wrote those last three paragraphs the way he did because that was the only way he could do it, as in how I was told, “Let the story go where it wants to go.” I think he wrote it because that is how the story wanted to be written in the end, and if you don’t know what I mean by that, then, sit down at a keyboard and see what comes out of you. When you weave words together into a story with no step-by-step-detailed plot plan in mind, then that is letting the piece write itself, and that tends to be the best way to write something, to get it out on the page before you can go back to edit and revise. I don’t know whether Mr. Flowers edited and revised this story—he probably did, but even if he didn’t, to keep that ending has to mean, in some way or other, that it’s the ending the story wanted for itself, therefore, the only right ending.

But I’ll still let Mr. Flowers be the judge of that.

Personally, if I were writing the story—no, I probably wouldn’t have ended it quite the same way, and that can be attributed to my style of writing. I’ve never read anything else by Arthur Flowers, so I wonder too if this is his style. That can also be part of it.

I should’ve asked him.

It’s a good book, and I do recommend it. If you decide to read it, please, check back in with me here and let me know what you think of the ending. Do you believe it?