I had the opportunity to chat yesterday with students enrolled in a literature class at the North Carolina Governor’s School, who had, under the guidance of their instructor Michael Simons, given a careful reading to my story “The Memoirs of Sam Wesson.” They were particularly clued in to Sam’s moral rectitude–or rather, lack thereof–and I had that moment of simultaneously loving, feeling embarrassed for, and still loving my literary creation. I have the same response to certain things my four-year-old says in public, in that characteristically 4yo loud, cheerful, infinitely curious tone.
Then they asked further interesting questions about where some of the detail in the story had come from, Sam’s backstory and history, and the moment of creation–how I discovered certain things that happen in the story, when I realized it was going where it did. This, in concert with an e-mail exchange I’ve been having with a creative writing professor at Iowa State, has me thinking about precisely when and how a realization crystallizes–a detail, a moment, a desire, an exchange–that makes the story fall open, completely realized, like unfolding a paper you’ve been diligently snipping to reveal a marvelous snowflake, or an intricate linked series of dolls.
It’s completely enchanting, that instant of creation, but it’s memorable; I can usually recall the line of thought and interaction that led to it, when pressed to look back. Do all artists encounter that in the same way–that moment when the vision reveals itself to the mind’s eye? I wonder.
And then, they sang. They concluded the conference call by serenading me with “Happy Birthday.” The bar on my expectations for any future classroom visits has just been definitively raised.
Well done, Mr. Simons. Well done.