“I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it.” William Faulkner
When asked, I usually offer wannabe writers that hoary old advice, âwrite what you know.â? For a lot of people who put pen to paper do just that. Many of those, who practice the most solitary of professions, seek in their writing a search for home.
They tryâin the words of Norman Mailerââto come up with a sense of place as large as oneâs birthplace or as small as the thought that takes place in a room.â? Eudora Welty once spoke of place as âa gathering.â? âIt conspires with the artist,â? she said, âwe are surrounded by our own storyâwe live and move in it.â?
That place is not confined to the Mississippi scenes of Faulkner and others of the southern school, or to the tales of Larry McMurtyâs cowboy country. The Midwest stories of the early Mark Twain or his successor, Garrison Keillor, embrace their location.
There are the Nebraska poems of our recent Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser. And closer to home, the novels of “Moo”) or Phil Strong, who published “State Fair” the year I was born. And even closer to home, MacKinley Kantor and his “Spirit Lake”âbased on the massacre in the 1800s, or Remsen-born Curtis Harnack and his “Gentlemen on the Prairie.”
These authors speak to us mind to mind, heart to heart. They provide a tide of words with thoughts that live in the feeling of place.
In my instance, Iowaâand Marcusâgrabbed my heart. Itâs a place I return to in my reading and writings. Itâs a place to warm my being in the years of involuntary exile.
For we have lived all over in my career travelsâMichigan, Georgia, Wisconsin, Hawaii (my South Dakota wifeâs spiritual home), Indiana, Washington D.C., and crazy New York. (My wifeâs relatives have always speculated that all that moving around was because I couldnât keep a job).
But Iowa keeps calling me backâperhaps because itâs full of friendly folks. Perfectly sane strangers say âHi!â?
So I feel comfortable in reading and writing about my beloved placeâeven though I donât live there any more. I often think that examining your sense of place just deepens the mystery of it.
And anyhow, writing about someplace else requires research. Iâm too old for that anymore.
What Iowa authors have touched you?