This is the commencement address from my graduation at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. It’s given by the brilliant and articulate, Martine Leavitt, and it captures the dedication, heart, and love it takes to write. A large portion of the address relates to going to VCFA in particular, but the larger themes will resonate with any writer.
Here’s a teaser:
“… These are the best reasons to do anything in life. People who say things like this are the kind of people who change the world. Who prevent the world from ending. Or at least they can change the inner world of a reader and that is a sacred power.” - Martine Leavitt
I highly suggest taking some time to watch this video:
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Martine Leavitt is an American-Canadian author of many books for young adults, including My Book of Life by Angel, Tom Finder, and Heck Superhero. Her novel Keturah and Lord Death was a National Book Award finalist in 2006. She is a faculty member at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and the mother of seven children.
“The healing power of art is not a rhetorical fantasy. Fighting to keep language, language became my sanity and my strength. It still is, and I know of no pain that art cannot assuage. For some, music, for some, pictures, for me, primarily, poetry, whether found in poems or in prose, cuts through the noise and the hurt, opens the wound to clean it, and then gradually teaches it to heal itself. Wounds need to be taught to heal themselves.” - Jeanette Winterson (from the essay Art & Life).
Jeanette Winterson is the author of many novels, including Art & Lies, The Powerbook, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, and many more. The above quote comes from her book of essays Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery.
“In our attempt to make the reader care, I believe we must keep in mind the difference between identifying with and relating to characters. The definition of identify is “to be, or become the same.” Writers who create unique characters shouldn’t expect the reader to identify with them. I take the view that though there is a universality in human beings, still each of us is different in a unique way. In contrast, the definition of relate is “to have a relationship or connection,” a better goal, I think, for making the reader care.” – Marjorie Franco
Marjorie Franco has been one of the most successful and popular writers of short magazine fiction, with 45 of her short stories appearing in Redbook alone (surpassing all other fiction writers for that magazine). In addition, her stories have appeared in Good Housekeeping, McCall’s, and other magazines here and abroad.
“We’ve all heard the mantra: Show, don’t tell. Perhaps the secret to showing is actually living our own stories well. About living beyond the confines of our own interior world to explore the world we long to write about. It’s in that diving into real life that we no longer settle for telling about a character’s journey; we must show it because a simple recounting will deprive it of its vitality.” – Mary E. DeMuth (Article in The Writer)
“Used properly, first drafts are great metal detector-like instruments. They show you which areas require digging, whether what’s under the surface turns out to be silver or scrap metal.” – Billy Mernit
Billy Mernit teaching “Writing the Romantic Comedy” at UCLA’s writer’s program. He’s serves as a script consultant and story analyst for Universal Studios and is the author of the book Writing the Romantic Comedy.