Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Senior Writer's Thoughts #7

Seventh in a series of reflections from our writers aged 70 and up, The Permanent Press presents: "Senior Writer's Thoughts"

From K.C. (Chet) Fredericks:  I’m flattered to be in the company of such eloquent, passionate witnesses to the hard and immensely satisfying craft of writing, no  matter what their ages. Doing this stuff for so long, I never thought  of myself as an older writer, or older person, for that matter; but somehow, story came after story, novel followed novel, and suddenly, it seemed, I was over seventy. Funny how that happens.
       It’s always been a miracle, looking back at my earliest notes for a fiction, that already latent in those obscure scratchings was a  complex entity that would some day breathe and move. To make it happen, though, meant using every tool in the tool box as well as every instrument in my little orchestra. When the fiction’s done a sense of ending goes along with the feeling of achievement: this thing is finished, it doesn’t have to be done again, let’s try something new. But then there’s the blank page. Next time around you have to start as a baby, learning to speak all over. Each novel can be a lifetime—doesn't that complicate how writers calculate their ages?
       There’s something bittersweet about a life of writing. Faulkner said it as well as anyone. I can’t find the quote but somewhere he talks about his career as a series of partial satisfactions: OK, he’d think, that novel was pretty good, but it could have been stronger, that one had its moments, I think I can do better; until one day he looked at the whole bunch and realized that what he had was a pretty fair achievement.  At the same moment, though, he saw that the years he’d spent calling into being this wonderful fictive universe had only brought him closer to the point of final silence. Typical Faulkner, right?  Turning even his astonishing accomplishment into an occasion 
for brooding.
       He may have got that right. There’s no way to fake that ending. But fiction writers philosophize mostly when they’re not writing. Caught up in the heat of yet another fiction, we acknowledge only the clock that controls narrative time. As for those other clocks and calendars, the philosopher who put it best was Lawrence Berra with his yogic declaration that “it ain’t over till it’s over.”

K.C. Frederick lives in the Boston area with his wife. Born in Detroit, he’s taught at Michigan, Cornell and the University of Massachusetts at Boston. His novel, Inland, won the L.L. Winship/PEN New England Prize for Fiction in 2007.

Look for his next novel Looking for Przybylski coming October 2012 from The Permanent Press!