Saturday, August 27, 2011

Words, Glorious Words

The stage in the Pavilion at the Sun Valley Writers' Conference

The theme of this year's Sun Valley Writers' Conference was "Can Literature Bring Us Together"?  As I listened to the many writers that were featured at this year's conference, I decided that the answer is yes.  Because whether these writers are talking about social issues, military history, the migration of African-Americans from the south to the north, leaving one's home in Ireland, or 'Dixie' --  then and now, the essence of their  message always boils down to great stories. And the feeling I took away from this experience was the pleasure and exhilaration we derive from our story tellers, our narrators, and our communicators who tell us stories that help us make sense of our lives, of our experiences, and of the chaotic world we live in.

David Brooks, the op-ed writer for the New York Times talked about his book "The Social Animal: A Story of Love, Character And Achievement."  He told us stories about what makes us tick as people and what makes us successful. His conclusions were surprising --  that emotion and intuition guide our most profound decisions and it is our unconscious brain that is really driving us.

David Brooks

Colum McCann, who wrote the brilliant novel, "Let The Great World Spin," told us about his discovery that getting lost helps one get home.  His illustration was a tale of a bike ride he took across the United States without a map and the feeling of getting through the difficulty and coming out the other end with a new found confidence and truth.  Along the way he was helped by extraordinary people who told him about themselves through stories.  His concluded that you have to get lost to find a home, experience difficulty and sadness to find the truth, and experience storytelling to understand people.

Colum McCann

Isabel Wilkerson, who wrote "The Warmth Of Other Suns" The Epic Story of America's Great Migration," told us amazing stories of African-American families from the south who migrated to the north and the consequences of this Great Migration.  Her own personal story involves her own parents' experiences leaving the rural South.  Her book tells stories of migration that eventually included more than six million African-Americans who left behind all they had known in the hope of better lives outside the South.  This book has been described as a deeply moving work of nonfiction that reads like a novel.

Isabel Wilkerson

As the Israeli author David Grossman told us the basic storyline for his novel "To The End of the Land" I was riveted by this tale. I felt I was listening to a master storyteller who had all of my attention.  There was a comfort in sitting back and becoming immersed in this very intriguing and emotional tale about a mother's love for her son who is going off to war.  I cannot wait to read this book.

David Grossman

Kathryn Stockett told us stories of why she loves the south, where she grew up, and what it still means to her today. At the same time she acknowledged the past sins of this region which she vividly depicted in her bestselling novel "The Help."  I enjoyed hearing her tales of the contradictions and eccentricities of the Dixie she grew up in, and how her relationship with her own maid, who helped raised her, was the genesis for her novel.

Kathryn Stockett

As I stood in front of the pavilion in between lectures I was truly exhilarated by the beautiful words I heard that weekend, words that were chosen, polished, and used carefully by some of the most talented writers that are working today.  These writers are the ones who make our lives come together by telling the stories that inspire, educate, scare, and delight us.  They provide a literary road map for navigating our lives and discovering the essence of who we are. Don't we all wish we had more time to read?

 Me in front of the Pavilion at the Sun Valley Writers' Conference


  1. This really brings me back!!! Great pics :)

  2. Sounds like so much fun. You've reminded me to read Let The Great World Spin. It's been in my stack for awhile... I need to get to it!
    Love your hat!

  3. A week later and I just listened to the CD of Colum McCann's talk. I'm mad for him...charming, smart, creative. OK, and pretty cute also. I, like you, am anxious to start David Grossman's book. Great post, Sunday. xo

  4. Oh, Sunday, thank you for sharing so beautifully what you heard at this writers' conference. How I would love to devour each one of these books.

    Yes, I wish I had more time to read.

  5. I'm always wishing I had more time to read, and I've had even less during the school summer holidays. However this weekend my son has gone to stay with his aunt and I have had two long days in which to indulge. I could've done housework, but no - the books called louder!

  6. loved this experience + you're cute.

  7. I think the thing about these events is that they take you out of your literary comfort zone and you discover genres you probably wouldn't have otherwise. Very much enjoyed your account.

    On a more trivial note I do like Kathryn Stockett's black dress and your print shirt!

  8. I've always felt that's what most powerful about the human race is what connects us all, and not the differences, which seem so small and mundane in the face of it all. Sounds like a fascinating time.

  9. How exciting Sunday! I was in Israel in October 2010 and started the trip with a New Yorker book review on David Grossman's recent book. I have wanted to read it ever since. I would have loved to have heard him speak. He has had an interesting life and a sad one with the loss of his son. I am glad you mentioned this...I am getting the book now.

    Have you been to Israel? Fascinating...

    Jeanne xxx

  10. PS...aren't you one hip hop happening mama! I love using that expression...drives my kids crazy :) Great photo and hat! xx