As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve imported a bunch of older blog posts from my other blog. I realized as I was skimming through them that I have written several posts about the author Scott Russell Sanders. I believe this warrants another On the Shelf entry to bring my current readers up to date on ancient history.
How I Found Him
“A Private History of Awe” was assigned reading for the yoga and writing retreat that I went on a few years ago. As I settled into the memoir, I realized with awe that my world and his had overlapped. The area of the country Sanders chose to write about – the farm where he grew up – was about a mile up the road from where I lived as a child. It’s entirely possible that my childhood excursions into the State Park behind my house had led me stumbling over the foundation of Sanders’ childhood home.
I wrote him a letter. I couldn’t stop myself. It was too strange and wonderful to discover someone – a writer! – whose landscapes overlapped with mine. He wrote me back. And in fact, I got to attend a book signing and meet him. Needless to say, I’ve scrambled to find more of his work.
Why I Love Reading His Work
He grew up a full generation before me – I have aunts and uncles who remember him from cub scouts – but we reached some of the same conclusions about God, about the world, about nature. I don’t know if it’s because we grew up comparing all churches to the one in Wayland. I don’t know if it’s because everyone reaches those same conclusions and they are just universal truths.
All I know is that I’ve located a kindred spirit in this world, and I know his name. And I can buy and read his books.
What I Learn About Writing From Him
Honesty. I learned so much about writing authentically from Sanders. Even if I’m writing fiction, I want it to be as raw, as honest, as hard to write as those essays have been. His prose is fluid and beautiful, if you’ve never lived in the wilderness of Ohio, near the paradise of bombs. But if you have, you know that the grit is real. You know that the pain is real. And you know that this man has laid his truth bare for you to read it.
I want to write like that.