Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Invitation to Wonder, Too: A Writer's Journey

Award-winning newspaper columnist and Center for Creative Writing founder Elizabeth Ayres has authored Invitation to Wonder: A Journey through the Seasons. She describes what prompted the book, and the emotional healing writing can bring. The winning comment on her posts will receive an autographed copy of Elizabeth's Invitation to Wonder.

AA: How would you categorize "the journey" noted in the subtitle?

Elizabeth at the Patuxent RiverWriting Retreat-Workshop
EA: My background is poetry. When I moved back to southern Maryland, every wave, every leaf, every bird, everything spoke to me, everything put words in my head, but I wanted to give voice to this experience in such a way that it would be accessible to a general audience, which tends to be intimidated by verse space. I decided to write prose, and I proposed a monthly column of lyric reflections to a regional newspaper.

So there I was, writing about Nature each month, trying to express the amazing aliveness of the world around me, but also conscious of my readers: What would make the reflection most relevant, most meaningful to them? In "Butterfly Q and A," for instance, I started out writing about honeysuckle — that was what was calling to me at the time. Honeysuckle was in bloom, I was transfixed by the smell — but I also knew the column would appear in July, so I related it to Independence Day, an experience common to all my readers, so a connection between nectar and freedom emerged. Or with "Vigil." I'd been wanting to write about the stars for a while. As Columbus Day approached I thought, well, Columbus would have used the stars to navigate, so that's how I can link the two things together and make the reflection most meaningful to my readers. After four years, I had cycled through the seasons four times, addressing every major and minor event in the American experience: from Martin Luther King Day through Memorial Day and Labor Day, from Easter through Thanksgiving and Christmas, from Groundhog Day through Mother's Day and Halloween.

The seasonal progression became all the more apparent when I decided to record selections from the book as an MP3 audio download. I realized that Invitation to Wonder contained not one but five distinct themes, each of which can be experienced as we travel through the seasons. So this became A Journey through the Seasons, Celebrating the Journey, A Journey into the Cosmos, A Journey into Chesapeake Country and A Journey into Divine Presence. Then, when I decided to create a study guide for each audio; the series just naturally demanded to be called The Companion on the Journey Listening Guides. I give these away free with the audios. I had been resistant to the word "journey" at first — it's so overdone! But it seems to have been an inspired choice after all.

For an autographed copy of Elizabeth's Invitation to Wonder, post the best comment on the writing life.

Elizabeth Ayres is also the creator of Writing the Wave, Know the Way and her Center for Creative Writing is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Visit her at Invitation to Wonder.


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