November 17, 2018

Writing Family Tree

Austin Kleon recently added to his map of his creative lineage and as I resurrect this blog from its untimely death, I thought that would be a great place to start.

Untitled_Artwork 2Some of these writers I people I read over and over again because I wish I wrote their books: Plath’s diaries, Janet Fitch, Jayne Anne Phillips, and Lydia Yuknavitch.  I might be bias but I think they’re all coming from the same writing vein of raw and dreamy.  It’s this combination of an open wound and an open field.

My always writing parents are Zelda Fitzgerald, Lewis Carroll, and Roald Dahl. Yep, that’s right, it’s an open relationship. Their touch of whimsy comes unparalleled.  If forced to a desert island, I would take a Dahl box collection and feel perfectly settled for the rest of my time there. Plath also really fits here, I read her diaries before bed several times a week, just to give me interesting dreams.  My diary sounds a bit like I’m back in seventh grade and talking about who I like, so Plath’s dedication to herself inspires me.  Dedication to self really enlarges dedication to craft for me.

And this year, I’ve been really drawn to gothic works: urban legends, scary stories, horror, supernatural, sublime and grotesque.  The queens of this in my eyes are Shirley Jackson and Angela Carter, but I’ve also found myself relishing those horror stories from childhood with the terrifying illustrations by Alvin Schwartz.  I had Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, three volumes. Over Thanksgiving, I’ll be digging through my childhood bookshelf to bring them to our new house. I’m still shocked you could buy these books in Toys R’ Us, but honestly, for a while Toys R’ Us also sold Ouija boards.  I feel like this new fascination with witch craft by publishers is all because girls that shopped Toys R’ Us scary section are grown-up millennial mystics. Flannery O’Conner makes this list because I still haven’t figured out the way she’s able to always surprise the reader.  Surprise is something I want to do more in my own writing.  I find that and and humor to be the damn hardest.

A dude in my forms class this semester said he used to do improv and his coach said, “when you get on stage you have to decide whether you’re going to explore a game or explore a relationship.”  This might be the best writing advice I’ve gotten this semester. I’ll be over here trying to write it down.  Send some writing advice or prompts in the comments if you feel obliged.

3 comments so far.

3 responses to “Writing Family Tree”

  1. Beatrice Mannes says:

    You always keep me guessing! Good blog.

  2. Erin Tracy says:

    Those Schwartz illustrations were terrifying and I loved them!! They were so evocative, this took me down a frightening memory lane!

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Hi, I’m Cassie

Cassie Mannes Murray (@fromcass) is a writer and educator living on the coast of NC.

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