I have known Martine Leavitt for some time now. She's the most gracious, and kind person you could ever meet. Martine was my WIFYR Conference instructor for 2 and 1/2 (the half is a long story) workshops, including two years ago when I got to be her assisstant. She's smart, well prepared and I just wanted to soak in all that knowledge. I'm trying hard to incorporate what she taught me, from emotional and concrete desires and objective correllative to metaphor.
Martine also encouraged me to keep writing and believe in my gift. That means more than I can say.
Last weekend as the LDStorymakers conference keynote speaker, Martine shared her personal experiences with writing.
Martine has seven children, and says she used a trick of putting them in the tub with lots of bubbles and writing as she sat on the toilet seat.
"I couldn’t write to a certain word count, or a certain number of pages. Nothing could be guaranteed. But I needed to write myself soul-fed and happy. I discovered that I didn’t need to write a lot to be happy, I just needed to write something good. I found that even a single perfect, beautiful sentence with perhaps a fresh and compelling image, could make me feel nourished and ready to take on the burgeoning masses."
Exactly. I, too, need to write to feel soul-fed and happy. I recently listened to part of a Q&A with David Archuleta on lds.org. He described not understanding his feelings until he began to sing. When my feelings confuse me, I write them out until they make sense.
Martine spoke of how each writer has different needs. Like Virginia Woolfe, she wanted time and a place of her own. But writing while seated at the edge of a child-and-bubble filled tub taught her "to write spare and taut, to write each word as if it were special, precious, to write a sentence that nobody else in the world had written."
Just as she was asked to teach at Vermont College of Fine Arts, a part-time position that would give her the time she craved, Martine was also asked to serve as Relief Society president, a very busy LDS church position where she would work closely with the local bishop and be responsible to administer to the needs of all the women in the local congregation. As she did for her children, Martine again sacrficed her precious time.
Martine told us that her time in church service taught her love, an emotion that she poured into her next incredible book, MY BOOK OF LIFE BY ANGEL. She says, "It was a small book written with great love. As it turns out, learning to love better was something I needed more than time."
I came home after the keynote to very unexpected news that made me weep. Which made me all the more grateful for these words from Martine: "The very things that appear to be obstacles may be the very thing we need to make our first book or our next book the best book we can write."
It isn't so much that I think of my life trials simply as future book material. It's much more than that. I can only write that which I am. Martine's books are full of hope, goodness, compassion and light simply because that's who she is. Martine is someone who chose to take her life experiences as a mother, a single parent, a student, a teacher, and a woman of faith, and learned to craft not only one perfect sentence, many quite perfect books, but also to write a life. The audience, seeing the result of effort combined with love, gave her a standing ovation. Martine touched our hearts and inspired us. I hope to emulate her example both in my days and in my writing.