Welcome Home

Sweet Briar students return to campus this week —  classes begin on Thursday — and the summer, at least for those in the academic world, comes officially to a close. Meanwhile, here is a wonderful (and long and eloquent) 2008 interview with Marilynne Robinson from The Paris Review, in which she talks about Housekeeping, her first novel, and also about Gilead and Home.

In answer to the question of what she feels is most important to teach students of writing, she offers the following advice: “What they have to do first,” Robinson says, “is interact in a serious way with what they’re putting on a page. When people are fully engaged with what they’re writing, a striking change occurs, a discipline of language and imagination.”

There are a great many reasons that young students might fail to “interact in a serious way,” as Robinson says, with what they’re writing. Chief among those reasons, perhaps, is fear — fear of failure, fear of appearing foolish, fear of revealing oneself too fully. Fear probably trumps lack of time and energy, as well as lack of talent and initiative, as explanations for why a story doesn’t get written. (Actually, YouTube and Facebook are right up there, as well.)

In any case, there is no such thing as being truly fearless, I think, but courage is a fine companion for any journey, including the start of a semester. So as the academic year begins, I wish for the writers here (and everywhere) the will and the bravery to be “fully engaged.”

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