Lois Lowry Helps Me Write A Paper and Other Exasperations

I haven’t written one of these literary criticism papers in weeks, and I can’t decide if it feels easier now, or harder.

Easier, because, my grades, while somewhat disappointing, haven’t been so low that I need to Buck Up And Get Some 4.0’s Already. I know that if I do as good a job as I did last time… well… I’ll be passing.

Harder, because I’m out of practice. Maybe this is an easier tactic, but yesterday, in order to squeeze a draft out of my lazy, afternoon self, I tried something new. After writing and deleting the same opening sentence a few dozen times, I gave up on trying to sound academic. I took a cue from Lois Lowry, who said in a lecture (I don’t remember to who or when, my professor quoted it in class on Wednesday), that in order to write a book, she has to pretend she’s writing a letter to a friend. This frees her up from the pressure of CREATING FICTION and writing feels like telling a story to a friend.

So I pretended that I had some whack-job friend who was REALLY interested in a Narratological reading of Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.


But now I have a paper with following eloquent opening line:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is a strange novel.”


I find myself longing to crack open my gigantic Literary Theory book and just read. To forget about Narratology, move on, leave it behind! I’ll never understand it! Please please just let me forget about you and bury myself in endless chapters of difficult theoretical text!

And then, Lois Lowry returns again, these words simply flying off the page at me this morning while I rode the T to work –

One thing I’ve observed is that people whose parents want them to get all A’s all the time get nervous and fidgety if they have to use their own judgement about stuff. Because they worry that their own judgement might be a B instead of an A.” ~ Lois Lowry, from Rabble Starkey

Sigh. Say it, Lois.

P.S. Another bit of Grad School Loveliness: an ongoing assignment for the semester is to keep tabs on Ms. Lowry’s blog (which is awesome, if you’ve never visited) and comment on her topics and writing style as we read her work. Yes, this is the kind of stuff I get graded on. That and impossible papers about difficult literary theories.

One Comment to “Lois Lowry Helps Me Write A Paper and Other Exasperations”

  1. Just catching up on your blog from the past couple weeks. Thanks for the link to Lowry’s blog. Love her!

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