We’re only three-quarters of the way into October and it seems as if the month is gathering steam as it speeds on by – especially when it comes to passion and achievement.
Last week, I passed along some thoughts about the amazingly ambitious work and passion of Jack Andraka – a charismatic young man who in 16 brief years has managed to reveal, unfold, and embark on a life journey that radiates his passion in an exuberant yet humble way.
Still captivated by the allure of passion…yet pondering more of a longer-term achievement spin on a life filled with passion…my intrigue this week was sparked by the art, work and success of “the master (or rather mistress) of contemporary short story” – Alice Munro – recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature. Besides receiving a $1.2 million dollar prize (yawza!!), Ms. Munro is now one of only 13 woman to have received the prize in Literature in the 112 year history of the Award – plus, her success is also a rare example of the awarding of an Award for short stories.
For those of us who love to write – especially short stories – Alice Munro offers a beacon of hope. In many ways, her life doesn’t appear that unusual – and seems to align with the lives of many of us.
Ms. Munro came from humble beginnings. She was born in 1931 (yep – she’s a young, vibrant 82) in Wingham, Canada (a small conservative town west of Toronto). Her father was a fox farmer; her mother a teacher. Her short story writing career started during her teen years. Her life’s details suggest that she was a “literary person in a nonliterary town.” Like many of us, she is said to have “concealed her ambition like a forbidden passion” and often “walked the streets like an exile or a spy.” She attended the University of Western Ontario (under a scholarship). While still an undergraduate, she sold her first story to CBC radio in Ontario and began to be published in a variety of magazines. In a 2003 Associated Press (AP) interview, she confessed that life after the 1960’s social revolution was “wonderful” as it “allowed even older women to wear miniskirts and prance around.”
After dropping out of college to marry a fellow student, Ms. Munro became a stay-at-home mom tasked with raising three little ones. In a few short years, this lifestyle choice triggered a state of fear and depression – creating in her an inability to formulate complete sentences. Activities surrounding the opening and management of a bookstore with her then husband (James) helped her regain her focus and re-invigorate her desire to write again. At age 37, she published her first book.
The announcement of Ms. Munro’s winning of the Nobel Prize in Literature was especially poignant for me. Four years ago – on the same day as the Award announcement – I had the rare privilege of visiting Munro’s Books in Vancouver, B.C. For a writer – especially an aspiring short story writer – the ambiance, essence and feeling within this bookstore was dreamlike – offering a whimsical fairytale-like adventure for all who arrived and entered. At the time, images of Alice in Wonderland (hmmm…wonder if there was any meaning in that, Ms. Munro?), satiated my experience there. I also remember feeling as if I was being whisked away from my real-life existence in that magical bookstore to flying lessons with Peter Pan and
cozying up to The Aladdin as we traveled the world together on his magical carpet.
After winning the Trillium Book award in June of this year, Ms. Munro shared that “she was probably not going to write anymore.” She continued to suggest that “maybe it’s time to take it easy” and live a “normal life” – one she might find outside of writing – in retirement. While reading these comments, a favorite quote by Eugene Ionesco surfaced (more on Mr. Ionesco in my next blog):
“A writer never takes a vacation. For a writers life is about the places the mind visits but the soul has already touched.”
The lives and successes of these people – Jack Andraka and Alice Munro (along with many other focused, passionate life adventurers) – offer us an awe-inspiring glimpse into the places genuine passion can transport us. For those of us immortal storytellers, Alice Munro’s commitment to observing and capturing the lives of everyday people in written short story form – particularly during challenging cultural times…and her achievements…help us embrace a truly magical, yet achievable panorama – one that encourages us to believe that real life stories can help anchor one’s dream.
Dreams can come true……
Until next time…
© 2013 EM Carlock
The Write Resources, LLC™