This is a draft of my introduction to our conference presentation.
I will be serving as moderator and would like to introduce our presentation by reading from a friend’s essay:
The writer tells the story, creates the text, but the reader “makes” the story in his head. Both writer and reader dream the story in their respective minds…. In this analogy, story is neither a physical artifact nor something saved in a computer file, but a dynamic experience that takes place in the human mind.…
Texts are solid, but the stories we make from them do not hold still. Stories are not solid. A story is what the writer dreams in her mind’s eye when she writes. A story is also what the reader dreams in his own mind’s eye when he reads the writer’s words. Therefore, there is never just one story—because stories do not hold still, just as dreams do not. The text is solid, but the writer’s dream and the reader’s dream always differ.
Those passages are from “Welcome to the North Shore: A New Metaphor for the Art of Story-Making,” an essay by Steve Heller, past AWP president and the head of the creative writing program at the LA campus of Antioch.
While rereading the essay recently, I was struck by how closely it described something—in addition to writing—that is important to us: our relationships with fathers, friends, boyfriends, husbands, and other men in our lives. We read their thoughts and feelings, construct narratives that account for their behavior independent of us—as well as their reactions to us. We spend much time and energy—and many words—recording, analyzing, constructing, deconstructing, and reflecting on our relationships. Given the strength of the internal narratives we develop about men, it seems natural that these stories would make the leap from the personal and psychological to the page. Once rendered on the page, our relationships can be studied in their complexity and mystery—but not to the degree that we stop writing.
When we render male characters successfully—when we are true to their motivation, behavior, and so forth—we can create a place where men and women can meet. Sometimes this is an electrifying place, sometimes a peaceful sanctuary, sometimes a negotiating room.
These are the ideas we’ll be talking about today. I will introduce each person, and she will read from her work and describe how male characters came to appear in her writing.