Tuesday, October 25, 2011

1/2 Dozen for Shann Ray

A 1/2 Dozen for Shann Ray

(sweet love-rant included)

(P.S. I want to teach forgiveness studies.)

Here goes:

I despise the pervasive myth of inspiration – the idea that an entire book can exist simply because of an accumulation of inspired ideas – but I don’t deny that inspiration exists. There are things that have no other explanation. Was there a singular moment of inspiration for this book?

Love was the singular moment of inspiration. I looked at my wife and three daughters, and all the beautiful men and women I know. I saw us all struggling to find a way to love more deeply and more truly, and I wondered if I could capture the masculine, and some of the feminine, with regard to that struggle. I hope I honored the people I so respect by trying to see the heart of women and men in a way that sheds some light on that ultimate desire we all have, to love and be loved.

What’s your advice to someone who’s fallen in love with a writer?

Love her, or him, with all your heart. Love no other in quite the same rich, miraculous, graceful, and vital way you love your writer. Find out what can and must be loved in the heart of hearts, and love it with a love that burns like a fire in all the darkness of this world.

Criticism. It’s part of the territory. How do you handle it? Is this the way you’ve always handled it?

Invite the criticism you receive from people of substance and wisdom and love. Welcome and receive their influence, always. From the rest, throw it away.

Was there an extremely influential writing teacher who was impactful on your writing life?

Jonathan Johnson, a wonderful poet, is a person who has been to me a friend and teacher as close as a brother, as strong as a warrior, and as intelligent as any of the great minds I've had the grace to encounter. He is a man of wilderness and graciousness, in love with life and people and beauty. I like to call him my wilderness angel!

What's your advice to a writer who's looking for a lifelong partner? Any particularly useful traits to suggest in said partner? (Do you want to tell us a brief love story here?)

I found it, thankfully, so thankfully, in my wife. Could have lost her for sure when I went through different passages of my life in which I lost that sense of generosity, gratitude, and humility that accompanies all great love. What are her traits? She's more like fire than water. She's more like the mountains than the plains. She's more like a river than a stone. She's more like a work of art than a piece of science. She's more like Beethoven's Ode to Joy and Carl Orff's Carmina Burana than Vivaldi's Four Seasons or Wagner's The Ring Cycle. She's more like Anne Wilson's fiery vocals from Heart than the anthems of Def Leppard. She's more like the power soul of Leela James than the lightning voice of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. She's it, the real deal, the right delight for me.

Writing Tip #17 for Aspiring Writers – or #47 or #2. Your pick.

How about #4321: 4-from the exquisite poet Mary Oliver, "let the soft animal of your body love what it loves"; 3-from the immortal Victor Hugo "behind every dry eye is a dead soul"; 2-from the courageous Anton Wildgans "what is to give light must endure burning"; 1-now give your vital heart to the cold fusion of tireless discipline and deep passion and let your words take flight!

Shann Ray is the author of American Masculine, referred to by Paul Constant as a book about "violence, Montana, and sweet, sweet love." Dave Eggers called it "lyrical" and "prophetic" and Sherman Alexie said "Buy the book and read it tonight. You'll love it too." Shann Ray is also the author of the forthcoming Forgiveness and Power in the Age of Atrocity. He grew up in Montana and lives with his wife and three daughters in Spokane, Washington where he teaches leadership and forgiveness studies at Gonzaga University.