Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Everything Is Material

In the 1990’s my client Karen Plunkett Powell had to be plucked from the fury of a New Jersey hurricane. She and her young son Jason crawled onto the porch roof to reach the rescue rowboat.

She carried two things with her wrapped in a black garbage bag – a copy of the manuscript that was on deadline to her editor and a notebook.

I’d been on the phone with her before the rowboat arrived. She was understandably agitated. When I eventually saw the rescued notebook I discovered that throughout her agitation she’d been recording observations.

She wrote down what she saw and what she heard and especially what she was feeling. As water rose through the basement and ground floor beneath her she persisted with two things – comforting her son and taking notes.

Karen understood that everything is story material. And that this is several times true for the Intense Dramatic Powerful events of our lives.

Many of us have been dished a giant helping of Intensity and Drama and Power in the path and wake of Hurricane Sandy. We have also been dished a giant helping of story material.

Two extraordinary authors knew just what to do with that powerful plateful in the path and wake of Hurricane Katrina seven years ago. Each made bitter lemons into lemonade with its own unforgettable bitterness in distinctly different ways.

Journalist Chris Rose created stark and resonant New Orleans Times-Picayune columns that became the stark and resonant book One Dead in Attic – a riveting read if there ever was one.

Novelist James Lee Burke created an equally devastating Dave Robicheaux story in The Tin Roof Blowdown. Both made Katrina so real on the page it is almost too much to bear.

What amazing work will emerge from the winds and storm surge of Hurricane Sandy? If you were not in Sandy’s path what devastating event have you endured in your life? I will wager there has been something.

Have you filled your notebook yet? When do you plan to do so? I suggest you get to that as soon as possible. Your work will be intensely dramatically powerfully enriched by the effort.

Our dear Karen was carried away on the winds of mortality a few years after that other storm. I shall never forget the image of her being rowed down her deluged street carrying her writer’s treasure to safety as I imagine her carrying it still.

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