“The Transformative Power of Writing” with Wally Lamb by Lori Pelikan Strobel
Wally Lamb, New York best-selling author and Connecticut native, recently came to Cheshire Academy to talk on the “Transformative Power of Writing.” Wendy Swift, Director of The Center for Writing said, “This year, my goal is to grow the culture of writing here at Cheshire Academy.” Wally Lamb did not disappoint in achieving this goal, as he inspired not only the students and faculty, but also the entire community in recognizing the things that make us human.
Wally Lamb shared with the audience of 100 that he believes fiction is the distortion of facts in search of the truth. He felt that in life we are grounded by basic instincts, one of them being the need to understand the world around us. “We hunger to understand the world around us and our place in it,” Lamb stated.
The crowd sat mesmerized as he read excerpts from his book Couldn’t Keep it to Myself, his work in teaching women to write at York prison. He revealed that these women’s writings transformed him. When asked why he writes about hardship, he explained that he had a pretty good childhood and it was when he became a teacher that he saw that “everyone was not as lucky as he was”, thus his inspiration to write.
When asked further how writing transformed his life, Lamb said, “It widened my experience and since I write in the first person fiction, I have to be someone other than myself. Writing has made me stretch beyond the limitations of my life.”
The students and community peppered him with more questions, which he was happy to address.
One woman asked how it was that he had such a good voice of a woman when writing She’s Come Undone. Lamb shared that he grew up with older sisters and older girl cousins living next door. There were no other boys around, except the boy down the street who threw rocks at him. So, needless to say, he became a good observer of girl behavior since he was always around them.
Lamb revealed the techniques he uses to start the writing process and how he gets out of writer’s block. “I have a lot of procrastination strategies,” he chuckled. His writing ritual starts very early in the morning and ends around 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. Before he starts writing, he acknowledges the gods and goddesses of mythology that he keeps around his room.
When he gets stuck, he moves away from the computer. He prints what he’s been writing and then walks out of the house. Lamb explained to the group that he needs to hear running water, so he goes to a nearby stream to listen. He feels hearing the running flow of water helps the flow of the pen.
On that same note of getting out of writer’s block, he finds that it helps to keep the pen moving. He stated that at times it will “create a lot of crap.” However, in the act of the flow of the pen he finds that he eventually hits on something.
Do we see a pattern here?
The flow of the pen!
Wendy Swift believed that Lamb’s talk would “inspire students and faculty to recognize the writer within, and ways in which writing can bring us closer to one another as we share experiences and truths about the lives we live.”
She was right. The day wrapped up with a book signing, some time to speak with Wally, and for some very lucky students lunch with the author himself. What better way to kick off the launch of the Cheshire Academy Center for Writing? Mission accomplished, as everyone felt the transformative power of writing.
As Lamb concluded his talk, he quoted Michelangelo. “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” He said, “Words are the same. We rise above the confinement and razor wire. The shackles loosen and fall … and the words fly away.”
This is why we love Wally Lamb!