My Reflections: Donald Haase

Once again, I must greatly express my deepest gratitude to Lehigh University and the English Department for allowing me to meet and speak with yet another author. Mr. Donald Haase, a man with a dry sense of humor and a knack for elaborate analysis of the art of storytelling, came to speak at Lehigh about his study of the Grimm Brothers’ Fairytale stories and how they impact the roles of society and children’s perception.

Mr. Haase spoke of many different roles the Grimm Brothers have played in the way society and morality have been shaped. He made references to Red Riding Hood’s original tale of a girl who disobeys her mother and suffers the consequences. He expounds on the idea that the Grimm Brothers’ original work addressed the need for morality in society. Much of the Grimm Brothers’ work has been transformed to fit the roles of a particular society in which the text is read. I recall the first time I read author Stephen King’s essay titled, “Now You Take “Bambi” or “Snow White”- That’s Scary!” and I immediately correlated the ideas Haase spoke about. It explains the purpose of transforming the Grimms’ writings. Many readers of the Grimm brothers’ work believed children should not have been learning that Rapunzel’s prince only climbs the castle walls, using her locks, for a late night rendez-vous. Haase speaks with intention when he explains the multiple roles the brothers have in mainstream media and fictional works today.

Much of Haase’s presentation focused on the ways the Grimm brothers’ lives have been romanticized through media outlets. He conveys a message that was present in the Grimm brothers’ lifetime and is still prevalent today: the romanticism of real issues to convey a more socially acceptable idea. I’m sure many people who work as artist of all mediums can relate to the ideas of being told what is socially acceptable to display and what is not. In following what society believes as correct or morally justifiable, artists are able to make money and sell their work to the masses. The Grimm brothers’ focused their original works on adult audiences, as Haase told us, but were willing to adjust their works because it would allow the tales to transcend all audiences and create an aura of fame for them. The collective work of the Grimm brothers, and I hope Haase would agree with me when I say this, has shaped the way many scholars, artists, and people view the society they dwell within. It has taught them to cope or understand barriers created against them in a constructed normalcy.

Authors & Tips

Through the wonderful help of my university I have been granted the honor of meeting two very amazing people. The first person being the author of “All Aunt Hagar’s Children,” Edward P. Jones. And the second being Deborah Heiligman, author of “Intentions.”

I had the great pleasure of talking to both of these amazing people and found out so much more about myself than I could have expected. Meeting other people who write gives view to the truths that ALL writers are different. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to this profession. So, without further rambling, I will write down some key pointers I received from these authors.

Edward P. Jones:
  • Do not write strictly reality if you’re writing fiction.
  • Read… A LOT!
  • Spend time evaluating and appreciating other’s works.
  • Write when you feel as though you must.

Deborah Heiligman:

  • Free Write and allow your creative side of your brain to say everything. Then once you do that, allow the analytical side of your brain to edit and control.
  • When you need to find out more about your characters, do character questionnaires. (I intend to do mine for “The Other Side” soon)
  • Consider your readers’ attention span/Consider your attention span
  • Do journal writing prompts.
  • Don’t allow for your story to wrap up nicely and neatly. Give your readers the chance to wonder and piece together their own ideas of the characters’ futures.
  • Live in the present.
  • Anything that happens to you, be it good or bad, as a writer, just remember… “It’s all material.”
  • Find your theme as a writer. (Example: Most of my books and how I view things in life relate to love and social justice. So my theme is romance and consciousness)
  • Try to find your one liner or even your characters’ one liners.
  • Answer these questions before you write:
    1. Is it a story with a beginning, middle, and end?
    2. Do I have to write it?
    3. Am I the only person who can write it?
  • In all fiction, there is truth.

For me, I believe finding my own approach to writing is crucial. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Just better ways to do it compared to others. I will be putting all of their pointers to use as I continue to work on my stories, but most of all I’ll be finding my own way. What are some tips you have for writers?

My Reflections: Edward P. Jones

I had the pleasure of attending a reading and Q&A by Pulitzer Prize winning author Edward P. Jones. The experience will be one I, as an aspiring writer, will never forget. From the moment Jones walked on stage with a slight swagger to his step and his untamed beard, it became evident that the man had a profound way of living. Mr. Jones wasted no time on warming up his audience to his natural mannerisms and behaviors but rather, hurriedly informed them that he would be reading particular sections from his book “All Aunt Hagar’s Children.”

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Author Edward P. Jones | Photo Credit: flickr.com/NYUCreativeWriting

His narrative voice, as well as the natural tenor in his own speech, resonated through the audience and conveyed a strong sense of realism that connected him to his writing. The slow and rhythmic pace of his storytelling developed a southern tone to his narration. Jones control of narrative voice to be personable and believable. Before he began to read, he had informed the audience that what he read from his book would be brief. However, that was not the case. Jones became lost in his readings as he continued on for page after page to convey the entire purpose of his writings.

While I watched him read, I noticed he never removed his eyes from the pages of the book. That missed action made it questionable if he cared to interact with people rather than confine himself to his own world. Thankfully, the Q&A was much more insightful than his natural body language. People, including myself, asked questions about how he finds his narrative voice, the setting and time period of his stories, and what makes him decide to write. Surprisingly, he did not fill the audience with a trite answer that he writes about reality and that he writes everyday.

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Mr. Jones simply stated that he wrote with a narrative tone of his mother’s voice and a time period to which he relates. He also said that living in solitude has given him space for his imagination to venture out.

Jones has left me with the understanding that in order to become a better writer and connect your audience to your work, you have to find your internal voice before you can create one. My understanding of his approach to not writing from real life experiences is that writing from reality does not work with your internal voice, because reality is not something you have written. Surfing through Netflix, imagining why an upstairs neighbor paces the floor, living in solitude, are just a few aspects of Mr. Jones’ life that he shared. By reading his works, one would believe him to be a man of many experiences, livelihoods, and ambitions. However, there is realness about the observant man that makes his introverted personality not resonate through his work, but rather his extroverted ideas to do so instead. Through the help of Lehigh University, Mr. Edward P. Jones was able to come teach me this: imagination is within you, and how you interpret and explore the idea is what makes your writing become plausible.