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.”
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.
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.