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Gwen Tuinman

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On Writing: Our Books as Shields

A recent movie version of Cyrano de Bergerac has me thinking about fiction authors releasing their thoughts into the world. Through love letters Cyrano writes to the lovely Roxane, on behalf of a young soldier wooing her, he expresses love for her that he’s too bashful to share directly.

Most writers, safe to say, are introverts with rich interior lives. We quietly curate personal experiences and observe human interactions and reactions. We compost, in our subconscious, scenarios both jarring and tender, impulsive and conservative. When we then write the interiority of a character or their response to crisis or great love, some of ‘us’ muddles in there too.

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On Writing a Picture of the Whole World

Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “I am trying to make, before I get through, a picture of the whole world—or as much of it as I have seen. Boiling it down always, rather than spreading it thin.”  As a writer, his sentiment about rich story content is at the forefront of my mind. I strive to bring something of value to the page hoping to engage readers, if only to evoke their own introspection on the heels of my own.

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Underlined, Circled and Quoted

In my book collection, there are so many pages with phrases underlined in pen and keywords contained inside pencilled rectangles or scallop-edged clouds. When ideas resonate, I draw hearts in the margin to later remind myself how intense the connection felt upon first reading. A single heart, two hearts, three hearts. Sometimes I colour them in to make my point.

In large part, my reading is tied to research and personal evolution. Next to certain paragraphs I’ll write notes to myself. This is huge! Or maybe I’ll jot an action to take in light of what I’ve read. A few years ago, I installed a cork board that spans most of one wall in my office. There hangs an envelope marked Quotes/Inspiration. Only the phrases that really hit home are recorded on index cards and stashed there.

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