I don't believe in reincarnation. I feel like we're here for such an appallingly brief period of time. I believe we each get this one trip, and if we're really, really fortunate, maybe we get 70 or 80 years on Earth.
All around us right now, tucked into the valleys and along the coasts, bookshops glow in the winter light. Think of them like singular, magical, and multi-dimensional recipe boxes. They wait for us to pluck out a card, to stand over the stove, to start cooking.
'Never do the dishes without music,' my brother Mark once advised me - the same brother who once ate a spoonful of refrigerated dog food to escape his turn at the kitchen sink. And really, it may be the most sensible advice I've been given.
My mom was a high school science teacher for decades. She just never made it feel like we had to choose between the arts and the sciences. We had bookshelves full of novels, and she also had Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold and Carl Sagan.
I feel like you are allowed in fiction to embrace imagination and try to enter other worlds. And I feel like you should push yourself to try to persuade your reader that you have the authority to engage with people who, you know, lived in the past, who live in the future, other genders, other places, other cultures.
We buy a copy of 'Gravity's Rainbow,' say, and we carry our copy home. We open it; we fall into it. And it is here that the word 'copy' fails. Because what I experience when I read 'Gravity's Rainbow,' or 'Beloved,' or 'The Moviegoer,' is not at all a 'copy' of what you experience when you read the same novel.
I did go to an MFA program, at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. For me, it worked perfectly. It was a small program. They only take five fiction writers a year, and they fund all of us - you don't go into debt to get an MFA. It's not like getting an MBA - you're not going to buy yourself out.
Pretty much every night of their lives, my 8-year-old sons have absorbed themselves entirely in books. As toddlers, they pointed out pictures, made conjectures; lately, we find them in their bunk beds embarked upon two-hour comic-reading benders.