Last summer, while participating in a writers’ retreat, I was introduced to the writing of Junot Diaz, a native of the Dominican Republic, who is as well known in today’s American literary circles as another Dominican, Sammy Sousa, is to American League baseball fans. Diaz’s fresh, insightful, often startling, use of the English language has earned him a 2008 Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, and other prestigious awards.
His most recent book, This Is How You Lose Her, introduced me to the ribald street language of his American/Dominican subculture. It is a bastardized English that emerges from the raw human emotions of resisting, as well as adapting to a dominant culture, of trying to figure out what is real with intimacy, sex and love, and of searching for personal balance in a flurry of social change.
With a master fiction writer’s touch he introduced me to his marginalized life, between Santo Domingo and New Jersey, allowing me to experience the stunning brilliance, the raw brutality and the loving tenderness of the characters he creates. His emotional honesty and artful use of idiomatic language are a clinic in creative writing.
Our Upper Midwest Region has many sub-cultures needing “insider” literary voices to bring them to our attention much like Junot Diaz has done with his Dominican heritage. He happens to be an “insider” with considerable literary talent.
We are a region which is becoming increasingly diverse as the changing economics of agriculture and high-tech industries emerge. We need poets and memoir, fiction, and script writers to depict what it is like: to grow old in a small town, to be an immigrant, a prisoner, a returning soldier, a displaced migrant worker, to live on a reservation, to lose the farm, be a long-haul trucker, to be unemployed, an oil field worker. . . the list goes on and on. Most of us are “insiders” of one subculture or another who can chronicle and express the personal, familial, and social changes we experience. This is best done by “insiders” who practice the craft of creative writing.
I have found by participating in writer’s workshops, classes, and reading how-to-books I develop and sharpen my craft as a writer. By studying with accomplished Upper Midwest authors, I have expanded and deepened my understanding of my own roots and in the process have uncovered ways I can contribute as an “insider.” Finally, by reading new, contemporary voices like Junot Diaz I am challenged to experiment, try new ways, and to think and write in a fresh voice.
Lake Region Writers Network’s mission is: “to cultivate and celebrate creative writers by building a supportive community.” We invite you to join us for our Sixth Annual Writers Conference on Saturday, October 4th on the beautiful fall campus of M – State, Fergus Falls. Our theme is: “Writing from Your Roots.”
Noted Minnesota poet and author, Heid Erdrich, will give the keynote and talk about writing from the center of Turtle Island, North America. Sound intriguing? Then join Heid and six accomplished Minnesota writer/teaching artists in workshops where you will explore and experiment with “Writing from Your Roots.”
For more information and to register online, got to this webpage: http://lakeregionwriters.net/writers-conference/.