Tuesday, September 09, 2008


By Amy MacKinnon

We each write for different reasons, though last week I couldn't possibly tell you mine. I've been wondering about this a lot lately, why it is we writers are eager to rip away the cloak that shields us from public scrutiny and misinterpretation. Most would tell you it isn't for the money (how many published authors earn a living wage from writing?); it's not for the glory (try facing down an empty bookstore or sitting next to a New York Times bestselling author at a signing); it's not for any sense of immortality (I'm still hoping this one might be true among my descendents).

Last Friday, Patry Francis, Lynne, and I wondered at this conundrum over tea and cakes (for those of you wondering, Patry's doing well and gorgeous to boot). When each of us started writing, we hoped against all reason that we would eventually sell our books, that they would be read by people who connected with them, and maybe one of us hoped for more beyond that-- a scenario too magnificent to lay down black-and-white. Haven't you done the same? And we've been lucky, we know it and are grateful. But this isn't a business for the faint of heart. As Gail Konop Baker once wrote to me as consolation after a particularly awful day, "This can be a tear your heart out kind of business." Some days I've truly feel that wrenching in my chest.

But I think I finally figured out why I write: I don't understand a world in which there is unfathomable pain.

I wrote about the real Precious Doe, Erica Michelle Marie Green who was killed by her parents; about my friends' four-year-old daughter, Mary Katherine, who died of a brain tumor; about the unbearable weight some cops have to bear when dealing with the seediest aspects of our society. Why is the world like it is? Why?

I don't write to entertain readers for vanity or fame. I write because, at least on the page, I can give each of these people some measure of comfort in a world of my making. It's all I can do.


Gail said...

Beautiful post, Amy... and we're all lucky you write!

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

That was truly lovely. I write with the hopes that I will make connections with readers through my words.

Larramie said...

You can write the wrongs, I like that reason Amy.

And thank you for the Patry mention, how fortunate to enjoy her company again.

Carleen Brice said...

Isn't it funny how hard it is to answer that question, why did you write this book or that one? We're lucky and grateful for your answer.

Amy MacKinnon said...

Gail, my message is deeply personal and while your is too, it's absolutely universal. We're glad you write too.

Ello, you're absolutely right. We must all have that intention.

Larramie,you are so very clever. Patry is such a wonderful soul to be around.

Carleen, it is difficult! And we're so lucky to have another of yours coming out soon.

Anonymous said...

Amy, I agree about writing (and reading) to try and gain even a glimmer of understanding into a world that has "unfathomable pain". I also believe a direct result of that attempt is one of the best ways to remember there's also unfathomable love.

Thanks for Tethered. :)

Shauna Roberts said...

I suppose we each answer this question in a very personal way.

My interview with Amy about Tethered will post on my blog early Wednesday morning, at http://shaunaroberts.blogspot.com.

Patry Francis said...

Tea and cakes were never more wonderful than they were in your marvelous company. You and Lynne made me remember all the reasons we keep writing, and dreaming, and doing our best to connect with readers. Thanks again for the visit. Writers are the best medicine!

Amy MacKinnon said...

Maru, excellent point and thank you.

Shauna, you're right. And thanks so much for having me as a guest on your bog!

Patry, I suppose my motivation for visiting was a bit selfish. I thrive on being around smart, motivated people -- especially writers. I was just saying to Lynne I wish we could have another visit soon.

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I went through a similar journey in my book where I wanted to understand how some of my loved ones dealt with their struggles and how in the world I got through mine. I didn't find all the answers, but I did write a book. ;-)

Thanks for your post. I am embarrassed I have been so busy I haven't had a moment to read Tethered, but I am truly excited to do so. The more I hear, the more I want to read it.