“How’s it going?” several writing friends have asked about my 52 American Writers project. I usually answer with peppy, lively enthusiasm, but last week I almost lost my mojo. The magic was missing from my project.
I have rules in my yearlong project: read a different American writer each week, five days a week for 30 minutes a day. Keep a journal, and respond in writing two ways: one piece for my weekly writing group (usually a poem) and one for my blog, match a gumbo with a writer’s tastes. I only allow myself to use free resources — libraries, internet, friends, family. Last rule – accuracy. (Nora Ephron, writer from week #9, gave me a great tip about fact-checking and underlining).
I select the writer I read at random, trying to widen my horizons by reading a well-known author new to me, or I let one writer point me towards another one. Last week I strayed too far.
I was streaming right along, reading, writing, responding until I hit Louis L’Amour. In retrospect, I should have entitled this project 52 Writers from the American South. I’d been in a Southern state of mind for weeks now – Twain, Porter, Faulkner, Morris, Welty, O’Connor, Hurston, Williams, Warren. Only Thoreau, London, Ephron and Parker aren’t from the South. But, I started the project because of a Thoreau collaboration with other writers and an art gallery. I chose Ephron after O’Connor drove me into despair, and Dorothy Parker was compared to Ephron. I threw in Jack London for gender equity. Always open to serendipity, I chose L’Amour when I saw one of his books in my mother’s giveaway pile in her garage. I don’t regret reading his western stories – but somehow they took away my mojo. Location’s everything.
I learned about real “mojo” in the late 1980s when high school football at Odessa-Permian Basin, Texas, was so magical it inspired Friday Night Lights – the book and television series. The whole area’s rally cry is Mojo! To experience, mojo watch this Odessa Permian Basin video. When I’m in a writing groove, it’s like winning a state championship six times. For me, Southern writers ignite that championship spark.
And now I’ve got my mojo back thanks to Walker Percy, who lived in six different Southern states. I’m enjoying reading The Moviegoer so much, I’m having a hard time moving onto Georgia’s Carson McCullers.