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Write about what disturbs you

It’s been a few weeks now since I’ve finished reading The Help, but it’s characters and it’s world have stayed with me.  I’ve been continuing to think about the controversial subject matter which Kathryn Stockett addressed and in particular the points of view she adopted.  It reminded me of a line in the novel which I think could well act as Stockett’s mantra, and which I would like to see as one of the things that drives me to write too.

In a letter from the hard-nosed editor, Elaine Stein, Skeeter Phelan is given this advice:

Don’t wast your time on the obvious things.  Write about what disturbs you, particularly if it bothers no one else.” 

(p71).

That is great advice for a writer who wants to write the kind of novels that matter, that have a moral core, that stay with readers.  In What Milo Saw, I sought to write about what disturbed me, many things, but in particular the way in which the elderly are treated in institutions.  I hope that every book I write will have rub at some big itch  I have, not in the sense of wanting to moralise or teach lessons, but rather about wanting to communicate things that matter, that are not, in Elaine Stein’s words, ‘obvious’.