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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

That Rewarding Solitary Occupation

“Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He or she must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking. “ – Jessamyn West

Born in Indiana on this date in 1902, West wrote dozens of short stories and 20 novels, most notably her acclaimed 1945 work The Friendly Persuasion.

After moving to California and graduating from Whittier College, she taught school for many years before coming down with tuberculosis.  Not expected to live, she moved into a sanatorium for treatment and while there began writing to pass the time.  Ultimately, she regained her health but the writing bug stuck and she moved into her new career full time in 1939.

Her stories, although shaped by her imagination, are loosely based on tales told to her by her mother and grandmother of their life in rural Indiana – a setting and, of course, a time she never knew personally.    “The past is really almost as much a work of the imagination as the future,” she remarked about her endeavors.  Her opus work, The Friendly Persuasion, eventually was made into an Academy Award “Best Movie” nominee, and its sequel, Except For Me and Thee was made into a much heralded television movie.

In an interview about the power of words, West said people should choose them carefully.  “A broken bone can heal,” she said, “but the wound a word opens can fester forever.”

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