Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Ursula K. LeGuin: There must be darkness to see the stars.

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Jan• 24•18

The legendary writer Ursula K LeGuin died on January 22  in her home in Portland, Oregon. She was 88 and leaves a long legacy of  novels, stories, essays, poems, and musings. It goes without saying that she inspired millions, including many writers. Her website  is a wonder and includes a link to her blog and recent writings.

Here is a smattering of her brilliance:

“When women speak truly the speak subversively–they cannot help it; if you’re underneath, if you’re kept down, you break out, you subvert. We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains. That’s what I want–to hear you erupting. You young Mt. St. Helenses who don’t know the power in you–I want to hear you.” Bryn Mahr College commencement speech, 1986

“It is very difficult for evil to take hold of the  unconsenting soul.” A Wizard of Earthsea 

“Love doesn’t just sit there like a stone; it has to be made like bread, remade all the time, made new.”

“Change is freedom, change is life. It is always easier not to think for oneself. Find a nice safe hierarchy and settle in. Don’t make changes, don’t risk disapproval, don’t upset your syndics. It’s always easiest to let yourself be governed. There’s a point, around age twenty, when you have to choose to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities. Those who build walls are their own prisoners. I’m going to fulfill my function in the proper social organism. I’m going to unbuild walls. ”

“The book itself is a curious artifact, not showy in its technology but complex and extremely efficient: a really neat little device, compact, often very pleasant to look at and handle, that can last decades, even centuries. It doesn’t have to be plugged in, activated, or performed by a machine; all it needs is light, a human eye, and a human mind. It is not one of a kind, and it is not ephemeral. It lasts. It is reliable. If a book told you something when you were 15, it will tell it to you again when you’re 50, though you may understand it so differently that it seems you’re reading a whole new book.”

— Staying Awake: Notes on the alleged decline of reading, Harper’s Magazine, February 2008.

“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.”

“The creative adult is the child who has survived.”

“We read books to find out who we are.”  The Language of the Night, 1979.

“It is above all by the imagination that we achieve perception and compassion and hope.”

“When you light a candle you also cast a shadow.”

Here is Julie Phillips brilliant piece on her published in the New Yorker, The Fantastic Ursula K LeGuin. I cannot recommend it enough.

Here is a link to Margaret Atwood’s farewell to her in The Guardian.

The interview in The Paris Review.

John Scalzi’s tribute in The Los Angeles Times.

She knew dragons. Keep writing, keep dreaming, read great writers.

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