Sunday, December 30, 2012

Easy and Light

"Do not bring people in your life who weigh you down. And trust your instincts … good relationships feel good. They feel right. They don’t hurt. They’re not painful. That’s not just with somebody you want to marry, but it’s with the friends that you choose. It’s with the people you surround yourselves with." — Michelle Obama

Roots and Branches

"And so I’ve been trying to let Him in and then let *Him* shine light on my soul. Eth 12:27 is meaning more to me now as I try to let *Him* show me my weakness, rather than try harder to be stronger where *I* see weakness. I am getting a sense that the more I let Him in and let Him take the lead on my improvement process, the more He’ll help me change from the inside out, healing the roots rather than me continuing to hack at my branches."  -Wendy Ulrich found here

Saturday, December 29, 2012


“We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.”

W. B. Yeats, The Celtic Twilight

Life's Quilt

“You have to choose your combinations careful. The right choices will enhance your quilt. The wrong choices will dull the colors and hide their original beauty. There are no rules you can follow. You have to go by instinct and you have to be brave.”

― Whitney OttoHow to Make an American Quilt


“One day many years ago a man walked along and stood in the sound of the ocean on a cold sunless shore and said, ‘We need a voice to call across the water, to warn ships; I’ll make one. I’ll make a voice like all of time and all of the fog that ever was; I’ll make a voice that is like an empty bed beside you all night long, and like an empty house when you open the door, and like trees in autumn with no leaves. A sound like the birds flying south, crying, and a sound like November wind and the sea on the hard, cold shore. I’ll make a sound that’s so alone that no one can miss it, that whoever hears it will weep in their souls, and hearths will seem warmer, and being inside will seem better to all who hear it in the distant towns. I’ll make me a sound and an apparatus and they’ll call it a Fog Horn and whoever hears it will know the sadness of eternity and the briefness of life.’

The Fog Horn blew.”

Ray Bradbury, The Fog Horn


“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…” -John Muir”


“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”

J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan


“When I like people immensely, I never tell their names to any one. It is like surrendering a part of them. I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvelous to us. The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it.”

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray 


"The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that it has come to be disbelieved in. Few people dare now to say that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet it is in this way that love begins, and in this way only. "
— Victor Hugo, Les Misérables 

Thursday, December 27, 2012


"It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan."

-Elenor Roosevelt

Stand Up

"Sometimes, I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed." 
-Mary Oliver


"It’s just this strange thing I do where I allow myself to briefly fall in love with another human being that I see on a train, or the sidewalk, or in a warm café."

 — Chelsea Fagan, Dear Beautiful Guys I Pass On The Street: I Love You


"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself." — Neil Gaiman  


"My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage." — Alice Hoffman


  Chuck Palahniuk  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


"The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed."
 — Ernest Hemingway 


"I learned to write by reading the kind of books I wished I’d written." 
— Barbara Kingsolver

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Never too

“Never too old, never too bad, never too late, never too sick to start from scratch once again.”
 -Bikram Choudhury


"I have buried you in every place I’ve been. You keep ending up in my shaking hands." — Bon Iver 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's on the Truck

"She believed a great happiness awaited her somewhere, and for this reason she remained calm as the days flew by." — Gyula Krudy 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Blame is simply the discharging of pain and discomfort.
It has nothing to do with accountability. Accountability requires long, difficult, respectful conversations. Blame fizzles out with rage, where accountability is in for the long haul.
Self-righteousness is a sign of fear and uncertainty.
It has nothing to do with activism or change. The loudest and most vitriolic among us are often the most afraid. As my friend Harriet Lerner says, “Change requires listening with same level of passion that we feel when we speak.”
You can't shame a nation into changing any more than you can shame a person into changing.
Shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, violent behaviors than it is to be the cure. We need courage, vulnerability, hard work, empathy, integrity (and a little grace wouldn't hurt). 
-Brene Brown


"The most powerful person you can be is who you are RIGHT NOW. The most powerful thing you can do is what you’re doing RIGHT NOW. The most powerful moment of your life is the moment RIGHT NOW." -Deepak Chopra

Monday, December 17, 2012


"You can’t just make me different and then leave. You can’t. You can’t change me and make my whole life centered around you, then leave." — John Green, (Looking for Alaska)

All of the Above

"You are mysterious. You’re beautiful, intelligent, and virtuous, and that’s the rarest known combination". — F. Scott Fitzgerald


"I want you to tell me about every person you’ve ever been in love with. Tell me why you loved them, then tell me why they loved you. Tell me about a day in your life you didn’t think you’d live through. Tell me what the word “home” means to you and tell me in a way that I’ll know your mother’s name just by the way you describe your bed room when you were 8. See, I wanna know the first time you felt the weight of hate and if that day still trembles beneath your bones. Do you prefer to play in puddles of rain or bounce in the bellies of snow? And if you were to build a snowman, would you rip two branches from a tree to build your snowman arms? Or would you leave the snowman armless for the sake of being harmless to the tree? And if you would, would you notice how that tree weeps for you because your snowman has no arms to hug you every time you kiss him on the cheek? Do you kiss your friends on the cheek? Do you sleep beside them when they’re sad, even if it makes your lover mad? Do you think that anger is a sincere emotion or just the timid motion of a fragile heart trying to beat away its pain? See, I wanna know what you think of your first name. And if you often lie awake at night and imagine your mother’s joy when she spoke it for the very first time. I want you tell me all the ways you’ve been unkind. Tell me all the ways you’ve been cruel. See, I wanna know more than what you do for a living. I wanna know how much of your life you spend just giving. And if you love yourself enough to also receive sometimes. I wanna know if you bleed sometimes through other people’s wounds." — Andrea Gibson  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Call It

"The important thing is the obvious thing nobody is saying." - William S. Burroughs

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Well You Don't Say

“I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naive or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.“
~ Anais Nin

Monday, December 10, 2012


"Do not fear going forward slowly; fear only standing still." — Chinese proverb

Dark Light

"The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater." — J.R.R. Tolkien, (The Lord of the Rings)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mad Reason

“The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes.”
—Andre Gide


“Style is to forget all styles.”
—Jules Renard


“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
—Allen Ginsberg, WD

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Never waste your time trying to explain who you are to people who are committed to misunderstanding you.
— Unknown

Monday, December 3, 2012


I reject the notion that beauty, desirability and worthiness are one size fits all.  I think happy people are the healthiest people.  It's not enough to just look good on the outside.  I want to feel good on the inside too.

I will give my one precious body the respect it deserves.  We've been together a long time, and we've got miles to go.  When my body is strong, I am strong.  When my body feels good, I feel good.  Wherever I go, my body goes too.  When I take care of my body, it takes care of me.

I celebrate the little victories.  From the first pair of running shoes I lace up, to the morning I didn't feel like waking up at 5 a.m. to go the gym, but did it anyway.  These are my personal triumphs, and I think each one deserves a parade.

I believe sweat stains are a badge of honor, and each of my muscles has a story to tell.  I will stop seeing the gym as time wasted working out and start seeing it as time invested in working on me.
I will turn my inertia into my momentum.
I will do something with my mind, my body and my life.
I want to improve the world, and I believe that begins by improving me--because when I feel my best, I can be my best.  And when I am my best, anything is possible.
This is my commitment to me.

Found through Lyceum Newsletter

Sunday, December 2, 2012


"I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."

 —Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters To A Young Poet

First Steps

"And what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events may, in fact, be the first steps of a journey."

Lemony Snicket 

Friday, November 30, 2012


  F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Saturday, November 24, 2012


"There is no single effort more radical in its potential for saving the world than a transformation of the way we raise our children."  -Marianne Williamson

Growing Orbits

I live my life in growing orbits
which move out over the things of the world.
Perhaps I can never achieve the last,
but that will be my attempt. Rainer Maria Rilke


"Everything you do right now ripples outward and affects everyone. Your posture can shine your heart or transmit anxiety. Your breath can radiate love or muddy the room in depression. Your glance can awaken joy. Your words can inspire freedom. Your every act can open hearts and minds. 

— David Deida 

Thursday, November 22, 2012


"Life, for the most part, inevitably becomes routine, the random confluence of timing and fortune that configures its components all but forgotten. But every so often, I catch a glimpse of my life out of the corner of my eye, and am rendered breathless by it."
– Jonathan Tropper, Everything Changes 

Blow it away

"I am tired. I am tired of speech
and of action. In the heart of me
you will find a tiny handful of
dust. Take it and blow it out
upon the wind. Let the wind have
it and it will find its way home."
— Tennessee Williams, from “Blue Song”


"I will take the sun in my mouth
and leap into the ripe air
with closed eyes
to dash against darkness"
— E. E. Cummings, from “I Will Wade Out”

Whole Hearted

+"I have carved shelves out of my heart
to try and bring an order to things
all it did was make space"
— Anis Mojgani, from “My Library Has 17 Books”

Mourn with those

This sadness is not mine
This sadness is not mine. It is the sadness of old people who can no longer climb stairs, the sadness of the child who cannot speak, the sadness of the man raging against his own helplessness, the sadness of this retard spring feeding upon my dead, the sadness of the woman who can’t seduce her husband any more, the sadness of the days that can’t abide, the sadness of the girl devoured by the light of the north. This sadness is not mine, but all the same, I can’t get rid of it.
— Doina Ioanid


from “reassurance to shirley after graduation”

Leaves & Words

Nicole Krauss, from The History of Love
Nicole Krauss, from The History of Love

The Wound

The Wound
The shock comes slowly
as an afterthought.

First you hear the words
and they are like all other words,

ordinary, breathing out of lips,
moving toward you in a straight line.

Later they shatter
and rearrange themselves. They spell

something else hidden in the muscles
of the face, something the throat wanted to say.

Decoded, the message etches itself in acid
so every syllable becomes a sore.

The shock blooms into a carbuncle.
The body bends to accommodate it.

A special scarf has to be worn to conceal it.
It is now the size of a head.

The next time you look,
it has grown two eyes and a mouth.

It is difficult to know which to use.
Now you are seeing everything twice.

After a while it becomes an old friend.
It reminds you every day of how it came to be.
— Ruth Stone

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Blind Spots

“Farewells can be shattering, but returns are surely worse. Solid flesh can never live up to the bright shadow cast by its absence. Time and distance blur the edges; then suddenly the beloved has arrived, and it’s noon with its merciless light, and every spot and pore and wrinkle and bristle stands clear.”

Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin


“Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find
all the barriers within yourself
that you have built against it.”


Magic Realm

"To read for an hour or so at night is to enter a magic realm in which people are more interesting, informed, amusing and intelligent than anyone you encounter in everyday life." — The Torchlight List, Jim Flynn

Sunday, November 18, 2012


"Every relationship has at least one really good day. What I mean is, no matter how sour things go, there’s always that day. That day is always in your possession. That’s the day you remember. You get old and you think: well, at least I had that day. It happened once. You think all the variables might just line up again. But they don’t. Not always." — Charles Baxter 

Friday, November 16, 2012


"Seek out a tree and let it teach you stillness." — Eckhart Tolle

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


"The disciplined person does not throw up her hands in despair and decide that her problems are too much for her. She understands the idea expressed by Elder Neal A. Maxwell as follows: ' When in situations of stress we swonder if there is any more in us to give, we can be comforted to know that God, who knows our capacity perfectly, placed us haere to succeed. No one is fore ordained to fal or to be wicked. When we have been weighed and found wanteding, let us remember that we were measured before and we were found equal to our tasks; and therefore, let us continue, but with a more determined discipleship. When we feel overwhelmed, let us recall the assurance that God will not over program us; he will not press upon us more than we can bear.'" (DC 50:40)
 -"Meeting the Challenges of Today", in 1978 Devotional BYU

Sunday, November 11, 2012


But I would never kiss anyone who doesn’t burn me like the sun." 
— Jens Lekman 


"Everything you do right now ripples outward and affects everyone. Your posture can shine your heart or transmit anxiety. Your breath can radiate love or muddy the room in depression. Your glance can awaken joy. Your words can inspire freedom. Your every act can open hearts and minds. "
-David Deida


"We show the depth of our brokenness and the degree of our foolishness when we’re even tempted to think there’s some set of circumstances, some person, some relationship, some paramour, some lover, some change in our world, some sensual experience that can satisfy the restlessness in our hearts. But we’re made singularly for you, Jesus; we’re designed to be fulfilled and completed only by you. Never let us forget this, and allow us to come more fully alive to an insatiable thirst that you alone can meet. You are the most loving and tender bridegroom who cherishes a most unlikely and ill-deserving bride." 
— Scotty Smith 

You're a Peach

You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches. "
— Dita Von Teese 


But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering." 
— Romans 8:17


"I like you; your eyes are full of language. "
— Anne Sexton 


She often could not articulate her thoughts; they seemed like objects glimpsed peripherally, skittish and ungraspable, splinters and fragments that would not add up to much if bundled together; they refused to stand still for examination. For this reason, she was largely silent. "
— Katherine Min, After The Falls 


"What is the matter with me? I don’t want to be married just to be married. I can’t think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can’t talk to, or worse, someone I can’t be silent with." — The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Monkey Bars

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” - CS Lewis


"Nothing is so powerful as an idea whose time has come." ~Victor Hugo

Why Why Why

“I want you to start thinking about why you are doing this. And when you find yourself at the darkest point, I want you to hold on to that reason, and it will get you through to the light.”
                                                                                                                - First Kill  by Heather Brewer 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it."
— C. S. Lewis 

Feathers and Elections

"I love the concept of unity and diversity...Most decisions are based on a tiny difference. People say this was right and that wrong - - the difference was a feather...I keep scales whenever I am to remind some of that...They're a symbol of my awareness of the distortion most people have of what's better and what isn't." -"Scales" by Laurance S. Rockefeller

Monday, November 5, 2012


 Hermann Hesse, in Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichteto share my affinity for these wonderful creatures:
“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.
A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.
A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.
When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

Be still! Be still! Life is not easy, life is not difficult.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.
So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.” 

You are already home. You are enough.

You don’t need anything than what you already have. Cultivate kindness in your heart towards who you are, right now, and a gentleness in spirit towards your soul. The place you are wanting to go? The things you need? You already have them.
You are enough.
You are good.


“For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.” — Martin Luther

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Life and Design

"I discovered these common, self imposed restrictions are rather insidious, though they start out simple enough. We begin by worrying we aren’t good enough, smart enough or talented enough to get what we want, then we voluntarily live in this paralyzing mental framework, rather than confront our own role in this paralysis. Just the possibility of failing turns into a dutiful self-fulfilling prophecy. We begin to believe that these personal restrictions are, in fact, the fixed limitations of the world. We go on to live our lives, all the while wondering what we can change and how we can change it, and we calculate and re-calculate when we will be ready to do the thing s we want to do. And we dream. If only. If only. One day. Some day.

Every once in a while — often when we least expect it — we encounter someone more courageous, someone who choose t
o strive for that which (to us) seemed unrealistically unattainable, even elusive. And we marvel. We swoon. We gape. Often , we are in awe. I think we look at these people as lucky, when in fact, luck has nothing to do with it. It is really about the strength of their imagination; it is about how they constructed the possibilities for their Life. In short, unlike me, they didn’t determine what was impossible before it was even possible.


If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now."

Debbie Millman in Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design

Friday, November 2, 2012

Yellow Butterfly

  Maya Angelou

Thursday, November 1, 2012


"Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness, and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns." -Anne Lemott

Monday, October 29, 2012


You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.
— Cheryl Strayed 

Always Jane

"I have heard of day-dreams — is she in a day-dream now? Her eyes are fixed on the floor, but I am sure they do not see it — her sight seems turned in, gone down into her heart: she is looking at what she can remember, I believe; not what is actually present. I wonder what sort of girl she is."

— Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre 


"Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it."
 —David Foster Wallace 


"The way sadness works is one of the strange riddles of the world. If you are stricken with a great sadness, you may feel as if you have been set aflame, not only because of the enormous pain, but also because your sadness may spread over your life, like smoke from an enormous fire. You might find it difficult to see anything but your own sadness, the way smoke can cover a landscape so that all anyone can see is black. You may find that if someone pours water all over you, you are damp and distracted, but not cured of your sadness, the way a fire department can douse a fire but never recover what has been burnt down." 
— Lemony Snicket


"awe is the most reverent of feelings. you feel, when you are in awe, that you are human, that your mind is dwarfed by what it confronts...that you had best keep your mouth closed and your mind open while awaiting further disclosure."

-paul woodruff

Friday, October 26, 2012

Oh Poe

"If you wish to forget anything on the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered."
-Edgar Allan Poe

Thursday, October 25, 2012


"If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals." — Sirius Black 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Show Up

"You learn the most from the experience you would have avoided if you could.” -Richard Peck


"To shift the structure of a sentence alters the meaning of that sentence, as definitely and inflexibly as the position of a camera alters the meaning of the object photographed. Many people know about camera angles now, but not so many know about sentences." — Joan Didion on writing 


"We can’t behave like people in novels, though, can we?" 
— Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence.

Well Then

"Maybe your first love is the one that sticks with you because it’s the only person who will ever receive all of you. After that, you learn better. But, most of all, no matter what, a piece of you forever remains left behind in the heart of the one you loved - a piece no future lover could ever get, no matter what. That piece holds innocence - the belief that love really can last forever. It holds friendship and pain, trial and error, that one kiss you’ll never forget and that night under the stars you can never get back. It holds youth and everything you thought love would be. Everything that was proven wrong." — Anonymous (via two20two)

Wild and Tame

Jeanette Winterson 

Monday, October 15, 2012

You are the faucet, not the water

"You are the faucet, not the water:  One of my coaches, Trina Harmon, always reminds me of this.  There is no need to try and prove anything to your audience.  You are merely the channel through which light and love are being transmitted to those around you.  Your show is not actually about you.  That takes a lot of pressure off of you as the performer, right?  Remember, you are the faucet, not the water."

-Mindy Gledhill  found here


"The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed." 
— Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, October 14, 2012


"When did she lose her wonder? When did she start existing, and quit living?"
-Denise Daisy, Haytham

Saturday, October 13, 2012


“No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”
–Edmund Burke

Book Banners are Invariably Idiots

Found here and for more banned letters click here

When, in 2007, author Pat Conroy was told by a concerned student that two of his books, The Prince of Tides and Beach Music, had been banned by theKanawha County school board following complaints from parents, he sent the following letter to the area's local newspaper, The Charleston Gazette, and made known his disgust at such censorship. It was immediately published. After much deliberation and publicity, the bans were eventually lifted.

To read other letters of note related to the banning of books, click here. To discover more about Banned Books Week, which ends tomorrow, click here.

(Source: Pat Conroy; Image: Pat Conroy, via Tulsa Town Hall.)

October 24, 2007

To the Editor of the Charleston Gazette:

I received an urgent e-mail from a high school student named Makenzie Hatfield of Charleston, West Virginia. She informed me of a group of parents who were attempting to suppress the teaching of two of my novels, The Prince of Tides and Beach Music. I heard rumors of this controversy as I was completing my latest filthy, vomit-inducing work. These controversies are so commonplace in my life that I no longer get involved. But my knowledge of mountain lore is strong enough to know the dangers of refusing to help a Hatfield of West Virginia. I also do not mess with McCoys.

I've enjoyed a lifetime love affair with English teachers, just like the ones who are being abused in Charleston, West Virginia, today. My English teachers pushed me to be smart and inquisitive, and they taught me the great books of the world with passion and cunning and love. Like your English teachers, they didn't have any money either, but they lived in the bright fires of their imaginations, and they taught because they were born to teach the prettiest language in the world. I have yet to meet an English teacher who assigned a book to damage a kid. They take an unutterable joy in opening up the known world to their students, but they are dishonored and unpraised because of the scandalous paychecks they receive. In my travels around this country, I have discovered that America hates its teachers, and I could not tell you why. Charleston, West Virginia, is showing clear signs of really hurting theirs, and I would be cautious about the word getting out.

In 1961, I entered the classroom of the great Eugene Norris, who set about in a thousand ways to change my life. It was the year I read The Catcher in the Rye, under Gene's careful tutelage, and I adore that book to this very day. Later, a parent complained to the school board, and Gene Norris was called before the board to defend his teaching of this book. He asked me to write an essay describing the book's galvanic effect on me, which I did. But Gene's defense of The Catcher in the Ryewas so brilliant and convincing in its sheer power that it carried the day. I stayed close to Gene Norris till the day he died. I delivered a eulogy at his memorial service and was one of the executors of his will. Few in the world have ever loved English teachers as I have, and I loathe it when they are bullied by know-nothing parents or cowardly school boards.

About the novels your county just censored: The Prince of Tides andBeach Music are two of my darlings which I would place before the altar of God and say, "Lord, this is how I found the world you made." They contain scenes of violence, but I was the son of a Marine Corps fighter pilot who killed hundreds of men in Korea, beat my mother and his seven kids whenever he felt like it, and fought in three wars. My youngest brother, Tom, committed suicide by jumping off a fourteen-story building; my French teacher ended her life with a pistol; my aunt was brutally raped in Atlanta; eight of my classmates at The Citadel were killed in Vietnam; and my best friend was killed in a car wreck in Mississippi last summer. Violence has always been a part of my world. I write about it in my books and make no apology to anyone. In Beach Music, I wrote about the Holocaust and lack the literary powers to make that historical event anything other than grotesque.

People cuss in my books. People cuss in my real life. I cuss, especially at Citadel basketball games. I'm perfectly sure that Steve Shamblin and other teachers prepared their students well for any encounters with violence or profanity in my books just as Gene Norris prepared me for the profane language in The Catcher in the Rye forty-eight years ago.

The world of literature has everything in it, and it refuses to leave anything out. I have read like a man on fire my whole life because the genius of English teachers touched me with the dazzling beauty of language. Because of them I rode with Don Quixote and danced with Anna Karenina at a ball in St. Petersburg and lassoed a steer inLonesome Dove and had nightmares about slavery in Beloved and walked the streets of Dublin in Ulysses and made up a hundred stories in The Arabian Nights and saw my mother killed by a baseball in A Prayer for Owen Meany. I've been in ten thousand cities and have introduced myself to a hundred thousand strangers in my exuberant reading career, all because I listened to my fabulous English teachers and soaked up every single thing those magnificent men and women had to give. I cherish and praise them and thank them for finding me when I was a boy and presenting me with the precious gift of the English language.

The school board of Charleston, West Virginia, has sullied that gift and shamed themselves and their community. You've now entered the ranks of censors, book-banners, and teacher-haters, and the word will spread. Good teachers will avoid you as though you had cholera. But here is my favorite thing: Because you banned my books, every kid in that county will read them, every single one of them. Because book-banners are invariably idiots, they don't know how the world works—but writers and English teachers do.

I salute the English teachers of Charleston, West Virginia, and send my affection to their students. West Virginians, you've just done what history warned you against—you've riled a Hatfield.


Pat Conroy