A couple of years ago the writings of Patricia McKillip were recommended by Jeffrey Overstreet. I began with The Alphabet of Thorn, then read The Book of Atrix Wolfe, and am presently reading The Bards of Bone Plain. McKillip is a beautiful writer, and masterfully weaves the power of story and words into her own stories. The very subject she is creatively exploring she is also creatively employing, setting off the reader’s imagination to wonder about words.
In the following excerpt, from Chapter Seven of The Bards of Bone Plain, McKillip deftly describes the challenge of beginning to write.
He sat at a table in the school library later, thinking idly of the encounter, then of Jonah, and then ruthlessly clearing his head to think of nothing at all. He gazed intensely at a sheet of paper, breath suspended, a word on the quivering point of his pen poised and waiting to fall. Monoliths of books and manuscripts rose around him. All were crammed with words, words packed as solidly as bricks in a wall, armies of them marching endlessly on from one page to the next without pause. He forced the pen in his tight grip a hairsbreadth closer to the paper so that the word stubbornly clinging to it might yield finally, flow onto the vast emptiness. Point and paper met. Kissed. Froze.
He sat back, breath spilling abruptly out of him, the pen laden with unformed words dangling now over the floor in his lax fingers. How, he wondered incredulously, did all those books and papers come into existence? In what faceted jewel of amber secreted in what invisible compartment of what hidden casket did others find that one word to begin the sentence that layered itself into a paragraph, that built itself into a page, that went on to the next page, and on, and on?