I read Judy Blunt and it feels like eating chocolate. How does she do this so well? What are her tricks? Those of us who are obsessed with words understand that it’s possible to stumble upon an author who is the Willy Wonka of words – meaning Blunt has expertise in sweetness and tricks, memory and presentation. She does this artfully, with design – as Wonka endeared to his playhouse of sweets. Early on in Breaking Clean and I am already on the ferry, ready to ride through the tunnel to wherever she will take me.

If Blunt is the Willy Wonka then Kittredge is the Atticus Finch. His words bear the mark of inherent respect. It is clear he is not intending to sell anybody out. He knows what is right and what is wrong, as Atticus did in To Kill A Mockingbird (the movie, of course, based on a book). He has felt the heat of culture clash and made it to the other side. While his heart does not lie in conflict, it knows what to do when it comes face to face with it. Most of all, he strives to be unquestioningly honest, like Atticus under oath in the courtroom. (Further note to self: Reconsider bringing the John Deer hat to residency. It might spark conversation.)

I wonder, will they think my writing is too young? What sense of history do I have when my life is but half the length of theirs? Will they catch my romantic lies about home? No, I don’t mean it when I say that the trees are always green in Oregon, but then again YES! In my heart, they are always green, swaying there in the ominous wind tunnel gorge of the Columbia River. Kittredge says that sometimes it takes moving to Paris to write about Montana. We’re talking about the same thing here.

My writing is driven by the emotional essence of a situation, of a place, of a conflict, of a person’s overall tone. When writers make decisions like this it is called taking a perspective. Taking a perspective has sometimes been labeled “selling out.” Just ask Joan Didion (who never wrote me back, bless her), who says that “Writers are always selling somebody out.”

The thing about Didion is she’s tough as nails, so when she says something like that she also includes herself in the lot. Will I be tough as nails? How thick is my skin, especially over the area of my heart – from which I am eternally writing?

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