When I first read this message in a friend’s Facebook post, I wondered who he was talking about. Surely not my Toni Morrison. I was in disbelief and even when another friend confirmed the news and I finally saw the articles pouring in on the web, I still didn’t want to believe it. Toni Morrison had passed.
Toni Morrison died on Monday, August 5, in Bronx, NY, from complications of pneumonia. She was 88. As the news of her passing settles around me and into me, as I begin to accept it, I feel a loss and am moved by her passing. No, I did not personally know Morrison, nor have I read all her books or have met her, but I felt her presence in my life. She (her books) were a presence in the households I lived in, especially when I moved to the U.S.
“I learned how to write fiction by understanding the language of visual art.”
“Fiction writing for me has much more to do with the disciplined skill of seeing than with the study of literature. Seeing has little to do with language. In fact, true seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees. It is looking at a piece of paper and seeing a tree, then seeing the man who chopped it down, his hands, his face, how he walks. Hidden inside those visual details is the story of his life.”
“Body language can reveal more about character than almost any other detail.”
“The process of finding a character in a hunk of clay is the same as finding a story on a blank page. You must work a piece from all angles and recognize the danger of focusing too quickly on details when the structure and form have not yet been fully established.”
—Annie Weatherwax, from her Op-Ed piece, “The Art of Fiction Writing,” in the Publisher’s Weekly’s Soapbox section. Weatherwax is a visual artist and writer. She spent most of her career sculpting superheroes and cartoon characters for Nickelodeon, DC Comics, Warner Bros., Pixar, and others. Her debut novel, All We Had, will be published by Scribner in August 2014. Visit her website to see her work.