Marvin Repinski -- Listen, observe — and write it down

Throughout the school systems of the world, a principle emphasis is the art of writing. Formal composition is one direction in which a student is led, but there are numerous objectives in communicating our thoughts by the proper joining of words, sentences, paragraphs, and, possibly, a whole body of work.

Consider with me your own needs and attempts at being a wordsmith. From several sources I wish to present a few clues, concepts, and conditions by which an exchange of thought emerges.

The environments under which some authors emerge are both challenging and conducive to our own training. Flannery O’Connor is an example of sheer grit that may be a prod to creative talents that right now slumber in a nest of potential creativity.

Ms. O’Connor, through a stirring in her southern soul (Georgia), found a mentor in the person of Paul Engle at the University of Iowa. While at the Graduate College, hidden writing seeds were brought to flower. Robert Giroux, in his introduction to a book by O’Connor, "The Complete Stories," quotes Dr. Engle, who has written of her:

"The will to be a writer was adamant; nothing could resist it, not even her own sensibility about her own work. Cut, alter, try it again….."


Sitting silently at the back of the room , Flannery was more of a presence than the exuberant talkers who serenade every writing class with their loudness. The only communicating gesture she would make was an occasional amused smile at something absurd.

Syndicated columnist David Brooks, whose column appears in the Austin Post-Bulletin, wrote convincingly in his April 23 column of the literary legacy of the champion of many forms of written materials, C.S. Lewis.

Parents will recall how they have shared, or will share, the Lewis stories written for a young audience. And Brooks is so on-target to remind us of authors who take us from the world of hard scientific data (of course, important for our survival), to the world of the imagination that nurtures our hearts.

Compare that to the world of comfortable sofas, competition, stock reports, the technology of electronic gadgets, and the seating capacity of a sports arena. One may be refreshed again and again by the wide array of the writings of Lewis. Invariably, they trace a pattern that grants an esteemed place to the imagination, to the Eternal.

The craft of the writer is certainly assured by attention to a sensitive recall of the past. In whatever definition we may give to retirement, it, for many persons, must include a desire to extend one’s talents and virtues.

Sue Howard, an Austin resident, convened a program for "Riverland Generations," which is geared primarily to older citizens and enlarges the listening, writing, and life-appreciation skills of those who say:  "We don’t quit!"

The most recent seminar, "Aerobics for the Brain," especially for fellow "forgetters," encouraged attendees in ways to strengthen their memory. And with memory, the writer, the journalist, the persons composing their memoirs, will tighten the reins of their minds. Big thoughts may evolve from some cellar of the past that begs for sunshine.

I have sat across the table at the Mower County Senior Center, viewing the well-worn faces that were nurtured by jobs at Hormel and the surrounding farms. The conversations could well be the paragraphs that might form the expressions found in novels carried by the Austin Public Library.


As I speak to my soul, I speak to friends. Listen. Observe the surroundings. Let eye contact be like the doctor who wants information on your vision.

Another reminder to one who is developing the writer’s craft or deepening the appreciative responses to the written word, is in the publications of Reynolds Price. This author, recognized with a number of literary awards, is known by novels like Kate Vaiden.

His essays present a contemporary, open, respectful stance toward a diverse population and reveal a man looking through a lens on the world that early on, was prompted by a southern people-scope. It reminds one of the peoples of southern Minnesota. In putting movement, emotion, conversation, and style, we see not only with our eyes but with our hearts.

May your tales be tantalizing, truth-bearing and tender!

Repinski is a retired Methodist minister and an adjunct professor at Riverland Community College.

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