Newspaper Clipping to Pulitzer
Writers get their inspiration from many places. To read a newspaper and create a novel is one thing. For that novel to win the highest of honors is a whole ‘nother draft. Years of reading and studying literature inside and out enough to teach it to others has taught me that inspiration comes to writers from many places. To think that a mere four line newspaper article started the research that led Toni Morrison to write the 1988 Pulitzer Prize winning novel Beloved is overwhelming to those of us hacking away at writing. Margaret Garner’s story is by far the most compelling inspiration to write I have learned of to date and the outcome greatly enriched the American literature canon.
While at Florida A & M University studying for a Master’s degree in American Studies I was first introduced to Garner’s story. Garner was a slave who escaped captivity only to be caught fleeing. As she and others in her escape party were surrounded, Garner made the decision to kill her two year old daughter rather than have her daughter returned to a life of slavery. It is while doing research and coming across the news report of this event that Toni Morrison wrote her Beloved.
If you have read Beloved you know how gut wrenching that read is to get through. I personally picked the book up and put it down hundreds of times that weekend. Each time it overwhelmed me I turned away from it and put it away there was something that lugged me back to it. It is the only high literary piece of work I have ever read multiple times in a weekend. My copy is tattered, filled with post it notes of multiple sizes and colors, manic marginalia, and drastic underlined portions that took my breath away and caused me great emotional distress as I never before experienced as a reader.
When I developed this prompt and looked for the pictures to accompany it I chose three; one of what I imagine Morrison looking like as she pondered the information she found, the book cover, and another of my imagination of Morrison with her face raised in reverent acknowledgment to Garner that the story had been told as only Morrison is skilled enough to master. These pictures of Morrison are in no way connected to the novel other than they are of Morrison. This is just my view of things as I pulled them together.
So my challenge today is this: check your newspaper for a miniscule story that is deplete of details and set about to give the story a life as full as Morrison’s Beloved.