Friday, May 23, 2008

“my writing is essentially post-modern, but not ESSENTIALLY post-modern.”

I met Yona Silverman at Café Grumpy, a coffee shop on a tree-lined side street in Chelsea. Seeing as we are both writers, I thought we were going to discuss novels, poetry, enjambment– literary stuff. Little did I know we would chat about Africa and medical school.

“I’ve been in Uganda for the past 4 months; I lived in a Jewish community outside of a major city and worked on mostly health care-related projects,” Silverman responded when I asked her what she’s been up to since she graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006.

Silverman spent her time in Africa creating HIV/AIDS curriculums for the local schools, as well as working at a pediatric hospital and setting up a creative writing program for high school girls. Silverman’s trip epitomizes the dichotomous nature of her talents: as a writer who is planning on attending medical school, she has just finished a draft of her first novel and is spending next year at Bryn Mawr completing necessary science requirements for school.

Working as a freelance writer for the past few years has taught Silverman many valuable lessons about the nature of her craft. In short, she says, “You have to get used to not getting praised all the time.”

In high school and college, Silverman felt as though writing was always tied up in positive reinforcement; being in the “real world” changed that, and she learned the importance of writing for herself rather than for a gold star and a pat on the back.

At 25, Silverman doesn’t really have the authority to compare the effect of technology on today’s writing to that of her childhood. Like me, she grew up in the era of Microsoft Word, a time when learning to type on Mavis Beacon was more pertinent than learning to write in cursive.

“Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to write without computers,” Silverman muses after a sip of iced coffee. “I find it almost impossible to write free-hand anymore; it’s a completely different exercise.”

Silverman feels as though her writing style, which she cleverly labels “essentially post-modern but not essentially post-modern,” is greatly facilitated by the fluid nature of Word processing. I, too, wonder how I could possibly write an article or a poem without being able to constantly spell-check, change words, delete commas, and insert complete ideas.

Silverman says that she’s not big on blogs but merely peruses them casually. However, she then proceeds to list the blogs that she reads on a relatively-regular basis (sheepishly confessing to dabbling on Perez Hilton, one of my personal favorites) and realizes halfway through the list that she is, in fact, a pretty avid blog reader. One of the most original on her list is Vegan Lunchbox, the blog of a woman who creates, describes, and photographs a different vegan lunch everyday.

I ask Silverman if she thinks blogs are less legitimate than magazines or newspapers – we are all taught to question what we read online. What if Ms. Vegan Lunchbox’s vegan meatballs look so real because they are, in fact, actual meatballs?

“I feel as though online publications have less validity than those in print,” she admits, “but for the blogs that I read personally, it doesn’t really matter if they’re real or not – I think it would be kind of funny if the stuff wasn’t true!”

In traditional publishing, there is always a qualified person deciding what’s worthy of being read by the public. Although Silverman believes this allows one to trust what they read in print, she questions the necessity of having this omnipresent force deciding what’s good and what’s bad. On the Internet, there is no such force, and virtually anyone can deem him or herself a “published writer.”


Nikki said...

vegan meatballs???? no way.

dgold911 said...

Ok, I didn't even know what "mavis beacon" was (until you told me, Alex). But I do know that writing reams (ie law school outlines) freehand, without the benefit of a computer = "major writer's cramp"!

Jocelyn said...

i love mavis beacon!