Why Do Writers Write?
Thea Marshall suggests that while we all have a story to tell, Northern Neckers seem to be writing them at an above average rate.
The first description of the Northern Neck is thought to have been composed in the early 1600s by a young teenager named Henry Spellman. It's an amazing work known as "The Relation of Virgina."
Why had the lad come? Well, here are his words: "Being in displeasure of my friends and desirous to see other cultures, after three months' sail, we come with prosperous winds in sight of Virginia."
Well, his adventures here on the Northern Neck rival Harry Potter's fictional world. After a time, Spellman went back to England, perhaps for a bit of R and R, and that R and R included his penning of his famous work. He then returned here for more adventures that included being traded for a town by none other than the great recorder of events, John Smith.
His very last adventure, that is, Henry Spellman's, ended brutally, killed in an Indian attack. We know this because someone, way back in the 1600s, wrote it down. We don't know who exactly, but we do know this anonymous writer had a need to record the events to communicate, or to simply tell a story. There are hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people writing their stories or someone else's. We as readers or listeners demand more and more; it's not just the child who cries, "tell me a story."
I suspect many of us need other people's stories, perhaps to make sense of our own. Tolstoy wrote that the writer focuses on the secrets of his own soul, that then reveal the secrets common to us all. Here on the Northern Neck, we seem to have more than our share of recognized respected authors...Millie Robertson, John Harding, Larry Chewning, Sharon Baldacci, John Wilson, writing history, mystery, biographies, memoirs, and even me. My book, "Neck Tales, Stories from Virginia's Northern Neck," all of which you've heard right here, includes the full story of young Henry Spellman.
Some authors have become well-known; some have become famous, John dos Passos, for one. Yes, the John dos Passos, he was a come-here, like many of us, but what a come-here, one of the twentieth century's great writers. His daughter, Lucy dos Passos Coggin, has said, 'he could have lived anywhere and instead chose the Northern Neck,' and that perhaps he found a similarity here to the simple life of the people and the Portuguese island of Madeira, where his roots lay.
She said it was a great refuge for him here on the Neck, and that he especially liked living around so many people with independent ideas. It's thought dos Passos wrote his great trilogy,"USA," here on the Northern Neck, and it's tantalizing to wonder what influence the people of the Neck had on his writing. He once wrote that "USA" was the 'speech of the people.'
I think Northern Neck writers, too, in their own way, write the speech of the people.
This is Thea Marshall.