Why I Write

Eunice Victoria Scarfe

I write to honor complexity, ambiguity and paradox — places that can never be reduced to a tweet.

I write because a child in Wichita or Winnipeg might read a story I have written, and believe it was written just for her.

I write because I’m good at it said Dorothy Parker

I write to make the book I wanted to read but couldn’t find.

I write to make a place for metaphor.

I write because there is a book of myths in which our names do not appear said Adrienne Rich.

I write because no one can fire or retire me.

I write because in story the particularity of the one is honored. What would happen if Hamlet were the story of Danish princes in general?

I write because more has been written about us than by us.

I write because my mother warned me against it: What you write might last forever, she said.

I write  to give our daily lives the importance they deserve.

I write because if I don’t tell the story, who will?

I write because I have nothing to fear, and many women do.

I write because the page waits, pretending to be blank; I write because under the page is everything that has ever happened said Margaret Atwood.

I write because I want to practice a hard art.

I write because writing requires solitude, but isn’t lonely.

I write for those who can’t and couldn’t.

I write because there hasn’t been a novel of my people since Ole Rolvaag wrote Giants in the Earth in 1928. I wrote Sorrow, Sing Sorrow for the children ‘of the third generation’.

I write because as a child I heard the words: In the Beginning was the Word.

I write because Carolyn Heilbrun said there are four ways to write a woman’s life: as a fiction, as a biography, as a memoir and as a map of what she will do next. If we can imagine it, we can write it. If we can write it, we can live it.

I write to imagine it. I write to live it.

I write because in the 19th c the Norwegian writer Amalie Skram was institutionalized by her husband because she couldn’t balance being wife and mother and writer. She vowed she would live to tell the story and in Under Observation, published by Seal Press in Seattle, she did.

I write because Sor Juana, the most educated nun in Mexico’s history, was ordered by her Bishop to stop writing. She has been silent since 1692. The story of her silencing was written by Electa Arenal in The Answer (1994).

I write because we have an epic for Ulysses; none for Penelope. An epic for Moses; none for Miriam.

I write because neither Gertrude Stein nor the poet H.D. – Hilda Doolittle – was on the syllabus of my graduate course in American literature.

Because neither the painter Artemesia nor the playwright Aphra Behn, both of the 17th c, were names we heard in school.

I write because the first poet I ever heard, read in Russian. I wanted to do what he did: to make people listen. I was 15, the place was Seattle and his name was Yevteshenko.

I write to make my words last.


Read at the International Women’s Writing Guild Conference. Yale University June 2012



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