Thursday, April 21, 2011

Our Visit with Novelist George Bishop

On Thursday, April 9, novelist George Bishop visited our Advanced Reading & Writing class at the Loyola Intensive English Program. We had spent the previous weeks reading and discussing George's novel Letter to My Daughter, and we were eager to talk with George about our responses to his novel and to learn more about how he had composed it.

Letter to My Daughter is about a troubled mother/daughter relationship. Laura's fifteen-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, has run away from home in anger, using the family car. While awaiting Elizabeth's return, Laura writes a long letter to her daughter describing her own struggles at age fifteen. Through this letter, Laura hopes to connect with her daughter and to help Elizabeth navigate the challenges of adolescence.

Letter to My Daughter encompasses the themes of coming of age, parent/teen relationships, social class, teen friendship, first love, sexuality, the Vietnam War, and early loss. It provides rich material for reflection, writing, and discussion

During his visit to our class, George Bishop recounted how he received the inspiration for this novel. It happened while George was living in India and working diligently on another novel, writing and rewriting, working for the clearest expression of his ideas. Then, George decided to take a guided camel tour into the desert. The trip was hot and tiring, so George easily fell asleep that night. And he dreamed. He dreamed the story of Letter to My Daughter. All the key elements were there, especially Laura's clear and distinctive voice. George jotted down the outline of the novel's plot as soon as he awoke.

George told us that, with this outline and the clear images from his dream, the writing of Letter to My Daughter went very smoothly. But he also let us know that writing most often requires hard work and persistence. George is currently at work on a novel about a father/son relationship, and this novel is requiring full days of nitty-gritty writing work. George emphasized that writing is most often a slow process that unfolds gradually.

We enjoyed talking with George about his own experiences of growing up in the Baton Rouge area, some of his experiences as a teenager, and his perceptions of the mother and daughter in Letter to My Daughter. We also discussed our ideas about what does and does not help teenagers as they grow into adulthood.

Thank you, George Bishop, for your insightful novel Letter to My Daughter and for sharing your thoughts and experience about writing, growing, and living with us.
Our class with George Bishop (standing, second from right),
as we hold editions of Letter to My Daughter in English and in Chinese

In our next blog post, we will share with you an unusual writing project completed by the LIEP Intermediate Reading & Writing class taught by Jess Haley. This project creatively combines art, film, and the written word.