Up Close and Personal with Sue Monk Kidd

On October 1st, I went to see Sue Monk Kidd. Although she was the third author I had seen in person, and not the last, she was the most enthralling. She spoke in Cascia Hall in Tulsa, but, with almost no effort at all, rivaled its beauty, elegance and grace.

We were welcomed by Teresa Miller, the founder of the Oklahoma center for poets and writers. She teaches creative writing, and is the Executive Director of the organization. There was a beautiful performance of “Heaven’s my Home”. It was sung by Janet Rutland and was accompanied by a cello player, violin player and guitar player. When Clifton Taulbert took the stage he was glorious. Sometime that really stuck in my mind was when he said that all writers are is captain of words. We steer people with the way we manipulate words, twenty-six letters, and they stay with us like a loyal crew.

When Sue Monk Kidd took the stage, she said, “I had never been to a place that was as gracious to me.” Doing book tours and being around the country and even the world, its crazy that she thought a city in the middle east was the best to her.

She started to talk about the literal elements in her works. She notices that she has patterns that appear in all of her works. She has core images in all her works. Something that all her novels come back to. All of her stories start in the characters life; they tell the story of the character, from a first person point of view, in their normal life. The third pattern in her work is that all of her stories have baptism in them. Her characters go through a major change and come out the same way. I thought this was interesting because she didn’t realize that she was doing this until someone pointed it out to her.

She laughed and joked and she read. We all sat up straight in our chairs and leaned forward, hanging on every word she said. She started with the invention of wings which is a story about a thirty-five year friendship, and its complexities between an African American slave and the daughter of a wealthy white man. The secret life of bees is about Lily and her nanny as they escape to a small town in South Carolina. The mermaid chair is about a woman that has to go back to her hometown after tragedy hits.

When she started her Questions and Answers portion, none of the questions stuck out to me except one. The question was “How do you wrestle with the phantom voice that says don’t go there?” Although I don’t remember her answer word by word, I do remember the basics. She said that everyone has voices that say don’t go there, and you can’t go there. If everyone would listen to that voice then we would have nothing. No one would take risks and life wouldn’t move on. I’m not sure why but that has stuck with me ever since.