Amazing Rapunzle Finelli Hangs by Her Hair
McSweeney's, Fall 2004
what Amanda liked: stories that grab you and take you for a ride,
characters you want to know better, or think you know but you're
wrong, language that is precise and fresh (but not writers who "masturbate
with language"). She mystified students by scribbling in the margins
of their stories things like "yeah, I do that," "oooh, gross" or
"I like this it's strange." She told them: "Write like your
life depended on it." She focused on basics: What is the story you're
telling? Whose story is it? Where does it take place? But most of
all, she exhorted writers to probe: "Write until you write about
what makes you uncomfortable."
was the harshest critic of her own work and everyone else's best
editor and ally. Those of us she read or line-edited were, to use
a phrase she liked, lucky fish. She could bore a hole through a
sentence, knock the stuffing out of an idea. She could find the
nerve you were pussyfooting around and ask you why you were scared
of it. She could talk about it until three in the morning, feed
you tea and ginger snaps and just enough resolve, then make you
laugh about it all. She could say, "know that I like it," or "this
is good," and when she did you knew you had done something worthy.
Yes, the girl who penned email subject lines like "you smoke crack
with your bottom" could speak the truth, quietly, calmly, with a
smile and a hand on your knee, and you just knew it was oracular
I have some of her journals. Amanda, the writer, to herself: "WRITE,
motherfucker." And: "I'm doing a lot of sitting and staring." She
asked herself the tough questions, kicked her own ass when she didn't
write, even nagged: "Back to work, lady. Come on."
to the Amanda Davis Highwire Award. And welcome Jessica Anthony.
Congratulations on being a writer Amanda would call the real thing.
Now write like your life depended on it. Back to work, lady.