EDITOR’S NOTE: Governor Mark Dayton declared October 28, 2015, MARLON JAMES DAY in the state of Minnesota. James’s novel A Brief History of Seven Killings won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for fiction, one of the world’s highest literary acclaims. Here is some advice the Macalester English professor put together for young writers:

Dear Young Writer,

Why are screams always ear shattering or blood curdling? Why are you screaming? Are your thuds mute, dull, or resounding? Why do you thud so much? On what occasions do you waft? Can we all undulate, would you rather pulsate and does either satiate? How many times can the sun kiss you before it gets inappropriate? If noise keeps assaulting your ears can you file a complaint? How much is a myriad? A plethora? A din?

Why is there always so much phlegm? Do you personally shed, spill, spurt, gush, drip, leak, and expel that much body fluid? What is a sympathetic look? What is a hostile look? Instead of retorted, exclaimed, replied, hissed, spat, accused, smirked, clucked, pointed out, acknowledged, gurgled, pondered, snapped, snarled, sneered, snickered, commented, admitted, complained, hissed, proclaimed, promised, affirmed, concluded, protested, snorted, sobbed, inquired, coughed, interjected, teased, remarked, blurted, divulged, mentioned, threatened, reported, murmured, responded, uttered, volunteered, muttered, revealed, explained, roared, cautioned, and warned, couldn’t you have just said, said?

Does everyone melt in someone’s arms? How often can one thing glimmer? Gleam? Glitter? Glow? How often can a character weep? And why is it always in the shower? Why is it always on the horizon? Why does nothing ever happen at 2 p.m.? How often in one story can a person flinch? Jerk? Wince? Cower? Fidget? What does cower mean? How come nobody ever works? Do the self-obsessed, Bon Iver playing Baristas of America know that should they stop working, the inspiration for all male fictional characters in the United States will vanish?

Why are pipes always leaking, heat always sweltering, breezes always gentle, rain always soft, eyes always blue, streets always busy, holes always gaping, horses always wild, wind always gusty, and nails always rusty? Should ignominy be as fun for me as it is for you? Where else does one use words like tendril, ominous, heaping, exited, fumble, heaving, intoxicated, expertly, grotesquely, dribble, murmur, engulfed, limpid, gusty, assail, assault, assess, assist, asinine, darkly, and dollop? Was blurted out a failure to blurt in? And while you think to yourself about these things, can you think to anyone else?

January 26 2016

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