Conroy Defined Being A Writer: Words, Wounds, and Wonder

Pat Conroy has died, leaving us afloat in a sea of less talent. His stunning work inspired people to be better, to do better, and to write better. He did so for me, inspiring me to teach and to write. I am forever grateful.

“My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.” So opens his masterful, “Prince of Tides.”

I’d read parts of the book aloud to myself, just to feel his mellifluous words flowing through my brain. He told stories I could relate to and desperately wanted to tell. The closest I could come to being him was to quote him in the prologue to my book about my dysfunctional family. “How far do you have to go to hit crazy in your family?,” he’d ask people. He lived with crazy and used his pain to fuel his words. And oh what words. Here are just a few to inspire you to keep reading, keep writing, and keep telling your stories…

On family: “A family is one of nature’s solubles; it dissolves in time like salt in rainwater.” -Prince of Tides

On books: “I can’t pass a bookstore without slipping inside, looking for the next book that will burn my hand when I touch its jacket, or hand me over a promissory note of such immense power that it contains the formula that will change everything about me.”  – My Reading Life

On teachers: “Teach them the quiet words of kindness, to live beyond themselves. Urge them toward excellence, drive them toward gentleness, pull them deep into yourself, pull them upward toward manhood, but softly like an angel arranging clouds. Let your spirit move through them softly.” Prince of Tides

On spirituality: “He treated the stars as though they were love songs written to him by God.” South of Broad

On living: “There were far worse strategies in life than to try to make each aspect of one’s existence a minor work of art.”  The Lords of Discipline

On being an author: “An author must gorge himself on ten thousand images to select the magical one that can define a piece of the world in a way one has never considered before.” – My Losing Season

I leave you with his thoughts on what writers do: “The language locks itself in the icy slopes of our own high passes, and it is up to us, the writers, to melt the glaciers within us. When these glaciers break off, we get to call them novels, the changelings of our burning spirits, our life’s work.” – My Reading Life

If you haven’t read Conroy, make one of his your next great read. If you have a favorite Conroy quote, please share.

Rest in peace, Prince of Tides. I hope you are floating peacefully somewhere near the beaches of your beloved South Carolina…


31 Responses to “Conroy Defined Being A Writer: Words, Wounds, and Wonder

  • I was so so sad to hear this, I loved Pat Conroy so much. His books were manna to me – I’ve read a few of his a few times, each time as anew –
    Thank you for your quotes which I will keep and treasure.

    • Manna. Perfect description, thanks. I think I’ll read one again next. Just trying to decide which one. Hard choice.

  • Thank you for his homage. I remember reading Prince of Tides and remembering the image of the tiger. Odd how great writers can imprint such pictures on the psyche. I also remember seeing the movie version of the book and perhaps have read The Great Santini, can’t remember.

    Thank you for printing memorable quotes here. I disagree with his assessment of family though. I don’t believe it dissolves in time like salt in rainwater. People die, but their memory remains. That better be true – at least until I get my memoir written. 😉

    • I think his quote of family is meant to describe just a certain type of family. True or not, though, I thought it was such a vivid description. I don’t always agree with his sentiments but I’ve always been awed by the way he states them. I do, however, agree with you — memories of family live on. That’s the power of legacy.

  • beautiful tribute to an important writer of our time. thank you.

  • …Conroy’s description is apt for those of us who live outside of our bloodlines , immersing our salt in the rainwater of friends and companions that have become family …I have come to broaden my definition of family to those I have a special connection with…a connection more attuned to sensibility than genetics…his beautiful analogy of solubility , the flux and fluidity of life, is beautiful …

    • He had a way to create beauty with prose for sure. As do you, ‘the flux and fluidity of life..”

  • I haven’t read Pat Conroy, but I’m enchanted by his words. Thanks for opening that door. Brenda

    • You can’t make a bad choice but I’d start with Prince of Tides. It’s beyond powerful.

  • Sorry to learn of his passing.

  • Prince of Tides freed me today what I need to say. I hope he found peace.

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  • When I was applying for a scholarship in graduate school, during an interview with the panel I was asked which American author I would define as “must read” and tell why. I didn’t even hesitate. My answer was Pat Conroy, PRINCE OF TIDES, because of his sense of place, his portrayal of family, his ability to blend back story with current story, and to weave geography and history with superb story.
    I was given a scholarship.
    Thank you, Pat Conroy; I should have sent you a fan thank you letter.

    • So fantastic. I can’t even imagine how many people would have given a similar answer. Yes, a “must read” author, absolutely. I’m so glad you shared this. Consider your fan letter sent!

  • Thanks for sharing this lovely tribute to Conroy; another tragic loss in our literary world. Loved all of the quotes. 🙂

  • A very lovely tribute.

  • A very great loss. I read “Prince of Tides” long ago and loved it. I think it’s time to re-read that classic.

  • A worthy tribute to a great writer. Well done.

  • When we moved, we gave away all of our books–well almost all. I kept everything by Pat Conroy. A brilliant writer who used his damaged-ness to scribe genius. He is already sorely missed. Very nice tribute. TY

    • I love your phrase about scribing genius. Beautiful way to describe his way with words. Glad you kept those. I totally understand your choice.

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