ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Kathryn Harrison on Joan of Arc (b. 1412) in New York Times (Jan. 6, 2012): Writers Workshop Recommendation

Updated on July 21, 2014

Today's New York Times (Friday, Jan. 6, 2012, p. A23) contains Kathryn Harrison's fine memorial to French heroine Joan of Arc in this 600th year of her birth (east of Paris, exact date in 1412 unknown). I recommend anyone interested in current American writing should read this essay, for it not only brings Joan's inspiring story back to memory yet another time, but it also illustrates Kathryn Harrison's emergence as one of our finest new American writers.

Work constraints forbid any new attempt here to summarize Joan's sacrificial life of service to the French, but I do venture to note Joan's lasting contribution to Anglo-American civilization by helping convince the 15th-century English people, and their various kings, that the English belonged in England, not in France.

The Times essay footnote indicates Ms. Harrison has undertaken the formidable task of adding her own new biography of Joan of Arc to the voluminous literature that already exists. This naturally leads one to take a serious fresh note of her whole body of work thus far which includes several well-received novels and memoirs, a book of essays Seeking Rapture, and a biography of St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-97, the "Little Flower").

Kathryn Harrison's writing lacks the mind-boggling density of the new British transplant sensation Zadie Smith (thank goodness!), but in welcome contrast, Harrison's prose usually leaves the reader with enough human time and space to catch up to her penetrating observations and insights into everyday life as, perhaps, a wider spectrum of Americans experience it.

I hope to comment at greater length elsewhere on Harrison's work.

Comments from the Writers Workshop

How to select a topic? How does Kathryn Harrison select her writing topics? She said in an interview that one book naturally resulted after she found her personal interest in the subject leading her into the relevant deep research. Would anyone care to elaborate on this point we frequently make?!

How to turn my insights from everyday life into good writing? This common lament of beginning writers can often be solved by reading the work of established new authors (like Kathryn Harrison) known for writing and publishing their insights into everyday life.

All the time we must remind new writers to read, read, read the best published material they can get their hands on. No one ever yet has successfully separated (a) the task of writing from (b) the joy of reading the best of previous English-language literature, if not from your own library, then readily available to anyone without charge at any public library.

What makes a good story? The Times essay on Joan of Arc suggests one good answer. With so many different accounts of Joan's life, Harrison wonders why "it seems Joan of Arc will never be laid to rest. Is this because stories we understand are stories we forget?"

She looks for stories that not only "rationalize human experience" but "enlarge it with the breath of mystery." In conclusion, she predicts that "as long as we look to heroes for inspiration, to leaders whose vision lifts them above our limited perspective, who cherish their values above their earthly lives, the story of Joan of Arc will remain one we remember, and celebrate."

Notes. Max prefers a paper copy of the Times delivered to his door each day, but you can also reference the Harrison article on the New York Times web pages. Any aspiring new writer, esp. of fiction, should then look up Kathryn Harrison on the Internet to learn more about her work and read a composite of her current interviews where she comes across as a truly genuine and legitimate person.

[Disclaimer: Max does not personally know Kathryn Harrison, or anyone that she knows, so far as he knows, nor does he consider it likely that he ever will.]


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Max Havlick profile imageAUTHOR

      Max Havlick 

      6 years ago from Villa Park, Illinois

      Thank you, Sarah. I'm sure many, incl. myself, would enjoy seeing any response you might have from reading anything by or about Kathryn Harrison.

    • Sarah Shepherd profile image

      Sarah Shepherd 

      6 years ago from San Diego, California

      I liked this, Max. Great ideas for new, or even seasoned, writers. Thank you for sharing.

      P.S. I will be checking this intriguing woman out.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)