Gina Penn, unabridged.

Why Learning To Fly?

A few people have asked me why I named my short story collection “Learning To Fly”. This is a fair question. The title doesn’t describe the central theme inside and it’s certainly an odd title for a book. Surely there are other names, better names, that are more befitting of such a collection?

Momentary Lapse of Reason

Yes, there are. But this title has a certain meaning to me and it isn’t only because I’m a Pink Floyd fan and LTF happens to be my favorite song by them, even though it is. In part, perhaps, but not all.

Ever have a clear memory of childhood? I was 11 years old when “Learning To Fly” was released to video and that was around the age I began writing real stories with real people as characters along with an 11 year old’s definition of substance. It was also the year that Aliens was at the movie theatre and a young Gina Penn began a serious interest in horror as her favorite genre. My clear memory is of me sitting in my living room, watching MTV (back when MTV was worth watching) and seeing this video for the first time. I was writing a story, scribbling it with a pencil on spiral-bound notebook paper when this video caught my eye. It opens with a handsome young man cutting through vast fields of wheat with an enormous sickle. The young man spies a small plane coming toward him and stops. Stopped as I did when I first saw him.

The images of the video are quite powerful. Strong winds blowing tall stalks of wheat. The elegance of the plane as it glides over the man’s head. The peculiar dancing Native American. And the notion that if the young man wants it badly enough, he can jump off a cliff, and fly.

The words to the song are more powerful than the images. They meant something to me as an eleven year old child and have resonated with me throughout the years. The song is about beginnings, the start of something new and exciting.

A fatal attraction, holding me fast, how can I escape this irresistible grasp?

This is what my book, Learning To Fly, means to me. It is my first shaky step into an unknown so ominous that once you go in, you won’t find your way back.

No navigator to find my way home. Unladened, empty and turned to stone.

The writing process is similar to this song. It’s filled with wonderful highs and abysmal lows. The hours are long and the work is stressful. And even when you think it’s perfect, you later discover you’ve missed something; a key sentence, an awkward word, a plot hole.

Ice is forming on the tips of my wings. Unheeded warnings, I thought I thought of everything.

But, as writers, we soldier on. We keep writing. We do it for the love. For me, this song encompasses how I feel about my process, not just with this book but with all my stories. And no matter what, my sights are set for the clouds. Not to go through them but to fly above them.

There’s no sensation to compare with this.

Suspended animation, a state of bliss.

Can’t keep my eyes from the circling skies. Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.

2 responses

  1. Pink Floyd will always cause momentary lapses of reason for me. The Division Bell, The Final Cut, Obscured by Clouds, The Dark Side of the Moon, Meddle, Wish You Were Here, The Wall, the list seems to never end and each album seems to throw one peace of symphonic bliss to your ears after another. Many nights I spent listening and dissecting the tones and verbiage that floated on a carousel of music. Maybe it’s the though process of an old hippie like me, but I find hope in the nectar that I’m able to squeeze from this fresh Pink fruit. This is where I found yours;

    You’re gonna go far, fly high,
    You’re never gonna die,
    You’re gonna make it if you try;
    They’re gonna love you.

    Welcome to the machine.

    June 13, 2011 at 9:41 am

    • I don’t think simply saying “thank you” actually expresses how grateful I am for this comment. And “awesome” would be a complete understatement. You can’t see me doing this but your comment is being printed and tacked on the corkboard in front of me so I can look at it whenever I’m down. You have a way with the written word that makes sense to me and I think your gift sometimes supersedes its own intended purpose–this is not a bad thing to have happen. I hope we are friends a long time. I have a feeling that I will be needing more of those words in the years to come. My only hope is that I am able to return the favor.

      June 13, 2011 at 10:12 pm

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