Some People Just Have a Way With Words


Love multiplies. And each outer ring protects the inner ones… But as time goes on and our hearts grow more rings, we don’t have to leave anyone behind.”

I came across this beautiful writing while reading Francesca Serritella’s column in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. Francesca and her mother, author Lisa Scottoline, write a weekly column called Chick Wit. Francesca contributes once a month to offer a younger perspective on family and life in general.

While her mother is certainly a successful novelist, Francesca is no slouch. She graduated cum laude from Harvard University, where she won the Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize, the Le Baron Russell Briggs Fiction Prize, and the Charles Edmund Horman Prize for her creative writing. If you want to learn more about Francesca (I just like saying that name while I type it), you can visit her web site at

I must admit that while I often read the weekly column, I have not read any of the collections of essays that Lisa and Francesca have written together. My sense is that the books would fall under the Chick Lit category, not a category that interests me.

However, Francesca’s web site mentions that she is working on a novel, and if the writing style is anything like the excerpt above, I am sure it will be a wonderful novel.

It also got me thinking about other writers who not only tell a great story, but do so with a beautiful style.

The ones that come readily to mind for me are Pat Conroy and Gregory David Roberts.

Conroy has written several best-selling novels, including The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides. While The River Is Wide is probably my favorite Pat Conroy book, the following excerpt from South of Broad illustrates what I mean by beautiful writing:

I carry the delicate porcelain beauty of Charleston like the hinged shell of some soft-tissued mollusk, My soul is peninsula-shaped and sun-hardened and river-swollen. The high tides of the city flood my consciousness each day, subject to the whims and harmonies of full moons rising out of the Atlantic. I grow calm when I see the ranks of palmetto trees pulling guard duty of the banks of Colonial Lake or hear the bells of St. Michael’s calling cadence in the cicada-filled trees along Meeting Street. 

Many people may not be familiar with Gregory David Roberts, but he is the author of Shantaram, perhaps the most beautifully written novel I have ever read. The story itself is a captivating one (and somewhat autobiographical), and I couldn’t put the book down. But what elevates it to the level of a classic, at least in my opinion, is the writing style.

Here is a brief excerpt from Shantaram, describing a bus ride through Bombay, India.

I looked at the people, then, and I saw how busy they were – how much industry and energy described their lives. Occasional sudden glimpses inside the huts revealed the astonishing cleanliness of the pverty: the spotless floors, and glistening metal pots in neat, tapering towers. And then, last, what should’ve been first, I saw how beautiful they were: the women wrapped in crimson, blue, and gold; the women walking barefoot through the tangled shabbiness of the slum with patient, ethereal grace; the white-toothed, almond-eyed handsomeness of the men; and the affectionate camaraderie of the fine-limbed children, older ones playing with younger ones, many of them supporting baby brothers and sisters on their slender hips.

I read these excerpts and I think ‘Wow, how do people learn to write like that?’ Francesca, Pat, and Gregory are able to use words to create images in our mind that many of us can visualize and feel but would not be able to describe so eloquently.

Such writing is a gift, and I am grateful that such writers are willing to share their talents with us.

Thank you, and please keep typing away…

One thought on “Some People Just Have a Way With Words

  1. I think you answered your own question. Such writing is a gift. Some of us love to write but have to practice doing it well (or adequately, at least), and others do it seemingly effortlessly. I was just telling someone today that I have to guard against comparing my writing to others’ because I fall into the “adequate but not eloquent” category, and I have to appreciate the gifts God gave ME and develop my skills as much as I can.

    As I was clicking to get to your post, I was thinking to myself, “I always enjoy reading Jim’s blog.” I appreciate your gifts, and your posts always speak to me in some way.

    As for Conroy, the only book of his I ever read was “The Prince of Tides” about 25 years ago, and I remember thinking, “Dude, we don’t need ONE MORE description of the tide pools or the flowers.” 🙂 But, yes, he is a gifted writer.

    I may have to check out Roberts.


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