Aphorisms from the Sun Valley Writer’s Conference

Riding the ski lift up the side of Bald Mountain in Idaho is a pretty exhilarating experience, especially in August when there are no skiers, just the occasional mountain-bikers, with their cycles hung on the lift chairs kind of like the roasted ducks you see in the windows of Chinese restaurants. Below are the steep slopes of the mountain; occasionally, you spot some deer, grazing with lowered heads in the fields like shoppers browsing through the lowest shelves of a used bookstore. At the summit, some 9,000 feet up, the Sawtooth Mountains surround you; the view, and the thinner atmosphere, take your breath away.

My family and I were there to attend the The Sun Valley Writer’s Conference, one of the world’s most amazing literary events. The author talks—by writers including W.S. Merwin, Ted Kooser, Maira Kalman, David Macaulay, Alberto Manguel, Robert Caro, Ethan Canin, and more—were as breathtaking as the landscape. And the conference attendees, who had come from all over the U.S. for five days of workshops and lectures, were equally amazing—completely engaged and utterly engaging. I did a workshop on ‘how to write aphorisms’ as well as an edition of my Juggling Aphorisms show. Here are some of the aphorisms I picked up from participants…

From attendee Rochelle Ginsburg:

Don’t wait to reach the light at the end of the tunnel; light up the tunnel.

From SVWC patron Tom Smith, who picked these up from a friend whose husband originated them:

You don’t get what you expect; you get what you inspect.

If something is worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.

From Alberto Manguel, author of A History of Reading and The Library at Night:

With the Internet, we have all the facts at our fingertips but we need to know where to put our finger.

Every library has a much, much vaster censored library.

Alberto Manguel also shared an aphorism by Borges:

Writers write what they can; readers read what they want.

From Patrick Hunt, archaeologist and author of Ten Discoveries that Rewrote History:

Even stars cast shadows.

Alberto Manguel also told a wonderful story about someone who found an obscure book in a library and noted that he was the very first person to check it out, even though the book had been in the library’s collection for decades. When he pointed this out to the librarian, the librarian said: “But, of course, sir, we bought it for you.”