This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for August 8, 2017: The New Criticism

August 8, 2017: birthday: Valerie Sayers

It’s the birthday of American novelist Valerie Sayers (1952) (books by this author), best known for her novel The Powers (2013), which features baseball legend Joe DiMaggio as he embarks on his historic hitting streak in 1941 against the backdrop of World War II.

Sayers was born and raised in Beaufort, South Carolina, in a large family. She was also raised Catholic at a time when being Catholic in the South was looked down upon, an experience that later informed much of her fiction. Sayers’s father was a Yankees fan, and she became a baseball devotee, which came in handy later on when she was writing The Powers.

She didn’t seriously consider being a writer until college, when she took a poetry course. She tried fiction after that, and was hooked. She says, “I finally understood that I really did have to put in the hard work, that becoming a writer was, in its own way, sort of like becoming a brain surgeon.” In college she was also a part of the Catholic Worker movement, considering it a part of her lifelong advocacy for pacifism.

Sayers has written six novels, including Due East (1987), How I Got Him Back (1989), Who Do You Love (1991), and Brain Fever (1996). When she started writing The Powers, she used the game of baseball as a kind of metaphor for the writing process. She says, “A baseball game has a complex plot line, great pacing […] tremendous tension, moral crisis, revelation.”

The Powers is an expansive novel featuring not only DiMaggio, but also two love stories, World War II, and a coming-of-age plotline. Using baseball to examine the impact of war didn’t deter Sayers while she was writing. She said, “Baseball’s theater, too, and it’s filled with poetry, but I read it as a story.”

Valerie Sayers’s advice to young writers is, “Have some fun. What the hell.”