January 6, 2013 § 3 Comments
They were left on the counter, having somehow escaped the holiday feasting madness…five little cuties…all alone…one of them was rather hard, it’s juice having gone somewhere, seeping through its skin maybe, I dunno. But it was rock hard and refused the juicing I was about to give the other four…because there’s magic in that juice…and writers can always use a little magic.
(photo by DCL)
May 3, 2012 § 9 Comments
On the last day of our Gulf vacay, this sign was just outside a lunch cafe.
Funny how even a grey weather day on a vacay stint just doesn’t matter.
You have, by now, relearned livingwithin Nature, embraced by it, wrapped up in the balm of walking around in the air, have learned how to be beyond the office walls, and you’ve rediscovered the relativity of time without a clock, including all the things you can do or not do within a day that doesn’t involve desks, meetings or email.
In fact, you’re likely to tilt your head skyward, close your eyes, open your mouth and taste the rain.
Books read on vacay:
Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani. I like her books (see her THE SHOEMAKER’S WIFE on the bestseller list!) for their mix of Italian language, growing up Italian in NYC and the occasional inclusion of fictional relatives in Italy. It recalls hours and hours at my mother-in-law’s kitchen table in Brooklyn.
The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell is a decent read with inspirational value, some strong recommendations and one or two esoteric exercises. Yes, read it. Even if you’re not a writer. But if you’re reading this, you probably are.
And then there are the magazines but much reading time was replaced by “friend” time because we holidayed with best friends and I cannot tell you how luxurious it is to drop in (a few floors down) for coffee with a BFF at the beginning of a day.
Do we not have something of the same luxury wtih our blog friends? Indeed!
April 11, 2011 § 9 Comments
Last year at a writers’ conference, I chose not to pitch the book I was working on. It was partly out of respect because, you know your book should be finished before you pitch it, especially if you’re a first-time writer. But it was also partly because I was too shy. What? Too shy? Too shy to sit in front of an agent and “sell” my book, enough to pique his/her interest and get her to say “send it to me” ? what? I couldn’t muster that?
But this year was different. Pitching to an agent, for five minutes, FIVE MINUTES!, was included with the conference price. I’d be crazy not to try. Further, serendipitously, I had, two weeks prior to the conference, discovered the presence of a local agent/publisher. She would be attending the conference, listening to pitches and was interested specifically in Missouri writers. I signed up. Nothing to lose, right? (still, if one could lose weight by being stressed, I would have lost about 5 pounds moments before I was to pitch!)
Here’s what I now know about pitching.
1) Get your pitch down to one sentence.
2) Don’t waste any time disclaiming or explaining … about your book OR your writing!
3) Leave your business card (seriously) when you leave the table.
Once finished, there is a good chance you will hear “send it to me.” This does not mean your book is accepted; this means you showed up at the conference, you chose the right agent to pitch to, you care about the writing/publishing process, you want to move your book forward and that the agent will take a look at it. “Send it to me” is only the first of the many million steps in moving closer to publication.
Pitching, for its own sake, is darn good practice. There you are with 5 minutes sitting across from an agent who is NOT scary (really) and there you are, listening to your own voice distill the book you are working on and wondering if it even sounds like something YOU want to read!
Following your pitch, you may make several of many different decisions.
(I have no idea if anyone else would read my book. A writer tends to work in solitary. I will look into buddying up with a “first reader”, though.)
Anyway, I recommend pitching.
It is preparation, it is distillation, it is nerve and guts and belief. If you believe in your book, if you don’t hear any falseness in your own voice as you pitch it , if there are no niggling doubts in the back of your mind, then you are, at least, on the right road.
Even if the book gets a look, I know one thing for sure. It needs tons of work. And that work is still (and always) part of the fun.
But yeah, I’m keeping my day job.
March 15, 2011 § 7 Comments
Meet Juliet Wilson. She’s The Crafty Green Poet.
I’ve been reading her blog, her haikus, and tales of her traipses around her native Scotland and pictures of her “wilderness” for several years.
Juliet is one of those people in one of those places that catches your interest and writing-ness and is a reminder of all things good and green, along with ideas, without preachiness.
She’s a poet.
She’s published a chapbook.
She’s keeping it green.
It’s not easy, being green. (I know, I know, Kermit said, er, sang that.) But it’s true. And in spite of the laptop and PCs, etc., I have a “thing” for paper, but trying, oh, trying so hard to make excellent use of it.
Here’s to “green” writing!
April 26, 2010 § 5 Comments
Intrigued as usual by the idea of a workshop, I danced around this particular book (pictured above) at B&N and jabbered about it enough, asking “Would it be great? why wouldn’t it be great? sure, it would be good, wouldn’t it?” and not long afterwards, it showed up as a gift from HM after I’d walked away from it several times.
The book is composed of 17 chapters by writers writing about writing fiction. Their names, too, show on the cover. A good idea. While I didn’t recognize all of them, though I should have (who’s Oakley Hall?), authors Chabon, Lamott and Johnson caught my eye. I’ve read them. I feel comfortable knowing who they are having read them. I know they know what they’re doing and could quite possibly communicate some of that to me.
And Richard Ford wrote the introduction, slowed me down, asked me to pay attention to his words and all those that would follow.
The book is “workshoppy,” like hanging out with that writer for a serious 15 – 20 minutes, listening, scribbling notes, dogearing! Some share their life as it “stories” with the point they’re making. Some are funny, several are downright serious. All are saying something essential but you need to listen harder to some than others.
For some reason, Diane Johnson (author of L’Affaire and Le Divorce and several others) resonated. (Results: many dogears within her chapter, which surprised me as I wasn’t an absolute fan of the two aforementioned novels but read them in part “to see” what was going on, what she was all about, why reviewers touted her as the modern Jane Austen. Mmmmm…maybe. If you’ve read her, let me know what you think.) Anyway, her chapter made me laugh or nod my head “yes.” Here are a few bits that brought a smile.
“My impression is that writers in general, but especially fiction writers, are pleasant people. They like each other…”
“I’ve mentioned that a novelist is an odd thing to be. Many years ago I came up with an example based on experience from the fact that you’d think twice before telling someone sitting next to you no a plane that you were a novelist. To begin with, people don’t believe you. …I think it’s because each person feels in himself that unwritten novel trying to get out and knows he hasn’t actually sat down to let it out, hasn’t sat down at the computer and done his novel, and he suspects that you haven’t either.
“If your seatmate learns you have, he finds it irritating and reproachful. He’s also equally suspicious if you are willing and if you aren’t willing to listen to his novel idea. If you listen you’ll steal it, and if you don’t, he’s insulted that you find it dull.”
“The person on the plane, and your relatives and friends too, are afraid you will put them in your novel, but also that you won’t.”
“When things are going well, you do have the feeling of pleasure and order that always rewards the artist….that the trick you’re pulling on the world is working, that the world is paying you to sit cozily in your room making up stories.”
It’s a good walk, this book, with excellent views along the way, and some sharp advice.
April 21, 2010 § 26 Comments
Oh, the darn mirrors! I realize they help observe “form” but egads…
Nory won an opportunity to take ten friends to a boxing class and asked me and we didn’t know what to expect other than we might be out of our comfort zones (totally) and one of my great friends came along (so I wouldn’t be the sole middle-ager) and we got there and milled around a bit, asking questions and waiting for the second trainer to arrive and then there were real training gloves to don which was very cool and immediately transformed my attitude and energy and then the music came on and our trainer began demonstrating and shouting out directions and there we were jump roping and punching bags (as pictured above) and scooting around aerobically and kicking and punching and cardio-ing and weirdly, everything started to get easier as we went along except for the fatigue part where you think your arms will fall off and then we were “on the floor” doing crunches and crazy planks on our sides and then we were back up to punch and kick and starting to get the hang of it even though turning to rubber at the same time and glad I didn’t have to do 15 rounds in a ring which I still can’t imagine, and then we were up and down and up and down with tips and encouragement along the way and then suddenly, we were done.
Forty-five minutes went like this (insert snapping of fingers) and then there we were all pathetically drenched in sweat and no one minded and no one cared about their hair and everyone felt lighter, relaxed, and very worked out.
So thank you Nory for opening another door!
Me, Nory and friends, post-workout!
The Pugilist at Rest by Thom Jones has been on my shelf for years. I read it as soon as I purchased it, read it all the way through, searching for why he was considered a prize winning story-ist (he won an O Henry for his title short story). I don’t think I “got it” at the time. I think I need to go back and read him now. Though there was a lot of pain as well as boxing and also the Viet Nam war in his stories, I am curious again about his style and craft and overall what caught Updike’s eye when he included Jones in a Best Short Stories anthology.
March 13, 2010 § 11 Comments
(Note that my pen in the above picture is NOT on fire, for safety, and also, symbolically)
I read books about writing. I love reading books about writing. I can’t help it. I am always looking for a truth, or a hint, or an eye opener of some un-designated sort, and support….and perhaps the Muse, sitting among the pages.
I have one huge over-stuffed shelf full of books all aimed at writing:
how to write novels, poems, stuff;
what makes good writing;
writers on writing;
readers on writing;
writing workshops; and,
the craft of writing, including grammar like Strunk & White, and Lynne Truss’s hilarious hit on grammer as well.
As of the beginning of February, I am on a mission to actually read and write my way through all these books. I am also on a mission to use and fill some of the more than half dozen journals I have been given (or, purchased in a weak moment). I have, ’til now, saved my journals, thinking each one should be dedicated to something particular. Pooh. They sit there looking pretty, artsy, fat (which is a good thing in paper world) and patient. I am now responding to their siren call. Same with all the writing books whose presence has, at least, been supportive if nothing else as they sit silently on the shelf near my writing table.
So, my mission began with a 6″x9″ journal (way too small, by the way) and with Pen on Fire by, um, well, you can see her name in the picture above, and while I enjoyed it, partly for the aesthetics because the book’s paper and font were both above average and the cover not so bad and the author’s tone nice and upbeat, still I found it a bit more for beginners.
She writes well-named chapters and plenty of them with titles including “Writing Like There’s No Tomorrow,” “Stolen Moments,” “Celebrate Your Otherness,” “Plot or Not,” “That Black Hole: TV,” and “Marketplace Madness.” That’s just a smattering.
Each chapter has a bit of her in there (sometimes too much for me yet not that compelling although assuredly her life IS full of writing and writing moments but it’s the way she tells it that leaves me a bit uninspired). Each chapter has some lessons of sorts which are good and supportive, which is a HUGE reason that writers read about reading.
And then each chapter is followed by writing exercises. These I found far too general, not accenting the craft but more abstract -general-silly-organizational bits like “go out and gather pieces of nature and write about them.” Well, not those words exactly, but those kinds of things.
So having finished this first book on my mission, I can say that I prefer the challenging exercises that John Gardner and even Natalie Goldberg will present. (I read them voraciously several years ago and then wrote following their exercises.) More focused, more pointed, more expecting something out of you. More about craft. More about charging ahead and writing and then looking back to find something in one’s writing wake.
So, I recommend Pen On Fire for those who need a little support , a bit of a push, a very wee bit of an idea, and who are maybe just starting out with writing, whether in journaling or blogging. I didn’t find anything new here. No, I’m not jaded or negative. I’m just saying. Oh, and she did point me to yet another book about writing that I hadn’t heard of before – definitely a great thing.
Still, following some of her suggestions (cuz I skipped more than half of them), I am filling up that little 6×9 inch journal .
Next: I will choose another journal and have already chosen the book which will be Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away (her most recent – maybe three years old?) iand will see how things roll or change or move following its exercises.