"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." ~ William Wordsworth

The Writing Life Too

And if you're reading this, it means you're not writing.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Real writers need frustration. They need embarrassment. They need cold, uncomfortable rooms, miles from a mobile signal. There should be an infestation of at least one parasite, a backlog of warnings from the Student Loans Company and just enough coffee for what Don DeLillo calls "an occasional revelation". From The Guardian book blog, February 2010
In Memorium
With deep thanks for the men and women who have served our country.

From today's The Writer's Almanac:
"Today is Memorial Day. It became a holiday after the Civil War, to honor the Union and Confederate soldiers who had died in battle, and after World War I it was extended to honor all United States soldiers who died in any war. It happens to fall this year on May 30, which was the original date for the holiday; Union general John Logan chose the 30th specifically because it was not the anniversary of any battle. But in 1968, Congress's Uniform Holidays Act severed the link between Memorial Day and the original date, changing it instead to "the last Monday in May" to allow for a three-day weekend. Some are opposed to the switch, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye; they believe people have lost sight of the original meaning of the holiday, a day for reconciliation and honor. It has lately become a holiday for families to remember anyone they have lost (veteran or otherwise), to lay flowers at gravesites, and, in later years, barbecue, shop, and watch the Indianapolis 500. For those unable to travel to the graves of their loved ones, there are websites like FindAGrave.com, where one can create a cyber-monument and leave a "virtual" note or bouquet.

Some choose to visit the grave of a favorite author. Ernest Hemingway (books by this author) served in the Red Cross during World War I and his grave, in the Municipal Cemetery, is one of the main tourist attractions of Ketchum, Idaho, where he was living at the time of his suicide in 1961. Fans leave bottles of liquor, and pennies, as though Papa could grant their wishes." To read the rest of this piece about authors' graves go here .

From an Editor's Desk: writing from memories
Memory, no matter how it’s incorporated in our writing, doesn’t equal nostalgia or sentimentality. When you track your memory, you’re hunting the stuff of real life, the grit and sorrow, along with laughter and bliss. Whenever you’re prompting or reviewing memories, approach the past with an open and questioning mind. Dust off the memory, but then examine all sides of it, using the lamplight of adult knowledge. Remove the filters, and notice the emotions that arise from memory.
Search for the intricate connection of memory. If a memory slips in unbidden during the day, track its source. What where you doing or thinking when the memory came to light? In writing from memory, be selective. If you’re crafting nonfiction, remember that essays and memoirs don’t wander, they are defined by theme and meaning. It’s impossible to write about every event from birth to death. Choose significant moments, narrow your time frame.
      Memory is a slippery thing. A distant scene will appear unbidden; a tragedy will refuse to leave our consciousness. We are sometimes haunted by our past and sometimes able to step into a distant time to relish life again. When mining the past, ask yourself what it means. So often we understand ourselves, our families, our tragedies long after events unfolds So often we spend our lives puzzling, teasing over the meaning of things. Marilyn Ferguson suggests, "In most lives insight has been accidental. We wait for it as primitive man awaited lightening for a fire. But making mental connections is our most crucial learning tool, the essence of human intelligence; to forge links; to go beyond the given; to see patterns, relationship, context."

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Market Resource
Here is a resource for those of you looking to publish that I've just run across: Duotropes Digest   It's a free listing of poetry and fiction publications. If you have success with this resource, please let me know.
"Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”  ~Winston Churchill
What about you?
I've been blogging here on and off since 2004. Seems like a long time, but I discontinued blogging when I was literally writing three books at the same time and slowed down a lot while recovering from an accident. As we all know there is a lot of noise and information on the internet, so I'm wondering, what kind of content are you looking for here? I plan to continue interviewing authors and passing along tidbits about the writing life. My columns and longer pieces will be featured at my web site from now on. But I'd like to fill a need here before my next books are published. Your input would be appreciated. Meanwhile, keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart
Quick Take:
Fiction should always portray higher truths and the human heart exposed.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Skies silver and drippy over Portland. I'm distracted today. My daughter is going to be induced and will be having her daughter by tomorrow. So if I'm not around, I'm busy with my family.  Also, there is still plenty of time to register for Summer in Words June 24-26 in Cannon Beach, Oregon although spaces are filling up. Meanwhile, people out there keep writing. And if you have a first draft that is not working break through your resistence--and trust me, you have it in some form, and come at it with new eyes and lots of stamina.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Writing Life turns 100!
The newsletter that is. Here's  the proof .
Although I couldn't format it worth a damn, this still is issue 100. Which means  I'm still writing folks. How about you? 
Programming Note:
I'm going to be the guest on Barbara DeMarco Barrett Writers on Writing show this Wednesday at 9 AM (May 25) Pacfic Time. Writers on Writing is a weekly radio program produced and hosted by author Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, with co-host Marrie Stone. Each Wednesday at 9am Pacific, writers, poets and literary agents join her and/or Marrie. The show is broadcast from the studios of KUCI-FM; on your radio in Orange County, CA, at 88.9 and simulcast worldwide at http://www.kuci.org/.
I'll be yakking for an hour, so please listen in or you can download the podcast here

Sunday, May 22, 2011

From an Editor's Desk
Often when I lecture I talk about how all the new media is changing the way in which readers perceive communications. Plugged into televisions, smart phones, YouTube,  and text messages, we don't  see the world in the same way any more. And we while we read in the same linear, left to right fashion that we once did when opening a book, our brain is acclimated to all sorts of stimulus. Because our brain is receiving messages and stories in images and sounds all the time, electronic media is returning us to an auditory and visual culture. As in the days before books and reading. 

So think about it when you're writing. Humans have been listening to stories for 190,000 years. Over this span of time, we’ve developed deeply unconscious ways of responding to Story. However, these days, the audio and visual stimuli that exists all around us makes the reader/listener/viewer feel emotions with a lot of immediacy from sound. Your words on the page need that same degree of resonance, potency, and drama as stories they watch and hear. Just saying.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Programming Note:
Cannon Beach shoreline
I've just added updates and reminders about Summer in Words over at the website. If you've been vacillating about joining us, remember that May 24th is the final date to receive the discount on the hotel room at the Hallmark Inn & Resort.
Think about Not Waiting Your Turn
Blue, blue skies as another perfect spring day is unfolding here. If you've been following this blog you might know that I grew up in small town in northern Wisconsin where a bunch of my aunts, uncles, and cousins still live and where my maternal grandparents are buried. That I was a girl who spent much of her childhood outdoors, swimming, bicycling, ice skating under wide skies and exploring forests after adventure. And when I was 14 my family  moved to another small town in southern Wisconsin about 20 miles from Milwaukee and five miles from the wide, cold waters of Lake Michigan. In Wisconsin they talk a lot about "lake effect" weather because Lake Michigan is the eastern border, Lake Superior the northern border and there are thousands of lakes dotted throughout the state. It's a place of waters, simple as that.

When I moved to the second small town I attended a high school that offered dozens of electives and I started studying journalism and fell in love with it. I'd always loved to write and was writing fantasies and poems and such that kids write, but in journalism I found a sort of home, because I loved news and I realize now that I loved to explain things, or at least try to explain things. That sorting out ideas on the page made me feel something I didn't feel in any other part of my life. Which back when I was a teenager wasn't all that happy because I was a teen and there were lots of reasons not to be happy.

I went to college several different times because I couldn't figure out what to do with my life, I worked in restaurants and owned my own catering business, I raised a daughter who is about to birth another daughter any day now, I fumbled around and then came back to journalism. And so I double majored in journalism and English Lit and found a place for myself bit by bit writing for alternative newspapers, community newspapers, regional magazines. I wrote features because I was curious about how people lived their lives and about food because I loved to cook and was excited about all the new trends. And then that part of my life morphed when I moved to Portland, Oregon and started teaching writers what little I knew. In the beginning I didn't know much, but I kept learning and kept teaching and these days lots of my students have gone on to publish and flourish, and although I cannot take the credit, I do know that I was a person who kept asserting that words and stories are important. That sometimes words are all we have to make sense of this troubled, roiling world.

And along the way I followed the careers of famous journalists and read their words again and again because I wanted to emulate how they captured life and truth and light on the page. One of my icons was Charles Kuralt. So it was with great pleasure that I read this commencent speech by Robert Krulich (host of Radiolab)to the Berkley School of Journalism graduating class where he mentions how Kuralt got his start in the business. Like many writers, I'm worried about the demise of newspapers and journalism. So in his advice he talks about Charlies Kuralt's passions and commitment to standards and he talks about how journalists, particularly science journalists will break in to today in this changing media landscape. It's a long piece, but I recommend that you read it and you just might be moved by it. And remember that great storytellers will always remain with us because they caught a moment, an event, a story on the page.
Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Quick Take:
When plotting, keep in mind that often the worse problems happen when least expected. Sort of like life. As you write or plan scenes you might want to ask, what is the worst thing that can happen next? Or, what surprising element can you add--something the reader will never see coming round the bend?
"Remember yourself, from the days when you were younger and rougher and wilder, more scrawl than straight line. Remember all of yourself, the flaws and faults as well as the many strengths. Carl Jung once said, "If people can be educated to see the lowly side of their own natures, it may be hoped that they will also learn to understand and to love their fellow men better. A little less hypocrisy and a little more tolerance toward oneself can only have good results in respect for our neighbors, for we are all too prone to transfer to our fellows the injustice and violence we inflict upon our own natures." ~ Anna Quindlen
commencement speech at Mount Holyoke College

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"All you need now is to stand at the window and let your rhythmical sense open and shut, open and shut, boldly and freely, until one thing melts in another, until the taxis are dancing with the daffodils, until a whole has been made from all these separate fragments." ~  Virginia Woolf, Letter To A Young Poet
Ann Hood and Loss
Ann Hood is an amazing writer. Her stories are full of aching depth, characters so real seeming you can imagine them in your kitchen, and language that wraps into your heart. She lost her daughter Grace when she was five to a virulent form of strep and has been writing about it in various places, including in her memoir The Red Thread. Although there are no happy endings when a child dies, Ann and her husband adopted Annabelle from China and this too is reported in The Red Thread.
Salon.com has a weekly feature called Mortifying Moments in which writers confess something they normally wouldn't disclose. Ann Hood has written about her daughter's death in an essay called What I never told anyone about her death
For those of you who are struggling to master the essay form, this is how. For those of you afraid to write about hard topics, this is your doorway into bravery. It begins:
Dead bodies do get a grayish blue/purple hue because blood pools in the capillaries and the body starts to decompose. It's not smurf blue, but it's not a pleasant shade.

The ultrasound technician moves her transducer over my almost six-month-pregnant belly, sliding easily across the thick gel she's spread there. The gel works as a conductor for the sound waves the transducer is producing in my uterus. Think of bats, a friend told me before the procedure. It's the same kind of sonar. But as those sound waves bounce off bone and tissue and a black-and-white image of my baby appears on the screen, I cannot think of bats. Watching the fuzzy gray heart beat, I can only think of one thing: I want to hold this baby. Now. Forever.

"Do you want to know the sex?" the technician asks, pausing over something that my husband and I cannot identify.

We've already agreed that we do want to know, even though I am already confident this baby is a girl. I don't know why I have such certainty about my pregnancies, but I knew that my first baby was a boy and that this one is a girl.

I am not surprised when the technician announces, "You've got a daughter!"

I am not surprised, but I am elated. It is the perfect family: a boy, then a girl. A big brother for a little sister. They are three years apart, my Sam and Grace, both names chosen during my first pregnancy. After a bumpy start to this marriage, to my move from Manhattan to Providence, R.I., things are settling. It is as if my life has taken a big, happy sigh.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Writing Opportunity
The evening sky is striped in soft shades of grey and pink and blue. Here's a contest that I can recommend since my writer pal Marian Pierce won it a few years ago: Wordstock is pleased to announce the call for submissions for the 5th Wordstock Short Fiction Competition.

This national contest is a blind competition. The winner of the competition receives a first prize of $1,000 and publication in the October 2011 issue of Portland Monthly magazine. All 10 finalists' stories will be published in the Wordstock Ten, an anthology that will be available at the festival, at Portland-area bookstores, and online through the Wordstock website. Every writer who enters the competition will receive a copy of the anthology.

The final judge for this year's competition is novelist Aimee Bender.

Bender is the author of four books: The Girl in the Flammable Skirt (1998) which was a NY Times Notable Book, An Invisible Sign of My Own (2000) which was an L.A. Times pick of the year, Willful Creatures (2005) which was nominated by The Believer as one of the best books of the year, and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (2010) which recently won the SCIBA award for best fiction, and an Alex Award. Her short fiction has been published in Granta, GQ, Harper's, Tin House, McSweeney's, The Paris Review, and many more places, as well as heard on PRI's This American Life and Selected Shorts. Her fiction has been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches creative writing at USC.

The fee to enter the contest is $20. Any proceeds from the competition go to support Wordstock's education programs. The deadline for entering the 2011 competition is July 15.

Complete submission guidelines are available at http://wordstockfestival.com/get-involved/short-fiction-competition

And according to Writer's Almanac: On this day in 1893, a patent was issued for a typewriter “type bar” that would make the results visible while typing. It was the first of its kind.
Typewriters became commercially available in the 1870s and featured an under-stroke type bar that obscured the writing from the typist. A magazine story called “The American Typewriter: A Story of Progress” that appeared in The Banker’s Magazine in 1911 recounted that most people were satisfied with the under-stroke machine. “Few looked for any radical change in the then accepted design, which had a large demand and was considered to be well nigh ultimate perfection.”

Underwood Typewriter Company was the first to adopt the new innovation, bringing a front-stroke “visible” typewriter to market in 1897. The machine was a tremendous success and soon there was a large demand for visible typewriters. The Underwood typewriter manufacturing plant in Hartford, Connecticut, could not keep up with demand and had to increase its capacity every year. By 1911, it was double the size of any typewriter factory in the world and employed more than 3,200 people.

Of the typewriter in America, The Banker’s Magazine notes: “The modern typewriter is the product of American inventive genius, coupled with the foresight, ability and aggressiveness of the American manufacturer, and supported by the confidence of the American capitalist. It stands as an industrial monument to the American commercial spirit which has in a few decades made the institutions of this country the marvel of the world.”

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Introducing Randall Platt

Randall Platt is an award-winning writer of fiction for adults and young adults and for those who don’t own up to being either. She'll be teaching  at Summer in Words 2011, The Art of Reserach and the Research of Art and her Sunday keynote is What to Do After the Hangover Wears Off.

Q: How long have you been writing and when did you make your first sale? 
A: The first things I ever wrote were teleplays for popular TV westerns. All had a plumb, ripe, juicy, hammy role for a little girl. I was all of 11 and wanted to be an actress so badly that I wrote 'next week's episode' and offered myself as the guest star. I actually mailed them and got nice 'thank you for writing' letters back from the studios. So I guess you could say I have been writing nearly my whole life. But I did not make my first sale until I had finally taught myself how to write .... 1991!

Q: What comes first for you, story or character?
A: Character, although I sure wish it was story. I am great with character and dialog but plotting is my weakness. It's no coincide I don't write mysteries!

Q: What is the hardest part of writing for you and how do you get past it?
A: Deciding on what to write next. I have so many terrific 'what ifs' waiting in the wings. Great characters waiting for their chance to really come alive. Once I got past it by taping about a dozen story ideas to the wall and throwing a dart over my shoulder to see which was got picked!

Q: How do you push yourself to take risks as a writer?
A: It seems the older I get the riskier I allow myself to be. From dangerous settings to dangerous dialog. First drafts are always very dangerous for me. I will over-write knowing that, for me, it's far easier to cut back than to add.

A: Tell us something most writers would not know about you, but find interesting.
Q: That I make a soundtrack for each novel when I begin it. I fill my IPod with dozens of songs that evoke the time and the emotions of my work in progress. I listen to it constantly while working. By the time I am done with that book, I never want to hear ANY of those songs again!

Q: What do you do for fun besides write?
A: Writing is fun??? I didn't get that memo! I am an internationally ranked handball player and play three times a week, if time allows. I also run, lift and bike.

Q: Sushi or pasta?
A: Pasta!

Q: What books are on your night table?
A: My 'night table' is the CD player in my car. Having to read so much for research I find that my recreational reading time is limited to my driving time - which is a lot. Right now, I am on an autobiography kick.

Q:What comes next for you?
A: Looking forward to the 2012 release of another historical YA, LIBERTY JUSTICE JONES. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Fog is lingering this morning in the Willamette Valley. Yesterday afternoon there was another deluge here and some of my students were talking about SAD and how when the sun had arrived the previous day we felt like we'd been injected with an energy drug--bouncing around like ping pong balls. 
If you're planning to stay at the Hallmark Inn & Resort for Summer in Words, register by Mary 24th to receive the discount (about $100 off per night) on a room. Be sure to mention Summer in Words.

And here Nathan Bransford writes about Making the Case for Putting a Manuscript in the Drawer.  He writes: "Trust me when I say this: It's hard putting a manuscript in the drawer. It's a huge blow to the ego, it's utterly painful to think back of all the time you spent writing that novel and dreaming about what would happen when you're finished and admitting to yourself that you came up short.

But it's not time wasted, and you didn't come up short. The next novel you write is bound to be better. That time you spent writing that novel was an essential learning experience. I'm so glad that the first novel people will read with my name on it is JACOB WONDERBAR and not that other novel.

Now... not every novel belongs in the drawer, and I'm not trying to say here that everyone who can't find a publisher should just give up and forego self-publishing. I really believe that self-publishing is awesome and am not trying to say that no publisher should = no book out there.

But especially when it's a first novel, especially when you're ready to get back on the horse and try again, especially when you have a new idea you're excited about... there's a lot to be said for just putting the first one in the drawer and trying again."

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Quick Take:
Post this one next to your computer:

Scene = Change
Scenes have consequences

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Design in Fiction

Design. The structural, formal, organization of all the elements present in a given narrative.~
Madison Smartt Bell

The novel is an organic event that requires prepared ground to do its work.~ Philip Gerard

If the story is to be efficient and elegant (in the sense that mathematical proofs are elegant), the writer must introduce no more background events or major characters that are strictly necessary (and, obviously, no less), and must introduce these materials in the smallest possible number of scenes, each scene rhythmically proportionate to those surrounding, so that the pace is regular or, if appropriate, in regular acceleration. ~ John Gardner 

You've got to do some close figuring, some careful calculations, to arrive at the blueprint that makes possible mystery and beauty. ~ Philip Gerard

Monday, May 09, 2011

Synopsis Examples
It seems that one of the most dreaded tasks in writerdom is creating a synopsis. In fact, I've never met a writer who says he or she enjoys writing these oh-so vital calling cards. Here's a large dose of help: examples of well written synopses at Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents blog If you scroll down the page you'll also find links to basics and formatting.
Interview with Emily Whitman

I've been working hard on creating a small conference that will engerize and inspire writers, so was thrilled when Emily Whitman agreed to teach two workshops at Summer in Words 2011. I've introduced her before at this blog, so without further ado, here are her intriguing answers.
Q: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
A: That’s two different questions, so I’ll answer both. I first considered myself a writer the moment I could write. I was particularly proud of the fact that my poems rhymed and scanned; for a long time I felt this was more important than what they said. I won my high school creative writing award—I’ll never know if it was for my heart-wrenching sonnet cycle on breaking up with my boyfriend, or my pseudo-Broadway musical score featuring that timeless rhyme, “Every hen can keep her rooster hot, but my heart don’t need no booster shot.”

I first considered myself a writer who might actually get work out in the world about seven years ago. I’d left creative writing behind for a long stretch (academics, raising kids, working in libraries) and was dipping my toe back in the water. I took a class on writing personal memoir, joined a group of poets, and then started writing passages for educational publishers. That led to trying my hand at writing a novel, something I’d never expected to do.

Q: I realize that you write professionally, but have you always wanted to write fiction? What about the young adult audience and fantasy appeals to you?
A: I went to my first writing conference thinking I’d write picture books or early readers (I was leading library storytimes at that point, so I knew the audience). Writing conferences can be transformative! This one led me to realize that the story that really interested me was the Greek myth of Persephone, daughter of the harvest goddess. In the myth she’s kidnapped by the lord of the underworld and forced to be his bride. I wondered what the story would look like if she were a strong young woman who fell in love and chose to run off to the underworld. That was a long way from a picture book! To tell the story that excited me, I had to start figuring out how to write a novel.

Why write for teens? Emotional honesty and intensity. High stakes—decisions really matter at that time in your life, and your protagonist’s decisions fuel your plot. There isn’t much extraneous material; even more than in most genres, every word needs to count. I could go on and on. It’s an exciting place to be writing right now, with great authors, vivid characters and passionate readers.

Q: Why did you choose time travel as a device in Wildwing?
A: Time travel let my heroine, Addy, completely reinvent herself. She goes from being a bastard maid, excluded and scorned, to being mistaken for the girl arriving to marry the lord of the castle. How does that change who she is inside, as well as outside? Can she scramble to learn enough about this foreign world to convince everyone she belongs? (I loved Shaun Tan’s graphic novel The Arrival for that sense of complete displacement.) Addy can finally see her place and options in her own time from a radically different perspective. I love the sudden shift, the displacement, both as a way to see what my character does and as a story element.

Q: Why did you choose a Greek myth (Persephone and Demeter) as the basis for Radiant Darkness?
A: I wanted to write about the time when a girl is on the cusp of becoming a woman, when she’s breaking away from seeing herself as a child. There are all these complicated dynamics going on at once—relationships with friends, with the one you love, with your parents. That made me think of Persephone, the archetypal girl leaving childhood and her mother behind. Myths stay alive for thousands of years for a reason. There’s something fundamental and true at their heart. It’s slightly different for each of us, so we tell the story in our own way, but there’s a common core that gives it power.

Q: What is your best tip for writers on how to build an alternate universe?
A: Use specific sense details to make it real, so your reader is seeing-smelling-touching-hearing-tasting it, falling so deep into the world you’ve created, it’s a jolt to look up from the page and leave it behind. That means the world you create needs to be consistent, so you’re never thrown out of the story-world by your conscious mind telling you something isn’t right.

Q: What is the hardest part of writing for you and how do you get past it?
A: Commitment! As in, committing myself to what kind of story this is going to be. I have a tendency to start something from many different angles. The trick for me is recognizing when the voice on the page is the right one, the alive one, and then just keep going with it. I’m really helped by deadlines, even if it’s just preparing five pages for a critique.

Q: What were your feelings when your first novel was accepted/when you first saw the cover?
A: The most fun was letting family and friends know. I remember a real shift in how I felt when I said, “I’m a writer.” Before, I’d felt tentative with the words, like I didn’t quite deserve the title; now it came much more easily. Looking back, though, I think I got similar boosts at many steps along this road: when I went to a conference with my first fifteen pages of the book and got positive feedback; when I decided to write a complete draft by the time that conference came the next year; when I had a critique with an editor who said he’d like to read more; when we both committed to the editing/revising process; when I held the book in my hand.

Q: What is your best advice for writers in 8 words or less.
A: Share writing with those who energize your work.

Q: What do you do when you’re not writing?
A: Simultaneously admire and curse the cat for batting the mouse off the computer desk yet again. Walk down the hill for an espresso. Check in with my kids at college, my parents in Boulder, my sisters, my friends. Eat incredible bread from Little T or Ken’s. Spend altogether too much time on crosswords. Dream of places to travel when time and funds find themselves in happy alignment. Avoid housework.

Q: What books are on your nightstand?
A: St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell. Patti Smith’s Just Kids. Zombies vs. Unicorns. Saturday and Sunday NY Times Crosswords. The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing by Gigi Rosenberg. Entwined by Heather Dixon.

Q: What project are you working on next?
A: I tend to be a little secretive about my writing until it’s got a really firm root, so I’m going to respectfully decline to answer this at the moment. But stay tuned!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Programming Note:
I'll be speaking at the Southern Willamette Writers in Central Point tomorrow morning (Saturday, May 7) at 10 A.M. then teaching a workshop in the afternoon that begins at 1. Topic: Anatomy of a Scene. For more information check this out.
Why do You Write?
Dusty looking sky this morning and after I woke earlier, I lay in bed for awhile replaying the dream I'd been involved in. In the dream I was teaching a group of young writers, some of them new to the craft along with a local published author. I felt sort of self conscious with the author in the room because some of the techniques I was teaching were for beginners. But every time I looked over at the author, she was scribbling away, involved in the exercises, hard at work. Which is one message from the dream. I was assigning the class poems to write because I wanted them to feel the confidence of completion (since the poems are relatively short and complete) and because I wanted them to use more figurative language. And I was trying to nudge them into new perspectives and sensibilities. For example, I kept asking them to leave their seats and move around the room and talk to the class, and I kept roaming the room also. At one point a young woman read a poem she'd written and I asked her why she wrote. And she said through tears, "I write to stay current."

In the dream her statement meant that she was writing to stay in touch with the currents within, the hidden parts of herself. In the final segment of the dream I'd told the class to wear shoes that they almost never wore to class the next day and then when the class began, we went around the room sort of checking in on our shoes. The published author was wearing kick ass high heels, some students wore slippers and oddball shoes that only appear in dreamscapes. We were all changing, risking, moving forward.

So I want to know, why do you write? How are you shaking up your writing practice, your way of thinking?
Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

'The Book is Dead'? Let That Myth Rest in Peace
I, for one, have never believed it. If you want to spread the good news about the health of publishing industry and our beloved companions, read this piece in The Atlantic by  Peter Osnos about how books are alive and well, thank you very much.

He begins: "Anyone with the remotest interest in publishing knows that this has been a period of extraordinary activity in the way books are being distributed and read. But, looking back at the first months of 2011, including some of my own pieces (April 13, April 20), I am still amazed at how much is happening, and how quickly. So here in brief summary are some highlights of what truly has been a remarkable season."

He then goes on to discuss the e-publishing phenomenon and how 2009 numbers provided by Bowker, the data agency for publishing, which records 288,355 new and reissued titles and speculates that the numbers for 2010 and 2011 will show continuing increases.

Times are changing rapidly, but one fact remains certain: Readers and writers will continue to thrive in some form

Keep writing, keep dreaming, keep buying books
"The reason that fiction is more interesting than any other form of literature, to those who really like to study people, is that in fiction the author can really tell the truth without humiliating himself." - Eleanor Roosevelt
What Can Hemingway Teach Writers?
The dawn sky has a pink hue to it and I've got a backlog of emails to plow through. Last week a few of my Facebook friends and I were discussing literary criticism and Hemingway's name and work were mentioned. And I started musing about his legacy and what writers can learn from him and wanted to pass along these links and posts.
Rachelle Gardner, a literary agent has posted 6 Things Writers Can Learn from Hemingway.  She writes: "I’m looking at Hemingway differently these days—I must confess my high school and college experience of reading his books left me unimpressed. But now I’m in awe of his genius, and even more, I’ve come to see him as a remarkable example that serious writers would do well to study and emulate. Setting aside the depression, the personal demons that drove him, and the drinking he used to deal with it all, Ernest Hemingway stands as a master of the craft with a great deal to teach us."

Then there is this interview with Hemingway in The Paris Review  Some of his most famous quotes about writing are here and we also learn a lot about his writing practice: "When Hemingway starts on a project he always begins with a pencil, using the reading board to write on onionskin typewriter paper. He keeps a sheaf of the blank paper on a clipboard to the left of the typewriter, extracting the paper a sheet at a time from under a metal clip that reads “These Must Be Paid.” He places the paper slantwise on the reading board, leans against the board with his left arm, steadying the paper with his hand, and fills the paper with handwriting which through the years has become larger, more boyish, with a paucity of punctuation, very few capitals, and often the period marked with an X. The page completed, he clips it facedown on another clipboard that he places off to the right of the typewriter.

Hemingway shifts to the typewriter, lifting off the reading board, only when the writing is going fast and well, or when the writing is, for him at least, simple: dialogue, for instance.

He keeps track of his daily progress—“so as not to kid myself”—on a large chart made out of the side of a cardboard packing case and set up against the wall under the nose of a mounted gazelle head. The numbers on the chart showing the daily output of words differ from 450, 575, 462, 1250, back to 512, the higher figures on days Hemingway puts in extra work so he won’t feel guilty spending the following day fishing on the Gulf Stream."

And then there is this 1950s New York Times interview with Hemingway in which he says, "
In writing I have moved through arithmetic, through plane geometry and algebra, and now I am in calculus. If they don't understand that, to hell with them. I won't be sad and I will not read what they say. They say? What do they say? Let them say.
Who the hell wants fame over a week-end? All I want is to write well."

Keep writing, keep dreaming, keep learning from the greats

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

From an Editor's Desk:
Endings of any piece of writing need to contain special significance, or cast a light of signifcance on what came before. In nonfiction there is sometimes a summing up or one last poignant image or remark. No matter the device, the ending needs weight and emphasis.  In fiction, no matter the length, the ending must provide emotional satisfaction and release, along with a new understanding looking back on on the events. Surprise or twist endings are difficult to pull off--so plan on a well constructed plot that supports it. Powerful endings also provide some enchantment, along with insights.
"It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass. Yet regardless of where they come from, I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with them - with the books themselves, cover and binding and the paper they were printed on, with their smell and their weight and with their possession in my arms, captured and carried off to myself. Still illiterate, I was ready for them, committed to all the reading I could give them. . ." 
Eudora Welty

Dossier for Main Characters 
Warning: Nerdswoon may result. Folks, I've been adding pages to my website and wanted you to know that it includes checklists and such. I've also started adding cheat sheets--the first is a form you can use to become better acquainted with your  main characters by creating a dossier. Remember that not everything you know about your characters will end up on the page, but the more you  know, the easier it is to write them.

"Write about what you don't know about what you know. " ~ Eudora Welty

Monday, May 02, 2011

Pale skies this morning of an indefinite hue. I returned home from Manzanita last night after teaching my Between the Lines workshop on Saturday. Thanks again to the lovely writers, some who traveled far, who attended. As always, I'm feeling soothed as if I've been under a spell and am still missing the lullaby sounds of the surf and the songs of birds.

I just wanted to remind everyone out there that the Writer's Digest Annual Writing Competition deadline is tonight at midnight, but that they also accept late entries until May 20. The grand prize is $3000 and attendance at the New York conference. All the details are here.
Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart