"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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

File under extreme advice:

"If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs. And maybe your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. ...It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery, isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance. Of how much you really want to do it. And you'll do it, despite rejection in the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods. And the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is."

~ Charles Bukowski

Monday, July 30, 2012

Quick Take: Beware of Crutch Words

I know I've mentioned this before, so forgive the repetition for those who have already read it. Erase suddenly from your vocabulary. Same goes for all of a sudden. If something unexpected happens in a story or sentence, the suddenness is implied via actions or reactions. If you use suddenly to introduce something, then the monster or slap or scream that follows seem less sudden.  It has been overused throughout the years and thus it's impact diluted. And it's a sign the writer is lazy.

How to Write

Elegant, practical and doable instructions on writing from Colson Whitehead here.
I especially like " Rule No. 2: Don’t go searching for a subject, let your subject find you."

keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Contest Opportunity

Bear Deluxe Magazine Presents: The Doug Fir Fiction Award
Every Story Begins Somewhere

Grand Prize: $1,000, writer’s residency at Sitka Center for Art & Ecology*,
national publication and recognition

Finalists: Recognition and publication consideration
Deadline: September 4, 2012 (postmark)**
Award Judge (2012-13): Brian Doyle (Mink River, Bin Laden’s Bald Spot, Grace
Notes, Best American Essays)
Entry Fee: $15
Co-sponsor: Sitka Center for Art & Ecology

The Bear Deluxe Magazine welcomes submissions of previously unpublished
short stories up to 5,000 words, relating to a sense of place or the natural
world, interpreted as broadly or narrowly as the author defines.

For complete guidelines: www.orlo.org <

*Authors must meet complete residency requirements.
**Online submissions, payments and sample issue requests are accepted at
www.orlo.org <

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Thought for the Day:

"A writer - and, I believe, generally all persons - must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bitter truth # 2 

Being good is not enough
is here at my web site

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart


WRITER'S TIP: With extreme emotions that trigger an immediate fight-or-flight response, it's important to know which "side" fits best with your character's personality. All actions should line up with this choice.

WRITER'S TIP:  It isn't enough to show emotion: a writer needs to make the reader feel it. Think about the core visceral sensations you experience when feeling strong emotions, and if appropriate, utilize them to convey a similar experience to the reader. 

 ~ from The Emotion Thesaurus A Writer's Guide to Character Expression

Monday, July 23, 2012

"Hours of solitude, hours of creation, hours of meditation. Solitude and meditation gave me an awareness, a perspective which I have never lost: that of solidarity with the rest of mankind. Since that time I have always proclaimed that poetry is communication, in the exact sense of that word." ~ Vincente Aleixandre

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Answer

The answer to  loss, heartbreak,  tragedy and senseless acts--even in the midst of grieving--is to create. That's our prayer, our solution, our way out of so much that troubles us, so much that threatens to break us past healing.

In that spirit here's the opening lines from Alice Hoffman's short story Conjure that she posted on Facebook It' is part of the Ray Bradbury tribute anthology

Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury

For Ray Bradbury

It was August, when the crickets sang slowly and the past lingered in bright pools of light, even though it would soon be gone, the way summer was all but finished and yet the heat was still on the rise. The weather had been extreme that month; days of drenching rain, sudden showers of hail, temperatures passing all record highs. Local children whispered that an angel had fallen to earth in a thunderstorm. There were roving groups who swore they had found signs. Footprints in the grass, black feathers, a campfire in the woods behind the high school where there were sparks of shimmering ash. One neighborhood boy vowed that he had seen in a man in a black cloak rise above the earth and walk on air, and although no one believed his account, mothers began to keep their children home. They locked the doors, called in the dogs, kept the lights on after dusk.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

Thought for today

"In the deeps are the violence and terror of which psychology has warned us. But if you ride these monsters deeper down, if you drop with them farther over the world's rim, you find what our sciences cannot locate or name, the substrate, the ocean or matrix or ether which buoys the rest, which gives goodness its power for good, and evil its power for evil, the unified field: our complex and inexplicable caring for each other, and for our life together here. This is given. It is not learned." ~ Annie Dillard

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thought for the day:
"At a certain point, you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world, Now I am ready. Now I will stop and be wholly attentive. You empty yourself and wait, listening. After a time you hear it: there is nothing there. There is nothing but those things only, those created objects, discrete, growing or holding, or swaying, being rained on or raining, held, flooding or ebbing, standing, or spread. You feel the world's word as a tension, a hum, a single chorused note everywhere the same. This is it: this hum is the silence. Nature does utter a peep - just this one. The birds and insects, the meadows and swamps and rivers and stones and mountains and clouds: they all do it; they all don't do it. There is a vibrancy to the silence, a suppression, as if someone were gagging the world. But you wait, you give your life's length to listening, and nothing happens. The ice rolls up, the ice rolls back, and still that single note obtains. The tension, or lack of it, is intolerable. The silence is not actually suppression: instead, it is all there is." ~ Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Thought for the day

You must have chaos in your heart to give birth to stars. ~ Nietzche

 In Case You Missed It

Ever since my fifth Summer in Words conference ended a few weeks ago  it seems like I've been struggling to catch up on things, including blogging. Since my conscience is prickling me about not posting, here is another roundup of writing tidbits you might have missed.

The first is a  video from the New Yorker on fiction writers discussing their beginnings. You'll find Jennifer Eagan, Nathan Englander and  Karen Russell   Here is the link

Second, from the New York Times Opinionater series What is Real is Imagined:  Colm Toibin talking about how fiction must stem from experience in order to create resonance. And I love this quote from his piece, don't you?
 The world that fiction comes from is fragile. It melts into insignificance against the universe of what is clear and visible and known It persists because it is based on the power of cadence and rhythm in language and these are mysterious and hard to defeat and keep in their place. The difference between fact and fiction is like the difference between land and water.Colm Toibin

I've mentioned Lawrence O'Bryan before on this blog since his first novel The Istanbul Puzzle was published in January. He's writing a series of helpful blog posts for writers here

Publisher's Weekly recommends books for summer reading

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Plan B

My column about Plan B is up at my site.
Because everyone, especially writers, needs a Plan B.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

An approach....

I've been working on a new book. It's about the writing life and it will be completed some time in the next few months. I'm also working for clients and have lots of other obligations. And don't get me started on the piles of paperwork that need to be tackled.  I suffered a head injury four years ago and every brain-related task that I once did takes me longer. My eyes often hurt and tire easily and my memory is still not up to snuff, especially when words elude me. These symptoms suck, but they sucks a less than they once did.

So I'm trying really hard to return to the habits I had before my accident. And I'm going to savor these golden and green summer months. Become loose in the heat.

I was just out watering plants in the back yard. Such a simple, delightful task that is part ritual, part meditation. I'm going to keep watering all the parts of my life and encourage you to do the same.

Here are a few things that are part of my approach to living the writing life (and I'm also writing about in my upcoming book):
Control your writing environment.
Ditch negative chatter in your head.
Be passionate.
Have ideas.
Take risks.
Pay attention to everything that’s going on around you, especially colors, sky and weather.
Cultivate curiosity and ask questions.
Keep evolving.
Understand that to reveal truths in words, to move a reader’s heart or imagination, that you must pay a cost.
Be focused.
Lay out the bones.
Create comfort rituals.
Savor stolen moments no matter how small.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"The word "writing" may be freely substituted for the word "living." A writer afraid of living isn't really writing. A writer afraid of writing isn't really living. A writer who lives fully will embrace, rather than fear, his own periods of silence.
Living is the one true art. What varies is the forms of expression we choose, or that choose us. Art is a mystery. Like bread baking in a celestial oven, its aroma permeates everything and is universally understood, except by those who seek the recipe"
~ William Michaelian, I'm Telling You All I Know
The Captain's Chair
I’m always searching for analogies that describe the writing life. I found one while I was channel surfing one night and touched down on a Deadliest Catch episode on the Discovery Channel.  This is a program about people who make a living braving the icy waters of the Bering Sea—lonely endless waters, sky the color of gloom, and men are wrestling nets and equipment amid slippery decks, displaying gallows humor and sometimes vomiting over the rail as they survive brutal 100-mph winds, 30- and 40-foot waves.
          Meanwhile, the captain sits in his wheel house surrounded by technology and blinking lights and sonar fish locators. He rides the swells with the aplomb of Santa on Christmas Eve, exhorting his reindeer. Well, sometimes he’s nervous when the weather unleashes a dangerous punishment on the boat. And there’s a lot at stake when he makes decisions and commands, such as his crews’ safety, well-being, and incomes. Because, after all, boats can sink.
          But his chair is a place of far-seeing.
          Writing makes me feel like that captain. And although I’m not prone to woolen caps and denim coveralls, I prefer his on high view of the rolling swells to the men who are slaving away below, pulling in 500-pound crab pots or salmon nets, icy ocean water raining down on them amid the stink and slime and howling wind and waves pounding across the deck. Working 30 or 40 hours straight without sleep on a surface that is always moving. 
          So I am that captain, but The Perfect Storm wave cannot take me down and we’ll pull into Dutch Harbor, safe as babies in a grandmother’s arms. 
          And tomorrow will bring calmer seas.
          What does the writing life remind you of?  

Friday, July 06, 2012

Writing Prompt
Think back to the hardest or crappiest job you ever worked at and how you survived it. What did it teach you about life or yourself? Write about that.

I've had a bunch of crappy jobs so this one is a stumper because it's hard to choose the worst.  I've worked at cleaning houses, at a discount store, and in two factories. I don't usually talk much about my factory jobs because they were so long ago. I was young and it was honest pay. The funny thing was, that in both these jobs I met cool women, my fellow employees. At one job it was a group of hippie chicks working during the summer before going off to college. Writing this I remember two women I admired especially with their wild patched wardrobes and down-to-their-waist hair. I wanted to be like them, braless and beautiful. Working in hot, dirty factory you develop a certain dark, sly camaraderie with your fellow workers.

I left because I ventured off to marry young--a disastrous decision. But an older woman named Evelyn who is probably long dead gave me a great Dutch oven. I still own it, although it's a bit battered from the years. It's green and doesn't match any of my cookware, but it's one of my favorite gifts ever.  I've cooked countless pots of soups, stews, Chicken Cacciatore and pot roast in it. I remember she  was a widow with a shy, sad smile and wore her dark curls under a hairnet. Writing this I'm thinking about the necessity of her spending last decades in a place of noise and dirt and toil.

Another factory that I worked at briefly because I was desperate for cash decorated caps. There were giant wooden spindles among walls of boxes packed with knit caps. As it spun a woman would slip a sports cap over a rounded end, then another woman would glue the logo of a sports team onto the cap. I can still remember the smell and heat of that glue. The long, hot strings of it. I guess that job gets my vote for the worst, which is probably why I only lasted a few months. And because the middle age women who rose to supervisory positions in those sorts of places were usually tyrants. 

I moved into the food industry after these forays and stayed there for a long time because it was creative and the people were fun and I like to cook. And I'm good at it. Thinking back to the cap factory I'm guessing all those sorts of jobs are now performed in China or some far-off island. I imagine women are still hot and their backs aching and their pay lousy.   
Thought for the day:
"Life is compost….All my life and all my experience, the events that have befallen me, the people I have known, all my memories, dreams, fantasies, everything I have ever read, all of that has been chucked onto the compost heap where over time it has rotted down to a dark, rich, organic mulch. The process of cellular breakdown makes it unrecognizable . . . . . Every so often, I take an idea, plant it in the compost, and wait. It feeds on that black stuff that used to be a life, takes its energy for its own. It germinates. Takes root. Produces shoots. And so on and so forth, until one fine day I have a story, or a novel. . . .The writer’s life needs time to rot away before it can be used to nourish a work of fiction. It must be allowed to decay." from The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happy fourth to all

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

101 Books To Read This Summer Instead of '50 Shades of Grey

Find this epic flow chart here.

Seriously. Just say no to Shades of Grey.

In case you missed it

I've written a column on The Call of Story at my website.

Agent Rachel Gardner is advising writers in her latest post 7 Ways Give Away Your Power. Great stuff.

The final sentence is compiling last sentences from a vast collection of works. Love this.

A thoughtful piece The Busy Trap by   Tim Kreider at the New York Times.

keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Quick Take: 
Stay loose. I wrote a lot last night and I've been back at it for four hours again this morning. One of the tricks to longer bouts of writing is to stay loose. Research has shown that the brain functions best when it reboots about every 45 minutes. So you'll want to step away from your desk for a bit, wander into another room, grab a glass of water or snack.

But during these deliberate breaks don't clutter your mind with challenging projects. Don't pay bills, answer complicated emails, or business calls.I tend to swipe down the counters, water a plant, gaze out the window, wait for the tea kettle to boil. Hang on to the story, the idea, the character's heartbeat. Don't allow your subconscious to abandon the project while on break.
Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart