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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Escaping through your words

“I'm always terrified when I'm writing.” – Mary Karr

Karr’s sentiment probably echoes all who take pen in hand or pull up to a keyboard or typewriter to put words on paper and begin the creative process.

Born in Groves, Texas on this date in 1955, Karr brought her early years to life in the New York Times bestselling  memoirs, The Liars' Club.   The book delves vividly and often humorously into her deeply troubled childhood, most of which was spent in a gritty industrial section of Southeast Texas. 

The author of 2 other memoirs, Cherry; and Lit: A Memoir, she also has had great successes as both a poet (4 volumes to date) and essayist.  She has won the prestigious Whiting Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry, and the Pushcart prize for both her poetry and her essays.

“Young writers often mistakenly choose a certain vein or style based on who they want to be, unconsciously trying to blot out who they actually are. You want to escape yourself,” Karr said. 
        “The thing I have to do as a writer, and that God permits me to do, is that I have to be willing to fail.”

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Stepping away from the real world

“Every book that you pick up takes you a step away from your real world, but if you read a book about magic, it takes you an extra two steps.” – Jenny Nimmo

British author Nimmo, born on this date in 1944, is a master of the “magical” genre, having authored numerous fantasy and adventure novels for kids and teens. Born in England, she has lived mostly in Wales for the past 40 years. 

Nimmo spent several years with the BBC and actually started her writing career by adapting other writers’ works for television shows.  Her first novel, The Bronze Trumpeter, started as a TV script of her own and then grew into a full-fledged book.  Among her best-known works are the fantasy novels: The Magician Trilogy, contemporary stories rooted in Welsh myth; and the bestselling Children of the Red King, a series about schoolchildren endowed with magical powers.

Also known as the Charlie Bone series, her primary protagonist is Charlie Bone, whose magical talent embroils him in sinister intrigues in his school. The Charlie Bone titles have been published in some 20 languages worldwide.       She likes to keep an objective eye on what her characters are doing – even those with special powers.

 “I try not to identify too strongly with any of my characters. I like to stand back and see them objectively. I think this is why I often use boys instead of girls, just in case I get too close and lose the overall picture. “

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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Capturing 'The Mind of a Generation'

“The mind of a generation is its speech. A writer makes aspects of that speech enduring by putting them in print. He whittles at the words and phrases of today and makes of them forms to set the mind of tomorrow's generation. That's history.   A writer who writes straight is the architect of history.” – John Dos Passos

Born in Chicago on this date in 1896, Dos Passos was a renowned novelist and artist and one of Ernest Hemingway’s closest friends both during the Lost Generation’s days in Paris and their times spent together in Key West, Spain and Italy.

Like Hemingway he served as an ambulance driver in Italy during W.W.I., a bond that kept them close until events during the Spanish Civil War tore them apart in the late 1930s.                         
    Dos Passos’ writing career started immediately after the war and his first novel, One Man’s Initiation: 1917, came out in 1920.  His best-known work is his 1930s U.S.A. Trilogy  – the bestselling novels The 42nd Parallel; 1919; and The Big Money.   In 1998, the Modern Library ranked the U.S.A. Trilogy 23rd on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.  Another of his most recognized books is the anti-war novel Three Soldiers.

In advice to young writers, he once noted, “There are too many ‘creative writing’ courses and seminars, in which young writers are constantly being taught to rewrite the previous generation. They should be experimenting on their own. Every writer faces different problems which he must solve for himself.”

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Turning 'Ordinary' to 'Extraordinary'

“Now I think poetry will save nothing from oblivion, but I keep writing about the ordinary because for me it's the home of the extraordinary, the only home.” – Philip Levine
Born in January 1928, Levine was Poet Laureate of the U.S. in 2011-12.  Lauded for his poems about working-class Detroit, his home town, he once said, “Let your eyes transform what appears ordinary, commonplace, into what it is, a moment in time, an observed fragment of eternity.”
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Simple Truth, and two-time winner of the National Book Award for Ashes: Poems New & Old and What Work Is, Levine died in 2015.  For Saturday’s Poem, here is the title poem from that latter work.

What Work Is

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work
You know what work is — if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it’s someone else’s brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, “No,
we’re not hiring today,” for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who’s not beside you or behind or
ahead because he’s home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you’re too young or too dumb,
not because you’re jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don’t know what work is.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Thinking Positively; Writing the Experience

“Let your autobiography contain these words: I was able to think positively, love affectionately and work efficiently.  Thinking, loving and working (and writing of the experiences) are what make us different from animals and trees.” – Israelmore Ayivor

Wise words from another of the next generation of young writers who continually give us hope that our writing world is in both good and thoughtful hands.

Born on this date in 1992, Ayivor is author of several Inspirational genre’ books and articles.  A native of Ghana, he began his career as a nurse before founding the self-help More-talks Leadership Training & Consultancy.   Passionate about Personal Development and Leadership, Ayivor won the prestigious 2015 Leadership Mind Ambassadors Award as "The Best Male L.M.A Young Leader.”     His writing, he said, grew out of his love of reading and his advice to other young writers is to be good readers first.   
                                  “College taught me to read many books. Life inspires me to write many books. I love reading... My ambition about reading,” he said,  “inspires me to write.”

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

'Enchanted, I'm Sure'

“If your reading habits are anything like mine, then you can remember the exact moment that certain books came into your life. You remember where you were standing and whom you were with. You remember the feel of the book in your hands and the cover, that exact cover, even if the art has changed over the years.” – Alethea Kontis

Born on this date in 1976, Kontis is a writer of Teen & Young Adult Books and short stories about Fantasy, Romance and Science Fiction.   who makes her home in Titusville, FL.   Primarily known for her book Enchanted, also made into a top-grossing movie, her most recent book is her 2017 work The Truth About Cats and Wolves: A Nocturne Falls Universe Story.

A native of Vermont (she now makes her home in Florida),  she labels herself an introvert even though she makes dozens of writing and speaking appearances annually and maintains a blog. And, she enjoys dressing up as characters – either those she is reading about or those she is writing.   She said her favorite reads are  “really dense, complicated stories with lots of layers, tons of obscure literary references, and a plethora of inside jokes.”   
                 “It took me a long time to learn how to be brave enough to put myself out there and try everything, no matter how strange or silly.   If I can impart that same wisdom to other folks - no matter what age - it would be an honor.”

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Always growing new ideas

“I've never really had any trouble coming up with ideas; they just grow, like weeds. The weeding is the hard part.” – Stuart Woods

The author of nearly 100 books, including his most recent in the Stone Barrington series, Unbound, released last week.   Woods was born in Georgia on this date in 1938.  The always-quotable Woods has been featured in this blog before, but I liked these two more recent quotes and thought they’d be good to share on his birthday.         
                             Ever “on the move,” Woods and his wife make their home across the U.S., residing at various times in Florida, Maine and New Mexico.

“I'm as much my own master as anyone can be, without being the master of others. I can write anywhere - all I need is a couple of hours of solitude and a computer, and I can write a chapter,” Woods said.   “Since my work is portable, I can live anywhere I like.”

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