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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Letting Your Imagination Soar

 “If the novelist isn't surprised by where his book ends up, he or she probably hasn't written anything worth remembering.” – Tom Robbins

Born in North Carolina on this date in 1932, Robbins was named one of the 100 Best Writers of the 20th Century by Writer’s Digest, and it all started in the mid-1960s when he was asked and rejected an opportunity to write a book about art.  Robbins told the publisher that he had a better idea for his writing talents and so they gave him a chance.  The result was his first novel and first bestseller, Another Roadside Attraction.

Since then he’s written 8 bestselling novels, many dozens of short stories and essays, and 2 nonfiction books, the latest being his 2014 self-declared “un-memoir” Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life.       Heading up the list of his many successes is, perhaps, his irreverent novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, also made into a popular movie.  While Robbins says he’s hesitant to give writing advice, he does say this:
                                     “The one thing emphasized in any creative writing course is 'write what you know,' and that automatically drives a wooden stake through the heart of imagination. If they really understood the mysterious process of creating fiction, they would say, 'You can write about anything you can imagine.'”

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Saturday, July 21, 2018

'Poetry Is . . . A Search For Order'

“For me, poetry is always a search for order.” – Elizabeth Jennings

Born on July 18, 1926, Jennings was considered a “poetic traditionalist” and also one of Great Britain’s most beloved practitioners of the poetic arts.  

Jennings (who died in 2001) started writing in her mid-20s after graduating from Queen Anne’s College.  She was published in such major journals as Oxford Poetry, New English Weekly, The Spectator and Poetry Review before her first book, simply titled Poems, came out in 1953.  That won her the Arts Council of Great Britain’s award for “Best First Book of Poetry.”
       Not one to rest on her laurels, she followed with A Way of Looking, winner of the prestigious Somerset Maugham Award, given to leading writers under age 35.   Known for her lyric poetry and mastery of form, Jennings said of her writing technique, “It’s simple.  I write fast and revise very little.”    For Saturday’s Poem, here is Jennings’

The radiance of the star that leans on me
Was shining years ago. The light that now
Glitters up there my eyes may never see,
And so the time lag teases me with how

Love that loves now may not reach me until
Its first desire is spent. The star's impulse
Must wait for eyes to claim it beautiful
And love arrived may find us somewhere else.

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Friday, July 20, 2018

'Just Call Us Writers'

“Publishers have published women's fiction into a corner, and now we are all trying to punch our way out of it. We just have to write the best books we possibly can and hope that, once the pink covers and Bridget Jones have faded from memory, we might finally be allowed just to be called writers.” – Lisa Jewell

Born on July 19, 1968, Jewell is one of Britain’s most popular writers – particularly of “comedy romance” – and basically got into writing on a dare.  A fashion designer at the time, Jewell accepted a challenge from a friend to write 3 chapters of a novel in exchange for dinner at her favorite restaurant. Those chapters eventually were developed into Ralph's Party, which became the UK's bestselling debut novel in 1999.

Since then she has written bestseller after bestseller, including Thirtynothing, After The Party (a sequel to Ralph's Party) and most recently Then She Was Gone.  To date she has authored 15 novels and a number of essays and short stories.   The mother of two “very busy” girls, she noted of her writing style that, “I don't really get into a writing routine until March or April, when I'll write a few hundred words a day, often in a cafe in the morning after the school run.”  
                                                           “I write in cafes, never at home. I cannot focus at home (and) am forever getting off my chair to do other things. In a cafe, I have to sit still, or I'll look a bit unhinged.”

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

That Rewarding Solitary Occupation

“Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He or she must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking. “ – Jessamyn West

Born in Indiana on this date in 1902, West wrote dozens of short stories and 20 novels, most notably her acclaimed 1945 work The Friendly Persuasion.

After moving to California and graduating from Whittier College, she taught school for many years before coming down with tuberculosis.  Not expected to live, she moved into a sanatorium for treatment and while there began writing to pass the time.  Ultimately, she regained her health but the writing bug stuck and she moved into her new career full time in 1939.

Her stories, although shaped by her imagination, are loosely based on tales told to her by her mother and grandmother of their life in rural Indiana – a setting and, of course, a time she never knew personally.    “The past is really almost as much a work of the imagination as the future,” she remarked about her endeavors.  Her opus work, The Friendly Persuasion, eventually was made into an Academy Award “Best Movie” nominee, and its sequel, Except For Me and Thee was made into a much heralded television movie.

In an interview about the power of words, West said people should choose them carefully.  “A broken bone can heal,” she said, “but the wound a word opens can fester forever.”

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Always Finding Room To Grow

“The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.” – Robert Cormier\

Born in Massachusetts on this date in 1925, Cormier started writing in elementary school, had his first work published in college, and was an award winning journalist for his hometown paper, The Fitchburg Sentinel, before testing the waters as a Young Adult author.   His first effort Now and at the Hour was a major hit and was followed with a long string of successful books, including the multiple award-winning I Am the Cheese and We All Fall Down.   His books have often been cited as “classics” for young adult readers. 
              Cormier (who died in 2000) was honored by the American Library Association for creating a body of work that provided young adults with a window to view the world and help them to grow and better understand themselves and their role in society.

Cormier said while writing, he never thought about how old or young his readers might be.  “I simply write with an intelligent reader in mind,” he said.  “I don’t think about how old they are.”

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Sunday, July 15, 2018

'Who We Are; What We Must Do'

I try for a poetic language that says, This is who we are, where we have been, where we are. This is where we must go. And this is what we must do” – Mari Evans

Evans, born on July 16, 1923, was one of America’s most influential Black writers, authoring poetry, children’s literature and plays, and editing countless works of others.  She also edited the definitive and award-winning Black Women Writers (1950–1980): A Critical Evaluation. 

Evans, who died last year just short of her 94th birthday, grew up in Ohio, attended the University of Toledo and taught at places like Purdue and Cornell.  In 1968 she plowed new ground by writing and producing the award-winning television program, “The Black Experience.”   Her first poetry collection, Where Is All the Music? established her as a major poetic writer, and her second, I Am a Black Woman gained her worldwide acclaim. Her poem “Who Can Be Born Black” is often anthologized.   
                                                       I Am A Black Woman resonated with the power and beauty of Black women and set the bar for many of her fellow female Black writers in the latter part of the 20th century.  “I am a black woman,” Evans wrote, “tall as a cypress, strong beyond all definition, still defying place and time and circumstance, assailed, impervious, indestructible.”  

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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Helping The Truth Burst Forth

“I was not out to paint beautiful pictures; even painting good pictures was not important to me. I wanted only to help the truth burst forth.” – Alice Duer Miller

Born in July 1874, Duer Miller’s poetry actively influenced political opinion, including making a major impact on the women’s suffrage movement and encouraging the U.S. to enter WWII – especially through her epic verse-play The White Cliffs. She also wrote many novels and screenplays and was one of the most influential women of the first half of the 20th century (she died in 1942).              Her 52-verse The White Cliffs is a very worthy read.  For Saturday’s Poem, here are the first and last verses and a link to the entire poem.

The White Cliffs

I.               I have loved England, dearly and deeply,
Since that first morning, shining and pure,
The white cliffs of Dover I saw rising steeply
Out of the sea that once made her secure.
I had no thought then of husband or lover,
I was a traveller, the guest of a week;
Yet when they pointed 'the white cliffs of Dover',
Startled I found there were tears on my cheek.
I have loved England, and still as a stranger,
Here is my home and I still am alone.
Now in her hour of trial and danger,
Only the English are really her own.

LII.      And were they not English, our forefathers, never more
English than when they shook the dust of her sod
From their feet for ever, angrily seeking a shore
Where in his own way a man might worship his God.
Never more English than when they dared to be
Rebels against her-that stern intractable sense
Of that which no man can stomach and still be free,
Writing: 'When in the course of human events. . .'
Writing it out so all the world could see
Whence come the powers of all just governments.
The tree of Liberty grew and changed and spread,
But the seed was English.
I am American bred,
I have seen much to hate here— much to forgive,
But in a world where England is finished and dead,
I do not wish to live.

To read the poem in its entirety, click on https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-white-cliffs/

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