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Monday, October 19, 2020

The Spy With A Powerful Pen

 “If I had to put a name to it, I would wish that all my books were entertainments. I think the first thing you've got to do is grab the reader by the ear, and make him sit down and listen. Make him laugh, make him feel. We all want to be entertained at a very high level.” – John le Carre


A one-time spy, Le Carre, whose real name is David John Moore Cornwell, is one of the greatest “espionage” authors of all time, presenting the stylish and thought-provoking writing he says is needed to keep a reader’s attention.   Most of Le Carre's novels are set in the Cold War (1945–91) and feature British MI-6 agents—unheroic political functionaries aware of the moral ambiguity of their work and engaged in psychological more than physical drama.

Born on this date in 1931, Le Carre’s most well-known book is The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, which has been a 50-year best seller and an award-winning movie.

“Like every novelist, I fantasize about film. But, novelists are not equipped to make a movie, in my opinion,” he said. “They make their own movie when they write: they're casting, they're dressing the scene, they're working out where the energy of the scene is coming from, but they're also relying tremendously on the creative imagination of the reader.”

Despite that, he’s had a number of his books made into movies and won many awards collaborating on them as a writer.  Does that make him happy?  Not really, he said.  “Having your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes.”  Even when he’s not happy about it, his words come out sounding terrific.

 

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Saturday, October 17, 2020

A Writer's Moment: That Hoosier Poet

A Writer's Moment: That Hoosier Poet:   “It is no use to grumble and complain; It's just as cheap and easy to rejoice; When God sorts out the weather and sends rain - Why, ra...

That Hoosier Poet

 “It is no use to grumble and complain; It's just as cheap and easy to rejoice; When God sorts out the weather and sends rain - Why, rain's my choice.” – James Whitcomb Riley

 

Born in Indiana on Oct. 7, 1849, Riley was one of the nation’s most popular late-19th century poets and also a well-known journalist and best-selling author. During his lifetime he was known as both the "Hoosier Poet" and "Children's Poet" for his dialect works and his children's poetry.  The author of some 1,000 poems, he often is credited with creating America’s “Midwestern” cultural identity and literary community.

 

 For Saturday’s Poem, here is Riley’s,

 

Plain Sermons

I saw a man--and envied him beside--
Because of this world's goods he had great store;
But even as I envied him, he died,
And left me envious of him no more.

I saw another man--and envied still--
Because he was content with frugal lot;
But as I envied him, the rich man's will
Bequeathed him all, and envy I forgot.

Yet still another man I saw, and he
I envied for a calm and tranquil mind
That nothing fretted in the least degree--
Until, alas! I found that he was blind.

What vanity is envy! for I find
I have been rich in dross of thought, and poor
In that I was a fool, and lastly blind
For never having seen myself before!

 

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Friday, October 16, 2020

A Writer's Moment: Seeing More In Your World

A Writer's Moment: Seeing More In Your World: “Little kids grow up discovering the world that's shown to them and then when you become a teenager, it kind of shri...

Seeing More In Your World

“Little kids grow up discovering the world that's shown to them and then when you become a teenager, it kind of shrinks a little bit. I think when you get past that point, one of the important things is that you see there is more to the world than yourself.” – Kenneth Lonergan



Lonergan, born on this date in 1962, started his writing career as a speechwriter for the Environmental Protection Agency and then graduated to doing industrial scripts for such companies as Fuji Film and Weight Watchers.  Once he got the bug for writing scripts, he went to work on plays and had his first theatrical success with the play This Is Our Youth.

After a number of on- and off-Broadway hits, he tried his hand at a movie script, and his gangland comedy Analyze This was a boxoffice winner.  He quickly showed he had the chops to do more, being a major contributor to the Academy Award-nominated Gangs of New York.   Since then he’s continued to be one of the most successful Broadway and movie writers.  He said he thinks people like his work because they can identify with his characters and have a clear understanding of what those characters are portraying.

“I feel like if you can describe something fully and accurately,” he said,  ‘then people will be able to see it themselves – they don't need be told what to.”

Kenneth Lonergan
 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

A Writer's Moment: Finishing What You Write

A Writer's Moment: Finishing What You Write:   “One of the big breakthroughs, I think for me, was reading Robert A. Heinlein's four rules of writing, one of which was, 'You must...

Finishing What You Write

 “One of the big breakthroughs, I think for me, was reading Robert A. Heinlein's four rules of writing, one of which was, 'You must finish what you write.' I never had any problem with his first one, 'You must write' - I was writing since I was a kid.” – George R.R. Martin

Wise words from one of the most prolific and “busiest” writers in the world with his ever-popular “Game of Thrones” series, who says he's been "immersed" in the Seven Kingdoms of his fictional world for several decades now.  I had the pleasure of meeting Martin a couple years ago when we were both speaking at the Historical Writers of America conference in New Mexico where he makes his home.

“The odd thing about being a writer is you do tend to lose yourself in your books. Sometimes it seems like real life is flickering by and you're hardly a part of it,” Martin said.  “You remember the events in your books better than you remember the events that actually took place when you were writing them.”

And, in Martin’s case, we – the readers – vividly remember those “book” events, too.  A goal every writer hopes for, but few achieve.  “All fiction,” he added, “has to have a certain amount of truth in it to be powerful.”  


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