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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A Writer's Moment: Setting Your Writing Routine

A Writer's Moment: Setting Your Writing Routine: “I needed to find my way to write. I need about six hours of uninterrupted time in order to produce about two hours of...

Setting Your Writing Routine


“I needed to find my way to write. I need about six hours of uninterrupted time in order to produce about two hours of writing, and when I accepted that and found the way to do it, then I was able to write.” – Robert B. Parker

Born in Springfield, MA on this date in 1932, Parker intended to teach for a living.  And, he was well into an English Lit career at Northeastern University (where he became a full professor) before switching to writing when his novels about a detective named “Spenser” hit the bestseller lists.  Ultimately, he would write 41 books about the private eye.  His writing about Spenser is often credited with changing the style and face of the crime-writing genre.  

Parker loved Boston and the Boston area (the setting for Spenser books) and walked the streets, learned the vernacular of its various districts, and studied policing there. “There can never be any substitute for your own palate nor any better education than tasting the wine yourself,” he said. 
                                    Spenser also became a popular TV series “Spenser for Hire,” but more recently it’s his “Jesse Stone” television series that have brought Parker a whole new audience for his writing. 

His advise for new writers is simple:   “If you want to write, write it. That's the first rule. And send it in, and send it in to someone who can publish it or get it published. Don't send it to me. Don't show it to your spouse, or your significant other, or your parents, or somebody. They're not going to publish it.”



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Sunday, September 15, 2019

A Writer's Moment: Books That 'Have Emotion At Their Heart'

A Writer's Moment: Books That 'Have Emotion At Their Heart': “The best novels are those that are important without being like medicine; they have something to say, are expansive a...

Books That 'Have Emotion At Their Heart'


“The best novels are those that are important without being like medicine; they have something to say, are expansive and intelligent but never forget to be entertaining and to have character and emotion at their heart." -- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie, who was born in Nigeria on this date in 1977, has not only been published in the world’s leading English language publications, but also been translated into more than 30 languages. 

Winner of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (also known as “The Genius Grant”), she is the author of the award-winning novels Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, and Americanah, plus numerous short stories and nonfiction that has won many of the world’s leading writing prizes.  Among those are the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, The Reader’s Digest Author of the Year, and a PEN Pinter Prize. 
                                        “I am drawn, as a reader, to detail-drenched stories about human lives affected as much by the internal as by the external,” she said.  “(It’s what) Jane Smiley nicely describes as 'first and foremost about how individuals fit, or don't fit, into their social worlds.’”




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Saturday, September 14, 2019

A Writer's Moment: We All Use Language 'Poetically'

A Writer's Moment: We All Use Language 'Poetically': “Everyone is not able, or inclined, to write poetry in the narrower sense any more than everyone is qualified to take ...

We All Use Language 'Poetically'


“Everyone is not able, or inclined, to write poetry in the narrower sense any more than everyone is qualified to take part in a walking race. But just as all of us can and do walk, so all of us can and do use language poetically.” – Louis MacNeice

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on this date in 1907, MacNeice was a popular poet and playwright in his relatively short lifetime (he died at age 55).  He authored 22 books of poetry, a dozen plays, 2 novels and several non-fiction books, including a highly regarded book of criticism Varieties of Parable (published posthumously).     His autobiographical long poem Autumn Journal – written to record his state of mind from time immersed in the Spanish Civil War and his belief that another World War was inevitable – is considered his poetic masterpiece.    

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

Sunlight On The Garden

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold;
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.

The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying

And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.




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Friday, September 13, 2019

A Writer's Moment: The Remarkable Roald Dahl

A Writer's Moment: The Remarkable Roald Dahl: “A writer of fiction lives in fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to com...

The Remarkable Roald Dahl


“A writer of fiction lives in fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to come up with them or not.”  – Roald Dahl

A WW II hero for his great skill as a RAF pilot, Dahl simultaneously rose to writing prominence during the war.   His first books, written for adults, were about his wartime adventures, but he made his first big splash with his 1943 children’s tale Gremlins.

Born on this date in 1916, Dahl has been referred to as "one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century,” earning the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1983, and Children's Author of the Year from the British Book Awards in 1990, the year of his death.  The London Times ranks Dahl 16th among "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945." 
                                His works for children are among the world’s most beloved, especially James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Matilda.  The “Charlie” book grew out of a childhood fantasy that he might someday work for the famed Cadbury chocolate company in his native Britain. 

 “When you're writing a book, with people in it as opposed to animals, it is no good having people who are ordinary, because they are not going to interest your readers at all,” Dahl said about his writing style.  “Every writer in the world has to use the characters that have something interesting about them.”  



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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A Writer's Moment: Always Putting Kids First

A Writer's Moment: Always Putting Kids First: "The illustrations in picture books are the first paintings most children see, and because of that, they are incredibly important. Wh...

Always Putting Kids First


"The illustrations in picture books are the first paintings most children see, and because of that, they are incredibly important. What we see and share at that age stays with us for life."  – Anthony Browne
  
British children’s book writer and illustrator Browne, born this date in 1946, started drawing and writing at age 5.  Since he took it up professionally, he’s published over 40 books, led by his multiple award-winning book Gorilla.  Browne’s books have won a basketfull of awards, including the Kate Greenaway Medal (twice for his illustrations) and the Hans Christian Andersen Prize.

While he writes in English, his books are out in 26 languages.  “I don’t like narrowing my readers down – there’s not a particular age or gender or nationality,” he said.  “I suppose I’m aiming at the child I was. I never want to make a child worried or afraid, and I don't think I do. My pictures are born from the belief that children are far more capable and aware of social complexities than we give them credit for.”  
                                                 Active in sports - playing rugby, soccer and cricket as a young man - Browne said his early career goals were journalism, cartooning or boxing, but he always gravitated back to doing things for kids. “Never forget that children are at the heart of everything we do,” he said. “Respect them, listen to them, talk to them as equals and most of all, care about them.”
 


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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

A Writer's Moment: 'Happy Endings' Are Her Writing Rewards

A Writer's Moment: 'Happy Endings' Are Her Writing Rewards: “I used to feel defensive when people would say, 'Yes, but your books have happy endings', as if that made them worthless, or unre...

'Happy Endings' Are Her Writing Rewards


“I used to feel defensive when people would say, 'Yes, but your books have happy endings', as if that made them worthless, or unrealistic. Some people do get happy endings, even if it's only for a while. I would rather never be published again than write a downbeat ending.” – Marian Keyes
  
Born in Limerick, Ireland on this date in 1963, Keyes is both a novelist and non-fiction writer, best known for her work in women's literature.   A multiple winner of the Irish Book Awards, she has sold over 35 million copies of her novels, which have now been translated into 33 languages.  Among her best-known works are Watermelon, Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married and This Charming Man.

Keyes began writing short stories while suffering from alcoholism and after treatment came out with her award-winning novel Watermelon.   She also has written frankly about clinical depression, which left her unable to sleep, read, write, or talk.  After a long hiatus due to severe depression, she wrote her bestseller Saved by Cake
                                                      
“I used to write in bed, starting when I woke up,” she said.   “I believe that creative work comes from our subconscious mind, so I try to keep the gap between sleep and writing as minimal as possible.” 
                                    “Writing about feeling disconnected has enabled me to connect, and that has been the most lovely thing of all.”




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Monday, September 9, 2019

A Writer's Moment: Reading 'Inspires' Better Writing

A Writer's Moment: Reading 'Inspires' Better Writing: “Other writers definitely influence my writing. What encourages me and inspires me is when I read a good book. It make...

Reading 'Inspires' Better Writing


“Other writers definitely influence my writing. What encourages me and inspires me is when I read a good book. It makes me want to be a better writer.” – Kimberly Willis Holt

When I was first writing young adult literature, I was not only impressed with Holt’s work but also her comments on writing.  “My biggest disappointment (as a writer),” she said, “is that once I’m finished working on the characters, I really do expect to see them in the flesh one day.” Like Holt, I’ve found it hard to “let those characters go” once I finish the book.

Best known for the novel When Zachary Beaver Came to Town – winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature – Holt was born into a Navy family on this date in 1960 in Pensacola, FL, but spent most of her childhood in Forest Hill, LA.  Those “growing up” years inspired her award-winning first novel, My Louisiana Sky, while her experiences as a “Navy brat” are reflected in her Piper Reed series of books.  

Holt has great advice for young authors who say they struggle with “wrapping up” a piece on which they’re working.  “If you're having trouble finishing a book, it might be that you're trying to hard to fix it as you go,” she said.  “Just finish the story, no matter how terrible you think that first draft is. Then let it cool off. In other words, don't look at it for a while. THEN you can rewrite it.”


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Saturday, September 7, 2019

A Writer's Moment: Our Native American Poetic Star

A Writer's Moment: Our Native American Poetic Star: “It’s about learning to listen, much like in music.   You can train your ears in history.   You can train your ears to the earth.   You ca...

Our Native American Poetic Star


“It’s about learning to listen, much like in music.  You can train your ears in history.  You can train your ears to the earth.  You can train your ears to the wind.  It’s important to listen and then to study the world, like astronomy or geology or the names of birds.  A lot of poets can be semihistorians.  Poetry is very mathematical.  There’s a lot in the theoretical parts that is similar.  Quantum physicists remind me of mystics.  They are aware of what happens in timelessness, though they speak of it through theories and equations.” – Joy Harjo, the first Native American U.S. Poet Laureate.

Harjo’s words, above, are in response to a Time Magazine inquiry, “What Advice would you give poets?”  
                          For Saturday’s Poem, here is Harjo’s,

Perhaps The World Ends Here

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.



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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

A Writer's Moment: Approaching Writing 'Unafraid'

A Writer's Moment: Approaching Writing 'Unafraid': “As a writer, the best mindset is to be unafraid.” – Malcolm Gladwell I read my first Gladwell book right after h...

Approaching Writing 'Unafraid'


“As a writer, the best mindset is to be unafraid.” – Malcolm Gladwell

I read my first Gladwell book right after having open heart surgery and I have to say that it’s not the best idea when you’re trying to heal.  That’s because it’s difficult to heal when you keep throwing your arms wide apart and saying "Oh my God, I never thought of that!”

That book was Outliers: The Story of Success, and I couldn’t wait to have people visit me while I was recuperating so I could share things from the book with them.

Gladwell, whose newest book has the complex title Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don't Know, was born on this date in 1963.  His books and many dozens of articles usually deal with the unexpected implications of research in the areas of sociology, psychology, and social psychology.  While that might sound dry, it’s absolutely the opposite and provides some of the most thought-provoking reading you might encounter.

“All my books are optimistic,” Gladwell said.  “I wrote my first book when I was in my late 30s, and I had so much optimism to share by that time.”  He said he may have gone through the angst of youth, but he didn’t write about it.        A native of England who grew up in Canada, he also has been a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine.

“I'm interested in collecting interesting stories, and . . . interesting research. What I'm looking for is cases where they overlap. . . Actually, I've had the most untraumatic life a human being can have,” he said.   “But I've always been drawn to those who have had far more complicated histories.”

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Monday, September 2, 2019

A Writer's Moment: Risking It All To 'Follow The Story'

A Writer's Moment: Risking It All To 'Follow The Story': “Journalism, for me, has always been a calling, There are things that must be exposed to the light, truths that must b...

Risking It All To 'Follow The Story'


“Journalism, for me, has always been a calling, There are things that must be exposed to the light, truths that must be uncovered, stories worth risking your life for.” – Leslie Cockburn

An American writer, producer and director, Cockburn has often found herself in situations where her life was at risk.  But she relentlessly “followed the story,” traveling the globe to capture award-winning news, features and documentaries alike.   Born in California on this date in 1952, Cockburn now makes her home in Washington, D.C., with her husband Andrew, also a journalist and film producer with whom she has produced programs and co-authored several books.

Right out of college she went to work making films, but was drawn to journalism working as both a feature reporter and producer for NBC, CBS, ABC and PBS, where she made documentary features for the program Front Line   In 2009, she directed and co-produced (with Andrew) American Casino, the story of the origins, progress and consequences of the subprime mortgage disaster that led to the greatest U.S. financial crisis since the Great Depression.   The film is considered the “go to” film about that crisis.

“When you are on assignment, you stick to the facts, limit your vision, and often cut out the most revealing material,” she has said about her reporting and producing style.  “(For a reporter) there is no texture, no shades of gray.”

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Sunday, September 1, 2019

A Writer's Moment: Writing Is 'Like A Well-Practiced Sport'

A Writer's Moment: Writing Is 'Like A Well-Practiced Sport': “ I come to writing the same way I come to teaching, which is that my goal is always to create life-long readers.” – Rick Riordan One...

Writing Is 'Like A Well-Practiced Sport'


I come to writing the same way I come to teaching, which is that my goal is always to create life-long readers.” – Rick Riordan

One-time Middle School teacher writing Riordan (born in 1964) has had remarkable success with his Percy Jackson series for Young Adults and Tweens (also super enjoyable for adults, by the way).  But that success didn’t happen overnight.  The series grew out of bedtime stories he told his kids, but that was only where he formulated the idea.  After that it was a project 10 years in the making.

He said he realized that much more research on his idea of using mythology was needed before he could really “craft” the stories he wanted to tell.  “I think the more you understand myths, the more you understand the roots of our culture and the more things will resonate,” he noted.  “Do you have to know them?  No, but certainly it is nice to recognize how deeply these things are embedded in our literature; our art.” 
                              Now, many successful books (and series) later, he said he still doesn’t feel totally comfortable in his chosen craft.  “You have to work hard to get to the top of your game,” he said.  “I think every writer has doubts.  I still do all the time. 

“It's not easy. I got lots of rejections when I first started out. But, if you want to write, you have to believe in yourself and not give up.  … Writing is like a sport, it’s like athletics.  If you don’t practice you won’t get better.”



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Saturday, August 31, 2019

A Writer's Moment: A Maker Of Poems

A Writer's Moment: A Maker Of Poems: “Art is beauty, the perpetual invention of detail, the choice of words, the exquisite care of execution.” – Théophile Gautier Born th...

A Maker Of Poems


“Art is beauty, the perpetual invention of detail, the choice of words, the exquisite care of execution.” – Théophile Gautier

Born this day in 1811, Pierre Jules Théophile Gautier was a French dramatist, novelist, journalist and one of the premier art critics of the 19th Century.    And, he wrote poetry.  “I like to think that art and poetry are intertwined,” he said.  “The word ‘poet’ literally means maker: anything which is not well made doesn't exist.”  Like his art criticism, his poetic writing took new twists, giving the public yet another way to look at things.       For Saturday’s Poem, here are words from Gautier’s,  
 
    Unknown Shores
I may not ask again:
where would you like to go?

Have you a star; she says,
O any faithful sun
Where love does not eclipse?
The countdown slurs and slips.
-Ah child, if that star shines,
is in chartless skies,

I do not know of such!
But come, where will you go?


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Thursday, August 29, 2019

A Writer's Moment: Writing That Nourishes The Soul

A Writer's Moment: Writing That Nourishes The Soul: “I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading th...

Writing That Nourishes The Soul


“I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.”  -- Kurt Vonnegut 

In a career spanning over 50 years, Vonnegut published 14 novels, 3 short story collections, 5 plays, and 5 works of non-fiction. He is most famous for his darkly satirical, best-selling novel Slaughterhouse-Five.

Born in 1922, Vonnegut always claimed that it was by reading other great writers that he himself developed the writing style and ideas that led to his success.  Among the most influential on his writing, he said, were George Orwell, Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry David Thoreau and H.G. Wells.      

A journalist first, Vonnegut often credited journalistic writing as another key to his style – one that made his writing both straightforward and understandable by a wide audience.

“One of the things that I tell beginning writers is this: If you describe a landscape, or a cityscape, or a seascape, always be sure to put a human figure somewhere in the scene. Why? Because readers are human beings, mostly interested in human beings,” he said.  “People are humanists … most of them, anyway.”


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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

A Writer's Moment: Fighting Those 'Writing Demons'

A Writer's Moment: Fighting Those 'Writing Demons': “When you're writing you're constantly fighting demons to sit down and do what you do. If you listen to the voices outside your he...

Fighting Those 'Writing Demons'


“When you're writing you're constantly fighting demons to sit down and do what you do. If you listen to the voices outside your head, in addition to the ones inside your head, you'll never get anything done. There's enough inner strife.” – Melissa Rosenberg

Born in California on this date in 1962, Rosenberg has worked in both film and television where she’s won a Peabody Award, and been nominated for two Emmy Awards and two Writers Guild of America Awards.   She also is a major supporter of female screenwriters through the WGA Diversity Committee and co-founded the League of Hollywood Women Writers.

“I also am involved with 'Write Girl,' which is such a great organization, because they go into inner city schools and work with underprivileged girls to pair them up with other writers,” she said.  “And it gets them learning to express themselves and become familiar with their own voice. They have a 100% success ratio getting those girls into college.”        Among her best-known works are the Dexter, Twilight, and Jessica Jones’ series, all major award-winners or nominees for this talented writer.  She also served as executive producer for Dexter and not only produced but also created and wrote for Jessica Jones, currently in its fifth season.

“If you start writing to an audience you're talking down to them,” she said.   “I've never written for any age group, I just write character. If you can capture that you'll get the audiences, and it will be a wide range, as it is for 'Twilight,' it's a pretty wide range.”



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