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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A Writer's Moment: Honing 'Your Writing Voice'

A Writer's Moment: Honing 'Your Writing Voice': “Your writing voice is the deepest possible reflection of who you are. The job of your voice is not to seduce or flatt...

Honing 'Your Writing Voice'


“Your writing voice is the deepest possible reflection of who you are. The job of your voice is not to seduce or flatter or make well-shaped sentences. In your voice, your readers should be able to hear the contents of your mind, your heart, your soul.” – Meg Rosoff

Born in Boston on this date in 1956, Rosoff has split her adulthood between the U.S. and Great Britain, primarily residing in London since age 32.   A multi-award winner for many of her works, she is perhaps best known for her Young Adult novel How I Live Now (also an award-winning movie); Just in Case, named by British librarians as a  “Best Children's Book Published in the UK,” and Picture Me Gone, a finalist for the 2013 U.S. National Book Award for Young People's Literature.       

In 2014 Rosoff was named a Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Literature. And in 2016 she was selected for the coveted Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the richest prize in children’s literature given annually by the Swedish government to honor the famed Swedish children’s author and creator of Pippi Longstocking. 

“One of the more interesting things I've learnt since becoming a writer is that if you like the book, you'll generally like the person,” Rosoff noted.   “It doesn't always work in reverse - there are huge numbers of lovely people out there writing not very good books.”


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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A Writer's Moment: Finishing What You Begin

A Writer's Moment: Finishing What You Begin: “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 Begin

“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
 
Martin, who celebrated his 71st birthday last month, is one of our most prolific and “busiest” writers immersed in his “Game of Thrones” series – both in book form and the recently completed HBO Television programs -- for a couple decades now. 
 
 “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.  That's a goal every writer hopes for, but few achieve.  “All fiction,” Martin added, “has to have a certain amount of truth in it to be powerful.”

Sunday, October 13, 2019

A Writer's Moment: Sharing A Love Of Words

A Writer's Moment: Sharing A Love Of Words: “I always loved words.   I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of ...

Sharing A Love Of Words


“I always loved words.  I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.” – Anne Rice 

Rice, who just turned 78, was born in New Orleans, which is the setting for many of her books.  She’s probably best known for her popular and influential series of novels, The Vampire Chronicles, revolving around the central character of Lestat.   Two of the books were made into movies, and many were adapted later as comic books, adding to their luster and ongoing popularity. 
                               Rice's books have sold over 100 million copies, placing her among the most popular authors in recent American history.  She says that one of her own biggest influencers was British writer Charles Dickens.

“Dickens is a very underrated writer at the moment,” she said.  “Everyone in his time admired him, but I think right now he's not spoken of enough.  I claim Dickens as a mentor…He’s one of my driving forces.” 


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Saturday, October 12, 2019

A Writer's Moment: That 'Tough Skin Of Words'

A Writer's Moment: That 'Tough Skin Of Words': “Poetry is ordinary language raised to the Nth power. Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by t...

That 'Tough Skin Of Words'


“Poetry is ordinary language raised to the Nth power. Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words.” – Paul Engle

Born on this date in 1908, Engle was a poet, editor, teacher, literary critic, novelist and playwright. He served as the long-time director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and co-founded the University of Iowa’s  International Writing Program.    By the time of his death in 1991, he had authored a dozen collections of poetry, a novel, a memoir, an opera libretto, a children's book and dozens of articles and reviews for magazines and journals around the globe.    

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

                                                         Twenty Below
Twenty below, I said, and closed the door,
A drop of five degrees and going down.
It makes a tautened drum-hide of the floor,
Brittle as leaves each building in the town.
I wonder what would happen to us here
If that hard wind of winter never stopped,
No man again could watch the night grow clear,
The blue thermometer forever dropped.

I hope, you answered, for so cruel a storm
To freeze remoteness from our lives too cold.
Then we could learn, huddled all close, how warm
The hearts of men who live alone too much,
And once, before our death, admit the old
Need of a human nearness, need of touch.


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Friday, October 11, 2019

A Writer's Moment: It's A Great Time To Celebrate

A Writer's Moment: It's A Great Time To Celebrate: What do A Thief Of Time by Tony Hillerman, The Source by James Michener, The Dig by John Preston, and The Adventure of the Egyptian Tom...

It's A Great Time To Celebrate


What do A Thief Of Time by Tony Hillerman, The Source by James Michener, The Dig by John Preston, and The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb by Agatha Christie have in common?  Well, they’re all novels about archaeology and October is the annual month to celebrate that field.  This year’s International Archaeology Day, one of those “floating” holidays that is held around the same time each year, will be Oct. 19.  

While there are hundreds of factual, nonfiction books about archaeology, there also are a surprising number of novels written about the genre, including about 80 “general” titles like the ones listed above and nearly 50 that are listed as “thrillers.”  Many of those combine three great genres – history, mystery and thriller. 

Those who rank the importance and impact of such books place The Seventh Scroll, a 1995 novel by Wilbur Smith, as the number one archaeological “thriller” of all time.    It got a score of 993 (out of 1000) from a panel of voters from around the world.          Smith is a South African writer who once studied archaeology before writing a series of adventure/thriller novels about a husband-and-wife archaeological team exploring Egyptian tombs (where they find the seventh scroll).

There’s an old adage that writers should “Write What They Know Best,” whether it be archaeology, education, sports or history.  All are fertile ground for fiction, especially when you are “in the know.”


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Thursday, October 10, 2019

A Writer's Moment: It's Not Where You Write, But What You Produce

A Writer's Moment: It's Not Where You Write, But What You Produce: Nellie Bly not only was one of the nation’s most famous 19 th Century writers but also an adventurer extraordinaire.   I’ve long been fasc...

It's Not Where You Write, But What You Produce

Nellie Bly not only was one of the nation’s most famous 19th Century writers but also an adventurer extraordinaire.  I’ve long been fascinated with the story of her career, writing for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World in the years Pulitzer was establishing his own reputation as a champion of the First Amendment and aspiring young writers. 
 
Toward that end he not only gave Nellie Bly her chance, but also funded many of the adventures that led to some of the day’s most widely read stories, including her “Around The World in 72 Days” trip that pitted her against Jules Verne’s “Around The World in 80 Days” fictional character Phileas Fogg.
 
The World’s readers hung on her every dispatch as she circumnavigated the globe – a solo young woman eclipsing Fogg’s achievement.  Few know that en route she took a side trip to Amiens, France, to meet the writer who inspired her effort.  Her comment on that encounter inspires my own writing.
 
Bly wrote:  “When I met Jules Verne and asked to see his writing desk, I had expected to see a hand-carved desk filled with trinkets, but I only saw a plain, flat-topped one.  It was in a small room, modest and bare, with a single latticed window.  It made me realize that it isn’t the place that you write that matters; it’s what you produce that matters.”
 
Nellie Bly and Jules Verne (both as they appeared in 1889

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A Writer's Moment: 'Loving The Written Word'

A Writer's Moment: 'Loving The Written Word': “I don't think you can write - at least not well - if you don't love stories, love the written word.” – Nora Roberts The mega-...

'Loving The Written Word'

“I don't think you can write - at least not well - if you don't love stories, love the written word.” – Nora Roberts

The mega-bestselling author of more than 225 novels, Roberts writes under her own name, and as J. D. Robb for the in Death series.  She also has written under the pseudonyms Jill March and (in the U.K.) as Sarah Hardesty.

With books that have spent a combined total of nearly 900 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list – including 161 in the number one spot – she was a natural choice to be selected as the first author inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame.      Born in Maryland on this date in 1950, Roberts started writing to break the tedium of being snowbound during a 1979 blizzard.  She loved the process so much that she finished 6 books before starting to send them off to publishers, most of who rejected her out of hand. Finally, in 1981, Silhouette Books, an imprint of Harlequin, gave her a try and she was off and running. 

Noted for her “keen ear for dialogue and compelling characters” she treats writing as a full-time job and writes 8 hours a day, every day, including on vacations.  “Every writer has to figure out what works best - and often has to select and discard different tools before they find the one that fits,” Roberts said.  “I don't believe for one moment you can write well what you wouldn't read yourself for pleasure.”


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Monday, October 7, 2019

A Writer's Moment: Portraying 'The Great Drama Of The Human Spirit'

A Writer's Moment: Portraying 'The Great Drama Of The Human Spirit': “It may seem unfashionable to say so, but historians should seize the imagination as well as the intellect. History is...

Portraying 'The Great Drama Of The Human Spirit'


“It may seem unfashionable to say so, but historians should seize the imagination as well as the intellect. History is, in a sense, a story, a narrative of adventure and of vision, of character and of incident. It is also a portrait of the great general drama of the human spirit.” – Peter Ackroyd

Born on this date in 1949, Ackroyd is an English biographer, novelist and critic whose  biographical pieces include luminaries like William Blake, Charles Dickens and T.S. Eliot.  But his historical novels have earned him the most acclaim, including the Somerset Maugham Award and two Whitbread Awards.      Ackroyd also is noted for the sheer volume of his work (39 nonfiction books, 18 novels, and 4 books of poetry), and the depth of his research. 

It was his 1982 novel The Great Fire of London, a reworking of Dickens’ Little Dorrit (a terrific example, by the way, of the “serial” writing style that first made Dickens popular) that put Ackroyd on the writing map.    The book set the stage for a long sequence of novels dealing with the complex interaction of time and space and what Ackroyd calls "the spirit of place.” 
  
“I don’t think I ever read a novel until I was 26 or 27,” he said.  “I wanted to be a poet … (and) had no interest in fiction or biography and precious little interest in history.  But those three elements in my life have become the most important.”  


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Sunday, October 6, 2019

A Writer's Moment: Newspapers: At The Heart Of Everything

A Writer's Moment: Newspapers: At The Heart Of Everything: “I went into journalism to learn the craft of writing and to get close to the world I wanted to write about - police an...

Newspapers: At The Heart Of Everything

“I went into journalism to learn the craft of writing and to get close to the world I wanted to write about - police and criminals, the criminal justice system.   I still look at a newspaper as the center of a community.  It's one of the tent poles of the community, and that's not going to be replaced by web sites and blogs.” – Michael Connelly 
 
Today (October 6th) is the beginning of National Newspaper Week, the 79th annual celebrated in recognition of the service newspapers and their employees across North America provide for us all.  Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Press are not only important freedoms but perhaps our most important freedoms.  That is, perhaps,  why our founders put them into our Constitution’s “First” Amendment. 

In the 1960s, when I began my own writing career – as a journalist on a local newspaper in South Dakota – journalists were held in the highest esteem.  Today, they are often vilified by government and political leaders simply because they continue striving to shine a spotlight on the truth, often an “uncomfortable” reality that those leaders would prefer to keep in the shadows. 

In a note to newspaper publishers, the NAM (Newspaper Association Managers),  sponsors of National Newspaper Week, said:  “When journalists are obstructed, so is the public’s right to be informed and hold power to account. The United States has some of the strongest legal free speech protections in the world, and serves as a beacon for press freedom in a world where journalists are routinely censored, attacked, or imprisoned for their work. 

"But the U.S. record is imperfect, and journalists and advocates must tirelessly defend the First Amendment in courts, in legislatures, and in the media. Constant vigilance and an honest accounting of the country’s track record on press freedom are essential.”




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Saturday, October 5, 2019

A Writer's Moment: Direct, Simple and Focused

A Writer's Moment: Direct, Simple and Focused: “When writing for the page, the focus is on the design - how the words appear on the page. I try to make it as direct ...

Direct, Simple and Focused


“When writing for the page, the focus is on the design - how the words appear on the page. I try to make it as direct and simple as possible.” – Rupi Kaur

Born in India on Oct. 4, 1992, Kaur has gained fame for a wide range of writings and performance art.     But it’s her poetic works that have gained her the most fame.  Writing that is from the forefront of social-media-centered genre; short and easily accessible.

For Saturday’s Poem, here is Kaur’s,

       Nothing Purer

          the world
          gives you
          so much pain
          and here you are
          making gold out of it

          there is nothing purer than that


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