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Monday, January 18, 2021

A Writer's Moment: Finding a 'Sense of Wonder'

A Writer's Moment: Finding a 'Sense of Wonder': “I've read up on magic, and I think it sets you free, and it gives you hope. You can explore worlds you didn't know existed. It stre...

Finding a 'Sense of Wonder'

“I've read up on magic, and I think it sets you free, and it gives you hope. You can explore worlds you didn't know existed. It stretches your imagination, and I like my own imagination to be stretched and also the children I'm telling the story to. It gives you a sense of wonder.” – Jenny Nimmo

 

British author Jenny Nimmo, born Jan. 15, 1944 has stretched kids’ imagination for 60 years, writing dozens of fantasy and magical adventure books for children.   Her two major series of fantasy novels:  The Magician Trilogy and Children of the Red King are her best-known (and award-winning) books that have earned her loyal readers around the globe.  The latter series has now been published in 9 languages.         

                                      Nimmo has lived in Wales for most of her writing life, and many of her books are based in Welsh myth.  An only child, her father died when she was 5 and she escaped her grief by becoming first a voracious reader and then a devoted writer.   Writing first for herself, she soon realized she had the talent to also entertain others with her words, and she’s been doing so since age 15.

 

She said she gravitated toward writing fantasy because she always thought a magical world would be, for most kids, a special place to think about visiting.   “Every book that you pick up takes you a step away from your real world,” she said, “but if you read a book about magic, it takes you an extra two steps.”

 



 

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Sunday, January 17, 2021

A Writer's Moment: Everything 'In Her Range'

A Writer's Moment: Everything 'In Her Range':   “To note an artist’s limitations is but to define her talent.   A reporter can write equally well about everything that is presented to he...

Everything 'In Her Range'

 “To note an artist’s limitations is but to define her talent.  A reporter can write equally well about everything that is presented to her view, but a creative writer can do her best only with what lies within the range and character of her deepest sympathies.” – Willa Cather


Born in Virginia but raised on the prairies of Nebraska, Willa Cather always said her writing was greatly affected by her “growing up years” and the vastness of the prairieland that surrounded her – experiences she used extensively in her novels and short stories.

 

And, when she compares reporting to creative writing, she also knows of what she speaks.  She started writing as a reporter for the Nebraska State Journal and then did a stint on the magazine Home Monthly before serving as drama critic and telegraph editor for the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Leader.  After moving on to McClure’s in New York City, she got serious about her creative writing and in the 19-teens did her famous “Prairie Trilogy” of O Pioneers!, Song of the Lark, and My Antonia, some of the best realism written about the life and blend of people on the Great Plains.

 

In the 1920s she won the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours, and then wrote what I’ve always thought was one of her best, Death Comes for the Archbishop. 

"Writing,” Cather said, “ought either to be the manufacture of stories for which there is a market demand – a business as safe and commendable as making soap or breakfast foods – or it should be an art, which is always a search for something for which there is no market demand, something new and untried, where the values are intrinsic and have nothing to do with standardized values."

 

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Saturday, January 16, 2021

A Writer's Moment: Celebrating Hope and Spirit

A Writer's Moment: Celebrating Hope and Spirit:   “Shatter the icons of slavery and fear.   Replace the leer of the minstrel's burnt-cork face with a proud, serene and classic bron...

Celebrating Hope and Spirit

 “Shatter the icons of slavery and fear.  Replace the leer of the minstrel's burnt-cork face with a proud, serene and classic bronze of Benin.”Dudley Randall

 

Born in Washington, DC, on Jan. 14, 1914, Randall wrote his first poem at age 4 and had his first poem published when he was 13.  A World War II veteran, he earned a BA in English from Wayne University (now Wayne State University) and a MA in library science from the University of Michigan after the war and became a noted librarian and translator of Russian poetry.  Recipient of numerous writing awards, he was named Detroit’s first Poet Laureate in 1981.  For Saturday’s Poem, here is Randall’s,

 

 

On Getting A Natural (For Gwendolyn Brooks)

 

She didn't know she was beautiful,
though her smiles were dawn,
her voice was bells,
and her skin deep velvet Night.


She didn't know she was beautiful,
although her deeds,
kind, generous, unobtrusive,
gave hope to some,
and help to others,
and inspiration to us all. And
beauty is as beauty does,
they say.

Then one day there blossomed
a crown upon her head,
bushy, bouffant, real Afro-down,
Queen Nefertiti again.
And now her regal woolly crown
declares,
I know
I'm black
AND
beautiful.

 

 

 

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Friday, January 15, 2021

A Writer's Moment: First, 'Make It Amusing'

A Writer's Moment: First, 'Make It Amusing':   All the ills of mankind, all the tragic misfortunes that fill the history books, all the political blunders, all the failures of the great...

First, 'Make It Amusing'

 All the ills of mankind, all the tragic misfortunes that fill the history books, all the political blunders, all the failures of the great leaders have arisen merely from a lack of skill at dancing. – Moliere

 

Born on Jan. 15, 1622 Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Moliere, was a French playwright and actor considered one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature.  Among his best-known works are The Misanthrope, Tartuffe and The Miser.  He was one of the first theatrical writers to combine his words with music and dance – a precursor to today’s musical theater if you will.

   

An actor first, Moliere died on stage while performing the last play he had written – ironically titled The Imaginary Invalid.    Playing the role of a hypochondriac, he had a severe coughing fit and collapsed during the last act; many in the audience thinking it was part of the script.  True to the old saying of “The show must go on,” he insisted on finishing the performance and then died shortly afterward.

 

A favorite of both nobility and the common man, he was hated by religious leaders for his criticism of religion, not unlike writers who satirize and criticize religion in today’s society.   His works still resonate and are performed throughout the world.   

 

As noted above, he also was a lifelong patron and supporter of dance, which he said would keep people so preoccupied and in good spirits that they wouldn’t have time for mischief and misdeeds.  As for his comedic plays, he noted, “The duty of comedy is to correct men . . . by amusing them.”



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Thursday, January 14, 2021

A Writer's Moment: 'Forced Contemplation of Our Works'

A Writer's Moment: 'Forced Contemplation of Our Works':   “If there is a special ‘Hell’ for writers it would probably be the forced contemplation of their own works.” – John Dos Passos Born on...

'Forced Contemplation of Our Works'

 “If there is a special ‘Hell’ for writers it would probably be the forced contemplation of their own works.” – John Dos Passos


Born on this date in 1896, Dos Passos is another of the great Chicago writers from the first half of the last century.  His mark in literature came primarily in the area of writing about issues of social justice even though he was a member of what today would be called “The 1%.” 


 

Well-educated (private schools and a university degree from Harvard) and well-traveled, he visited Europe and the Middle East where he learned about literature, art and architecture.  Those experiences, though, were balanced against his experiences as an ambulance driver during World War I and shaped the views and his writing about “fairness and justice.” 

 
 John Dos Passos

The author of many books and also a gifted artist (he did covers for Life magazine, for example) he is best known for his USA Trilogy, which consists of The 42nd Parallel, 1919, and The Big Money – a trio of novels that has been rated in the top 25 of The 100 Best English Language novels of the 20th Century.

Near the end of his long life – he died at age 84 in 1970 – Dos Passos reflected on his life’s work and said: “The creation of a world view is the work of a generation rather than of an individual, but we, each of us, for better or worse, add our brick to the edifice.” 
 
 

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

A Writer's Moment: 'It's A Biopsy' Of Human Life'

A Writer's Moment: 'It's A Biopsy' Of Human Life':   “A story is a kind of biopsy of human life. A story is both local, specific, small, and deep, in a kind of penetrating, layered, and revea...

'It's A Biopsy' Of Human Life'

 “A story is a kind of biopsy of human life. A story is both local, specific, small, and deep, in a kind of penetrating, layered, and revealing way.” – Lorrie Moore

 

Marie Lorena “Lorrie” Moore, born in Upstate New York on this date in 1957, is an award-winning writer in several genres, although she’s primarily known for her poignant and humorous short stories.  Moore’s career started while she was still a teenager attending St. Lawrence University.  There, she won Seventeen magazine's national fiction contest, leading to the publication of her story "Raspberries," and jump-starting her successful writing career.  That career took a huge leap forward in graduate school at Cornell where she studied under Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alison Lurie. 

In addition to her many short stories (5 collections thus far), she also has written 3 novels, a children’s book and a non-fiction book and had a highly successful career in higher education.  She’s taught writing at 8 major colleges and universities across the country – although much of her teaching career was at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Moore also writes about books, films, and television for The New York Review of Books, and a collection of her essays, criticism and comment was published in 2018 as See What Can Be Done.   Her best-known novel is A Gate At The Stairs, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award.

 

“Rather than a teaching tool, I think a novel is more of a witnessing entity,” Moore said.  “A witnessing entity? What is that? I just want the reader to step in and experience it as a story.”