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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Just a 'Country Boy'

“I was never trying to write a hit.  I was just trying to write good songs and get a message out, and it was my great good fortune to be popular.”

Those are the words of Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., who wrote more than 200 songs and recorded more than 300 in his relatively short lifetime, becoming one of the world’s most popular folk/country/soft rock singers and performers.  Among his hits were the song known as Colorado’s “unofficial” anthem, Rocky Mountain High, and West Virginia's "unofficial" anthem Country Roads.

Born on this day in 1943, John Denver, as he became known in his professional life, was a great storyteller with his songs, writing about his love for and activism on behalf of nature, and his enthusiasm for music.  But he also wrote beautiful tales about people and relationships.  Among them are the very moving Poems, Prayers and Promises, often sung at funerals, and the beautiful Annie’s Song, sung at countless weddings.

And who couldn’t love his raucous Thank God I’m A Country Boy – which I always thought spoke to any kid who was raised on a farm or ranch – and the happy-go-lucky Grandma’s Feather Bed.  In his lifetime, which ended in a tragic plane crash in 1997, Denver’s songs sold a remarkable 33 million copies – and they continue to be re-recorded and listened to by new generations.
John Denver

While he didn’t set pen to paper to write “hits,” he did write words and music that will live with us forever.   Here’s a link to Thank God I’m A Country Boy:  

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A powerful drug

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug ever used by mankind.” – Rudyard Kipling
A prolific writer, Kipling was born this day in Bombay, India.  Educated in England, he started his writing career with a series of essays called "Departmental Ditties." But it was his epic novels and short stories that brought him lasting fame. Kipling is probably best known for The Jungle Book as well as Captains Courageous, and, of course, his “Just So” stories.  He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907.
Rudyard Kipling
Considered one of the greatest English writers, he ironically wrote most of his pieces while residing in America – particularly Brattleboro, Vermont, where he lived for many years after his marriage to American Caroline Balestier in 1892.  While most of his works were either about India or Britain, he continued to live and write in the U.S. until his death in 1936.

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Finding your writing style

“As a writer, I need an enormous amount of time alone. Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It's a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write. Having anybody watching that or attempting to share it with me would be grisly.”
 – Paul Rudnick

 Born this day in 1957, Paul Rudnick is an American playwright, novelist, screenwriter and essayist.  First catapulted to fame for his work Addams Family Values, his plays have been produced both on an off Broadway and around the world.

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Unplanned journies

Driving along a snow-packed road – with crosswind buffeting the car with an urgency that indicates it doesn’t like the idea that you’re filling up part of the space through which it hopes to pass – has a way of “heightening” the senses.

I always start such trips with the feeling that this time the snow, ice and wind are not going to be an issue; that I’ve learned from my past and know what I have to do.  But Mother Nature always has a new twist or a few new tricks to make sure that the experience is not a repeat, but instead a new “opportunity” for those who want to test her.

So even if you’ve made the trip dozens of times before, it always ends up as a whole new driving adventure.

Writing often is that way, too, especially when you’re using time-tested techniques or concepts.  You start out thinking you’ve already been along this path, and this will just be an easy opportunity to fill up space en route to your new story’s destination.  But, lo and behold, a new pathway emerges and you find yourself drawn in that direction – “just to have a peek.” 

And the journey, while sometimes a bit harrowing, is always worthy of the effort.  Like driving through a storm, once you arrive, you’re always glad you made the trip.   Happy writing.

Reaching the destination sometimes 
involves an “interesting” journey

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