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Monday, November 30, 2015

Always looking to the horizon

“There's another horizon out there, one more horizon that you have to make for yourself and let other people discover it, and someone else will take it further on, you know.” – Gordon Parks

Born on this date in a small Kansas community, Parks was drawn to photography after seeing a series of heart-rending images featuring Dust Bowl migrant workers.  At the age of 25 he bought his first camera for $12.50 and embarked on a career that would last for the next 70 years (until his death in 2006). 
His first big break came when he did fashion shots for a women’s clothing store in St. Paul, MN.  One of the people who saw and admired his work was Marva Louis, wife of heavyweight champion Joe Louis.  She encouraged him to move to Chicago and open a portrait studio there.  He earned renown for his photographs of society women, but on the side he took an extensive and award-winning collection of photos portraying “life on the streets” and life experiences of African Americans.  

A 1948 photographic essay on a young gang leader won Parks a staff job as a photographer and writer with Life magazine.  He worked there 20 years as both a photographer and writer on subjects ranging from fashion, sports and Broadway to  poverty and racial segregation.  His portraits of Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Muhammad Ali and Barbra Streisand cemented his reputation as "one of the most provocative and celebrated photojournalists in the United States."

Gordon Parks and two of his award-winning photos
The multi-talented Parks also was a novelist, poet and screenwriter and then branched into film production before becoming the first major Black director in the late 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s.  But, photography was always his first love and topics for his camera were as varied as his tastes.
“The subject matter,” he said modestly, “is what matters, and is so much more important than the photographer.”   


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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Each has a life of its own

“With each book I write, I become more and more convinced that the books have a life of their own, quite apart from me.  A book comes and says, 'Write me.' My job is to try to serve it to the best of my ability, which is never good enough, but all I can do is listen to it, do what it tells me and collaborate.” – Madeleine L’Engle

A native of New York City, L’Engle was born this day in 1918.  Her “collaboration” with her writing muse led to the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels: A Wind in the Door, the National Book Award-winning A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. 

She was a writer whose works reflected both her Christian faith and her strong interest in modern science – not a “usual” combination, but one that she had no issue with combining.  Science and religion are not at odds with each other, she said.  They can be and should be complimentary.

Although she wrote her first story at the age of 5, she didn’t write A Wrinkle In Time – her first novel – until age 42.  In 2012 the book was voted by  Library Journal readers as the Number 2 children’s 
book of all time (behind Charlotte’s Web).   The 
book was rejected 30 times before acceptance.   
Of course, once accepted, it opened the floodgates for her as a writer.  She wrote dozens of books for 
both children and adults in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s.  And, it mattered not to her whether it was for one age group or the other.
“You have to write the book that wants to be written,” she said. “And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you simply write it for children.”


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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Like building your own wings

“Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn't exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world, you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible.” – Ray Bradbury

One of the most celebrated 20th- and 21st-century American genre writers, Bradbury won numerous awards for his science fiction, including a 2007 Pulitizer Citation.  He also wrote and consulted on screenplays and television scripts, including Moby Dick and It Came from Outer Space.  Many of his works were adapted to comic book, television and film formats.   
And, of course, he wrote the dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 
and the series The Martian Chronicles. On his death in 2012,  
The New York Times called Bradbury "the writer most responsible 
for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream."

One of our country’s strongest advocates for the public library system, he once noted that he spent three days a week for 10 years educating himself in the public library, “And it's better than college. People should educate themselves - you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I'd written a thousand stories.”

As for his willingness to tackle new writing ideas and projects, he said he enjoyed the risk. “Living at risk,” he said,  “is like jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.”


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