Popular Posts

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Shaping A Writing Life

“I’d visit the near future, close enough that someone might want to talk to Larry Niven and can figure out the language; distant enough to get me decent medical techniques and a ticket to the Moon.” – Larry Niven

That would be multi-award winning author Niven’s choice if he could time-travel.  Best known for his massive bestselling novel (and series) Ringworld, Niven said he thinks dinosaurs probably became extinct because they didn’t have a space program. And while he’s glad we do, he’d still like to see us pick up the pace and be better prepared … just in case. 

Born in Los Angeles on April 30, 1938, Niven began Sci-Fi writing in his early 20s, starting with short stories, then turning to novels. To date, he has turned out over 100 books, both Sci-Fi and Fantasy.  His writing is a unique combination of hard science fiction, theoretical physics, detective fiction, and rollicking adventure. 

In 2015, Niven was honored by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (actually a worldwide organization) with its prestigious “Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award” for his lifetime body of work.  
                                                            A 5-time Hugo Award winner for his books and short stories, Niven also has written scripts for several top Sci-Fi television series and done work on DC Comics’ Green Lantern.   Always up for new challenges, Niven’s advice to writers and readers alike is simple:  “Treat your life like something to be sculpted.”

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Fine Poetic Fundamentals

“My feeling is that poetry will wither on the vine if you don't regularly come back to the simplest fundamentals of the poem: rhythm, rhyme, simple subjects - love, death, war.” – James Fenton

Born this week in 1949, English poet, journalist and literary critic Fenton is a former Oxford Professor of Poetry.   The author of more than two dozen books of poetry, he also is the original librettist for the musical Les Misérables.      Fenton has been awarded numerous major prizes including sharing the 2015 PEN Pinter Prize for poetry.  For Saturday’s poem, here is,

    The Wind
This is the wind, the wind in a field of corn.
Great crowds are fleeing from a major disaster
Down the green valleys, the long swaying wadis,
Down through the beautiful catastrophe of wind.

Families, tribes, nations, and their livestock
Have heard something, seen something. An expectation
Or a gigantic misunderstanding has swept over the hilltop
Bending the ear of the hedgerow with stories of fire and sword.

I saw a thousand years pass in two seconds.
Land was lost, languages rose and divided.
This lord went east and found safety.
His brother sought Africa and a dish of aloes.

Centuries, minutes later, one might ask
How the hilt of a sword wandered so far from the smithy.
And somewhere they will sing: 'Like chaff we were borne
In the wind. ' This is the wind in a field of corn.

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Creating 'Tools For Thought'

“I think that novels are tools of thought. They are moral philosophy with the theory left out, with just the examples of the moral situations left standing.” – Jill Paton Walsh

Paton Walsh is the writing name of Gillian Bliss, born on April 29, 1937, near Oxford, England.  A novelist and children's book writer, she is perhaps best known for the Peter Wimsey–Harriet Vane mysteries that either completed or continued the work of renowned British crime writer and poet Dorothy Sayers.

Paton Walsh also has had considerable acclaim for her series featuring college nurse and part-time detective Imogine Quy, set at the fictional St. Agatha College in Cambridge.      But, while that is what many adults often cite about her work, it probably is her children’s book audience that should be consulted first, since she has penned more than two-dozen highly successful books for children and young adults, including the much honored titles A Chance Child and Grace.

“Being a writer usually entails a fairly quiet life,” she said when asked about her craft.  “However much travel one might do, however many tours and appearances, the job entails solitude: long hours in libraries, long hours at a desk.”

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.      


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Oh, THOSE people!

“There's a village in my computer - friends, fans, readers, and colleagues. It's a populous, sometimes chaotic little burg always bustling with news, gossip, opinions and potential excitement.” – Lisa Unger

Born in Connecticut on this date in 1970, Unger spent her elementary school years in The Netherlands before returning to the U.S., and eventually moving to New York City where she worked in publishing for 10 years before diving into a full-time and award-winning writing career.   

Today she is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of 15 novels, including her latest psychological thriller The Red Hunter.    Her books are out in 26 languages, have sold millions of copies and been named “Best of the Year” or top picks by the Today show, Good Morning America, Entertainment Weekly, Goodreads, and Amazon.com, just to name a few.

Also a successful essayist, her writings appear regularly in places like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal or with her narrating on National Public Radio. Unger, whose thriller In The Blood, won The Silver Anvil Award for crime writing, says she loves writing just to see where each story is going to take her.   “I write for the same reason I read,” she said,  “to find out what's going to happen."  
                                            “I don't think of my characters as people I create, I think of them more as people I have met and whom I'm exploring on the page. I don't actually think of myself as having 'created' any of these people.”

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.      

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Supporting That 'Writing Habit'

“I don't write with a scheme or a plan. I write word to word, so whatever that first sentence is, having said that, one more or less had to say what comes next and next and next. Guilty of no cogitation or forethought.” – Padgett Powell

Born on this date in 1952, Powell has published 6 novels and 3 collections of short stories, his latest being Cries for Help, Various. His fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Paris Review, Best American Short Stories.   Powell’s writing primarily focuses on the American South earning him a spot in what has been labeled “The Southern American Tradition,” even though he might not label it that way himself.  

A writing professor at the University of Florida, he says writers, unless they are wildly successful, should probably keep “a day job.”  And while he’s not “wildly successful,” he’s done pretty well, being nominated for The American Book Award for his novel Edisto, and winning the prestigious James Tait Black Memorial Prize, one of Great Britain’s highest literary honors, for You and Me. 

“I write failed novels,” he says on his U. of Florida website.  “Sometimes the failure is apparent by page three. Sometimes it is not apparent until two hundred pages have obtained. The readiness to recognize failure seems to be a function of age. A youngster—I’d have said young man but I have learned not to gender it—may press on with a bad idea that an oldster may have the wit to abandon. A thirteen-page ‘story’ then spares us from a three-hundred-page ‘novel’.”       “If you're going to write a book that might, in its very best accidental career, sell 30,000 copies, you've got to have a day job.”

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.      

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Still Hoping To Save The Earth

“Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures." Gaylord Nelson

This is Earth Week, beginning Sunday with the 48th annual Earth Day, the above noted “goal” of then Senator Gaylord Nelson who envisioned that all Americans – and perhaps all peoples of the Earth – would come together to protect the earth, air and water that we all need to survive.

I was just out of college when I was assigned as a cub reporter to do my newspaper’s story on the first Earth Day in 1970.   My editor was skeptical that anything might happen, but it soon became clear that people were organizing dozens and dozens of projects and I was on the front line reporting about them.   We’ve been working on it and writing about it ever since.

In 1990, I was fortunate to bring Senator Nelson as a guest speaker on Earth Day to the college campus where I was working as Director of Public Relations.  He spoke eloquently and passionately about why we must continue to not only carry it forward but also expand upon it each and every year.           “Earth Day achieved what I had hoped for and then some,” he told the students.   “The purpose of Earth Day was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy and, finally, force this issue permanently into the political arena.”   

We’re still working on it nearly 30 years later, but as Nelson said, “We must succeed.  It’s the only earth we have.”

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.      

Monday, April 23, 2018

Exercising Your Imagination

“Being able to write creatively or read creative fiction is the best way to exercise your imagination. “ – Michael Pryor

Born on this date in 1957, Pryor is an Australian writer of more than 50 short stories and 30-plus novels for both adults and Young Adults, led by his critically acclaimed Laws of Magic series, several of which have been shortlisted for the prestigious Aurealis Award, given annually for best Young Adult novels.   Pryor also writes as part of a collaborative with several other authors on the wildly popular The Quentaris Chronicles, a shared universe of fantasy books set in a magical city called Quentaris. 

A native of Victoria who now makes his home in Melbourne, Pryor also wrote a very fine book on shared writing, The Art of Successful Collaboration, written (fittingly) in collaboration with Paul Collins.  A frequent speaker and writing coach, he said he very much enjoys shared writing and encouraging young writers.      
“I always look on imagination as one of the most powerful things we can cultivate in young people,” he said.  “If they have a good, active imagination, they can cope with life better; they are... able to imagine possibilities and to think around problems.“

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.      

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Writing To Please

“Taking the time to polish a pun or fine-tune a practical joke is a way of saying, 'I'm thinking about you and I want to please you.” – Andrew Hudgins

Born into a military family on April 22, 1951, Hudgins moved around the American South for much of his childhood, eventually attending Huntingdon College and the University of Alabama. He earned his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1983. His first book of poetry, Saints and Strangers, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and his third, The Never-Ending, was a finalist for the National Book Award.           For Saturday’s Poem, here is Hudgins’,

Day Job and Night Job
After my night job, I sat in class
and ate, every thirteen minutes,
an orange peanut-butter cracker.
Bright grease adorned my notes.

At noon I rushed to my day job
and pushed a broom enough
to keep the boss calm if not happy.
In a hiding place, walled off

by bolts of calico and serge,
I read my masters and copied
Donne, Marlowe, Dickinson, and Frost,
scrawling the words I envied,

so my hand could move as theirs had moved
and learn outside of logic
how the masters wrote. But why? Words
would never heal the sick,

feed the hungry, clothe the naked,
blah, blah, blah.
Why couldn't I be practical,
Dad asked, and study law—

or take a single business class?
I stewed on what and why
till driving into work one day,
a burger on my thigh

and a sweating Coke between my knees,
I yelled, 'Because I want to!'—
pained—thrilled!—as I looked down
from somewhere in the blue

and saw beneath my chastened gaze
another slack romantic
chasing his heart like an unleashed dog
chasing a pickup truck.

And then I spilled my Coke. In sugar
I sat and fought a smirk.
I could see my new life clear before me.
lt looked the same. Like work.

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.      

Friday, April 20, 2018

A Masterful Writing Approach

What a writer can do, what a fiction writer or a poet or an essay writer can do is re-engage people with their own humanity. – Barbara Kingsolver

I’ve been reading Barbara Kingsolver’s wonderful – and sometimes wrenching – Pigs in Heaven, a great example of what she says above.   Kingsolver has a gift for taking an ordinary scene and adding magic to it with her creative and descriptive writing.      Here are a couple short examples from her remarkable Pigs in Heaven:

“She’s the first woman he’s ever known who doesn’t give a damn how she looks, or is completely happy with the way she looks, which amounts to the same thing.  Usually women are aware of complex formulas regarding how long the legs should be in relation to the waist in relation to the eyelashes – a mathematics indecipherable to men but strangely crucial to women.”

“Mr. Crittenden holds her accountable for every bead.  In the morning he puts on his jeweler’s glasses and counts the beads in every piece she’s brought in, to make sure they’re all there.  It must be hard work, she thought, this business of mistrust.”       

“Alice breathes a little deeper.  Sympathizing over the behavior of men is the baking soda of women’s friendships, it seems, the thing that makes them bubble and rise.”

Good writers must first be good readers.  Even if you are a very fine writer already, if you read Barbara Kingsolver, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll only get better.

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Those Tales That Tease

“I loved to read when I was a kid, and as soon as I realized that an actual person got to make up the books I loved so much, I decided that that was the job for me.” – Margaret Haddix

Born on this date in 1964, Haddix grew up in a family of voracious readers on a farm in  Ohio.  She was so enamored with writing that she not only read everything she could get her hands on but started creating her own works in 2nd and 3rd grades. 

She said there was never anything else she wanted to be than a writer.  She earned degrees in English and Journalism at Miami University in Ohio, first writing for the school newspaper and then for area newspapers in both Ohio and Indiana.  She enjoyed reporting but switched to fiction in the early 1990s, doing creative stories inspired by her work as a reporter.  While she had a bumpy start – her first works were rejected multiple times – she finally found her niche with Young Adult and Children’s fiction and now has more than 30 books on the market.

Among her many writing awards are the International Reading Association Children's Book Award and several American Library Association listings for Best Books for Young Adults for “The Missing” and “Shadow Children” series.  She’s also been selected for Readers' Choice Awards in 29 states.   

“Generally I finish a first draft in 2-6 months, then I set it aside for a while so that when I come back to it I can read it with fresh eyes and figure out how to improve it,” she said about her prolific writing style.         I know I have to write a story when the story keeps me awake at night, teases at the back of my brain all day, just won’t let me go.   And that’s why I became a writer.”

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.      

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Nurturing The Storytelling Art

“I have two parents who are brilliant storytellers. The art of developing a story and nurturing a story was present in my household from the day I was born.” – Robert Kurson 

Born on this date in 1963, Kurson is best known for his bestselling book, Shadow Divers, the true story of two Americans who discover a World War II German U-boat sunk 60 miles off the coast of New Jersey.  Shadow Divers spent 24 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list and was awarded the American Booksellers Association’s 2005 "Book of the Year Award."

A one-time lawyer with a degree from Harvard Law School, Kurson said he always thought writing was his real profession and he first decided to give it a try by working at the Chicago Sun-Times, where he started as a sports writer and quickly moved up to a full-time features writing job.

A self-proclaimed “adventure seeker,” Kurson also wrote one of the best nonfiction pirate books, the 2015 Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship.  It is a gripping account of the for the wreck of the 17th-century pirate ship Golden Fleece and pirate captain Joseph Bannister.

“Once you discover that real pirates are more interesting than fictional ones, you can't look away,” Kurson said.  “I think that pirates represent every person's ability to get up and leave their current daily situation and go on an adventure, and maybe to see things and do things they've never done before or even dreamed of doing."        “It's never too late in life to have a genuine adventure.”

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.      

Monday, April 16, 2018

Including All In Writing's Moments

“I don't want my books to exclude anyone, but if they have to, then I would rather they excluded the people who feel they are too smart for them!” – Nick Hornby

Hornby, who is English, writes about ordinary people in ways that translate into bestsellers, like Fever Pitch, About a Boy, and High Fidelity.    Fever Pitch, while written about a fan’s obsession (based on his own) with English soccer, was made an even bigger hit as an American movie adaptation, where it focused on Jimmy Fallon’s character’s obsession with the Boston Red Sox.
That’s the universality of writing sports – one situation or type of sport can be easily adapted into another.    I used the technique myself with my Tweens’ book Kelli’s Choice.  There, I took what I knew from my baseball playing days - and stories told to me by both my grandfather and father about their days on the diamond - and adapted it to girls’ softball, something I obviously never played.  It becomes, of course, all about the people.

Also dedicated to helping kids with special needs, Hornby -- who turns 61 tomorrow -- has sold over 5 million copies of his books and donated many of his royalties to helping kids with autism.      He also co-founded Ministry of Stories, a nonprofit set up to help children and young adults develop their writing skills, and to support teachers who inspire students to write.   

Happy birthday to one of writing’s really good guys who has, indeed, produced and lived many great writer’s moments.

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Embrace Life; No Regrets

“Do not mind anything that anyone tells you about anyone else. Judge everyone and everything for yourself.” – Henry James

Born in New York City on this date in 1843, James grew up in wealth and with many educational opportunities from his early childhood.  He aspired to writing while still in elementary school, a love that ultimately led to his full-time career in the profession.  By his mid-20s he already was regarded as one of the most skillful writers in America.

By age 30 he had largely relocated to Europe, eventually settling in England and becoming one of the major figures of trans-Atlantic literature. His works frequently juxtapose characters from both Europe and the United States.  His fundamental theme was the innocence and exuberance of the New World in clash with the corruption and wisdom of the Old, illustrated in some of his most well known novels like Daisy Miller (1879), The Portrait of a Lady (1881), and The Bostonians (1886).

James wrote hundreds of short stories, novels, books of criticism, travel, biography, autobiography, and plays, earning numerous writing awards, including 3 nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature. 

In an interview shortly before his death in 1915, he gave this advice to young writers:  "Live all you can; it's a mistake not to. It doesn't so much matter what you do in particular, so long as you have your life. If you haven't had that what have you had?”  
“I think I don't regret a single 'excess' of my responsive youth - I only regret, in my chilled age, certain occasions and possibilities I didn't embrace,”

Share A Writer’s Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below.