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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Creating those 'thinking situations'

“When I'm writing, I'm trying to immerse myself in the chaos of an emotional experience, rather than separate myself from it and look back at it from a distance with clarity and tell it as a story. Because that's how life is lived, you know?” – Charlie Kaufman

Born in November 1958, Kaufman is a screenwriter, producer, director, and lyricist who wrote the films Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and (one of my faves) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, for which he won an Academy Award.   Those three scripts appear in the Writers Guild of America’s list of the 101 greatest movie screenplays ever written.

“I want to create situations that give people something to think about,” Kaufman said about his works.  His works explore such universal themes as identity crisis, mortality, and the meaning of life through a parapsychological framework, putting him fairly firmly in the “surrealist” category for his writing.  
                                                      A native of New York – and graduate of NYU – Kaufman currently lives in California where he said his writing is pretty “cut and dried.”

                     “When I write characters and situations and relationships,” he said, “I try to sort of utilize what I know about the world, limited as it is, and what I hear from my friends and see with my relatives.”

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Taking genre' literature to the top

“It's funny because I think that genre literature can be looked down on by literature literature. And I like that! I like being scorned; I like people looking down their noses at us a little bit... It gives us a little chip on our shoulder.” – Don Winslow
Born in New York City on Halloween night 1953, Winslow grew up in Rhode Island and credits his parents for preparing him to become a writer.  His mother was a librarian, and his father a non-commissioned officer in the United States Navy who was a great storyteller and invited Navy friends around who told even more, inspiring Winslow to become a storyteller himself.

His first “genre” book, in 1991, introduced detective Neal Carey, a recurring figure in many of his detective/crime novels.    To date he has written 19 books and had two – The Life of Bobby Z and Savages – made into movies.  His newest book, The Force – is under production for a 2019 movie release.  He said he thinks of writing in the genre as “being in a special place.”

“And, as a writer, when you fall in love with a place, you want to spend more time in it, either physically or mentally,” he said, “so you write about it.”

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Mastering the publishing process

“Writing one's first novel, getting it sold, and shepherding it through the labyrinths of editing, production, marketing, journalism, and social media is an arduous and nerve-wracking process.” – Paul Di Filippo

Di Filippo – whose 64th birthday was yesterday – is the author of hundreds of short stories and numerous novels and “collections.”   Unlike some authors who find second or third novels to be problematical, Di Filippo believes that once you master the labyrinth of “processes” in getting that first book out there, it becomes easier in subsequent efforts.
 And as his “process” has grown so have his awards and rewards for those efforts.  In the past 15 years he’s been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, Philip K. Dick, Wired Magazine, and World Fantasy awards.

Born and raised in Rhode Island, Di Filippo has not only become one of America’s leading science fiction and fantasy writers but also a highly respected reviewer, writing for such magazines as Asimov's Science Fiction, The New York Review of Science Fiction and the online Science Fiction Weekly.       He also is co-author (with Damien Broderick) of Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010

While he has had success with series' of books, including the highly praised Steampunk Trilogy, he said readers and writers alike shouldn’t always expect a repeat of what a writer first produces, because it’s usually not possible.  Although, he noted wryly, “The impossibility of a sequel ever recapturing everything - or anything - about its ancestor never stopped legions of writers from trying, or hordes of readers and publishers from demanding more of what they previously enjoyed.”

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Monday, October 29, 2018

A 'Pick Me Up' Writing Result

“I do seem to have a lot of family secrets in my novels. I guess I'm one of those writers who is often writing about the same sort of themes, but taking different angles on them.” – Nancy Werlin

Born on Oct. 29, 1961, Werlin has made her name as a writer of young-adult novels, winning a National Book Award nomination for The Rules of Survival, and winning an Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Novel for The Killer's Cousin.  She also was an Edgar award finalist for Locked Inside. 

A native of Massachusetts, Werlin was a reader by age of 3, she was reading up to 10 books a week by 3rd grade and even read encyclopedias, especially those that contained an appendix of plot synopses for famous novels.  “By the time I was ten, I knew I wanted to be a writer to create what I loved so much,” she said.  "I just read all the time and it occurred to me that somebody had to write these things—and why shouldn't it be me?"

A graduate of Yale (in English) Werlin has written 10 young adult novels, including New York Times-bestselling fantasy Impossible.  Her newest book is And Then There Were Four, a suspense thriller.   
                                              One thing that often bothers writers – especially new writers – is how publishers choose cover art, but Werlin said it’s no longer a concern for her.   “I used to want covers that represented the book's contents very closely and were also pretty. Many folks automatically believe that this is what makes a good cover. But I've changed my mind about this. While the cover should not lie (by implication or outright), its job is simply to say: 'Pick me up!' to someone who might like the book.”

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Reconnecting to our family stories

“To understand and reconnect with our stories, the stories of the ancestors, is to build our identities.   We all belong to an ancient identity. Stories are the rivers that take us there.” – Frank Delaney

Delaney, born on this date in 1942, was an Irish novelist, journalist and broadcaster noted for his attention to the basics and basis of writing and writing style.  Among his many best sellers were Ireland, and Simple Courage: A True Story of Peril on the Sea.  Delaney died in 2017.

A great essayist, Delaney’s work was published in many of the leading newspapers in the United States, the UK and Ireland, including on the Op-ed pages of The New York Times.  He was a frequent public speaker and a contributor and guest on a variety of National Public Radio programs.  Also recipient of many awards and accolades for his adaptations to radio and television, he said he thought the best novels were those that could also be “heard.”      If you need proof of how the oral relates to the written,” he said,  “consider that many great novelists, including Joyce and Hemingway, never submitted a piece of work without first reading it aloud.”

When asked who he most admired as an author, he said American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald.  The Great Gatsby . . . remains the most perfect novel that has ever come out of the United States,” he said.  “Everything in the book moves as it should, in the manner of a musical piece by Bach or Mozart.” 

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Monday, October 22, 2018

An 'Easy Solution': 'Just Write'

“I've always said the hardest aspect of the job of being a writer is writing.   Writing is a lonely profession.” – Bob Mayer 

Born on Oct. 21, 1959, Mayer is a West Point graduate, former Green Beret, bestselling author, much sought-after speaker, and the CEO of Cool Gus Publishing.    He has authored over 60 novels in multiple genres, selling more than 4 million books, including three #1 series:  Area 51, Atlantis, and The Green Berets.

Mayer's prolific writing encompasses both his military experience and his fascination for history, legends and mythology, though most of his novels reside within the realm of science fiction, Young Adult and suspense.  He also has had a successful foray into romance writing, coming up with an interesting combination of military/romance tales.  Not only did it succeed, but he now is the only male writer to reach the Romance Writers of America Honor Roll.

A native of New York City, Mayer now makes his home in Tennessee and despite his ongoing success he said he understands why writers are faced with “issues” when they put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboards.   

“Completing any writing project, particularly a novel, is a daunting prospect. Many people become frozen by the prospect. Others keep waiting for the right time. Some wait for the spark of inspiration. Even experienced writers find it is easier to do anything other than actually write.” 

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No age limit to success

“The secret to being a writer is that you have to write. It's not enough to think about writing or to study literature or plan a future life as an author. You really have to lock yourself away, alone, and get to work” – Augusten Burroughs

Perhaps best known for his bestselling memoir Running with Scissors.  Burroughs' essays and feature writing, often seen in such publications as The New York Times, House and Garden, and Attitude, focuses on subjects such as advertising, psychiatrists, religious families, and home shopping networks.  A former advertising specialist, he has a knack for writing great titles, including those for his books.  Among them are Dry (about overcoming alcoholism), Magical Thinking, Possible Side Effects and Sellevision. 

Born on this date in 1965, Burroughs said that for a time everything he was writing seemed to be rejected out of hand, but he noted, “As a writer, you can't allow yourself the luxury of being discouraged and giving up when you are rejected, either by agents or publishers. You absolutely must plow forward.”  
                                              But Burroughs, the son of renowned poet Margaret Robison, perservered.   “I knew that if I wrote a new book every six months or every year, if I continued to read great books, eventually I would write something worthy of publication. I understood I might be in my forties or my fifties or even my sixties, but I felt confident that it would happen.”

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Friday, October 19, 2018

Saturday's Poem

“Poetry’s medium is not merely light as air, it is air, vital and deep as ordinary breath.” – Robert Pinsky

Born in New Jersey on Oct. 20, 1940, Pinsky has been an essayist, literary critic, and poet laureate consultant to the Library of Congress.  A former saxophonist, he said being a musician was profoundly influential on his poetry, and the musicality of poetry was and is extremely important to his work.      Poetry, Pinsky said, is a vocal art, not necessarily performative but for reading to oneself or recalling some lines by memory.  For Saturday’s poem – from Pinsky’s 6-part City Elegies – here is:

III. House Hour

Now the pale honey of a kitchen light
Burns at an upstairs window, the sash a cross.   
Milky daylight moon,
Sky scored by phone lines. Houses in rows   
Patient as cows.

Dormers and gables of an immigrant street   
In a small city, the wind-worn afternoon   
Shading into night.

Hundreds of times before
I have felt it in some district
Of shingle and downspout at just this hour.   
The renter walking home from the bus   
Carrying a crisp bag. Maybe a store
Visible at the corner, neon at dusk.
Macaroni mist fogging the glass.

Unwilled, seductive as music, brief   
As dusk itself, the forgotten mirror   
Brushed for dozens of years
By the same gray light, the same shadows   
Of soffit and beam end, a reef   
Of old snow glowing along the walk.

If I am hollow, or if I am heavy with longing, the same:   
The ponderous houses of siding,
Fir framing, horsehair plaster, fired bricks
In a certain light, changing nothing, but touching   
Those separate hours of the past
And now at this one time
Of day touching this one, last spokes
Of light silvering the attic dust.

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Writing your own 'distinct sound'

“I just believe that young people need to be able to learn how to write in their own voice. Just like a musician, you pride yourself on having your own distinct sound.” – Terry McMillan

Born on this day in 1951, McMillan grew up in Michigan and earned a degree from UC-Berkeley before starting her writing career in her late 30s.  After modest success, she had a major breakthrough with the 1992 best-seller Waiting to Exhale, credited with contributing to a shift in Black popular cultural consciousness and the visibility of a female Black middle-class identity in popular culture. 
And while she drew on her own experiences for part of that book, it was the 1998 semi-autobiographical novel How Stella Got Her Groove Back that firmly cemented her writing as a force to be reckoned with.

Her work is characterized by relatable female protagonists, and she says all of them reflect a part of herself, something she thinks all writers have incorporated into their work.   

“Few writers are willing to admit (that) writing is autobiographical,” she said.  “But it mostly is.”

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Great research; great tales

“I love research so much that I do an enormous amount; it helps put off the moment of starting to write the story.” – Alan Garner

There are few writers who wouldn’t agree with Garner, born on this date in 1934.  Gathering info. that you want to utilize as the foundation for your stories is always a gratifying and fulfilling thing.  But most writers are procrastinators by nature – knowing that they should put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard, but just dreading how things are going to start and where they are going to lead.  But, as every author knows, the time comes when you’ve got to kick the kid out the door.  In other words, get busy and write.

Born in the front room of his grandmother’s house in Cheshire, England, Garner grew up near that northwestern English city, where he has chosen to set most of his books.  Best known for his children's fantasy novels and his re-tellings of traditional British folk tales, his work is firmly rooted in the landscape, history and folklore of his native county.      Noted for his “slow, but steady” writing style, he takes his time but always produces winners, earning him almost every major writing award for young people’s literature in the process.

As for procrastinating, he said being a writer is really pretty simple. “ Look, if you are going to write, nothing will stop you,” he said.  “And if you are not going to write, nothing will make you.” 

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Creative, funny and kind

“An early editor characterized my books as 'romantic comedy for intelligent adults.' I think people see them as funny but kind. I don't set out to write either funny or kind, but it's a voice they like, quirky like me... And you know, people like happy endings.” – Elinor Lipman
Born in Massachusetts on this date in 1950, Lipman studied journalism at Simmons College and began her writing career as a college intern with the Lowell (MA) Sun.   Right out of college she was hired to do press releases for Boston television station WGBH, a job she held throughout the 1970s before turning to a creative writing career and never looking back.  Her first book, Into Love and Out Again, featured a collection of her short stories.

She started writing novels in the 1990s and has had great success with them ever since.    Her first novel, Then She Found Me, was also made into a successful movie in 2008, and two more of her books also have been optioned for movies.  Her most recent best seller is 2017’s On Turpentine Lane. 
             Known for her wit and “societal observations,” Lipman also reaches a wide audience through her column, "I Might Complain," written for Parade.com.   Her novel writing advice is simple:  “Five hundred words a day is what I aim for. And I don't go on to the next chapter until I've polished and polished and polished the one I'm working on.” 

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Monday, October 15, 2018

A prolific climb to writing heights

“Success comes to a writer as a rule, so gradually that it is always something of a shock to him to look back and realize the heights to which he has climbed.”  P. G. Wodehouse

Born on this date in 1881, Wodehouse was one of the most widely read and quoted humorists of the 20th century.  The son of a British magistrate based in Hong Kong, Wodehouse studied business and worked in banking for a time before realizing that what he enjoyed most was writing.  “I know I was already writing stories when I was 5,” he said.  “I don’t know what I did before that.  Just loafed I suppose.”

A prolific writer throughout his life, he authored more than 90 books, 40 plays, and 200 short stories and other writings right up until his death in 1975.

While most of Wodehouse's fiction is set in England (he is credited with creating the stereotypical English butler character Jeeves), he spent much of his life in the U.S. and used New York and Hollywood as settings for some of his novels and short stories. He also wrote a series of Broadway musical comedies during and after WWI – together with Guy Bolton and Jerome Kern – that played an important part in the development of modern American musicals and musical comedy.

Since Wodehouse's death there have been numerous adaptations and dramatizations of his work on television,        and the Oxford English Dictionary contains over 1,750 quotations from Wodehouse, illustrating terms from crispish to zippiness.

“Everything in life that’s any fun,” Wodehouse wrote shortly before his death, “is either immoral, illegal … or fattening.”

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

'Painting' life with his words

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” e. e. cummings

Today is the 114th anniversary of the birth of cummings, who authored some 2,900 poems, 2 autobiographical novels, 4 plays and several essays in his eventful and event-filled lifetime.

Some of his poems are free verse (with no concern for rhyme or meter), but many have a recognizable sonnet structure of 14 lines, with an intricate rhyme scheme. A number of his poems feature a typographically exuberant style, with words, parts of words, or punctuation symbols scattered across the page, and needing to be read aloud in order to clarify his meanings and emotions.  Also a painter, Cummings understood the importance of presentation, and used typography to "paint a picture" with some of his poems.
While he was not without controversy in his life and 

political leanings (he was a staunch supporter of 
Joseph McCarthy, for example), there’s little doubt 
that he is remembered as an eminent voice of 20th century literature.
Check out Hello Poetry  http://hellopoetry.com/e-e-cummings/ to see some Cummings’ poems, including many showing his unique "paint a word picture" style. 
It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/e_e_cummings

I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach 10,000 stars how not to dance.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/e_e_cummings
I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach 10,000 stars how not to dance.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/e_e_cummings
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