Popular Posts

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Nervous work, great results

“Sometimes, surely, truth is closer to imagination or to intelligence, to love than to fact? To be accurate is not to be right.” – Shirley Hazzard

Born in Australia on Jan. 30. 1931, Hazzard had dual Australian-American citizenship and spent most of her adult life living in the U.S.   A novelist, short story writer, and essayist, she wrote several award-winning books, including the novels The Bay of Noon, shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize, and The Great Fire, winner of the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction.  Hazzard also wrote non-fiction, including two books based on her experiences working at the United Nations Secretariat in New York.

After moving around the globe with her diplomat father, Hazzard landed her job with the U.N. in the late 1950s and wrote her first short story, "Woollahra Road" for The New Yorker magazine in 1960.  More successes with her writing followed and soon she resigned from the U.N. to concentrate full time on her writing. 
        While her second book The Bay of Noon was her first award winner, it was her third novel, The Guardian, that made her an international best selling writer.  That book follows a pair of sisters from Australia, living very different lives from each other in post-war Britain. 

“It’s a nervous work,” she said about writing.  “The state that you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums to get rid of.”

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

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Stick to your writing dreams

Jessica Burkhart is a good example both of and for our next generation of writers.  She’s also a great example of sticking to one’s writing dreams. As an 8th grader, and while recuperating from a major surgical procedure, she decided to start writing to fill her hours and because she was convinced that she could produce articles that were at least as good as those she had been reading in magazines and journals brought to entertain her. 

At first she tried writing what she thought those magazines wanted.  That led to a couple years' worth of rejections.  So she turned to writing about what she knew – in her case a love of animals and her volunteer work with the Humane Society – a formula that more often than not leads to success.  It was a good choice, indeed.

By age 18, she had over 100 published articles in everything from Girls’ Life to The Writer.  At age 19, she signed up for the annual National Novel Writing Month, a challenge to write a 50,000 word (or longer) novel in 30 days.  Again, she chose to write what she knew and loved – horseback riding.

Having started her own blog, she wrote about the experience of doing her first book, and as luck would have it (and luck does indeed often play a part in getting first books accepted) a literary agent who was perusing blogs spotted her post.  The woman liked what she read and signed up Jessica as a client.    Burkhart’s first book, Take The Reins, resulted in The Canterwood Crest series, written for Tweens.  

Burkhart, who turns 32 today and whose real last name is Ashley, now has had 20 novels published in several genres and is still going strong.  She’s a testament to “stick-to-it-tiveness” and writing what you know … and taking writers’ moments and turning those dreams into reality.    Happy writing!

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

Monday, January 28, 2019

'The Ability to Communicate'

“The ability to communicate is what makes us human and allows technology to advance.” – Alan Alda

Last night Alda, who was born on this date in 1936, was given the Screen Actors Guild “Lifetime Achievement Award.”  His acceptance speech was touching and inspiring and I encourage you to look for it on YouTube. 

In addition to his acting, Alda is a writer and entrepreneur and also founder of a science program for kids called “The Flame Challenge.”    The “Challenge” gives 11-year-old kids the opportunity to ask a question that is then given to scientists around the world to answer “in language that is clearly understandable by an 11-year-old.”

The Flame Challenge is an outgrowth of The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, a cross-disciplinary organization at Stony Brook University in New York and housed, interestingly enough, in the Department of Journalism.  Its goal “is to help scientists and science writers learn to communicate more effectively with the public.”

Alda said that too often both scientists and science writers have amazing things to share but they simply don’t know how to share them in clear and concise language.  
                          When it comes to “effectively communicating” there’s little doubt Alda succeeds.  A 6-time Emmy and Golden Globe winner, he is best known as Hawkeye Pierce on the long-running show M*A*S*H.   Alda wrote a couple dozen of those shows, including the finale – the most watched TV show in history. He is the first person to win Emmys for acting, writing, and directing in the same series.   And he has written several books, including a memoir with the clever title:  Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself
“Be brave enough to live life creatively,” Alda advises.  “The creative place where no one else has ever been.”

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

Sunday, January 27, 2019

'Let stories happen to you'

“There's a reason poets often say, 'Poetry saved my life,' for often the blank page is the only one listening to the soul's suffering, the only one registering the story completely, the only one receiving all softly and without condemnation.”– Clarissa Pinkola Estés

With all the focus on the Academy Award-nominated movie “Roma” and its Mestiza (Native American/Mexica Spanish) star Yalitza Aparacio, it seemed fitting to write a bit about another Mestiza “star,” Pinkola Estés, internationally renowned writer and spoken word performer.

Born on this date in 1945, Pinkola Estés grew up in the oral tradition cantadora, which translates as keeper of the old stories in the Latina tradition.  That tradition came from immigrant, refugee families who could not read nor write, or did so haltingly, and for whom English was a third language overlying their ancient natal languages.

Estés has been a "distinguished visiting scholar" or "diversity scholar" at universities around the world.  Many of her talks are rooted in her books, among them the international bestsellers Women Who Run With the Wolves and her Spoken Word masterpiece How To Be An Elder: Myths and Stories of The Dangerous Old Woman.   She also is a managing editor and columnist writing on politics, spirituality, and culture at the newsblog TheModerateVoice.com, and a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter online. 
                                     Her advice to new writers also is a challenge:  “I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter 'til they bloom; 'til you yourself burst into bloom.”

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

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The 'Affect' of Poetry

“The number of people who read a poem is not as important as how the poem affects those who read it.” – Derek Walcott

Nobel laureate Walcott, born in January, 1930, was a Saint Lucian poet and playwright whose works include the Homeric epic poem Omeros, which many critics view "as his major achievement.       Besides the Nobel, Walcott received many literary awards including an Obie for his play Dream on Monkey Mountain, a MacArthur Foundation "genius" award, a Royal Society of Literature Award, and the inaugural OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.  Walcott said he never separated the writing of poetry from prayer.  “I have grown up believing it a vocation,” he said (shortly before his death in 2017), “a religious vocation.”

For Saturday’s Poem, here is Walcott’s,

Love after Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Share A Writers Moment with a friend by clicking the g+ button below

Thursday, January 24, 2019

'Writing an honest story'

“I think, as writers, our first responsibility is to writing an honest story. Tell the story you want to tell, without pulling your punches.” – Lynn Coady

Born in Nova Scotia on this date in 1970, Coady now makes her home in Toronto.  A successful creative and journalistic writer, she holds degrees from Carleton University and the University of British Columbia and is credited with developing a specialized course in writing the short story at Athabasca University in Edmonton. 

Coady started writing while still in college and authored her first book, the award-winning Strange Heaven, while earning her Master of Fine Arts degree.  Since then she’s combined a career in teaching, editing and writing, penning several best-selling novels – led by Play the Monster Blind and Mean Boy – and dozens of short stories, many compiled in her critically acclaimed collection Hellgoing.   For that book Coady was named for the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize, which often is favorably compared to the Pulitzer Prize.  In 2017, she was honored as a jury member for that same award.  
     Winner of the Canadian Authors Association/Air Canada Award for the best writer under 30, as well as the Dartmouth Book and Writing Award for fiction, her articles and reviews have been featured in leading publications throughout Canada and the U.S.   Since moving to Toronto, she has written several plays and is a regular contributor to the Globe and Mail, also known as “Canada’s National Newspaper.”

“It makes me proud not just to be a Canadian writer but to be a Canadian, to live in a country where we treat our writers like movie stars.”

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Mining for the details

“As a kid, I liked to write, but I didn't think that was a viable career choice. My dream, actually, was to be a white girl rapper and join Salt-N-Pepa - which obviously was a much more viable career choice.” – Karen Abbott

Born in Philadelphia on this date in 1973, Abbott is now a leading author of  historical non-fiction, including the best sellers Sin in the Second City, American Rose, and Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, also slated for a TV mini-series. 

Abbott started writing while in college and chose journalism as her focus.  Her writing for newspapers and magazines in the Philadelphia area led to her interest in writing about history and historical events and ultimately to writing Sin in the Second City, set in Chicago in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.            While she now resides in New York City, where she is working on more books, she continues to write journalistically as a contributor to Smithsonian magazine’s history blog, "Past Imperfect,” and as a regular to the New York Times series “Disunion,” about the Civil War.  Her work also has often been featured in The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

“I think the most important thing journalism taught me is to mine for details,” Abbott said.  “The details are key. You can't try to be funny or strange or poignant; you have to let the details be funny or strange or poignant for you.”

Share A Writers Moment with a friend by clicking the g+ button below

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

'Like being a detective'

“I enjoy doing the research of nonfiction; that gives me some pleasure, being a detective again.” – Joseph Wambaugh

Often listed among the greatest crime writers – for both nonfiction AND fiction – Wambaugh was born on this date in 1937.  Growing up in Pittsburgh, PA, the son of a police officer, he joined the U.S. Marines at age 17, served several years in the Corps, then followed his dad into police work, starting with the Los Angeles Police Department. 

In 1971, his first book, The New Centurions, was a critical and financial success, but he continued working as a police officer while writing, winning even more awards and success with his second book, The Blue Knight.   “(But) When I wrote The Onion Field, I realized that my first two novels were just practice,” Wambaugh said.  The Onion Field made me a real writer. And . . . I couldn't be a cop anymore.”     
                            Many of his novels are set in Los Angeles and its surroundings, featuring Los Angeles police officers as protagonists, but his nonfiction books like The Blooding and Fire Lover: A True Story, are set in other parts of the country and England   Wambaugh has been nominated for 4 Edgar awards winning 3, and named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America.  To date he has written 16 novels and 5 nonfiction books, all bestsellers and many winners of numerous awards. 

He said when he writes, he’s very focused.  “I write a thousand words a day,” he said.  “Nothing will stop me, I mean nothing, until the book is finished. I'm disciplined in spite of myself.”

Share A Writers Moment with a friend by clicking the g+ button below

Sunday, January 20, 2019

'The time to do what's right'

“The time is always right to do what’s right.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Born in Atlanta on Jan. 15, 1929, King is celebrated everywhere for his dedication to peace, justice and equal rights for all, regardless of race, creed or color.  His writings have been widely distributed and quoted and continue to serve as a major inspiration for readers, writers and activists of every social justice cause.

He is the only individual American to be honored with a federal holiday in his name, and he won or has been named for hundreds of other awards both in America and abroad, including (at the time in 1964) being the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was awarded both the Presidential Medal of Freedom (in 1977) and The Congressional Gold Medal (in 2004), the only person to be honored with both.      And, he is the youngest person to ever receive more than 50 honorary degrees. 

One of King’s first books, Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story,  won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, which is dedicated to honoring written works that make important contributions to the understanding of racism and the appreciation of the rich diversity of human culture.

“The art of acceptance,” he said, “is the art of making someone who has just done you a small favor wish that he might have done you a greater one.”

Share A Writers Moment with a friend by clicking the g+ button below

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Few Words, Great Impact

“You don't need many words if you already know what you're talking about.” – William Stafford
Born on Jan. 17, 1914, Stafford taught poetry and writing at Lewis & Clark College for more than 30 years before his first major poetry collection, Traveling Through the Dark, was published.      Winner of the 1963 National Book Award (for that book), Stafford went on to publish more than 60 volumes of poetry and prose, win numerous honors and awards, and serve as Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress before his death in 1993.  For Saturday’s Poem, here is Stafford’s,

Just Thinking
Got up on a cool morning. Leaned out a window.
No cloud, no wind. Air that flowers held
for awhile.  Some dove somewhere.

Been on probation most of my life. And
the rest of my life been condemned. So these moments
count for a lot--peace, you know.

Let the bucket of memory down into the well,
bring it up. Cool, cool minutes. No one
stirring, no plans. Just being there.

This is what the whole thing is about.

Share A Writers Moment with a friend by clicking the g+ button below

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Using talents and skills for good

“All our talents increase in the using, and every faculty, both good and bad, strengthens by exercise: therefore, if you choose to use the bad, or those which tend to evil till they become your masters, and neglect the good till they dwindle away, you have only yourself to blame.” – Anne Bronte

Both novelist and poet, the youngest member of the Brontë literary family (her sisters Emily and Charlotte also were widely published and read during her short lifetime), Anne was born on this date in 1820.  She died at age 29 from tuberculosis and the flu, only a few months after the death of her sister Emily from a similar malady.  

Her novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, published just months before she died, was considered both brilliant - for its complex, multi-layered plot - and shocking, especially in that staid Victorian era.  It was an instant hit and sold out in just weeks.   Still studied in writing programs around the globe, Tenant’s depiction of alcoholism and debauchery was both disturbing and an awakening to 19th-century sensibilities, especially in its revelation about the treatment of women.

In issuing a call to action from her readers, she wrote:  “No generous mind delights to oppress the weak, but rather to cherish and protect.”

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

'No one is stopping you'

“Every published writer suffers through that first draft because most of the time, that's a disappointment.” – Rebecca Stead

Born in New York City on this date in 1968, Stead started her career as a lawyer but turned to writing – something she loved but thought impractical as a way to make a living – in 2007 after the birth of her two children.  After moderate success with her debut novel, First Light, she won the prestigious Newbery Medal for her second novel When You Reach Me, a “suspense-mystery-supernatural” hybrid whose 6th grade protagonist Miranda is a fan of sci-fi/fantasy writer Madeleine L’Engle. 

Stead may have hearkened back to her own youth as an avid reader in crafting her character.  “I read a whole lot as a child, and, of course, I still read children's books,” Stead said.  “I never had a favorite book! I liked all kinds of things . . . and I also liked reading about kids like myself.”  When You Reach Me is currently ranked 11th on the School Library Journal’s list of “100 Best Children’s Novels.” 
                               Not one to rest on her laurels, Stead wrote another award-winner, Liar & Spy, which earned Britain’s Guardian Prize as the best children's book by a writer who had not previously won it.   Stead became the first writer from the U.S. – or from anywhere outside the British Commonwealth – to win the award.

“The wonderful thing about writing fiction is that no one is stopping you,” Stead remarked.   “There's no one saying, 'You can't do that.' “

Share A Writers Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Stepping out of the real world

“Every book that you pick up takes you a step away from your real world, but if you read a book about magic, it takes you an extra two steps.” – Jenny Nimmo

Born on this date in 1944, Nimmo is a British author of children's books, including many fantasy and adventure novels.  While she was born in England, she has lived mostly in Wales for the past 40 years and is probably best known for two series of fantasy novels with their roots in that region: The Magician Trilogy, contemporary stories rooted in Welsh myth, and Children of the Red King.

A voracious reader as a child, she started writing while still in elementary school but actually began her professional writing career by adapting other writers’ stories for use by the BBC.  Her own first book The Bronze Trumpeter started as a BBC script before she re-worked it.  
                                  Her focus on writing for children grew out of her firm belief that reading to children is vital to their development.  She said that reading to her own 3 children made her a better writer – that and the Welsh landscape, culture and myths that surrounded her and her family in their adopted home.

“Inspiration comes from the world around me,” she said.   “I'm an inveterate eavesdropper.”

Share A Writers Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below

Monday, January 14, 2019

The 'Curiosity Behind the Character'

“For me, when I 'discover' a story, there is a feeling of buoyancy and clarity, perhaps similar to early morning out on a prairie highway, when darkness lifts and reveals the outline of farmhouses and copses of trees in the distance.” – David Bergen

Born in British Columbia on this date in 1957, Bergen grew up in Manitoba, studied Creative Communication at a Mennonite Bible College there and taught both high school English and creative writing before taking a stab at writing fiction himself.  He actually started thinking about writing before he began his teaching career.  At the age of twenty, having published nothing and having had little guidance in my reading, I decided that I wanted to write,” he said. 
 Starting with short stories (his first efforts appeared in the 1980s), he turned to novels in the mid-‘90s.  His debut novel, A Year of Lesser in 1996, was both a New York Times Notable Book and winner of the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award.  It also set him on a writing path that has won him some two-dozen writing awards for his 8 novels (to date) and 1 short story collection.  His most recent novel, Stranger, was published in 2016.   
                              “What fascinates me as a writer is the stuff underneath,” Bergen said.   “To me, what drives a novel is the curiosity behind the character and the depths that you want to find in that character.”

Share A Writers Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Speaking for the Downtrodden

“Meet some people who care about poetry the way you do. You'll have that readership. Keep going until you know you're doing work that's worthy. And then see what happens. That's my advice.” Philip Levine

Born on Jan. 10, 1928, Levine was one of the leading poetic voices of his generation, using his writing to advocate for those downtrodden and often forgotten by those in power. His heroes were ordinary folks who worked at hopeless jobs simply to stave off poverty.     Critic Herbert Leibowitz, commenting on Levine’s multiple award-winning Ashes: Poems New and Old, wrote: “Levine has returned again and again in his poems to the lives of ordinary workers trapped by the poverty and drudgery . . . which breaks the body and scars the spirit.”   For Saturday’s Poem here is Levine’s

An Abandoned Factory

The gates are chained, the barbed-wire fencing stands,
An iron authority against the snow,
And this grey monument to common sense
Resists the weather. Fears of idle hands,
Of protest, men in league, and of the slow
Corrosion of their minds, still charge this fence.

Beyond, through broken windows one can see
Where the great presses paused between their strokes
And thus remain, in air suspended, caught
In the sure margin of eternity.
The cast-iron wheels have stopped; one counts the spokes
Which movement blurred, the struts inertia fought,

And estimates the loss of human power,
Experienced and slow, the loss of years,
The gradual decay of dignity.
Men lived within these foundries, hour by hour;
Nothing they forged outlived the rusted gears
Which might have served to grind their eulogy.

Share A Writers Moment with a friend by clicking the g+1 button below