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Saturday, September 25, 2021

A Writer's Moment: Collaborating With His Public

A Writer's Moment: Collaborating With His Public:   “A poet should always be 'collaborating' with his public, but this public, in the mass, cannot make itself heard, and he has to gu...

Collaborating With His Public

 “A poet should always be 'collaborating' with his public, but this public, in the mass, cannot make itself heard, and he has to guess at its requirements and its criticisms.”  Louis MacNeice


Irish poet MacNeice’s body of work was widely appreciated by the public during his lifetime (1907-63), due in part to his relaxed, but socially and emotionally aware style.   He was part of the generation called the Auden Group, also sometimes known as the "Thirties poets,” that included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis (father of renowned actor Daniel Day-Lewis).

Here for Saturday’s Poem is a poem MacNeice plaintively wrote on the occasion of his 50th  birthday.

Star-Gazer
Forty-two years ago (to me if to no one else
The number is of some interest) it was a brilliant starry night
And the westward train was empty and had no corridors
So darting from side to side I could catch the unwonted sight
Of those almost intolerably bright
Holes, punched in the sky, which excited me partly because
Of their Latin names and partly because I had read in the textbooks
How very far off they were, it seemed their light
Had left them (some at least) long years before I was.

And this remembering now I mark that what
Light was leaving some of them at least then,
Forty-two years ago, will never arrive
In time for me to catch it, which light when
It does get here may find that there is not
Anyone left alive
To run from side to side in a late night train
Admiring it and adding thoughts in vain.

Friday, September 24, 2021

A Writer's Moment: Writing 'Close to Her Heart'

A Writer's Moment: Writing 'Close to Her Heart':   “What it takes is to actually write: not to think about it, not to imagine it, not to talk about it, but to actually want to sit down and ...

Writing 'Close to Her Heart'

 “What it takes is to actually write: not to think about it, not to imagine it, not to talk about it, but to actually want to sit down and write. I'm lucky I learned that habit a really long time ago. I credit my mother with that. She was an English teacher, but she was a writer.” – Luanne Rice


Rice has been a regular on the New York Times’ Bestseller List, her work translated into 26 languages and many made into movies – including for TV’s “Hallmark Hall of Fame.” 

Her novels - among which are The Lemon Orchard, Little Night, The Silver Boat, and Sandcastles - deal with love, family, nature and the sea.  Born in New Britain, CT, on Sept. 25, 1955 Rice got into writing early and had her first published poem (in the Hartford Courant) at age 11.  Her first short story was published in American Girl magazine when she was 15, and her debut novel, Angels All Over Town, at age 30.

As a just-beginning novelist, Rice was married to a law student and would sit in on lectures on criminal law and evidence, mesmerized by how the cases would unfold and getting ideas for her writing.  From that she developed a research and writing style that have led to her remarkable success. 
 
Luanne Rice

She said she enjoys doing research and also writes down her dreams – both of which make up parts of her work.  But, she said, she bases many characters on the real people she has met and is inspired by.  “While novels are fiction, mine are usually very close to my heart.”  
 
 
 

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Thursday, September 23, 2021

A Writer's Moment: It's That 'Realness' Factor

A Writer's Moment: It's That 'Realness' Factor:   “Good fiction must be entertaining, but what makes fiction special - and True - is that the realness of a novel allows it to carry a large...

It's That 'Realness' Factor

 “Good fiction must be entertaining, but what makes fiction special - and True - is that the realness of a novel allows it to carry a larger message.” – Jerry B. Jenkins

 

Jenkins, born in Michigan on this date in 1949, might be best known for the Left Behind series, written for Tim LaHaye.  But overall, Jenkins has written more than 200 books in multiple genres ranging from biography and self-help to mystery and young adult fiction.

 

Writing from an early age, Jenkins covered high school sports for local newspapers even before he could drive, being paid $1 per column inch.  In college, he served as night news editor for the radio station WMBI, owned by the Moody Institute, where he became Vice President of its publishing division in 1985.  He’s been a writer-in-residence there from 1988 onward.

 

In addition to his novels, he’s done “as told to" personality books on athletes and religious leaders like Hank Aaron, Joe Gibbs, Mike Singletary and Sammy Tippit.   Twenty-one of his books have been New York Times bestsellers, and many of his stories have appeared in magazines like Time, Reader's Digest, Parade, and Guideposts.

 

“Writers write,” he noted of his prolific career.  “Dreamers talk about it.”

 

 

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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

A Writer's Moment: 'No Second Acts'

A Writer's Moment: 'No Second Acts':   “My idea is always to reach my generation. The wise writer writes for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the sc...

'No Second Acts'

 “My idea is always to reach my generation. The wise writer writes for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterward.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald



 
Born in September of 1896, Fitzgerald is one of the greatest American writers with a remarkable output during his very short life.  In his 44 years his star burned brightly in the writing universe, primarily through brilliant short stories – which many find surprising because of his very well-known novel The Great Gatsby.  But Fitzgerald wrote hundreds of short stories that truly were reflective of what’s known as “The Jazz Age” and the writers who inhabited it, “The Lost Generation.”

A native of St. Paul, Minn., where his childhood home is still open to visitors, Fitzgerald attended Princeton, but dropped out to join the army during World War I.  It was at Princeton that he began his writing and in the early years of the army that he met his future wife Zelda, also a major influence on his writing efforts.  

A few years ago I purchased a set of Fitzgerald novels, marketed as key examples of the writings of the Lost Generation.  At the time, I thought these were just four of his many works.  Instead they were THE four of his novels – Gatsby, This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, and Tender Is the Night.  He said he kept wanting to write more, but never could generate his earlier enthusiasm.  It led to his famous statement, “There are no second acts in American lives.”

 
F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald was named for his distant cousin, the famous poet Francis Scott Key, and at times said he felt too much pressure to produce.  That, many said, drove him to drink and early death.  But it might just as well have been the pressure to produce that led to his death.  “At 18 our convictions are hills from which we look; at 45 they are caves in which we hide,” he wrote in anticipation of that upcoming birthday, which he never reached.

“All good writing,” he said, “is like swimming under water and holding your breath.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

A Writer's Moment: 'It's The History of Ideas'

A Writer's Moment: 'It's The History of Ideas':   “Human history in essence is the history of ideas.” – H. G. Wells “The father of science fiction" (although s...

'It's The History of Ideas'

 “Human history in essence is the history of ideas.” – H. G. Wells


“The father of science fiction" (although some argue that it was Jules Verne), Wells was born on this date in 1866.  A prolific writer in many genres, including the novel, history, and social commentary, he authored such sci-fi classics as The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and The War of the Worlds, which got even more famous after a 1938 radio broadcast by actor Orson Welles.


Born into a poor family, Wells became enamored with books after breaking a leg at age 9 and spending his recuperation time reading books                                 
from the library.  He decided then and there 
that he would be a writer.  But first he had to get his education, which he did on his own, overcoming much financial and personal hardship - both of which shaped his writing.   Eventually he earned an advanced degree in biology.

That scientific background stood him in good stead when he started writing his “fantastical” stories that became the foundation for what he termed “science fiction.Also an artist, Wells made part of his living doing sketches but noted “I had rather be called a journalist than an artist” since it was also during that time – in his late 20s and 30s – that he started writing social commentary in both newspapers and magazines.  But, while he was widely read in those genres, it was his science fiction that made him famous.

Wells noted that an author should always strive to make a story as credible as possible, even if both the writer and the reader knew certain elements are impossible.  That allows a reader to accept the ideas as something that could really happen, he noted. 

“What really matters,” he said, “is what you do with what you have.”



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Monday, September 20, 2021

A Writer's Moment: A Commentator For and On Our Time

A Writer's Moment: A Commentator For and On Our Time:   “A journalist enjoys a privileged position. In exchange for not being able to participate in the rough-and-tumble issues of a community, w...

A Commentator For and On Our Time

 “A journalist enjoys a privileged position. In exchange for not being able to participate in the rough-and-tumble issues of a community, we are given license to observe it all, based on the understanding that we'll tell everyone what happens fairly and squarely. That's harder than it sounds.” – Bill Kurtis


If you’re a fan of the NPR weekly “News Quiz” show “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” then you know that Bill Kurtis’s voice is one of the most recognizable on the air.  There, he is the announcer and scorekeeper (yes, they really have a scorekeeper).

Prior to this current gig, Kurtis was the longtime anchor of WBBM-TV in Chicago and also served as anchor of  the “CBS Morning News.”  
 

Born on Sept. 21, 1940 Kurtis began working as a radio announcer at age 16, working his way through both Journalism and Law school in Kansas before turning to television reporting in 1966. 

 

When he wasn’t doing the news – either as a journalist, producer, narrator or anchor, he was the host of a number of the A&E Network’s crime and news documentary shows, including Investigative Reports, American Justice, and Cold Case Files.
 

While many are lamenting the fact that today’s youth seem ambivalent about journalism and the news, he said he believes that young people are looking for answers to the big questions just like everyone else.  “(I think) that they respect intelligent comment to help guide them through tough times.”


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Sunday, September 19, 2021

A Writer's Moment: 'Writing. . . It's Magical'

A Writer's Moment: 'Writing. . . It's Magical':   “I just love writing. It's magical, it's somewhere else to go, it's somewhere much more dreadful, somewhere much more exciting...

'Writing. . . It's Magical'

 “I just love writing. It's magical, it's somewhere else to go, it's somewhere much more dreadful, somewhere much more exciting. Somewhere I feel I belong, possibly more than in the so-called real world.” – Tanith Lee


Lee, born on this date in 1947 (she died in 2015), authored nearly 100 novels, 300 short stories, one children's picture book (Animal Castle), and many poems. She also wrote two episodes of the BBC science fiction series Blake's 7 and was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award best novel for her book Death's Master – the second novel in her “Flat Earth” series.


Lee's descriptive style first captured my attention when I picked up one of her books on a trip to England.  Vibrant and exotic are often words used by critics when writing about her works, and I would definitely concur.  But perhaps the best thing that might be said about her style is that it can’t be categorized, something that definitely helped broaden her readership base.   

Once, when asked, she said she was greatly influenced by the historical novelist Mary Renault, (who wrote some terrific works on Ancient Greece), but then she quickly added “Oh, and C.S. Lewis.  Actually,” she said, “I love writers all across the board, so I’ve been influenced by many.”  She said her own vivid imagination also shaped her writing career.

“At an early school, when I was about 5, they asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. Everyone said silly things, and I said I wanted to be an actress. So that was what I wanted to be.  But what I was, of course, was a writer.
 
 

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