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Monday, July 26, 2021

A Writer's Moment: 'Flowing To A Satisfying Conclusion'

A Writer's Moment: 'Flowing To A Satisfying Conclusion':   “The best writers who have put pen to paper have often had a journalism background. “ – Rick Bragg Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist B...

'Flowing To A Satisfying Conclusion'

 “The best writers who have put pen to paper have often had a journalism background.“ – Rick Bragg


Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bragg was born on this date in 1959 in Piedmont, AL, and credits his development as a writer to his ability to be a good listener.  Bragg wrote for several small newspapers before gravitating to the New York Times where he became a national correspondent and then Miami Bureau Chief, covering the controversial story of young Cuban Elian Gonzalez and earning the Pulitzer for his efforts. 

Among Bragg's best-known books are All Over But the Shoutin’, the story of his turbulent childhood in Alabama; and two high-profile biographies, one about POW Jessica Lynch I Am A Soldier Too, and the other about rock-and-roller Jerry Lee Lewis.

The winner of more than 50 writing awards and professor of journalism at the University of Alabama, he always hearkens back to journalism as a great foundation for any writer.  Learning to be a reporter teaches attention to detail, how to deal with deadlines, how to “listen” to both what is being said and what is left unsaid, and how to organize a story so that it flows to a satisfying conclusion.
 
 
“People who think there is something pedestrian about journalism are just ignorant,” Bragg said.  “I don't think there's a difference between writing for a newspaper or magazine and doing a chapter in a book.”   
 
 

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Saturday, July 24, 2021

A Writer's Moment: 'Poetry Is Intimate'

A Writer's Moment: 'Poetry Is Intimate':   “I feel like prose comes much more from outside me than poetry does. Poetry is intimate and more generated in my own theater, shall we say...

'Poetry Is Intimate'

 “I feel like prose comes much more from outside me than poetry does. Poetry is intimate and more generated in my own theater, shall we say. But in prose I have to be responsive to that story that’s coming to me and there has to be some part of me that goes out to meet it.” – Tess Gallagher

 

Born in July 1943 to a logging family in Port Angeles, WA, Gallagher has published numerous collections of poetry, including Instructions for a Double, which won the Elliston Book Award.   Her Moon Crossing Bridge, a series of 60 poems on the theme of loss and grieving, prompted the American Book Review to call it “a rare document of loss, faith, and returns—return to the site of loving and to the gradual last breath, return to life's immediate summonings.”

 

For Saturday’s Poem here is Gallagher’s,

Now that I am Never Alone

In the bath I look up and see the brown moth

pressed like a pair of unpredictable lips

against the white wall. I heat up

the water, running as much hot in as I can stand.

These handfuls over my shoulder—how once

he pulled my head against his thigh and dipped

a rivulet down my neck of coldest water from the spring

we were drinking from. Beautiful mischief

that stills a moment so I can never look

back. Only now, brightest now, and the water

never hot enough to drive that shiver out.

 

But I remember solitude—no other

presence and each thing what it was. Not this raw

fluttering I make of you as you have made of me

your watch-fire, your killing light.

 

 

 

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Friday, July 23, 2021

A Writer's Moment: 'Kind of the Whole Thing'

A Writer's Moment: 'Kind of the Whole Thing':   “Lyrics are kind of the whole thing; it's the message. Something might have a beautiful melody but if it's not the truth coming ou...

'Kind of the Whole Thing'

 “Lyrics are kind of the whole thing; it's the message. Something might have a beautiful melody but if it's not the truth coming out of your mouth, it's not appealing.” – Alison Krauss


Often credited with reviving America’s interest in bluegrass through her writing of the score for the wonderful movie O Brother Where Art Thou?, Krauss seemed born (on this date in 1971) to be a singer, songwriter and entertainer extraordinaire.  A violinist at age 5, and competition fiddler by age 8, she had her first recording at age 14, already the lead fiddler by then with a group that was to become Union Station – the band she still performs with today.   And while her fiddling is almost unsurpassed, her singing, as they say “ain’t too shabby either.”

She has released 14 albums, appeared on numerous soundtracks, and won dozens of awards, including 28 Grammys, more than any other living performer.  Her creative and heartfelt writing has been lauded in successful movies like the one above and Cold Mountain, which both earned her Academy Award nominations. 

 

To jump-start your day and enjoy great music, too, here are two examples of Krauss’ writing, singing and fiddling.  The first is with Union Station on "The David Letterman Show" in 2011, and the second a version of her award-winning hit “Down to the River to Pray” from O Brother Where Art Thou? performed with the Berklee College Gospel Choir.  


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CJfxaWRkNs  (Down to the River to Pray) 
 
 

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Thursday, July 22, 2021

A Writer's Moment: 'Leaving an Impression With the Reader'

A Writer's Moment: 'Leaving an Impression With the Reader':   “Any writer who gives a reader a pleasurable experience is doing every other writer a favor because it will make the r...

'Leaving an Impression With the Reader'

 “Any writer who gives a reader a pleasurable experience is doing every other writer a favor because it will make the reader want to read other books. I am all for it.” – S.E. Hinton

 

While still in her teens, Hinton became a household name as the author of The Outsiders, her first and most popular novel, set in Oklahoma in the 1960s. She began writing it in 1965 inspired by two rival gangs, the Greasers and the Socs, at Will Rogers High School where she was a senior.  Her desire was to show sympathy toward the Greasers by writing from their point of view.

She marketed it to publishers herself and in 1967 New York City-based Viking Press took a chance on it.  Good idea on their part.  To date, it’s sold over 14 million and still sells over 100,000 copies annually.

Hinton's books have been acclaimed for their realism and the attention to details that Young Adults not only identify with but embrace.  America’s YA librarians have agreed, giving her the Margaret A. Edwards Award for her body of work on behalf of youth and young adults.  The librarians noted that in reading Hinton's novels "a young adult may explore the need for independence and simultaneously the need for loyalty and belonging, the need to care for others, and the need to be cared for by them."

Her other key works, known to generations of YA readers, are That Was Then, This Is Now; and Rumble Fish.  Hinton, born on this date in 1948, also is a member of the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame.


“How a piece ends is very important to me,” she said.   “It's the last chance to leave an impression with the reader, the last shot at 'nailing' it. I love to write ending lines; usually, I know them first and write toward them, but even if I knew how they came to me,” she added,  “I wouldn't tell.”

 

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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

A Writer's Moment: 'You Don't Have To Get It Right The First Time'

A Writer's Moment: 'You Don't Have To Get It Right The First Time':   “The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do ...

'You Don't Have To Get It Right The First Time'

 “The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.” – Robert Cormier


Born in 1925, author, columnist and reporter Cormier was known for his brilliantly crafted, yet oftentimes deeply pessimistic, downbeat literature. His most popular works  continue to resonate with his mostly Young Adult audience over 20 years after his death.  I Am The Cheese, After the First Death, We All Fall Down and The Chocolate War all won major awards, and  I Am The Cheese is considered one of the best Young Adult novels of the past 50 years.


Cormier began his professional writing career scripting radio commercials and went on to become an award-winning journalist. And even though he became widely known, writing 18 novels and countless short stories, he never stopped writing for his local Massachusetts newspaper, the Fitchburg Sentinel and for those youthful readers who made up the core of his fan base.

“I simply write with an intelligent reader in mind,” he once said.  “I don't think about how old they are or where they might live.  And all the stories I'll ever need are right here on Main Street.”  
 
 
 

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Monday, July 19, 2021

A Writer's Moment: 'Why Not Give It A Shot?'

A Writer's Moment: 'Why Not Give It A Shot?':   I remember in grammar school the teacher asked if anyone had any hobbies. I was the only one with any hobbies and I had every hobby there ...

'Why Not Give It A Shot?'

 I remember in grammar school the teacher asked if anyone had any hobbies. I was the only one with any hobbies and I had every hobby there was... name anything, no matter how esoteric. I could have given everyone a hobby and still had 40 or 50 to take home.  – Cormac McCarthy


That, says McCarthy, is why he feels comfortable writing about almost anything.
   Born on July 20, 1933, one of McCarthy’s early interests was his Irish heritage and before he was too old, he had his name changed from Charles to Cormac after the legendary Irish King, which coincidentally also means “Son of Charles.”

He gravitated early to writing, making use of his knowledge of so many things.  In addition to many stories, he has written 10 novels, spanning everything from the Southern Gothic to Western to Post-Apocalyptic genres.  For his efforts he’s won awards in each, including a Pulitzer Prize for The Road, a book that also won him the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction.

Many of his books have been made into movies including the Academy Award winning No Country for Old Men.   His All the Pretty Horses won both a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award before being made into a movie.  The Road and Child of God also have been adapted to film.

 

One of McCarthy’s writing traits – lauded by some, hated by some – is his adamant "non-use" of quotation marks for dialogue.  He said there is no reason to "blot the page up with weird little marks."   His other “quirk” (if it can be called that) is his no computers.  He’s on his second Olivetti typewriter.  His first, bought for $50 in 1963, was auctioned for over $250,000 in 2009 after he felt it needed more maintenance than he could properly administer (his “cleaning” technique was to blow the dust out with a service station air hose).   He donated the money to charity. 

Always frugal, he got his second Olivetti for $11 and went right to work.  He said he constantly has several things underway.  “Even if what you're working on doesn't go anywhere,” he said,  “it will help you with the next thing you're doing. (As a writer) Make yourself available for something to happen. Give it a shot.”
 
 

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Sunday, July 18, 2021

A Writer's Moment: 'A Sense of the Connections Between Human Beings'

A Writer's Moment: 'A Sense of the Connections Between Human Beings': “When you're watching somebody read your material and they smile and nod, you know you've found that place where...

'A Sense of the Connections Between Human Beings'

“When you're watching somebody read your material and they smile and nod, you know you've found that place where your experience and their experience match, even though they aren't the same exact experience.”  Chris Crutcher


Born in July, 1946 Crutcher has combined a successful career as a family therapist with an equally successful career as a writer for teens.  In the process he has been honored with a lifetime achievement award – the coveted Margaret Edwards Award (recognition for writing for teens) – from the American Library Association.

Many of his novels concern teenaged athletes (especially swimmers) who face major problems and get the help and support they need from wise, caring adults – usually either a teacher or a coach.   Unafraid to tackle such issues as abusive parents, racial and religious prejudice, mental and physical disability, or crushing poverty, Crutcher’s books have won the praise of millions despite being censored by those who think they are too graphic.   Despite this controversy, he has earned dozens of awards.    One of his most honored books is Deadline,   
the story of a high school senior dying from a rare blood disease and who has kept that fact a secret so that he can pack a lifetime of full living into his last year of life.

“What I hope my writing reflects... is a sense of the connections between all human beings... and a different perspective on the true nature of courage,” Crutcher said.   “For me, those are things worth exploring and writing about.”
 
 

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