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Thursday, June 23, 2022

A Writer's Moment: 'The Process of Discovery'

A Writer's Moment: 'The Process of Discovery':   “There’s a beauty in writing stories—each one is an exploratory journey in search of a reason and a shape. And when you...

'The Process of Discovery'

 

“There’s a beauty in writing stories—each one is an exploratory journey in search of a reason and a shape. And when you find that reason and that shape, there’s no feeling like it." – T.C. Boyle

 

Boyle, born in 1948, excels at writing short stories, even though he’s also darn good at writing novels, having published 11 of them.  His book World’s End, in fact, won the coveted PEN/Faulkner Award.  But, it’s his short story list that’s most impressive and it continues to grow.  To date, he has more than 60 in print and many more “in process.”    Boyle also is unafraid of sharing his writing skills and serves as Distinguished Professor of English at USC where he founded the creative writing program.

 

An advocate of the stream of consciousness style – he says start with a word or phrase and then just see where it might take you.  It’s also a great technique for overcoming writer’s block.  Just pick something and start writing.

 

“I have an idea and a first line – and that suggests the rest of it,” he said.  “I have little concept of what I’m going to say, or where it’s going. I have some idea of how long it’s going to be – but not what will happen or what the themes will be. That’s the intrigue of doing it – it’s a process of discovery. You get to discover what you’re going to say and what it’s going to mean.”



 

 

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

A Writer's Moment: Persistence Pays

A Writer's Moment: Persistence Pays:   “Writing is one of the few professions in which you can psychoanalyze yourself, get rid of hostilities and frustrations in public, and ge...

Persistence Pays

 

“Writing is one of the few professions in which you can psychoanalyze yourself, get rid of hostilities and frustrations in public, and get paid for it.” – Octavia Butler

Born on this date in 1947, Butler was a multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards for her science fiction writing.  And in 1995 she became the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur foundation award.

The daughter of a housemaid and shoeshine man, she also was one of the first – if not the first – African-American SciFi writers and definitely the first female African-American in the field.  A shy child who avoided socializing whenever possible, she immersed herself in reading and got hooked on fairy tales and horse stories before gravitating to popular SciFi magazines such as Amazing Stories.  “No one was going to stop me from writing and no one had to really guide me towards science fiction,” she said.  “It was natural, really, that I would take that interest.”

By age 12 she was formulating ideas for stories that would work themselves into a series that in the 1970s became known as her Patternist tales:  Patternmaster, Mind of My Mind, and Survivor.  They were followed by a string of successful short stories and novellas before she cemented her place in writing history with the two-book series Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, earning the prestigious MacArthur in the process.         
                                “You don't start out writing good stuff,” Butler said shortly before her early death from a stroke (at age 58). “You start out writing crap and thinking it's good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That's why I say one of the most valuable traits for any writer is persistence.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

A Writer's Moment: 'Living in suspense from day to day'

A Writer's Moment: 'Living in suspense from day to day':   “We all live in suspense from day to day; in other words, you are the hero of your own story.” –   Mary McCarthy Author, critic and ...

'Living in suspense from day to day'

 

“We all live in suspense from day to day; in other words, you are the hero of your own story.” Mary McCarthy

Author, critic and political activist McCarthy was born on this day in 1912 in Seattle, WA, and built her reputation as a satirist, primarily with her 1963 novel The Group, which remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for almost two years.

Noted for her precise prose and its complex mixture of autobiography and fiction, she also was considered a rather “scandalous” writer in her younger years, especially with her first novel The Company She Keeps, which “told it like it was” in 1930s New York Society.

Winner of two Guggenheim Fellowships and a number of other major funding awards, she was named for the National Medal for Literature and
 the Edward MacDowell Medal, both in 1984   
 and just on the cusp of learning that she had lung cancer.  During her later years, in recognition of her groundbreaking work, she was presented with 8 honorary degrees from some of America’s leading universities.

A respected critic, she was often feuding with other leading writers over her frank and often not-so-flattering reactions to their works.  And, as for her own writing, she said she often surprised herself with their outcomes. “The suspense of a novel,” I think,  “is not only for the reader, but in the novelist, who is usually intensely curious about what will happen to her hero.”

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Monday, June 20, 2022

A Writer's Moment: 'Collaborate With Your Readers'

A Writer's Moment: 'Collaborate With Your Readers':   “I love the fact that you collaborate with your readers when you write a book.” – Robert Crais Born on this day in 1953, Crais is o...

'Collaborate With Your Readers'

 

“I love the fact that you collaborate with your readers when you write a book.” – Robert Crais

Born on this day in 1953, Crais is one of America’s best-selling authors of crime fiction, but he didn’t start to create novels in the genre until long after he already had made a name for himself as the writer of scripts for television shows.   After graduating from LSU, he moved to Hollywood and jumped right into writing for shows like Hill Street Blues and Cagney and Lacey. 

But in the late 1980s he tested the waters with his first novel, The Monkey’s Raincoat, an instant hit with readers and critics alike – earning everything from “best first novel” to “best mystery.”  Since then, he’s had over 20 novels, published in 62 countries.    In 2006 he received the Ross Macdonald Literary Award (for crime fiction) and in 2014 he was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America.                 

“My books come to me in images,” he said about his inspiration.  “Sometimes the image is at the beginning of the book, and sometimes it's simply a flash somewhere in the middle.”  Whatever and whenever, it definitely works, built around his two memorable main characters – Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.

Perhaps his best-known novel, also made into a movie, is Hostage, cited for the great character development throughout.   “I write characters and stories that move me,” he said, “and I write from the heart.” 
 
 

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Saturday, June 18, 2022

A Writer's Moment: 'It's a matter of life'

A Writer's Moment: 'It's a matter of life':   “Poetry is a matter of life, not just a matter of language.” – Lucille Clifton Born in June, 1936 near Buffalo, NY, Clifton both stu...

'It's a matter of life'

 

“Poetry is a matter of life, not just a matter of language.” – Lucille Clifton

Born in June, 1936 near Buffalo, NY, Clifton both studied and lived in Washington, DC, before settling in her adopted Maryland where from 1979–1985 she was the state’s Poet Laureate. Common topics in her poetry include the celebration of her African American heritage, and feminist themes, but she also is a powerful portrayer of daily life in the city and the home.

Her first poetry collection Good Times was published in 1969, and was an instant success, listed by The New York Times as one of the year's 10 best books.  She expanded her writing and was invited to be poet-in-residence at Coppin State College in Baltimore in the early ‘70s, setting a successful path on a writing and teaching career. 
 
 
Lucille Clifton

On this Juneteenth celebration and for saturday’s poem, here is Clifton's,

                            

I am accused

                          

 

                i am accused of tending to the past
                as if i made it,
                as if i sculpted it
                with my own hands. i did not.
                this past was waiting for me
                when i came,
                a monstrous unnamed baby,
                and i with my mother's itch
                took it to breast
                and named it
                History.
                she is more human now,
                learning languages everyday,
                remembering faces, names and dates.
                when she is strong enough to travel
                on her own, beware, she will.

 

 

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Friday, June 17, 2022

A Writer's Moment: The 'nourishing' activity

A Writer's Moment: The 'nourishing' activity:   “My theory is that literature is essential to society in the way that dreams are essential to our lives. We can't live without dreami...

The 'nourishing' activity

 

“My theory is that literature is essential to society in the way that dreams are essential to our lives. We can't live without dreaming - as we can't live without sleep. We are 'conscious' beings for only a limited period of time, then we sink back into sleep - the 'unconscious.' It is nourishing, in ways we can't fully understand.” – Joyce Carol Oates

Yesterday was Oates 84th birthday and like almost every other day she probably spent 4 hours (or more) writing.  The prolific writer said she enjoys the process as much as the product and puts in the hours accordingly. 

Oates, an Upstate New Yorker by birth, attended a one-room country school as a child and had her first book published in 1963 when she decided to go to Vanguard Press.  While that one cost some from her own pocket (Vanguard “shares” publishing costs with the author), it was the last time that sort of thing happened. 

That novel’s success opened the floodgates for her and since then she’s had more than 40 novels, a number of plays and novellas, and many volumes of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction published by the world’s leading publishers.  For those efforts she’s won numerous awards, including a National Book Award for her novel Them.  A terrific writer in all genres, she’s also won two O. Henry Awards and the National Humanities Medal.   Three novels – Black Water, What I Lived For, and Blonde – along with two of her short story collections were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
 
  
Joyce Carol Oates

Oates likes to write from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in her own unique style – longhand.   Many days she also writes a couple hours in the evenings.

“I have forced myself to begin writing when I've been utterly exhausted," she said,  "when I've felt my soul as thin as a playing card…and somehow the activity of writing changes everything.”
 

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Thursday, June 16, 2022

A Writer's Moment: 'Love What You Do; Feel That It Matters'

A Writer's Moment: 'Love What You Do; Feel That It Matters':   “ To love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun?”   – Katharine Graham  Award-winning writer, and pu...

'Love What You Do; Feel That It Matters'

 

To love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun?”
 – Katharine Graham

 Award-winning writer, and publisher of The Washington Post for over two decades, Graham was born on this date in 1917.  Today, she’s especially remembered for her newspaper's role in exposing the Watergate Scandal.  Her Pulitzer Prize winning memoir, simply titled Personal History, exudes the joy of working in media.  She and her editorial team revived a so-so newspaper and made it a national powerhouse, and the investigative effort during Watergate stands as a benchmark for “How it’s done.”

A Republican who oversaw investigative reporting of a Republican president, she said politics should never get in the way of good reporting.  “It matters not if a person is from one party or another.  If someone has done something that needs to be exposed in print, then that’s what a good reporter should do.”                      

A personal friend of luminaries like Truman Capote and Adlai Stevenson, who was twice a candidate for U.S. President and served as the U.N. Ambassador, she was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom shortly before her death in 2001. The International Press Institute named her one of the world’s 50 most influential and powerful media people of the 20th century.

“Once, power was considered a masculine attribute,” Graham said when told of the honor.  “In fact, power has no sex.”
 
 

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Tuesday, June 14, 2022

A Writer's Moment: ‘A Talent For It’

A Writer's Moment: ‘A Talent For It’:   “I wrote about a bird that cleaned a crocodile's teeth. The story was so good that my teacher could not believe that a ten-year-old c...

‘A Talent For It’

 

“I wrote about a bird that cleaned a crocodile's teeth. The story was so good that my teacher could not believe that a ten-year-old could write that well. I was even punished because my teacher thought I'd lied about writing it! I had always loved to write, but it was then that I realized that I had a talent for it.” Brian Jacques

English writer Jacques, best known for his Redwall series, was born in Liverpool on June 15, 1939 and started reading early, devouring everything from novels like Kidnapped to the Wind in the Willows books.  By age 10 his vivid imagination combined with poring over books about animals led to that writing experience (noted above) which defined his writing life.

The Redwall series, centered on the triumph of good over evil, features an intricate animal-based world, ranging from peaceful mice, badgers, voles, hares, moles and squirrels to “bad guy” rats, weasels, ferrets, snakes and stoats. He does not shy away from the reality of battle, and many of the "good" creatures die. The first book, just called Redwall, alludes to the surrounding human civilization with a scene featuring a horse-drawn cart. But the subsequent books ignore humans completely.  Redwall’s world portrays a society from the misty past with castles, bridges and ships built to the scale of forest creatures.  His animal “heroes” write their own literature, draw their own maps, and have a world most humans envy.                                      
 

Jacques’ books were among the earliest converted into audio versions, and he was deeply involved as the lead characters while enlisting his sons and others to voice his Redwall inhabitants, many based on people he has encountered.  “I am a people watcher and I have a very good memory,” he said.

 

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Monday, June 13, 2022

A Writer's Moment: 'Only Practice Will Make You Perfect'

A Writer's Moment: 'Only Practice Will Make You Perfect':   “Aim at a high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, not the second time and maybe not the third. But kee...

'Only Practice Will Make You Perfect'

 

“Aim at a high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, not the second time and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting, for only practice will make you perfect, and finally you’ll hit the bull’s-eye of success.” – Annie Oakley

 


 

Annie Oakley, born June 13, 1860, is a key character in my book And The Wind Whispered.  Couldn’t resist sharing this quote from Annie, who not only was one of our greatest showstopping performers but also an inspiration to young girls around the world for her “Can do” spirit.

Happy June 13 everyone and aim high!
 
 

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