Category Archives: Authors

Shooting Stars and the Promise of Hope

starI saw a shooting star when I was out running this dark, early morning. That’s exciting for many reasons, but primarily because 1) I was out running this dark, early morning, and 2) I saw a shooting star!

That bright solitary shooter lifted my mood in the way shooting stars do, and it helped me finish a tough run with unexpected oomph.  It also reminded me that the Geminid Meteor Shower is this week, Thursday and Friday.  I’ll be out there watching, bundled up against the cold, mug of hot chocolate in hand, perhaps something harder.  I’ll take the quiet time as a chance to look at the past year.

2012.  It’s been a dilly and it’s not over yet  There’s the Geminid this week, the end of the world on the 21st (as if!), Christmas on the 25th, and a New Year’s Eve 5K run on the 31st. It’s a busy few days wrapping up a busy year.

In Madame Bovary, Gustav Flaubert wrote of Emma:

She did not believe that things could remain the same in different places, and since the portion of her life that lay behind her had been bad, no doubt that which remained to be lived would be better.

If you know much about Emma Bovary, you know things didn’t turn out to be better for her.  But I’m going to ignore her end for now and think about her hope instead, especially as the new year approaches. For me, 2012 was manic.  Heart-pumping highs, heart-breaking lows.  As 2013 gets ready to chime in, remnants of the highs and lows linger. It’s going to be a year of decisions and changes. I’m not a fan of decisions and changes.  I like static; it’s easier.  But new years hold the promise of new hope, new oomph, new excitement. Even after welcoming in 50 of them, I still feel that way.

So, with a wit more wisdom and a smidge less naivete than Madame Bovary, I’m keeping the promise of hope and looking forward to 2013 with the thought that no doubt that which remains to be lived will be better. Not that it’s been all bad. It certainly hasn’t. I’ve enjoyed far more than my share of heart-pumping highs and I’m going to do my part to make sure that continues. I’m going to keep running, I’m going to keep writing, and I’m going to keep looking for shooting stars.

PS: Happy birthday, Gustav Flaubert

Monday Motivator: A Writer’s Essential To-Do List

The Monday Motivator, as it says down at the bottom there, is a quote posted on Mondays to encourage, inspire, and motivate writers. Today’s quote is a little different. It’s a long quote, very, very, very long.  More than 2,500 words long. But motivate? Encourage? Inspire?  Oh yes, it most definitely does.

25 THINGS WRITERS SHOULD START DOING (ASAFP) is from TerribleMinds.com, the blog of writer Chuck Wendig. His “About” page warns that the site is unmercifully profane. I don’t know that I’d call it unmerciful, but he is a little saucy with the language, so if  your delicate sensibilities can’t take it, don’t visit.  If, however, you want to read a fantastic list that goes far beyond the perfunctory Writer’s Digest pats on the head and gentle nudges, you must click over and see what Mr. Wendig has to say.

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The Monday Motivator is a quote posted on Mondays to encourage, inspire, and motivate writers of all skill levels and across genres.  If you have a favorite quote you’d like to share, let me know and I’ll post it here.  Click here to see past Monday Motivators.

SOPA/PIPA and John Milton’s Areopagitica

After much research, I decided to join yesterday’s Internet-wide protest of SOPA/PIPA.

On the surface, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP) are anti-piracy bills. Antipiracy is a good thing; it’s necessary, and when administered properly it protects artists, writers, musicians, etc. The problem with these bills is that they are so broadly written they go too far and allow for abusive control and censorship — not good things.

SOPA was shelved before yesterday’s protest, but it’s not dead yet. PIPA goes to vote on Tuesday, but support is fading fast. We do need antipiracy laws in place. We most certainly do, but not at the expense of free speech.

As I researched SOPA/PIPA, I remembered a post I did back in June 2010 on Areopagitica, John Milton’s passionate essay on the right to freedom of speech and expression.  I thought it was worth repeating:

Enjoy Freedom of Speech? Thank John Milton

For more details on SOPA or PIPA, this video from Fight for the Future does a great job explaining it.

Silent Writers goes Oprah!

The February 2012 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine includes an A to Z feature titled “Express Yourself,” an alphabetical roundup of possibilities for showing the world who you are. Listed under Q for “Quiet” is … drumroll, please. The Silent Writers Collective!

Thank you to Rachel Bertsche for including us and writing such a nice piece. If you haven’t seen the full article, it’s definitely worth reading. And while you’re at the bookstore, pick up Rachel’s new book, MWF Seeking BFF, her hilarious and touching memoir about the tough, sometimes awkward, and ultimately rewarding experience of making new friends as an adult.

Monday Motivator: Philip Roth

“I turn sentences around.
That’s my life. I write a sentence and then I turn it around.
Then I look at it and turn it around again…”

— E.I. Lonoff
in “The Ghost Writer” by Philip Roth

That’s the glamorous life of a writer.  Writing, revising, repeating.  It’s also what I’ve been caught up in for the past five or so months … turning sentences around, then around again.  I like to think I’m making  progress, but sometimes I  wonder.  That’s another part of the glamorous life of a writer: Uncertainty.

The Monday Motivator is meant to motivate and inspire, but my commentary doesn’t seem very inspiring does it.  In fact, it feels pretty negative.  Maybe that’s why I turned to my blog today for the first time in months.  This writer is in need of some blogosphere love.   How about it folks?  Lay it on me! Share a tip or trick you use to keep going when the words have turned you inside, outside and upside down?

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The Monday Motivator is a quote posted on Mondays to encourage, inspire, and motivate writers of all skill levels and across genres.  If you have a favorite quote you’d like to share, let me know and I’ll post it here.  Click here to see past Monday Motivators.

 

Monday Motivator: Wallace Stevens

“After the final no there comes a yes
And on that yes the future world depends.”

— Wallace Stevens
from The Well Dressed Man with a Beard

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The Monday Motivator is a quote posted each week to encourage, inspire, and motivate writers of all skill levels and across genres.  If you have a favorite quote you’d like to share, let me know and I’ll post it here.  Click here to see past Monday Motivators.

Resources: Wallace Stevens, The Well Dressed Man with a Beard, *~Dawn~* on Flickr, The Daily Post.

Baths, Books, Rules: Authors Share Their Inspiration

Writers Recommend is an online exclusive at Poets & Writers that asks authors:

“What Inspires You?”

For Heather Sellers, author of “You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know” (Riverhead Books, 2010), it’s a bath, a pile of magazines, lavender oil, and as much time as she needs.

Aimee Bender, author of “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake” (Doubleday, 2010) says, “Rules. I’m a big believer in structure, and the idea that creativity loosens up when constrained a bit.

Stuart O’Nan, author of 14 novels, reads pages from his favorite book.

With responses from more than 100 authors, the answers are as varied as these three examples, yet there are a lot of similarities, too.  To read all the responses, and find some inspiration of your own, read  Writers Recommend from Poets & Writers.

Resources: Poets & Writers, The Daily Post.

True or False: Steinbeck and the Roads Not Taken

When journalist Bill Steigerwald set out to follow John Steinbeck’s route in “Travels with Charley in Search of America,” he did it as a kind of tribute to the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer.

Fifty years after the first publication of “Travels with Charley,” Mr. Steigerwald said, “I simply wanted to go exactly where Steinbeck went in 1960, to see what he saw on the Steinbeck Highway, and then to write a book about the way America has and has not changed in the last 50 years.”

He didn’t find what he set out to find.  After nine months and more than 11,000 miles, Mr. Steigerwald conclusively determined that “Travels With Charley” is “not just full of fiction; it’s also a dishonest account of [Steinbeck's] iconic journey and what he really thought about America.”

That’s disappointing, isn’t it?

I first read about this in A Reality Check for Steinbeck and Charley in last Sunday’s New York Times, and I felt incredibly let down, even kind of heart-broken about it.  “Travels with Charley” meant something to me. When I first read it, I believed I was reading a true story by and about Steinbeck who wanted to see his country a final time before dying.

I knew it was written by Steinbeck, a fiction writer, and I knew some of it came off as a little too perfect to be completely true, but to find out that it’s mostly fabrication just felt wrong.

It felt so wrong I had to research further.  I never heard of Bill Steigerwald.  For all I knew he was some kind of publicity seeking conspiracy theorist who found his magic bullet in “Travels with Charley.”  After reading his blog, Travels without Charley, in particular the post announcing his trip, I knew that wasn’t the case.  His early posts are so filled with excitement about the road ahead of him, it’s hard not to be taken with the sincerity of it.  But I held on to my skepticism because I was, after all, exploring dishonesty in writing.  As I read later posts and all the details, it became clear that Mr. Steigerwald was documenting facts.  Facts, not fiction.

James Frey’s false memoir, “A Million Little Pieces” and the whole Oprah incident comes to mind, but that doesn’t begin to compare with this.  Who’s James Frey, right?

This is John Steinbeck.  “Of Mice and Men” Steinbeck.  “Grapes of Wrath” Steinbeck.   “East of Eden” Steinbeck!  If “Travels with Charley” was fiction, it should have been labeled and sold as fiction.  That it wasn’t, diminishes John Steinbeck.  At least it does for me.

When asked about the authenticity of characters, Susan Shillinglaw, scholar in residence at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California, said, “Does it really matter that much?”

Ignoring the astonishing arrogance of that response, I will volunteer an answer to the rhetorical question.  The answer is yes.  It really does matter that much.

It’s a question of trust and the integrity of words.

Steinbeck knew it, too.  He said so himself in the final words of his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech in 1962.

“Having taken God-like power, we must seek in ourselves for the responsibility and the wisdom we once prayed some deity might have. Man himself has become our greatest hazard and our only hope. So that today, saint John the Apostle may well be paraphrased: In the end is the word, and the word is man, and the word is with man.”

Resources: Travels without Charley, The New York Times, The Daily Post

Delicious, Sweet and Cold

The Fruit Pages say the plum is “a soft round smooth-skinned sweet fruit with sweet flesh and a flattish pointed stone.”  Perfectly adequate description, but a poet can do so much more.

In honor of National Poetry Month, an ode to one of my favorite fruits from one of my favorite poets …

“This Is Just To Say” by William Carlos Williams

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Resources:  William Carlos Williams, Poets.org, Tony Hisgett photos, Plums, The Daily Post

Monday Motivator: Ray Bradbury

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The Monday Motivator is a quote posted each week to encourage, inspire, and motivate writers of all skill levels and across genres.  If you have a favorite quote to share, let me know and I’ll post it here.  Click here to see past Monday Motivators.

Resources: Ray Bradbury, The Daily Post