Tag Archives: PostADay2011

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.

Silent Writers’ Prompts and 67 Reminders

The weekly Silent Writers online writing retreat will be held tonight at 9 pm EST.  All writers are invited to participate, but those who find it difficult to put distractions aside and make the time to write will find it especially useful.  Writing for a specific and set amount of time on a consistent basis is not only satisfying, it improves skills and helps build a rewarding writing life.

To participate,  join in tonight at 9 EST on Twitter or Facebook.  You can work on your own project or use one of the writing exercises below.

If you can’t join in, but need a motivation boost to take with you, read 67 Things to Remember When Writing by Cristin Terrill on her blog Incidents & Accidents. She says, it’s a “small checklist of common advice to keep in mind when writing a novel so that you don’t make a total mess of things.”  The list is a semi-serious, semi-jokey compilation with an important message at the end.

Now, on to the prompts:

  1. From PW.org:Fiction and Poetry prompts
  2. From Verbal VerbosityThe 100 Words Challenge Prompt
  3. From me: A photo prompt, “Free Realms”
  4. From Mama’s Losin’ ItFive Writing Prompts
  5. From @Selorian on Twitter:#storystarters
  6. From Plinky: Quickie questions to ponder

For more information on tonight’s retreat, visit the Silent Writers Collective.

Resources: Incidents & Accidents. Simon Howden portfolio, The Daily Post

Monday Motivator: Steve Wozniak’s Apple I

“Even if you do something
that others might consider wrong,
you should at least be willing to talk about it
and tell your parents what you’re doing
because you believe it’s right.”
— Steve “Woz” Wozniak
Designed and hand-built the first Apple computer

Apple I On display at the Smithsonian

Apple I computer, created April 11, 1976.

The Apple I Computer was Apple’s first product.  It was designed and hand-built by Steve Wozniak, and sold by his friend Steve Jobs.

Woz and Jobs initially built 50 computers and sold them at a local computer store for $666.66 each.  They sold every one.  In total, about 200 Apple I Computers were built, but they quickly became obsolete.

Inspired by their success, Woz designed the Apple II less than a year later, and it went on to become one of the great computer successes of all time.

The Apple I still fares pretty well, though.  In November 2010, an Apple I sold for $212,267 at Christie’s auction house in London.  It is the highest price paid for this model so far.

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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: Apple, The Daily Post

A Thousand Words: Free Realms

Creative Commons image by Christopher Cornelius on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

A Thousand Words is a photo prompt posted every Sunday.  Maybe the image will inspire you to write a short story, a poem, or a blog post.  Whatever your response, I hope the picture inspires you to some sort of creative zen.

If you write something based on the image, feel free to share a link in the comments section.   Also feel free to use the photo on your blog, just be sure to give proper credit, which I will always include in the post or the caption.

Resources: Creative Commons, Flickr, The Daily Post

Little Golden Books go Haute Couture

Once upon a time a popular series called Little Golden Books was published and it forever changed the way we look at children’s literature.

Many years later, a young prince came to town and forever changed the way we look at those Little Golden Books.

You see the prince was not really a prince, he was a talented and creative artist named Ryan Novelline, (perfect name for a book artist).  He saw the treasure in those Little Golden Books and began collecting discarded copies. When he gathered enough, he took the illustrations, the foil spines, and some golden thread and spun them into this magnificent gown.

The 22,000 square inch skirt is made almost entirely of illustrations and the gold foil spines make up the bodice.

Here is a closer look:

I am in awe every time I see this creation.  It’s original, beautiful, brilliant, and inspiring.  It’s also not the typical Once a Book DIY project I feature here on Saturdays.  Those projects can usually be done in an afternoon with the craft supplies you have at home.  This one is a lot more involved, but if you’re very interested in DIYing it, Mr. Novelline’s website includes a pictorial outline of his process, along with more photos of this incredible gown.

Now, if I could get one in my size, I’d definitely live happily ever after.

Resources: Ryan Novelline, Once a Book, 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

On the Path to “Beautifully Written”

Yesterday at Writer Unboxed, the title of a post by author and literary agent Donald Maass caught my attention.

“Beautifully Written.”

When I worked at a literary agency, we used those two words to describe many of the books we represented, both fiction and non-fiction.  Though it may sound cliché, it wasn’t.  In order to represent a book, we had to feel that it truly was beautifully written.

Defining something as subjective as beautifully written makes me think of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s now famous quote on pornography.  He said he could never intelligibly define it, but “I know it when I see it.”

That’s how I feel about beautiful writing.  I have a hard time defining it, but I know it when I see it.  Mr. Maass does better.  He says, “For me, beautifully written has come to be not just a nice extra (when you get it) but a critical component of high-impact fiction.”

In my comment on the post, I wrote that my writing goals are 1) To complete my novel, and 2) Finish with a completed novel that is beautifully written.  Sometimes it feels like those goals clash and my frustration builds. When that happens, I need to pull back and remember that “finished” and “beautifully written” are one in the same for me.

Guidance like that found in Mr. Maass’s post will help in reaching my goals.  In his new series on Writer Unboxed, he will be discussing the ways in which novels can be beautifully written, starting with creating parallels.

To read the post, visit Writer Unboxed » Beautifully Written.

Resources: Writer Unboxed, Donald Maass, The Daily Post