Making the Time to be Quiet and Write

You write by sitting down
and writing.
Bernard Malamud

Sounds easy enough, but those of us who write know there’s more to it than that.  Endless distractions can pull us away from our writing.  Then a few days, turn into weeks, months, or more of not writing, and our initial excitement turns to dread.

The only way to break that cycle is to follow Mr. Malamud’s advice:

Sit down and write.

If you have a hard time motivating yourself to do that, join The Silent Writer’s Collective for a Silent Write-In, a weekly online writing retreat that helps writers put aside distractions and write.

By committing to a group effort, (think Weight Watchers or NaNoWriMo) many writers find it’s easier to stay motivated and reach goals.  Writing, as we’ve heard ad nauseum, is a solitary endeavor, but sharing our efforts with a group makes it easier, and can help us reach our writing goals.

Our next retreat is tomorrow night, Tuesday, January 17, at 9 PM EST (US), if there’s interest, we’ll also meet at 9 PM PST.  We start on time with a minute or two of hellos, then the “buzzer” sounds and we start writing.  You can work on your own writing project, or use one of the provided writing prompts or exercises to get started.

We meet via Twitter using the hashtag #SilentWriters. If you aren’t on Twitter, we have a group on Facebook. If you don’t have either, just join in on your own at 9, and know you’re not working out there on your own.

For more information, check out the SWC FAQs.

Monday Motivator: Erica Jong gets Subversive

Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it … It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk everything, you risk even more.
— Erica Jong
“How to Save Your Own Life”

♥  ♥  ♥
Happy Valentine’s Day

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: Erica Jong, The Daily Post

Visiting Alice Walker’s Garden on her Birthday

Today is Alice Walker’s 67th birthday.  Her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “The Color Purple,” is one of my favorites; the movie is too. But beyond the brief biography I read in connection with her book, I didn’t know a thing about her.  Until today.

Thank you, Internet!

Her perfectly titled website Alice Walker’s Garden is an incredible place to visit, walk around, admire, and enjoy.  The site includes Ms. Walker’s blog, information on books old and new, poetry, audio and video interviews, photos, and a biography.  It’s the biography that captured my attention the longest.  It starts out saying Alice Walker is a “Poet, short story writer, novelist, essayist, anthologist, teacher, editor, publisher, womanist and activist.”

Nice resume!

It goes on to talk about a childhood experience involving lying, which, as she explains, “… is the root of my need to tell the truth, always, because I experienced, very early, the pain of telling a lie.”

It’s fascinating to read about this early experience that helped shape the woman she became.  To learn more for yourself, or read some of her poetry, essays, or other words, visit Alice Walker’s Garden.  While you’re there, wish her a happy day.

Resources:  Alice Walker’s Garden, The Daily Post.

“The Count” Confirms Publishing’s Gender Bias

What would you think if I told you that in 2010 magazines like Harper’s, The New Republic, Poetry Magazine, Granta, The New Yorker, and most of the other big names, published more work written by men than by women?

Would it shock you?  Surprise you?  Raise an eyebrow?

What if I told you that those magazines didn’t publish just three or four more articles by men than by women, they published three or four times more.  It calculates like this:

  • The Atlantic published 154 pieces written by men, 53 by women.
  • The New Yorker: 449 by men, 163 by women.
  • The New York Review of Books: 462 by men, 79 by women.

That raises more than eyebrows, it raises questions and VIDA is doing the asking.

VIDA, a literary group formed last year in response to gender inequality in print, has just published The Count.  I might have called it “The Countess,” but that’s probably too cutesy.  The Count is literally that, a count of male to female writers in the country’s most prestigious magazines, and it is proof positive of just how skewed the ratio is.

As a woman writer, the survey could be depressing.  I could throw up my hands and say, “Why bother, there’s no breaking into the old-boy’s club.”  If it was just a survey, it would be depressing, but it’s not just a survey, it’s the beginning of a conversation and VIDA is leading the way.

“Our count is by no means a blame-game,” says Cate Marvin, VIDA co-founder. “It was time to stop speculating that things didn’t seem entirely fair and find out if we did in fact have reason to be concerned.  The conversation only begins with the numbers.”

More data on submissions and books published by gender is needed for a true picture, but what is included in “The Count” makes it clear that there is a startling imbalance and something needs to be done.  Yes, the conversation has started.  As a woman who writes, it’s now my responsibility to be a part of it.

For more details, read the study by VIDA: “Numbers don’t lie. What counts is the bottom line.”

For an analysis of the numbers, read A new tally by VIDA shows how few female writers appear in magazines from slate.com.

Resources: VIDA, The Daily Post

Monday Motivator: Gertrude Stein

Stein Gertrude 1935
Gertrude Stein via Wikipedia

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“To write is
to write is
to write is
to write is
to write is
to write is
to write.”

– Gertrude Stein

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Today’s Monday Motivator is from Gertrude Stein, whose birthday is this week on February 3, 1874.  Much of Ms. Stein’s work, like the quote above, can be mistaken for silly or senseless.  Some critics called her work elitist and arrogant, but Stein played with words the way another artist would play with her medium.

Friend and patron Mabel Dodge Luhan described it like this:

“In Gertrude Stein’s writing every word lives and, apart from concept, it is so exquisitely rhythmical and cadenced that if we read it aloud and receive it as pure sound, it is like a kind of sensuous music.  Just as one may stop, for once, in a way, before a canvas of Picasso, and, letting one’s reason sleep for an instant, may exclaim: ‘It is a fine pattern!’ so, listening to Gertrude Steins’ words and forgetting to try to understand what they mean, one submits to their gradual charm.”

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, I’d love to include it.  Click here to see past Monday Motivators.

Resources: The World of Gertrude Stein, The Daily Post

99 Y.O. Self-Published Poet’s Mega-Bestseller

Japan’s Toyo Shibata was 92 when she started writing poetry.  Her self-published anthology, “Kujikenaide,” (Don’t Lose Heart) has sold 1.5 million copies in Japan since its publication in 2009.  With sales like that, I’m sure American publishers will take note.  Now that her story has been published in Reuters and is being picked up by mainstream media around the world,  I’m hopeful that it’s only a matter of time before her book hits the shelves in the U.S.  I definitely plan to be in line to buy it.

For more information, here’s “A Little Encouragement” from the blog, From Tokyo to the World.

A Little Encouragement Few people can say they’ve lived as long as Toyo Shibata [柴田トヨ]. At 99, she has seen two world wars, four emperors and 81 prime ministers. Over the span of such a long life, one would hope to acquire valuable wisdom about the world and how to be happy. Ms. Shibata has. She is the author of a bestselling anthology of poetry published early last year with the title “くじけないで,” or “Don’t Be Frustrated” [though I would translate it as more like “Hang i … Read More

Resources: The Daily Post, The Book Bench, From Tokyo to the World

New Hope Comes in a Literary Package

There’s something very exciting about the debut of a literary journal.

All the tension and turmoil bubbling around the publishing world these days can leave those of us who are in love with words feeling sad, worried, and a little bit hopeless.  Enter a new lit mag and our hope is renewed … The word lives.  The word thrives.  Hooray for the word!

And three cheers for the debut of The Literarian, an online journal from The Center for Fiction.

We’re here to celebrate and support the extraordinary breadth of literary fiction in the U.S. and around the world,” writes editor Dawn Raffel in the welcome letter.

The first issue includes six short stories, interviews with Cynthia Ozick, Yiyun Li, a video of Sam Lipsyte reading from his novel “The Ask,” and an essay by Martha McPhee about her five favorite novels with women behaving badly.  Each issue takes a world view, too, by publishing highlights from international literary magazines.  This issue showcases Wet Ink from Australia and the St. Petersburg Review. Future issues promise a venue for emerging writers.

It’s not all storm and stress in the world of words.  At least I don’t think so, and neither does The Center for Fiction.  That’s good news for writers, readers, and everyone else in love with words.

PS:  I would be remiss in my devotion to Philip Roth if I missed this opportunity to mention his upcoming visit to The Center for Fiction on February 24 at 7 pm. Oh, to live in New York again!!

Resources: The Center for Fiction, The Daily Post

Depth and Focus Straighten Tangled Plots

At The Book Deal, publishing veteran Alan Rinzler offers an insider’s look at the new world of publishing.  With more than 40 years experience at some of the top houses, his insights and opinions are an incredible resource for writers trying to break into the business.

His latest post, Ask the editor:  How to untangle a plot, gives specific and directed advice on:

  • Pruning overcomplicated plots
  • Best practices for storytelling
  • DIY Plot Pruning
  • Developing your rhythm

Mr. Rinzler ends the post with an invitation to send questions.

After spending the better part of the morning (and probably most of the coming afternoon) clicking and reading through this blog, I knew I had to share it here.

Enjoy!

Resources: The Book Deal, The Daily Post

Monday Motivator: Virginia Woolf’s Wild Horses

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“Blame it or praise it, there is no denying the wild horse in us.”
— Virginia Woolf
from “Jacob’s Room”

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I chose this quote in honor of Virginia Woolf’s 129th birthday, tomorrow, January 25.  What do the words evoke in you?

The Monday Motivator is a weekly quote posted to encourage, inspire, and motivate writers of all skill levels and across genres. If you have a favorite quote to share, I’d love to include it.  Click here to see past Monday Motivators.

Resources:  The International Virginia Woolf Society, The Daily Post

A Thousand Words: The Sound of Laughter

Image courtesy of lolololori on Flickr.  Some rights reserved.

 

A Thousand Words is a weekly photo prompt posted every Sunday.  Maybe the images will inspire you to write a short story, a haiku, a blog post, a love note.  Maybe you’ll just sit back and enjoy the photo.   Whatever your response, I hope you enjoy the picture and that it inspires you to 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