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  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

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”

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William Carlos Williams


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

Finding the Time to Write (Silent or Not)

One of the toughest challenges in writing is finding the time to sit down and do it.  If “time” is not the issue, maybe it’s myriad distractions (laundry, facebook, Will & Grace reruns, email, etc.) that pull you away.

Five Tips for Finding Writing Time on copyblogger.com offers helpful insight not only on finding time, but on making that time productive once you’re in the chair and ready to get started.

The Silent Writers online writing retreat is another useful tool.  Every Tuesday at 9 pm EST, writers who find it difficult making time to write join together for an hour of silent writing. Writing for a specific and set amount of time is not only satisfying, it helps in building a consistent and rewarding writing life.

The retreat is open to all writers, but it was created especially for those who find it hard to put aside distractions for their craft.  To participate,  join us tonight at 9 EST on Twitter or Facebook.

You can work on your own project or use one of the writing exercises below.

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

The 9 pm PST retreat is open by request.  If you’re interested in this session, please leave a comment here.

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

Resources: copyblogger. Luigi Diamonte portfolio, The Daily Post

Monday Motivator: Muddy Waters

“My grandmother, she say
I shouldn’t be playing.
I should go to church.
Finally, I say
‘I’m going do this, I’m going do it.’
And she got where
she didn’t bother me
about it.”
— Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters, born McKinley Morganfield on April 4, 1913, used his meager sharecropper wages to buy his first guitar when he was 17,  and he taught himself to play.  Today he is considered the father of modern Chicago blues, but his influence reaches far beyond that and into folk, jazz, country, and especially rock ‘n’ roll.

  • He helped Chuck Berry get his first recording contract.
  • The Rolling Stones named themselves after Mr. Waters’ song “Rollin’ Stone.”
  • Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”, is based on the hit “You Need Love.”

For a little taste of the voice, the guitar, the harmonica, and the power, watch Muddy Waters perform “Manish Boy.”

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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: The Official Muddy Waters Website,The Daily Post

A Thousand Words: Tag Along

Creative Commons image by Michael.Matuzak 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

Once A Book, Now an Easter Wreath

Easter is less than a month away, so it’s the perfect time to share this Once a Book project for a Book Page Egg Wreath.

The easy to follow tutorial from lemon tree creations uses plastic Easter eggs, old book pages, Mod Podge (or any découpage glue), a Styrofoam wreath form, glue gun, and a few other basic craft supplies.

The end result is an elegant Easter decoration that you’ll want to leave hanging long after the jelly beans and Peeps are gone.

The full tutorial can be found at the Framed Book Page Egg Wreath.

Resources: Once A Book, lemon tree creations, The Daily Post.

April is the Cruelest, Most Poetic Month

It seems appropriate for the title of this post to introduce National Poetry Month by paraphrasing the opening line of The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot:

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

Maybe because it is the cruelest month, the Academy of American Poets (poets.org) picked April as National Poetry Month.  Whatever the reason, the party starts today and continues all month.

Share in the celebration by visiting poets.org to participate in:

  • 30 Poets, 30 Days: A poetic tweet-a-thon, where selected poets have 24 hours to tweet daily insights.
  • Poem-A-Day: Sign up to get a poem from a new poetry book emailed to you each day.
  • Poem In Your Pocket Day: On April 14, join thousands of people across the country by carrying a poem in your pocket.
  • Poem Flow for iPhones: This app features daily poems beautifully presented as fixed and animated text.  Even if you don’t have an iPhone, you can enjoy.

Whether you want to celebrate online or in person at book stores, poetry readings, libraries, or slams, there are hundreds of events planned across the country.  To find out what’s going on near you, visit the National Poetry Map.

Poets.org has more planned. Visit the National Poetry Month page for all the details.

Resources: poets.org, The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, The Daily Post