Monday Motivator: Rudolf Nureyev

Nureyev
Image via Wikipedia

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Technique
is what you
fall back on
when you
run out of
inspiration.

Rudolf Nureyev
Ballet dancer

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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 share it here.  Click here to see past Monday Motivators.

Resources: Rudolf Nureyev 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

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

Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe

“Words have no power to impress the mind
without the exquisite horror of their reality.”
— Edgar Allan Poe

The Masque of the Red Death
Image by ProfessorMortis via Flickr

Mention his name and goth girls swoon, black cats hiss, and the timid turn away.  Edgar Allan Poe was born January 19, 1809.  More than 200 years after his birth, cities still fight for ownership of the dead writer’s corpse, whose tortured life and mysterious death were as strange as the tales he told.  Tales like “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Masque of the Red Death” still have the power to shock and enthrall readers all these years later.

In pop culture, Mr. Poe is most often revered as the master of the macabre, but his pen and his influence reach far beyond that.  He and Nathaniel Hawthorne are credited as the fathers of the American short story.  “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” was the first detective story and created the genre.  “The Balloon Hoax” was an early form of science fiction and was an inspiration for Jules Verne’s “Around the World in Eighty Days.”  His poem, “The Raven” is still one of the most famous poems ever written.

He was born in Boston, was orphaned at age three, and taken in by the Allen family of Richmond, Virginia.  His older brother Henry died young and his sister Rosalie went insane.  He lived in Philadelphia with his wife and mother-in-law, before moving with them to the Bronx, New York.  He was married only once, to his 13-year old cousin Virginia Clemm, who died at age 24 of tuberculosis.  He was an alcoholic and a drug addict and was labeled paranoid and perverse.  The day before he died, he was found on a Baltimore street, delirious, incoherent and wearing clothes that weren’t his.

All five cities have landmarks or museums dedicated to him and the Poe Wars over who gets his corpse (Baltimore has it now) aren’t cold yet.

edgar-allan-poeIn honor of his birthday, I’m happy to share this fantastic party favor, a make-your-own Edgar Allan Poe doll, courtesy of the Toy-A-Day blog. (Caveat: Lots of pop-ups, but definitely worth it.) Mr. Poe might roll his eyes at the frivolity of the gesture, but I like to think it would make him crack a smile.

Resources: Post A Day, Edgar Allan Poe Museum/Richmond, Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Sity/Philadelphia, Edgar Allen Poe Cottage/The Bronx, Edgar Allan Poe Society/Baltimore.

“Suspicious” Quotation Marks: Funny? Mostly!

I’ve never really told anyone this, but I’m kind of a jerk when it comes to grammar and punctuation.  I usually don’t correct grammatical mistakes, I try not to be too critical of people who say “yous” instead of  “you,” and I don’t walk around with a Sharpie correcting improperly placed apostrophes (even though I want to).  Sometimes these mistakes bother me, and sometimes they just make me laugh.

Take suspicious quotation marks, I don’t know where the The Employees Must “Wash Hands” picture originated, but it’s all over the internet, and when I saw it I laughed out loud.  Then I cringed a little bit, hoping the sign wasn’t posted in a “restaurant.” (<–Deliberate misuse.)

Excessive use of quotation marks AND sarcasm.

The first pair of suspicious quote marks  I remember was on an insurance company sign on the street where I grew up.  The sign read:

“Insurance That’s “Affordable”

Even as a kid I used to roll my eyes at that.

Bethany Keeley has built a mini media empire around the offending punctuation.  The “Blog” of Unnecessary Quotation Marks is a collection of pictures submitted by readers, accompanied by Keeley’s hilarious comments.

With a disclaimer like that, no wonder the jar's empty!

She compiled the best of the unnecessary into “The Book of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks,” which publisher Chronicle Books calls, “a smarty-pants guide, “perfect” for desperate grammarians, habitual air quoters, and anyone who appreciates a good laugh.”

If you can’t wait to pick up the book, visit the Facebook group, Quotation Mark Hunters, which is where I found these pictures, and spent far too much time surfing and laughing.

I hope you’ll have a good laugh too, and maybe it will make you think twice before using quotation marks “willy-nilly.”

For clarification on the proper use and single vs. double quotation marks, and just about any other grammar question, visit Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips.

Grammar Watch is an occasional series about grammar peeves, abuses, giggles, and rants.  Email me with any topics you’d like to see included here.

Resources:  The Daily Post.

Monday Motivator: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“Light tomorrow
with today!”

— Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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On December 10, 1845, Robert Browning wrote a letter Elizabeth Barrett, a well-known poet who had praised the younger writer’s work in print.

The letter opens with Mr. Browning’s gushing praise. “I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett — and this is no off-hand complimentary letter that I shall write.”

The gushing continues.  “I do, as I say, love these books with all my heart — and I love you too.”

Cheeky!

Writers today might call security over that last line, but the next day, Miss Barrett, who was bedridden with respiratory illness and six years older than Mr. Browning, wrote to a friend, saying Browning’s letter “threw me into ecstasies.”

That’s how England’s greatest literary love affair began and we are all richer for it.  Although Barrett’s tyrannical father refused to allow any of his 12 children to marry, Elizabeth and Robert carried out their romance in secret and eloped four years later.  Her father refused to see her again.

During their secret courtship, Elizabeth wrote “Sonnets from the Portuguese,” which includes the now practically cliched line, “How do I love thee, let me count the ways.”

If you haven’t had the good fortune to read the most famous love poem of all time, here it is.  Enjoy.

Sonnets from the Portuguese, XLII
How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
— Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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

Resources:  The Brownings,Robert Browning’s letter, Sonnets from the Portuguese (free download all e-book formats), PostADay2011

An Aha Moment Ends Reign of Old Excuses

The new NFL logo went into use at the 2008 draft.
Image via Wikipedia

It’s a big football weekend, and we’re in the middle of Day 2 of the NFL being broadcast (loud and clear) across our living room.  I’m not a big sports fan in general, but I do get caught up in the excitement of playoff season, regardless of the sport.   To be completely honest, I get excited over any excuse to make cocktail meatballs and pigs in a blanket, which is what Hon and I are feasting on today.

Speaking of sports, I was overwhelmed by the response to the YouTube link I posted yesterday.   I found Matt Scott’s Nike commercial incredibly inspiring, and I was so happy to learn that many of you did, as well.

Last night when Hon and I were talking about it, he said he thought it would be motivating to have the list of excuses that Matt Scott runs through.  I think that’s a great idea.  It’s a tangible example of the countless reasons we come up with to stop us from doing what we could be doing.  And it ends with a stunning “Aha Moment” that showed me excuses are just that … excuses.

So here is the script, as transcribed by me, of Warhawk Matt Scott in Nike’s No Excuses commercial:

I’m too weak
Too slow
Too big
I ate too much for breakfast
I’ve got a headache
It’s raining
My dog is sick
I can’t right now
I’m not inspired
Makes me smell bad
I’m allergic to stuff
I’m fat
I’m thin
It’s too hot
I’m not right
I’ve got shin splints
A headache
I’m distracted
I’m exerting myself too much
I’d love to really, but I can’t, I just can’t
My favorite show is on
I’ve got a case of the Mondays
… the Tuesdays,
… the Wednesdays
I don’t wanna do this
I wanna do something else
After New Years
Next Week
Might make a mistake
I got homework
I feel bloated
I have gas
I got a hot date
My coach hates me
My mom won’t let me
I bruise easily
It’s too dark
It’s too cold
My blister hurts
This is dangerous
Ugh
Sorry, I don’t have a bike
I didn’t get enough sleep
My tummy hurts
It’s not in my genes
I don’t wanna  look all tired out
I need a better coach
I don’t like getting tackled
I have a stomachache
I’m not the athletic type
I don’t wanna get sweaty
I have better things to do
I don’t want to slow you down
Do I have to do this?
As soon as I get a promotion
I think I’ll sit this one out
And my feet hurt.

I’ve thought of a few of my own excuses, as I’m sure you could too, but now I’ve had that Aha Moment, and that will make it harder to fall back on old excuses.  Thanks, Mike!

Resources: Daily Post

Introducing “The Monday Motivator”

Like Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats, I don’t like Mondays.  I find it hard to get motivated, and even though I write every day, sometimes I’m just not in the mood on Monday morning and it feels like a drag.

To beat the Monday blues, I’m going to start posting a weekly quote, called The Monday Motivator.  These posts will be part of The Writer’s Devotional series, and have the same objective … to encourage, inspire, and motivate writers of all skill levels and across genres.

Pearl Buck, Pulitzer Prize-winning American author
Image via Wikipedia

We’ll start with a quote from Pearl S. Buck, Pulitzer Prize winning author of “The Good Earth,” and the first American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.  I think it’s a great starting quote and a lesson I need to learn on an almost daily basis.

“I don’t wait for moods.
You accomplish nothing if you do that.
Your mind must know
it has got to get down to work.”

— Pearl S. Buck

Resources: Pearl S. Buck Birthplace, The Daily Post, I Don’t Like Mondays by Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats, The Writer’s Devotional.

 

Opening Credits: The Intrigue of Book Dedications

When British author C.P. Snow received the American edition of his novel, “A Coat of Varnish,” he was surprised and confused by the dedication:

“For Kate Marsh.”

Lord Snow, author of more than 25 books of fiction and non-fiction, didn’t like to dedicate his books to anyone, and he didn’t know anyone named Kate Marsh.

It turns out that the British printers delivered a copy of Snow’s manuscript to his London literary agent with a cover note, “For Kate Marsh,” the agent’s assistant.  The note was not removed before the manuscript was shipped and the American printer assumed it was the dedication.  Once the mystery was solved, everyone involved had a good laugh, but Lord Snow and his wife didn’t find it very funny.

Book dedications always interest me.  If they are included at all, they are right after the title page, and that’s where I turn first when I pick up a new book.  If I don’t see that page, filled mostly with white space and just a line or two of text, I feel disappointed (1) that I don’t get to indulge my voyeuristic bent, and (2) that the author isn’t an appreciative type.  Surely there must be someone who helped, someone who inspired!  No?

I like reading the acknowledgments, too, but I find dedications so much more fascinating and heartfelt.  Acknowledgments can feel like an obligatory listing of thank yous and who’s who.   Of course, it’s important to give credit where it’s due, but book dedications give credit in a different way.

They are often like little mini-stories filled with intrigue or romance.  Sometimes they offer a glimpse into the author’s personality, such as Charles Bukowski’s dedication in his novel “Post Office.”

“This book is presented as a work of fiction and dedicated to nobody.”

That’s so Bukowski.

Other times they are cryptic and mysterious, like the dedication in “Peyton Place” by Grace Metalious.

“To George—for all the reasons he knows so well.”

That inscription was so intriguing it prompted Marlene Wagman-Geller to do some research.  She found out that George was Matalious’ husband, and “the reasons”  were that he was endlessly supportive, not just of her writing, but of her rebellious, non-conformist nature.

After learning that, Wagman-Geller was hooked.  Her research led to “Once Again To Zelda:  The Stories Behind Literature’s Most Intriguing Dedications.

“Once Again To Zelda” isn’t a scholarly study; of the 50 books included, only 11 don’t list Wikipedia as a source.  It sometimes reads like a supermarket tabloid filled with gossip and hearsay, but if you’re a book nerd like me, it’s riveting.

As I work toward the completion of my novel, I’ve already spent time thinking about my dedication. I wonder, my writing friends, how many of you have your dedication written?

This post inspired by: The Daily Post

Henry Miller: The Confidence to Utter Profound Truths

Henry Miller 1940
Image via Wikipedia

Henry Miller’s writing has been an inspiration since the first time I read “Tropic of Cancer.”   I can’t say I always understand him, and there are times I shake my head and say, “Huh?”  But I keep reading because his writing is powerfully vivid, filled with energy and raucous life.

His work isn’t always happy; sometimes it’s gritty or gross, but it’s joyful in it’s passion, and I find the energy contagious.

In honor of Mr. Miller’s birthday today (December 26, 1891), I’m sharing this  quote from “Henry Miller On Writing.”   I find it so inspiring I want to tell all my writer friends … Print it out and post it on your computer, use it as a bookmark, frame it, sing it.  Do whatever you want with it, just don’t forget it.

Every day we slaughter our finest impulses.   That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty.   Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths.   We all derive from the same source.   There is no mystery about the origin of things.   We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.”