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Posts tagged ‘writers’

WRITE’N TIME (or: yes, your business card looks very professional, but your novel sucks)

soundomusicLast week I paid $40 for a ninety minute class called Marketing For Writers. I’ve paid more and less for similar courses before. Despite my contention that the industry of squeezing money from poor writers is bigger than the companion industry of writing and selling actual books, I did come out of class with some “take aways”, as was phrased by the paid facilitator.[1] Here are a few take aways I’ll spoil you with for free:

The world isn’t going to come to you, Unknown Writer. You have to go to them.

You are the best advocate for your work. You understand your work and care more about it than anybody else ever will.

Make a list of what you’re skilled at besides writing, e.g. my inventory – pubic speaking, writing book reviews/op-eds/social commentary, interviewing people, knowledge of theater and music, schmoozing, people organization and event planning.

Now, where are opportunities in my section of the universe to exercise my skills and introduce myself/my name to potential readers. Are there skills in which I require more training or exposure? 

Start small. Identify local opportunities to support your local writer/reader community, e.g. schools, libraries, colleges, book clubs, churches, podcasts, conferences, association. Small efforts add up and payoff over time.

Become confident talking about yourself and your writing. Write a 30 second elevator pitch and memorize it. 

Design your author specific resume and hand out with your business cards, or bookmarks, or pens what whatever collateral.[2] Don’t be afraid to pitch your ideas to local power brokers. 9 times out of 10 the answer will be no, 10 out of 10 if you never ask.

 

Have many irons in the fire. You never know what opportunity will be the one to propel your writing career.

I want to reflect for a moment on this “have many irons in the fire” guidance. It invokes a condition of anxiety I’ve continually struggled with before and after becoming a fulltime writer. For those who don’t know me personally – I am one lucky sonofabitch. Five years ago when my career in green investments dried up, my gay husband, who is a well-paid physician asked me if I wanted to quit earning money and write. At his insistence? Okay. I could advise you, Fellow Writer, to just marry well and don’t get pregnant. The fact is even I wrestle daily with the clock. I have no job, yet I find all the hours I need each day to beat myself severely for time-mismanagement, distractions, procrastination, and undocumented acts of sloth.

If you’re a writer with a regular job, kids, a house to keep together and you still find time to produce without implementing every insidious method of procrastination, share with me your magic formula. I could never get serious about writing when I was working fulltime on trying to stay afloat in different professional ocean. The marketing class guy said he has three kids and he writes every morning from 4 to 6am. Maybe that’s commitment to craft, but fuck that write? Still, how else are you going to make the time to get anything individually creative done? If we want what writing we can pull off to be read by anybody, according to Teach, we’re going to have to find the time to hand our writer’s resume off to every local Rabbi or Rotary Club secretary.

This guy teaching the class had a lot of super advice for building your personal brand and your author platform, but you can’t even pay somebody to give you 26 hours in a day. Here’s my advice, Dear Writer, for you to take away from this blog post: sit your ass in a chair and write.

Work on your novel, your play, your poetry with the conviction of mind that the only person who’s ever going to be lucky enough to read your bullshit is you. Write for writing sake, then revise, revise, revise. Dedicate what time you have to creating perfection without any concern for who will read you. Is anybody reading this fucking blog post, for example? No. But, I am writing something, anything today, and I believe it will come back to me in some positive way I can’t imagine. Once you’ve written something good, you may make a bubble-tea date with your alderman or neighborhood book yenta. Have many irons in the fire, but make sure your work is always in the hottest spot all day long.

-RFBrown

[1] I once took a class with a professional writing coach who called such of paid-for revelations revealed as Ah, hah moments. “Any AH, HAH’s?” she would ask the class at the end of a session.

[2] The instructor said c.v. I’ve titled my writer resume “Scriptor Vitae.”

REBLOG: SUCKER LIT MAGAZINE: Rookie Guide to Good Self-Editing

Sucker Literary Magazine Issue #1

A Rookie’s Guide to Good Self-Editing by Allie B. 

Editing is important. It goes hand in hand with writing and publishing. You can’t publish a story without editing it, and you can’t edit a story without writing it…

But what is an editor?

Believe it or not, they are regular people, with regular interests and regular lives.

link: http://suckerliterarymagazine.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/guest-post-from-allie-b-on-self-editing/

Editors don’t live in ivory towers, they aren’t out to destroy your career, and they aren’t heartless monsters. They are business professionals, and they are interested in a quality story.

Having a good story, a complete story, is the most important part of getting published. The second most important is telling that story with great writing.

So how do we make sure we accomplish these things before we send our work to an editor?

We edit it.

Yes, you read that right. We must edit our work BEFORE we send it to an editor.

Editors and writers are busy people so sending an editor a mess of a story with plot holes, inconsistent characters, and no understanding of grammar is a waste of time for BOTH of you.

You don’t learn anything as a writer by getting an automatic rejection based on the first or second sentence of your story.

The goal of sending a story to an editor is to have them read it—the whole thing. We do this by self-editing.

On my own blog, Allie B Books, I take you through a rigorous and sometimes painful step-by-step description of my own process, but today we get the cheat notes on the importance of self-editing.

TEN STEPS TO A GOOD SELF-EDIT

1.     Keep a fresh mind.

Once you rip through your first draft, it is important to rest. Separate yourself from the work by taking a break, working on something else, or focus on your “real” life. Do whatever you need to do to get your head straight and make sure that you have taken enough time so that when you come back to the story, you are seeing it with new eyes.

2.     Read it like you didn’t write it.

When you read over your story for the first time, do so as if someone else wrote it.

Keep this question in mind and ask it frequently as you self-edit: ‘What would I expect from this story if I hadn’t written it?’

3.     Perfect the concept

I was told that if you can’t describe your entire story in one sentence, then it is too complicated, or you have not figured out the focus yet.

My first reaction to that was “Whatever, that’s just what agents tell you so you don’t ramble for hours.”.  But now that I have decided to set my first novel aside due to self-diagnosed plot complications I retract all former snark and doubt. It’s true. I had no focus because I didn’t take the time to really think about my concept and perfect the base of my story, and it showed.

Write a one-sentence summary for your story; write it a hundred times in a hundred different ways if you have to. This is your concept and the stronger and more compelling the sentence is, the stronger your story is. If you cannot, for the life of you, come up with something, then there is something wrong with your story or your focus.

4.     Write a review

To find out what is lacking in your story, refer back to the question “What would I expect from this story if I hadn’t written it?” Write a review of your story, and not one of the goofy reviews found on Goodreads with the gif’s of dancing cats. I mean rate your piece seriously and write a real review. It is here where you will find out if there was too much/not enough romance, if the characters were too flat, if the tension needs to be boosted etc.  Remember: What would you expect from the story if you hadn’t written it?

5.     The five R’s

Once you’ve focused your concept and decided the story’s strengths and weaknesses, you can go through the story scene by scene and make changes based on the five R’s.

  • Review what you’ve written and make notes about what you could do to make it better.
  • Refer to your one-sentence summary.
  • Revise the scene based on your review notes.
  • Rewrite it if there are too many problems with it.
  • Refresh your mind by stretching, taking a break, napping, checking your email or whatever activity time permits.

6.     Don’t be scared to CUT CUT CUT

Here are two of the most important questions to ask yourself for every scene, paragraph, sentence and word:

a) Does this advance the plot?

b)  Does this develop the characters?

If the answer is “no” to both of those questions, CUT IT! Never hold onto something because you think it’s clever or funny or smart because chances are it’s not. As they say in the biz, “Kill your darlings!”

I wrote a newspaper article with a finishing line that I thought was the best line of the whole feature, and you know what? The editor cut it… it was the ONLY line that was cut from the piece. If it doesn’t help tell your story or bring your characters to life, get rid of it.

It’s easier said than done but divorce yourself from the work and remind yourself it’s not about you: it’s about the story.

7.     Tighten up

Now that the story is complete, focused, and clear, it’s time to get into the POWER of the writing. Time to focus on the pacing, tension, emotion, and language of your story. Go through every scene, paragraph and sentence and ask yourself:

a)    “What am I trying to convey here?”

b)   “Am I achieving the desired effect?”

c)     “Is there a better way to convey what I want?”

If the scene you are reading is a fight scene and you have massive paragraphs and sentences, loads of description and babbling characters telling backstory, chances are it’s a boring fight scene.

Fight scenes are fast. High tension. Clanging swords. Thundering hearts ringing out over short breaths. Fear. Short sentences. That’s how to speed it up.

Did you do that?

Can you do it better?

Try.

I dare you.

8.     Be consistent

There is nothing worse than reading a story with inconsistencies in it. Nothing. I can deal with the odd spelling mistake but POV head-hopping, character inconsistencies, setting flubs, and an all over the place voice is THE most annoying thing about poorly edited stories.

Some questions to consider as you read through:

a) Is my character clear and believable in their actions and dialogue? (Keep your character sketches handy for reference).

b) Do I head-hop or is the scene from one POV? If I’m head-hopping, is it intentional? Is it clear and obvious who’s POV it is? Are the transitions from one POV to another clear and smooth?

c) Are my descriptions engaging? Are they consistent with other descriptions I’ve made about similar places? Are they vivid and clear?

d) Is the setting obvious and well-developed? Or do I just have talking heads with no clear idea of where they are, what they are surrounded by and the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the environment? Is my setting alive or do I have characters in a bubble?

e) Is the voice consistent? Am I staying true to the character’s voice (if first person)? Is the distinction between different character’s POV voices and narrator clear and effective?

9.     Proof of quality is in the proofread

For the proofread I suggest three things. First, read this post on revisions by Sucker Literary Magazine and familiarize yourself with the common errors writers make.

Second, read your story out loud as if you were reading it to a hall of people. Project your voice and point to each word as you read it. If the sentence is not grammatically correct and/or well written, you will stumble over the words. Well-written sentences will flow off your tongue beautifully. The reason I say to point to the words as you read them is because as writers, we spend a lot of time with our stories and after a while we start to see what we THINK is there not what is actually there. Pointing to the words forces you to read what is written.

Last, check for clichés and over used words. I have a secret love for the word slightly. I use it ALL the time. It’s a toxic relationship, and I’m almost over it… almost. Slightly. I do searches of random words to see how many times I’ve used them in the story. For example: I’ve used the word ‘story’ 35 times in this post. I should find other words to use…

10.   Be honest

The final step may well be the most important in the self-editing process and that is being honest with yourself.

I know you are excited and you want to send that story out and you want editors to love it and you want to get that letter that says you’ve been accepted for publication, but if the story is not ready, it is not ready.

If you don’t think the story is ready than go back to step one and refresh. Work on something else for a while then come back, take another look and decide if this story is worth fixing or if you are better off breaking up and moving on to stories that make you happier!

END NOTE: You are going to miss things. In every step you will miss something but that is OKAY! This is the self-edit! You CANNOT edit your own work to perfection, but the better you self-edit the more your editor will love you… and the better your writing will be, because the less time your editor spends rolling her eyes at your all-over-the-place character descriptions and your non-existent knowledge of comma splices, the better s/he can help you improve your story and your writing.

Happy Editing from Allie B!

I am not an editor. I am a writer that hates editing but knows how truly vital it is on the journey to publication. I developed a self-editing method that works for me and share it in hopes that it may help someone else. I value the hair on my head and my sanity and suggest if you also value these things that you take the time to do things right. It may take a bit more time and seems more painful, but in the end it will save you worlds of hassle.

That I promise you.

Allie B, an emerging Young Adult writer fascinated by the joys and tragedies that come with growing up. She grew up loving all things fantasy and all her work reflects that love. She currently lives and works as a Graphic Designer in Yukon Territory, Canada. When she is not writing or hibernating, she spends most of her time outside being inspired by the majestic northern landscape.  Follow Allie B on Twitter at  @alliebbooks and check out her blog  alliebbooks.wordpress.com and visit her on Goodreads at  http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/6963769-allie-b

Allie B’s Urban Fantasy short story will be featured in the upcoming issue of Sucker Literary Magazine, so stay tuned!

SEA SWALLOW ME and OTHER STORIES by Craig Laurance Gidney

my notes on Sea Swallow Me (2008), RF Brown

A young Japanese monk, yielded to a life of prayer and ministering to the poor is marked for love by a mischievous yosei, a shimmering male fairy with a fetish to tempt mortal chastity and piety. This chassis supports many of Craig Laurance Gidney’s stories: a young character in the ordinary toils of  earthly existence, crosses paths with a metaphysical experience. As in the case of the monk, “He who was studious and practical had caught the eye of something supernatural.” More often Gidney’s protagonists are young black and/or gay men in modern settings. A bored club kid unwittingly keeps psychokinetically murdering his sex partners. A lonely, island tourist pulled in by over-curiosity is dragged to the floor of the ocean and given physical wholeness from a benevolent, giant serpent. A nebbishy, underachieving artist chases off the cloying  ghost of his racist mother by deliberately having sex with a black man on her antique bed [respectively: “Etiolate”, “Sea Swallow Me”, and “Her Spirit Hovering”].

Gidney’s visionary universe exists in a literary dimension somewhere between James Baldwin and The Twilight Zone. The author’s imagination is alternately funny, melancholy, and fantastic and there is the consistent thread in this collection of his expressive narrative voice. He has dazzling skill at painting amorphous scenes with tangibility-  colors are carnal and smells are emotional. It’s never explicit whether the bizarre experiences of these characters are something truly supernatural, or if these phenomena are the delusive manifestations of their broken black and gay souls. Are they cursed or crazy? The character lives are humdrum, but not normal. Whose life is?

I have a couple of quibbles with the actual publication of Sea Swallow Me. First, the book was put out by an indy press and there are frequent typos. I know some readers for whom mistakes are maddening and others who would regard it as bohemian charm. I seek the noble path on the presence of typos because ideally it should be easier for a great writer like Gidney to find a big-six publishing deal that pays for unlimited editorial resources. But readers dropping $13 bucks on this book should be aware there are errors. Writers who are constantly encouraged to go indy or self-publish can take a sip of reality here: even a brilliant writer can get sandbagged with a sloppy book. Second, two of Gidney’s stories, “The Safety of Thorns”, about a young American slave who finds out the Devil is an apathetic drunk, and “Strange Alphabets”, a transcendental roman à clef about French poet Arthur Rimbaud in Jail, are pleasant guests here but otherwise foreign to the rest of the collection. In my editorial opinion they would be at home someplace else. It’s feels weird to launch this criticism given that these two stories in particular are each excellent standing alone, perhaps my two favorite in the book. If there is a collection of historical fiction somewhere in Gidney’s future canon he certainly has the background, discipline, and command of voice to put one together. Those two problems aside, Sea Swallow Me is a magnificent and mysterious body of work.

REBLOG: CLAYTON DIGGS’ DISTINCTIVE RAY BRADBURY OBIT

“The boy was good! Was he actually a Martian? We’ll never know.”

Ray Bradbury Dead at 91, Martians, and Sci-fi Man-juice

by claytondiggs

link: http://claytondiggs.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/ray-bradbury-dead-at-91-martians-and-sci-fi-man-juice/

You ever just sit around and think about Ray Bradbury? I did, yesterday when I heard that that great American writer had made his final journey to the Martian landscape that lies beyond the great beyond. No, that’s,not quite it… He got cornered by imaginary lions in a virtual reality who tore him into worm food…No, still not right…He morphed into a heap of books, heated toFahrenheit 451, turned to ash, and blew into little bits of cosmic dust to then descend on some Red Planet at the edge of the Universe. Yeah, that’s a little more like it. Hot damn! I’m sorry. I’m not. I really am!

I am sorry that we’ll no longer share airspace with a guy who, to my mind, was one of the most original and gorgeous voices in our American literary canon.

Old Ray was born in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1920. He grew up during that tonic for the restless imagination, the Great Depression, a time when the future seemed not only bleak and depressing as shit but, well – unimaginable. But imagine it Ray did, and with a visionary zeal that always took our collective breath away. The boy was good! Was he actually a Martian? We’ll never know.

But we do know that his stories sprang from the deep and potent well of his childhood fears. In an interview on Fresh Air he once said: “As soon as I looked up, there it was, and it was horrible,” Bradbury remembers. “And I would scream and fall back down the stairs, and my mother and father would get up and sigh and say, ‘Oh, my gosh, here we go again.’ “

Childhood was indeed an important time for the budding author. Ray read and read and read everything he could get his grubby little alien hands on. He dug on Jules Verne and H.G. Wells and dreamed of outdoing them, and so, between frenzied bouts of cranking out adolescent sci-fi man-juice (to pics of big-boobied Martian chicks no doubt), he also managed to crank out a short story a week. Lesson: the only way to (re)produce is through consistency!

Great American sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury dead at 91

When the Bradbury fam up and moved to SoCal, little Ray took to hiding out in the dank, scary basement of the UCLA library, where, for 10 cents a half-hour, he could rent a typewriter. Said Ray years later: “I thought, my gosh, this is terrific! I can be here for a couple hours a day. It’ll cost me 30, 40 cents, and I can get my work done. Also, it’s awesome to spew sci-fi man-juice in a public venue. Much more exciting than at home.”

Ray hit it big with his 1950 collection, The Martian Chronicles. Then, while that fat old cow masturbatorJoe McCarthy, was looking to anally violate anyone evenly remotely aligned with anything Red, planet or otherwise, Ray did a right ballsy thing — he shot a FUCK YOU ray-gun at censorship in general with his best known work, Fahrenheit 451, and did so in a FUCK YOU kind of way, having the story that would become his signature novel first printed in Playboy.

Have you read that fine, fine book? If not, put down whatever you’re doing, go out and get a copy, and sit the hell down. It’s about a future society in which McCarthy-like fat old cow masturbators have firefighters burn books for the purpose of keeping folks dull and ignorant. There’s never been a revolution without there first being a revolution of ideas, goes the theory. In practice, the only trouble comes when the firefighters become curious about what exactly it is they’re being made to burn. Then all hell breaks loose! Shit fire! Hot damn! Great book.

People the world over and even those in outer space loved old Ray. The crew of Apollo 15 so totally dug Bradbury’s novel Dandelion Wine that they named a lunar crater after the it. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second guy on the moon, and the man forever-and-a-day frustrated by the fact that he scores way less poon than Neil Armstrong, had this say: “Ray Bradbury is one who is contributing to the understanding of the imagination and the curiosity of the human race.” Hey, it would have been better if pussy-champ Neil Armstrong had said it, but novelists can’t be choosers, right?

Amazingly, despite his visions of the future, Ray never got into using computers. He even once told The New York Times that the Internet was pointless. Well, buddy, on that point at least, we’ve gotta say: FAIL!

It’s okay – nobody’s perfect!

Old Ray finally settled down to family life right here on Earth in 1947, when he married a gal named Maggie, and the happy couple had four little Martian girls. Ray suffered a stroke at age 80 and, sadly, couldn’t write anymore. He did, however, keep having his strange visions of things to come. He felt sure we’d be landing on Mars right soon and asked that his ashes be buried on that vast and vacant red planet.

We’ll sure miss you, old buddy, old Ray, venerable imaginer of humanity’s many possible destinies. We’ll sure miss you. I raise my cup of Dandelion Wineto you, Sir. I truly do.

GET RAY’S ASHES TO MARS: A FUND

  • If you’d like to help Ray complete his dying wish, shoot me an email: me (at) claytondiggs (dot) com.
  • It’s gonna take a lot of dollar bills to make it happen, but if Ray taught us anything, it’s that every dream has got to start somewhere.

“I’m so fucking cool. How big will penises be in the future? THIIIIS BIIIIG!”

REBLOG: SUCKER LITERARY MAG: Which Sucks Worse? My Story or Your Feedback?

On Giving Feedback

link: http://suckerliterarymagazine.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/on-giving-feedback/

We writers are very sensitive about…well, everything : ) But mostly, we are sensitive about our work.  And that’s why when we give one another feedback, we need to choose the kindest approach.

I prefer a certain approach when giving feedback. This approach was further reinforced by Meg Kearney to me when I was a student at Solstice: When faced with having to criticize another writer’s work, choose kindness over harsh criticism. What this really boils down to is tone, use a kind tone when responding to a writer’s work.

I  think that sometimes when we read a piece and are asked for feedback, our own mood is really the determining factor in our tone and approach. My advice is this: if you find yourself irritated with the writer’s work, take a breath and walk away before you compose your feedback; you might choose harshness as oppose to kindness.

Helpful Versus Hurtful

Recently I read a feedback sheet from one of the Sucker Staff Readers (don’t worry, I’m not naming names). Anyway, this feedback sheet was very useful, and I agreed with all of the commentary, including that, ultimately, we have to reject the piece. What I made me pause while reading was the tone of some of the criticism.

For me, there is a helpful way to tell someone their piece isn’t very good, and then there’s a way that will just result in a writer getting defensive, which means they won’t “hear” the feedback.

It’s About The Delivery

While I think it’s helpful to tell a writer that their piece, well, bored me, I don’t think it’s helpful to add insult to injury in the form of an added metaphor or hyperbole: “Your story bored me out of my mind…The story was so long winded, I prayed for the end to come soon.” Or, “this story is SO pointless” and “the characters were SO poorly developed, that I actually hated them”.  Other cringe-worthy comments I’ve seen are: “The writing in this story is VERY corny and VERY lazy.”

There’s nothing wrong with any of the above criticism…except the tone is kind of mean. The very’s and so’s in all caps could be interpreted as yelling, so this writer might feel reprimanded rather than constructively criticized. The use of the phrases “your story bored me out of my mind” and “I prayed for the end to come soon” are borderline cruel. : ( A better way to say the same thing is: “I didn’t find myself turning the pages quickly while reading. Some of the paragraphs of description seemed too long, and I wanted to get to the action faster.”

Doesn’t that sound nicer? Isn’t that more helpful?

Antidote: BE SPECIFIC (and, yes, I’m yelling : )

Being specific in your feedback actually can change the tone from harsh to helpful because you are providing the writer with concrete evidence to support your opinion. If you just say that the piece was “filled with corny language and lazy writing”, the writer will probably take that to mean the whole thing plain sucks.  If you tell the writer what parts were corny or even just provide an example of the corny writing, than they might just feel empowered to fix the problem:  “The dialogue was corny because it used words like “golly” and “gee whiz”. Likewise, if you say the writing is lazy, point out exactly what parts were lazy, and, furthermore, explain what lazy means: Do you mean there’s an over use of certain words? That the writer chooses to “tell” rather than “show”? Does the writing have too much clichéd language or need more careful and exact word choice?

Bottom line, when you give feedback, be specific and point to the writing to support your comments, that way your commentary comes across as based on evidence in the writing and not a more subjective place…like your mood.

Encourage Rather Than Discourage

Ultimately when you read someone’s work and provide criticism, you want to encourage rather than discourage. Tone is what really makes the difference with this; constructive tone rather than destructive tone is crucial.

Our staff of readers are doing the very best they can to be kind and encouraging to our submitters, but sometimes I think we all forget or don’t notice our tone…Tone is subtle but super important in any form of communication and especially in writing. We don’t have inflection of voice or facial expressions to assist us in conveying our intended tone, so you have to choose your words very, VERY carefully.  : )

REBLOG: CLAYTON DIGGS HEMINGWAY, RECALLING THE DEATH OF MACHISMO

link: http://claytondiggs.wordpress.com/2012/05/26/ernest-hemingway-hard-living-and-sharks/

Ernest Hemingway, Hard Living, and Sharks

by claytondiggs

You ever sit just sit around and think about Ernest Hemingway? We’re coming up on the 51st anniversary of Hemingway’s death, and it got me thinking. Isn’t it kind of weird that we remember him on the day he died? I mean, remember how he died? He grabbed a shotgun and shot himself in the face, decades before Kurt Cobain thought of it. You know what else? His wife was in the house and she was the one who found him.

That must have sucked it.

You see, for months and months, maybe even years, old Ernie was convinced that the Feds were tapping his phone, bugging his house, and basically driving him nuts, and nobody believed him. They just thought all the years of scotch and sodas were taking their toll. Eventually, he couldn’t take it; not the feeling of being hunted like an animal, and probably not the feeling of everyone thinking he was batshit. He actually tried to off himself several times before he bought the farm. He also spent time in a mental institution. And you know the worst of it? Turns out the Feds were tapping his phone, bugging his house, and driving him nuts. The fuckers!

See, that’ s not really how I want to remember Hemingway, as an old guy, kind of fat, full of regrets, telling anyone who would listen that the government was trying to get him. I grew up reading his stuff. I love The Sun Also Rises. Those people in the book are screwed up, big time, but I’d still like to hang out with them, have some wine, some more wine, more wine, fall down, see a bullfight, get in a fight, and go fishing. Hell, you substitute bourbon for wine, that pretty much describes my youth. Oh, and Brett Ashley? Apart from having a dude’s first name for a last name, hottest woman in literature.

Thanks, Papa Hemingway!

I like to remember all the times Hemingway probably should have done himself in (accidentally) but made it through. I once read this book about him and there was a rundown of all the accidents he suffered during his life. It was like two damn pages long, and included: two plane crashes, two car accidents, bringing a skylight down on his head by mistaking its rope for the toilet chain, breaking his foot kicking a door in anger, and (my favorite) shooting himself in the leg while trying to gaff a shark. (If you want the full list, check out the bookIntellectuals, by Paul Johnson.) Hell in ‘tarnation, that’s my kind of boy. You think he was drinking a lot to have that much bad luck? He was. He was putting down 17 scotch and sodas a day and going to bed with a bottle of champagne (he often wasn’t going to bed alone, so you’ve got to wonder about what else that champagne bottle might have been for). Anyway, point is, for years and years the son of bitch did a bunch of stuff that by all rights should have ended in a funeral, but didn’t. He was this tough bastard who drank and hunted and boxed and fucked.

So that’s how I like to remember him. I know, in the end his fucked-up, self-destructive side took over, but why dwell on the last chapter of his life? Look, we’re all going to end up six feet under eventually, so let’s remember him like he was in his glory days. The hell with the day he killed himself. I’d rather think of old Hem on the day he shot himself in the leg trying to gaff a shark and then had a drink. I think that’s more who he was.

So, here’s to you, Ernie. You weren’t a perfect human being, but you sure were cool.

Thinking of Hemingway makes me thirsty. Want another great way to remember Hemingway? I once heard that he’s the guy responsible for making daiquiris popular in the States. Don’t know if it’s totally true, but here’s a good daiquiri recipe just in case:

Hemingway’s Daiquiri:

  • A fat shot of white rum
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp maraschino juice
  • A little bit of grapefruit juice
  • Some sugar
  • Ice
  • A gaffing hook
  • A shark
  • A gun

Stick all the very fine, good, clean, bright shit into a shaker with ice and shake until your hands sting. Serve in a highball on the rocks. Chase with some rum or bourbon. Then gaff the shark and shoot yourself in the leg. Avoid medical treatment because you’re a tough bastard. Have another daiquiri and some more rum. Cheers, friends!

“I am manly. I damage myself almost constantly. Pass the Scope. I’m thirsty!”

REBLOG:Paris Review – Letter from T. S. Eliot, the “Prince of Bores”, to Virginia Woolf

I love this self-effacing letter from T.S. Eliot to V. Woolf. BTW, anybody know to what MSS refers?

link: Paris Review – Document: T. S. Eliot to Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot.

Document: T. S. Eliot to Virginia Woolf

Printed with the permission of the T. S. Eliot Estate.

38 Burleigh Mansions, St Martins Lane, London W.C.2.
27 August 1924

My dear Virginia,
Forgive the unconscionable delay in answering your charming letter and invitation. I have been boiled in a hell-broth, and on Saturday journeyed to Liverpool to place my mother in her transatlantic, with the confusion and scurry usual on such occasions, and the usual narrow escape from being carried off to America (or at least to Cobh) myself. In the tumult on the dock an impetuous lady of middle age, ‘seeing off’ a relative going to make his fortune in the New World, by way of the Steerage) stuck her umbrella in my eye, which is Black. I should love to visit you, seriously: the Prince of Bores to refresh his reputation: but the only pleasure that I can now permit myself is, that should I come to Eastbourne (which is doubtful) we might visit you by dromedary for tea: if I leave London at all I am most unlikely to get done all the things that I ought to do (such as my 1923 Income Tax Return) and certainly not any of the things that you want me to do. I have done absolutely nothing for six weeks. One thing is certain: I MUST stay in London, where Vivien will be, after this week, is uncertain. But
When do you want to publish my defective compositions?
When do you want the MSS?
I should like at least to provide a short preface, which might take two or three nights’ work, and make a few alterations in the text to remove the more patent evidences of periodical publication. These three essays are not very good (the one on Dryden is the best) but I cannot offer you my ‘Reactionary’s Encheiridion’ or my ‘By Sleeping-Car to Rome: A Note on Church Reunion’ because they will not be ready in time. But you shall see for yourself, as soon as you wish, whether you think these three papers good enough to reprint.
But what about a FRAGMENT of an Unpublished Novel from you to me? One exists most of the time in morose discontent with the sort of work that one does oneself, and wastes vain envy on all others: the worst of it is that nobody will believe one. But no one regrets more that these moods should occur to Mrs. Woolf (of all people) than
Yr. devoted servt.
Thos. Eliot

Document from The Letters of T. S. Eliot, Volumes One and Two, edited by Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton, published by Yale University Press in September 2011. Reproduced by permission.

The letter is a part of the T. S. Eliot collection of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

REBLOG: Shelf-Awareness.COM “Go home Kerouac” The Manhattan Watering Holes of Your Drunk Literary Heroes

10 Literary Bars in Manhattan

link: http://www.shelf-awareness.com/issue.html?issue=1749#m16281

Booze and books have a natural affinity: both look great on a wooden shelf, both are designed to be consumed, and, for better or worse, writers have tended to gravitate toward certain booze dens through the years. Here are 10 of New York City’s best bars with a literary past and present, ranging from dive bars to darkened Bohemian writers’ dens to some where only bestselling authors could afford more than a drink, presented with the help of Lonely Planet and its U.S. digital editor Andy Murdock.

Blue Bar at the Algonquin (Midtown)
In the 1920s, the Algonquin Hotel was the meeting place of the Algonquin Round Table. The regulars met almost daily at the bar and included the likes of Dorothy Parker, George S. Kauffman, Robert Benchley, Heywood Broun and New Yorker magazine founder Harold Ross. The Blue Bar recently underwent extensive renovations and is once again open to the public, beckoning thirsty literary historians in for a tipple.

Old Town Bar (Flatiron)
Old Town Bar lives up to its name. In fact, it’s old enough to have celebrated the 100th anniversary of the urinals in the men’s bathroom in 2010, and how many New York bars can say that? But unlike some of the others on this list, Old Town Bar boasts a modern list of literary heavies as its customersm including Frank McCourt, Seamus Heaney, Nick Hornby and Billy Collins. Madonna fans might remember her relishing a cigarette in her Bad Girlvideo (1992) lit by a helpful Old Town Bar barkeep (also featuring Christopher Walken in his second best scene involving a pocket watch).

Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel(Upper East Side)
Named after the author and illustrator of the Madeline children’s books, this bar features Ludwig Bemelmans’s only publicly displayed art, the mural Central Park, which rings the Art Deco cocktail lounge. Look for Woody Allen, who brings his jazz band to the Carlyle on occasion.

Oak Bar at the Plaza Hotel (Midtown)
At the Plaza, you can relive the Thompson & Knight Eloise stories. And for a more adult experience, scoot into the hotel’s classic Oak Bar at the Oak Room, a favorite of F. Scott Fitzgerald (a scene from The Great Gatsby is set in the hotel’s Palm Court). Fun fun fun, but pricey pricey pricey.

White Horse Tavern (West Village)
Famed as the bar where Dylan Thomas drank right before he died, the White Horse Tavern was also patronized by another Dylan (the one named Bob), not to mention Anais Nin, Norman Mailer, Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac. Kerouac got tossed out of the bar on several occasions, and wrote that he once found “Go home Kerouac” written over the urinals (in some versions of the story it’s “Jack Go Home” or “Go Home Jack.” People still write variations on the wall).

Sardi’s (Theater District)
Known as the restaurant and bar plastered with celebrity caricatures (and occasionally plastered celebrities themselves), Sardi’s also holds some interest for those with a bookish bent. Heywood Broun, of Algonquin Roundtable fame, also was a member of Sardi’s “Cheese Club,” a group of journalists, critics and agents including Walter Winchell, Ward Morehouse and Ring Lardner that met frequently at Sardi’s.

The Half King (Chelsea)
A bar and restaurant owned by writers might sound like a tragic recipe for failure (particularly considering that one of the writers wrote The Perfect Storm), but the Half King steadfastly defies such easy ironies. Owned by Sebastian Junger, Nanette Burstein and Scott Anderson, the Half King has created a successful hybrid between a comfy pub and candlelit writer’s hideaway. Weekly readings feature some of today’s foremost writers.

Chumley’s (West Village)
One of several theories on the origin of the verb “eighty-six”–to throw out, remove, or refuse service to a customer–comes from the back door address of the classic literary watering hole Chumley’s. If the police raided the bar, patrons–perhaps even the famed literary ones including Steinbeck, Faulkner, Hemingway and Fitzgerald–were told to eighty-six it out the garden door. Chumley’s itself was eighty-sixed after the chimney collapsed in 2007, and is still working on reopening, but unfortunately for BEA attendees, that probably won’t happen until later this year.

Kettle of Fish (West Village)
Kettle of Fish has moved several times since it opened in 1950 above the legendary Gaslight Cafe, and it picked up some interesting clientele (Dylan, Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson among others). Today it’s a dive bar, sports bar, gay bar, boho literary bar all in one cozy cellar.

McSorley’s Old Ale House (Lower East Side)
McSorley’s has been serving ale since about 1854, but only began to allow women through the door in 1970. It’s still y-chromosome-heavy (and tourist-heavy)–little has changed through multiple waves of hipness, unhipness, and so-unhip-that-it’s-hip-ness. No matter what you want to order you get two mugs of ale. Notable patrons such as Joseph Mitchell, e.e. cummings and Brendan Behan, not to mention two presidents (Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt), also got two mugs of ale (at the very least, Abe could put it away).

REBLOG: LETTERS OF NOTE.com John Steinbeck on the Secret Formula For Writing Great Short Stories

Letters of Note: It has never got easier.

It has never got easier

In March of 1962, acclaimed author John Steinbeck wrote the following letter to Edith Mirrielees — a lady who, as his professor of creative writing at Stanford 40 years previous, had been an enormous influence on his development as a writer and, he later claimed, one of the few things he respected about the university.His fantastic, insightful letter later featured in the paperback edition of Mirrielees’s book, Story Writing.(Source: Story Writing; Image: John Steinbeck, via.)

March 8, 1962

Dear Edith Mirrielees:

I am delighted that your volume Story Writing is going into a paperback edition. It will reach a far larger audience, and that is a good thing. It may not teach the reader how to write a good story, but it will surely help him to recognize one when he reads it.

Although it must be a thousand years ago that I sat in your class in story writing at Stanford, I remember the experience very clearly. I was bright-eyed and bushy-brained and prepared to absorb from you the secret formula for writing good short stories, even great short stories.

You canceled this illusion very quickly. The only way to write a good short story, you said, was to write a good short story. Only after it is written can it be taken apart to see how it was done. It is a most difficult form, you told us, and the proof lies in how very few great short stories there are in the world.

The basic rule you gave us was simple and heartbreaking. A story to be effective had to convey something from writer to reader and the power of its offering was the measure of its excellence. Outside of that, you said, there were no rules. A story could be about anything and could use any means and technique at all—so long as it was effective.

As a subhead to this rule, you maintained that it seemed to be necessary for the writer to know what he wanted to say, in short, what he was talking about. As an exercise we were to try reducing the meat of a story to one sentence, for only then could we know it well enough to enlarge it to three or six or ten thousand words.

So there went the magic formula, the secret ingredient. With no more than that you set us on the desolate lonely path of the writer. And we must have turned in some abysmally bad stories. If I had expected to be discovered in a full bloom of excellence, the grades you gave my efforts quickly disillusioned me. And if I felt unjustly criticized, the judgments of editors for many years afterwards upheld your side, not mine.

It seemed unfair. I could read a fine story and could even know how it was done, thanks to your training. Why could I not do it myself? Well, I couldn’t, and maybe it’s because no two stories dare be alike. Over the years I have written a great many stories and I still don’t know how to go about it except to write it and take my chances.

If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced that there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes but by no means always find the way to do it.

It is not so very hard to judge a story after it is written, but after many years, to start a story still scares me to death. I will go so far as to say that the writer who is not scared is happily unaware of the remote and tantalizing majesty of the medium.

I wonder whether you will remember one last piece of advice you gave me. It was during the exuberance of the rich and frantic twenties and I was going out into that world to try to be a writer.

You said, “It’s going to take a long time, and you haven’t any money. Maybe it would be better if you could go to Europe.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because in Europe poverty is a misfortune, but in America it is shameful. I wonder whether or not you can stand the shame of being poor.”

It wasn’t too long afterwards that the depression came down. Then everyone was poor and it was no shame any more. And so I will never know whether or not I could have stood it. But surely you were right about one thing, Edith. It took a long time—a very long time. And it is still going on and it has never got easier. You told me it wouldn’t.

John Steinbeck

Clayton Diggs into Great Gatsby, the novel and movies in his unique, um…brogue. Brills!

Clayton Diggs

(Editor’s warning: links might lead you to some insanely funny shit… or not.  It depends on the link.)

You ever just sit around and think about The Great Gatsby? I did recently and I realized, yet again, that it’s a great fuckin’ book. Hot damn, F.Scott Fitzgerald, as a writer, I gotta hate you! But man, as a reader, I gotta love you. How did he write that shit, you know? Deal with the devil? Was it all the booze? And if so, what was he drinking and where can I get me some? Hot damn!

In case you’ve been so  foolish as to never read what may well be the best novel in the English language, here’s what it’s about: Nick Carraway, a penniless day-trader, finds himself fascinated by the lavish lifestyle and sexy parties of his much richer neighbor, the mysterious Jay Gatsby. Gatsby, as it…

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REPRINT: New Yorker On When Literary Fiction Was King and Genre Was For Dolts

A CRITIC AT LARGE

EASY WRITERS

Guilty pleasures without guilt.

by MAY 28, 2012

May 28, 2012 Issue

ABSTRACT: A CRITIC AT LARGE about guilty pleasures and genre fiction. When Matthew Arnold keeled over, in April, 1888, while hurrying to catch the Liverpool tram, Walt Whitman told a friend, “He will not be missed.” Arnold was, in short, “one of the dudes of literature.” Whitman probably figured that his own gnarly hirsuteness would save him from becoming a dude. He was wrong, and therein lies a lesson for all hardworking scribblers: stick around long enough, develop a cult following, gain the approval of one or two literary dudes, and you, too, can become respectable. Commercial and genre writers aim at delivering less rarefied pleasures. And part of the pleasure we derive from them is the knowledge that we could be reading something better. For the longest time, there was little ambiguity between literary fiction and genre fiction: one was good for you, one simply tasted good. In 1944, Edmund Wilson published an article in this magazine that contained some disparaging remarks about the mystery genre. Nonetheless, it was a senior literary dude, W. H. Auden, who pointed the mystery writer Raymond Chandler canonward. It was Chandler’s blend of stylish wit and tough-guy sentimentality that made it easier for the commercial writers who followed. If you were good, you could find a booster among the literati. Indeed, scores of novelists in a variety of genres—P. D. James, John le Carré, Donald Westlake, Dennis Lehane—routinely receive glowing writeups in major newspapers and literary venues. In 1995, Martin Amis dubbed Elmore Leonard “a literary genius who writes re-readable thrillers.” Skilled genre writers know that a certain level of artificiality must prevail. It’s plot we want and plenty of it. Basically, a guilty pleasure is a fix in the form of a story. Mentions Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “Tarzan of the Apes.” The guilty-pleasure label peels off more easily if we recall that the novel itself was once something of a guilty pleasure. Hence Dickens was considered by many of his contemporaries to be more of a sentimentalist and a caricaturist than a serious artist. Mentions George Orwell. Today, the literary climate has changed: the canon has been impeached, formerly neglected writers have been saluted, and the presumed superiority of one type of book over another no longer passes unquestioned. So when Terrence Rafferty, in the Times Book Review last year, expressed disappointment with a novel that tried and failed to transcend the limitations of its genre, he caught some flak. Mentions Ursula K. Le Guin, Lee Child, Harold Bloom, and Stephen King. Compares Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” with Ford Madox Ford’s “Parade’s End.” Christie’s language wants us to settle in; Ford’s demands that we pay attention. The typical genre writer keeps rhetorical flourishes to a minimum, and the typical reader is content to let him. Readers who require more must look either to other kinds of novels or to those genre writers who care deeply about their sentences.

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2012/05/28/120528crat_atlarge_krystal?printable=true#ixzz1vjQIqhqu

Reblog: StevenPressfield. Henry Miller’s Eleven Personal Commandments

Writing Wednesdays: Henry Miller’s Eleven Commandments.

Henry Miller’s Eleven Commandments

By STEVEN PRESSFIELD | PublishedMAY 2, 2012

With gratitude to Maria Popova, from whose February 22 article on Brain Pickings I pilfered the following (and to George Spencer, who turned me on to the wonderful Brain Pickings), here is some priceless wisdom from one of my literary heroes, Henry Miller.

Tropic

(What I love about these notes is that they’re aimed by Miller only for himself—without a glimmer of self-consciousness, nor even for a moment intended for public dissemination. Here is a writer lashing himself to the mast, though not too tightly, as he bears down on what would become his first published novel, Tropic of Cancer.)

COMMANDMENTS

1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.

2. Start no more new books, add no new material to Black Spring.

3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.

4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!

5. When you can’t create you can work.

6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.

7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.

8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.

9. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it the next day.Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.

10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.

11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

If you weren’t so miserable in high school, where would you be today? For writers, angst is everything. Here’s a reblog:reblog by Hannah Goodman on turning high school’s funny and/or humiliating moments in literary gold.

Sucker Literary

Dear High School, Thanks for being so sucky. Love, H

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5 Ways Novelists Can Benefit from Watching Movies and TV Shows | The Passive Voice

Sometimes writers have snobbish attitude toward the writing we witness in movies and television shows. Snobby to the point of not watching. I think if we plan our television or movie time well and think of it as research, there’s a lot to learned from other kinds of media. What’s surprised me most as I’ve become an editor of writing, is how much editing of tv shows I do in my head as I’m watching.

5 Ways Novelists Can Benefit from Watching Movies and TV Shows | The Passive Voice.

Aside from the immediate benefit of getting yourself away from the computer screen and the blackhole of the Internet, studying movies and TV shows is a great way to enhance your storytelling skills. No, writing a script is not the same as writing a novel. But if you look beyond the differences in written format you’ll find some amazing similarities.

. . . .

We all have film characters we love, hate, or even love to hate. Have you ever stopped to think of why? Is it their viewpoint? Dialogue? Mannerisms? Something you never really noticed until asked this question? The most accurate answer is “all of the above.” Character = the sum of its traits.

If you’re having trouble making your characters individually unique, or the main players don’t seem to have that It Factor, select one of your favorite film characters and study everything he does in the story. What makes him stand out? How does he react and interact with the other characters? What does he do when faced with a tough decision? How do you know what that character is feeling without being “inside his head”?

To sharpen your character viewpoint skills, try this exercise:

Watch one scene of a movie (that you’re familiar with) that involves two or more characters. Now write that scene from each of the different characters’ eyes, as you would in a novel–include setting description, thoughts, sensory details, emotion, whatever is relevant. Different characters have different views of the same situation. This should show in your writing.

. . . .

Select five movies you’ve never seen before. Watch each movie and note whether you were engaged from beginning to end. If you weren’t, note what point you lost interest. If a movie isn’t doing it for me, that point is often within the first 20 minutes. Then ask yourself, Did I lose interest because my expectation for that movie wasn’t met? Or, Did I lose interest because, no matter what my expectation, the movie was just plain boring?

Bad pacing bores the audience. But a good pace doesn’t necessarily mean fast and action-packed. Good pacing means constant forward momentum of the story. This is why good literary fiction can be thrilling, and bad science fiction can put you to sleep.

Anything that doesn’t move the story forward must be cut. Analyze individual scenes in movies. They begin in media res, and end as soon as the point of the scene has been made. The same should be said of your novels. No room for boring fluff, no matter how beautiful the prose. We live in a busy world. Even prolific readers don’t have time to read everything. More often than not, they will choose the book that feels like it’s moving toward something over one that feels like it’s going nowhere.

17 Books Hemingway Would Read Instead of a $1M Dollars

Link to Poets and Writers:  Lists of Note.


Thursday, 8 March 2012

Hemingway’s Favourites

In the February 1935 issue of Esquire magazine, an article by Ernest Hemingway appeared that was titled ‘Remembering Shooting-Flying: A Key West Letter.’ In it, Hemingway reeled off 17 books, all of which he “would rather read again for the first time […] than have an assured income of a million dollars a year.”That list can be read below.(Source: Esquire, Feb. 1935; Image: Ernest Hemingway, via.)

Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
Far Away and Long Ago, by W. H. Hudson
Buddenbrooks, by Thomas Mann
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
A Sportsman’s Sketches, by Ivan Turgenev
The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Hail and Farewell, by George Moore
Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson
La Reine Margot, by Alexandre Dumas
La Maison Tellier, by Guy de Maupassant
Le Rouge et le Noir, by Stendhal
La Chartreuse de Parme, by Stendhal
Dubliners, by James Joyce
Autobiographies, by W. B. Yeats

The Great American Novel. Will There Ever Be Another?

Roger Kimball in The Weekly Standard on the place of fiction in our culture today. I agree with just about everything this guy says even though he’s still an uptight ahole.

link:  The Great American Novel | The Weekly Standard.

The Great American Novel

Shut Up For A Minute and Re-Read The Long Sentence

Pico Iyer reflections on writing and reading long sentences. Stolen from the LA Times

link: A long sentence is worth the read – Los Angeles Times.

 

The Writing Life: The point of the long and winding sentence

Pico Iyer says writing longer phrases is a way to protest the speed of information bites people are subjected to each day.

January 08, 2012|By Pico Iyer, Special to the Los Angeles Times

“Your sentences are so long,” said a friend who teaches English at a local college, and I could tell she didn’t quite mean it as a compliment. The copy editor who painstakingly went through my most recent book often put yellow dashes on-screen around my multiplying clauses, to ask if I didn’t want to break up my sentences or put less material in every one. Both responses couldn’t have been kinder or more considered, but what my friend and my colleague may not have sensed was this: I’m using longer and longer sentences as a small protest against — and attempt to rescue any readers I might have from — the bombardment of the moment.

When I began writing for a living, my feeling was that my job was to give the reader something vivid, quick and concrete that she couldn’t get in any other form; a writer was an information-gathering machine, I thought, and especially as a journalist, my job was to go out into the world and gather details, moments, impressions as visual and immediate as TV. Facts were what we needed most. And if you watched the world closely enough, I believed (and still do), you could begin to see what it would do next, just as you can with a sibling or a friend; Don DeLillo or Salman Rushdie aren’t mystics, but they can tell us what the world is going to do tomorrow because they follow it so attentively.

Yet nowadays the planet is moving too fast for even a Rushdie or DeLillo to keep up, and many of us in the privileged world have access to more information than we know what to do with. What we crave is something that will free us from the overcrowded moment and allow us to see it in a larger light. No writer can compete, for speed and urgency, with texts or CNN news flashes or RSS feeds, but any writer can try to give us the depth, the nuances — the “gaps,” as Annie Dillard calls them — that don’t show up on many screens. Not everyone wants to be reduced to a sound bite or a bumper sticker.

Enter (I hope) the long sentence: the collection of clauses that is so many-chambered and lavish and abundant in tones and suggestions, that has so much room for near-contradiction and ambiguity and those places in memory or imagination that can’t be simplified, or put into easy words, that it allows the reader to keep many things in her head and heart at the same time, and to descend, as by a spiral staircase, deeper into herself and those things that won’t be squeezed into an either/or. With each clause, we’re taken further and further from trite conclusions — or that at least is the hope — and away from reductionism, as if the writer were a dentist, saying “Open wider” so that he can probe the tender, neglected spaces in the reader (though in this case it’s not the mouth that he’s attending to but the mind).

“There was a little stoop of humility,” Alan Hollinghurst writes in a sentence I’ve chosen almost at random from his recent novel “The Stranger’s Child,” “as she passed through the door, into the larger but darker library beyond, a hint of frailty, an affectation of bearing more than her fifty-nine years, a slight bewildered totter among the grandeur that her daughter now had to pretend to take for granted.” You may notice — though you don’t have to — that “humility” has rather quickly elided into “affectation,” and the point of view has shifted by the end of the sentence, and the physical movement through the rooms accompanies a gradual inner movement that progresses through four parallel clauses, each of which, though legato, suggests a slightly different take on things.

Many a reader will have no time for this; William Gass or Sir Thomas Browne may seem long-winded, the equivalent of driving from L.A. to San Francisco by way of Death Valley, Tijuana and the Sierras. And a highly skilled writer, a Hemingway or James Salter, can get plenty of shading and suggestion into even the shortest and straightest of sentences. But too often nowadays our writing is telegraphic as a way of keeping our thinking simplistic, our feeling slogan-crude. The short sentence is the domain of uninflected talk-radio rants and shouting heads on TV who feel that qualification or subtlety is an assault on their integrity (and not, as it truly is, integrity’s greatest adornment).

If we continue along this road, whole areas of feeling and cognition and experience will be lost to us. We will not be able to read one another very well if we can’t read Proust’s labyrinthine sentences, admitting us to those half-lighted realms where memory blurs into imagination, and we hide from the person we care for or punish the thing that we love. And how can we feel the layers, the sprawl, the many-sidedness of Istanbul in all its crowding amplitude without the 700-word sentence, transcribing its features, that Orhan Pamuk offered in tribute to his lifelong love?

To pick up a book is, ideally, to enter a world of intimacy and continuity; the best volumes usher us into a larger universe, a more spacious state of mind akin to the one I feel when hearing Bach (or Sigur Rós) or watching a Terrence Malick film. I cherish Thomas Pynchon’s prose (in “Mason & Dixon,” say), not just because it’s beautiful, but because his long, impeccable sentences take me, with each clause, further from the normal and the predictable, and deeper into dimensions I hadn’t dared to contemplate. I can’t get enough of Philip Roth because the energy and the complication of his sentences, at his best, pull me into a furious debate in which I see a mind alive, self-questioning, wildly controlled in its engagement with the world. His is a prose that banishes all simplicities while never letting go of passion.

Not every fashioner of many-comma’d sentences works for every one of us — I happen to find Henry James unreadable, his fussily unfolding clauses less a reflection of his noticing everything than of his inability to make up his mind or bring anything to closure: a kind of mental stutter. But the promise of the long sentence is that it will take you beyond the known, far from shore, into depths and mysteries you can’t get your mind, or most of your words, around.

When I read the great exemplar of this, Herman Melville — and when I feel the building tension as Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” swells with clause after biblical clause of all the things people of his skin color cannot do — I feel as if I’m stepping out of the crowded, overlighted fluorescent culture of my local convenience store and being taken up to a very high place from which I can see across time and space, in myself and in the world. It’s as if I’ve been rescued, for a moment, from the jostle and rush of the 405 Freeway and led back to something inside me that has room for certainty and doubt at once.

Watch Dillard light up and rise up and ease down as she finds, near the end of her 1974 book “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” “a maple key, a single winged seed from a pair. Hullo. I threw it into the wind and it flew off again, bristling with animate purpose, not like a thing dropped or windblown, pushed by the witless winds of convection currents hauling round the world’s rondure where they must, but like a creature muscled and vigorous, or a creature spread thin to that other wind, the wind of the spirit which bloweth where it listeth, lighting, and raising up, and easing down.”

I love books; I read and write them for the same reason I love to talk with a friend for 10 hours, not 10 minutes (let alone, as is the case with the average Web page, 10 seconds). The longer our talk goes, ideally, the less I feel pushed and bullied into the unbreathing boxes of black and white, Republican or Democrat, us or them. The long sentence is how we begin to free ourselves from the machine-like world of bullet points and the inhumanity of ballot-box yeas or nays.

There’ll always be a place for the short sentence, and no one could thrill more than I to the eerie incantations of DeLillo, building up menace with each reiterated note, or the compressed wisdom of a Wilde; it’s the elegant conciseness of their phrases that allow us to carry around the ideas of an Emerson (or Lao Tzu) as if they were commandments or proverbs of universal application.

But we’ve got shortness and speed up the wazoo these days; what I long for is something that will sustain me and stretch me till something snaps, take me so far beyond a simple clause or a single formulation that suddenly, unexpectedly, I find myself in a place that feels as spacious and strange as life itself.

The long sentence opens the very doors that a short sentence simply slams shut. Though the sentence I sent my copy editor was as short as possible. No.

Iyer is the author, most recently, of “The Man Within My Head,” published this month.

Wacky Guide To Titling Your Novel

as stolen from NPR.org

link: How To Name Your First Novel : Monkey See : NPR.

If Your First Novel Will Be A Busted Romance

[ANY OF THE SEVEN DWARFS]: A Love Story

If Your First Novel Will Be A Harrowing Historical Account

The [A COLOR] [REPEAT THAT COLOR] [A FLOWER]s Of [A CITY IN EUROPE]

If Your First Novel Will Be A Withering Teenage Quasi-Memoir

How I Flunked [YOUR WORST ACADEMIC SUBJECT] But Passed [THE FIRST MUSICIAN YOU SAW IN CONCERT]

If Your First Novel Will Be A Workplace Satire

At Least They Left Us The [A PIECE OF OFFICE MACHINERY]

If Your First Novel Will Be A Quirky Woman’s Story From Someone Else’s Point Of View

[A CHILD-CARE-RELATED TRANSITIVE VERB]ing [THE NAME OF YOUR PATERNAL GRANDMOTHER]

If Your First Novel Will Be A Quirky Man’s Story From His Own Point Of View

[THE FIRST NAME OF YOUR MATERNAL GRANDFATHER]Reads The Works Of [CLASSIC AUTHOR]

If Your First Novel Will Be A Miserable Story Of One Person’s Suffering

My [A FRAGILE OBJECT] Is [A WORD THAT MEANS “BROKEN”]

If Your First Novel Will Be Self-Consciously Ironic And Self-Congratulatory

[A COMIC-BOOK SOUND EFFECT WORD] Goes [A NEIGHBORHOOD IN BROOKLYN]

If Your First Novel Takes Place In Gorgeous Locations

The [ANY COUNTRY] [ANY COMMON SOCIAL EVENT]Chronicles

If Your First Novel Is Intended To Launch A Giant Moneymaking Franchise

Everything Starts With [“1” OR “A”]

Find the BIG Meaning of Your Novel

This is great advice to writers on thinking about the scope of your work. I know the little truths come easily for me. The big Truths always look line a moving target.

link: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/25K6lO/justinemusk.com/2012/02/17/meaning-truth-novel-how-to-blog/

JUSTINE MUSK

how to find the Big Meaning of your novel (+ blog) that will make your readers fall wildly in love with you

1

So I realized I was coming at my novel from the outside in.

I’d created a complex storyworld with a cast of characters and tangled backstory shaping the frontstory. It was like I had the map, but couldn’t find the interstate freeway leading to my destination. I was going down some dark country roads, and it was only a matter of time before I’d end up in a town of cannibals or something.

(Cue the sound of a chainsaw.

…On second thought, DON’T.)

As Roz Morris suggests in her book NAIL YOUR NOVEL, one way to help yourself get unstuck is to remind yourself why you wanted to write the damn thing in the first place.

For me, for this book, it was the idea of repetition compulsion: how we recreate relationships and situations from the past in an ongoing effort to resolve them. I’m using reincarnation as a metaphor for that.

But what is the point of the book? If art is the creative demonstration of a truth, what is the truth I am trying to prove? I needed to get at the novel from the inside out.

Back to basics: a story is about a character who wants something and must overcome obstacles to get it.

But in order to do that, she’s forced to change in some way.

It’s in the overcoming of those obstacles that she finds what she lacks, and acquires what she needs, to achieve her goal (or not). The meaning of the story – the thematic significance – is in that character growth. That shift in consciousness that makes a new life possible.

In her book THE PLOT WHISPERER, Martha Alderson advises you to look to your own life, for your own truths, that you can then bring to bear on your novel. What are the big truths of your life?

I’m talking what Jim Signorelli refers to as big-t Truths, those metaphysical truths that we can’t measure or quantify but recognize, somehow, as right. We vibe with them.

In contrast, little-t truths are the facts and figures we find in the history books, for example. So-called objective information. (It’s not like history is, you know, written by the victors or anything.)

Little-t truths can be manipulated.

Big-t Truths cannot: they are what they are, and they remain the same from Homer to Shakespeare to Spielberg to Joyce Carol Oates. They are the abstract truths that live behind, and in between, and beneath the other kind. Little-t truths inform us; big-T truths live inside us, and a writer doesn’t teach or preach so much as stir them to life. We feel that shiver of recognition, that sense of deepening alignment with the values of the novel, as we live vicariously through the characters and arrive at a sense of what it all means.

2

Big-t truths live in your platform as well, your blog – that is, if you want to create something powerful enough to attract and engage new readers and deepen your connections with your fans.

It comes back to the question: What do you stand for? What is your purpose? What is your defining value or ideal?

The nature of blogging (and online writing in general) is to provide information that solves problems, that illuminates or improves your reader’s life in some way. Think of that information as the bait on the hook that draws your readers to you (you just want to make sure that it’s the right bait for the right kind of audience).

But to turn those readers into fans, you need to deepen that engagement, because information on its own isn’t enough.

The gurus will say that you need to connect with readers emotionally, and that’s true. But more than that, you need them to resonate with you. And that happens when they can sense the big-t Truth living behind that information, shaping the delivery of that information, and they recognize it as their Truth as well.

Community develops around shared values.

To find yours, Signorelli suggests what he calls the “laddering interview”, or what is elsewhere known as “the five whys”. You explore the motivation behind your motivation behind your motivation until you get to its root cause. That’s where you find your Truth.

For example:

Why blog about creativity?

Because I think it’s important to a well-lived life, a healthy society.

Why?

Because it deepens your connection to yourself and the world.

Why?

Because it helps you explore and develop your identity, your voice, your vision, and project that into the world.

Why?

So you can interact with the world as your full-bodied, amplified, authentic self, which allows you to stand in your power and connect with like-minded souls.

Why?

So you can work together to create a movement, raise awareness, find innovative solutions, that change the world. And sell your work and make some money as a side benefit.

You try it.

3

Getting back to my novel, this is the thematic statement I came up with:

The hunger for love leads to distortions of love, but only real love can heal and transcend the cycle of exploitative relationships.

So my character has to grow toward genuine love and intimacy in a way that helps her save herself (and others). I have to create the events, characters and situations – the objective information, the little-t truths, the ‘plot’ — forcing her to do that.

Wish me luck.

What are the Truths that you’re working with?

book reports – ONE MORE KISS, Ethan Mordden

One More Kiss: The Broadway Musical in the 1970s is the 6th of Ethan Mordden’s 7 volumes reviewing the history of Broadway musicals. Mordden has had an eclectic career as writer and composer from novels, to other non-fiction books, and whole off-broadway musicals. Mordden’s familiarity with theatre makes him more than qualified to write about the subject matter but I’m surprised that a publisher would be so committed, volume after volume, to one person’s idiosyncratic style, or that an editor would let the infusion of the author’s personality overwhelm the history. These historical essays account for just about everything that ever lasted a day or more on Broadway, but they are also outlets for the author’s unsolicited opinions. Unfortunately along with opinion comes the author’s voice and an irritating sense of humor. I want to read something that is comprehensive about the shows of 70s. Why is this guy here? There are actually occasions when Mordden tells the reader what their favorite show is. I find it invasive. The volume is a treasure chest of information but it’s wrapped around an authorial style that I can’t abide.

Recalling the Dick Cavett Show: Intelligent but not Intellectual

Dick Cavett’s show, besides offering a window on the celebrities, politics and culture of the late 1960s and early ’70s, at the height of the monolithic network era, also provided a frame of reference for understanding the dominance of talk in today’s fragmented media marketplace.

link:  Fame is a Bee: On Dick Cavett | The Nation.

Stephen J. Cannell and his pipe RIP- 69

Stephen J Cannell, that creepy bearded guy with a pipe after every episode of A-Team, Greatest American Hero, 21 Jumpstreet and many other bad tv shows of the 80s, is no longer coming down for breakfast.

link: Stephen J. Cannell Obituary: View Stephen Cannell\’s Obituary by MPNnow.