Sunday, January 30, 2011

Microfiction Monday: Beachcombing Bill and Ben

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's the world's best meme, coming to you from Susan at Stony River. One of the highlights of a dangerous writer's week. Enjoy.


After flowerpot liberation, Bill and Ben were beachcombers, with a new friend: Little SeaWeed. 'Twas cleanliving, with all the soap ashore. (139 characters)

(Thought I'd give my British readers a trip down memory lane. "The Flowerpot Men" were big in my youth. You can read all about them and their friend, Little Weed here--if interested.)

Thanks in advance for your comments. I look forward to visiting in return over the next couple of days.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Thanks, Sam!

I don't usually post on Saturdays, as I gird my loins for Microfiction Monday (which I post on a Sunday, but who's quibbling?!) but I could not resist this quote from Samuel Beckett which popped up in my on-line Page-A-Day calendar:

Samuel Beckett, Irish playwright and Novelist (1906-1989)
“Ever tried.
Ever failed.
No matter.
Try again.
Fail again.
Fail better.”
(I just hope this doesn't mean we'll all be failing better while Waiting for Godot.)

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Message to my Followers

Anybody who visits my blog regularly will see that I moved the tiny Followers' widget, which only showed about nine smiling faces/Yodas/marigolds at a time, and created a much bigger Followers' space at the top of the blog.

Now I can see all of you smiling out at me. I can't tell you how much THAT brightens my day after a hard writing slog. To know that several dozen people have gone to the bother of clicking the "Follow" button means a lot to me. You, dear Followers, are my muses.
Aren't we all well-dressed?
(Well, I obviously need to put a shirt on, but the rest of you are fabulous!)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Craft Book of the Month: January 2011 "Take Joy"

So, I was sitting reading through Take Joy by Jane Yolen. Had my orange hi-liter to hand and... has this ever happened to you? By the time I was done highlighting lines that spoke to me either profoundly or humorously, my pages looked like they were playing for Oregon State, (Go, Beavers!)

(Side note here. As a non-native Oregonian I am an equal opportunity supporter. So, had I been using my green highlighter, the pages would have been Ducks.)

In short, I could pretty much copy the entire book into this blog, but that would be eyestrain for you and copyright infingement for me. So... let me just shoot out a few of Jane Yolen's marvelous sentences before we say goodbye to her inspirational book.

  • Writing teachers speak of "finding your voice as if the damned thing is lost somewhere: behind the desk, under the computer, in back of the commode." (pg. 79)
  • Often I feel as if my writing time is being slowly nibbled away by ducks. (pg. 95--not the Oregon ones, I hope.)
  • Writing is not always done on the page. Often I think about a book for years, and that thinking is rarely done at my desk. (pg. 109)
  • Landscape should enhance the story being told... Too many writers ignore landscape, to their peril. (She goes on to describe how landscape happens in threes: the large shapes, the singular features, the individualized--"spikes of yew, eruptions of red poppies.) (pg. 145)
  • Chapter 11--the Alphabetics of Story--is worth the price of admission by itself (starts on pg. 159) My favorite is "P is for Process: value the process, not the product."
The book ends like this:
Don't forget to smell the grandbabies
Pay attention to good food.
Lie down on your stomach in the tall grass.
Listen to the rhythm of ocean waves.
Put your hand on graven stone. Finger silk. Touch a loved one's hair.
Breathe in the world.
Thank you, Jane Yolen.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Microfiction Monday: Mothman Redux

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's the world's best meme, coming to you from Susan at Stony River. One of the highlights of a dangerous writer's week. Enjoy.

"The mist over Uranus is so beautiful," said Borophax the Blue. Mothman wasn't listening. Wings tented overhead, he dreamed of other moons. (140 characters on the nose.)

Knowing Susan's partiality for the afore-mentioned planet, I decided to continue where I left off two weeks ago, with Mothman and the blue-robed wizard. Heck, this may turn into a novel!

Good to be back. I missed last week's MM and missed all of you. Thanks in advance for your comments. I look forward to visiting in return over the next couple of days.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Craft Book of the Month: January 2011 "Take Joy"

Week Three: "Advice"

I love the following:
"Writing," we must also remind ourselves in Theodore Roethke's wonderful phrase, "is an act of mischief." Be Loki. Be Coyote. Be willing to stir the world's soup pot, spit at the stars, show your backside to the council, whoop in church. Nothing and everything is sacred to the writer."
Here's what Jane Yolen gives in the way of advice, which she cautions she applies only to herself.

  • WRITE EVERY DAY"... and then the sympathetic magic takes hold. As water calls water, so words call words."
  • WRITE WHAT INTERESTS YOU "... for me that's easy. Almost everything except hard science, Brussels sprouts, and hockey interests me."
  • WRITE FOR YOURSELF "... by this I mean you shouldn't look outside yourself for some target audience and hope to hit it. You never will because the target keeps shifting."
  • WRITE WITH HONEST EMOTION "... this is not necessarily an easy or even comfortable way to write. But there are also times when the writer is not aware of what a story is really saying."
  • BE WARY OF PREACHING "... as Samuel Goldwyn once said of the movies: "If you want to send a message, use Western Union."
  • BE READY TO GO TOPSY-TURVY (By this, she means to look at your work through a different lens, so you can see "anew what is on the page.")
  • BE PREPARED FOR SERENDIPITY "An author, like any fresh-faced and eager Boy Scout, must always be prepared."
Good rules to write by. Do you have any "rules" you use to help you write?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Inspiration from MLK

I missed my usual Microfiction Monday because I was at the Oregon coast watching the raindrops fall and the rivers rise, and there wasn't any way to get online. But I came home after the long Martin Luther King Jr., Day weekend to find these two MLK quotes on my Page-A-Day Calendar.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”


“We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”

—MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., clergyman and civil rights activist
Onward, ever onward.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Craft Book of the Month: January 2011 "Take Joy"

Week Two

Once again, I find there is so much good stuff in a writing book (last time it was Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages) that I am tempted to stretch my commentary to two months. I find gems--many of them-- in every one of Jane Yolen's chapters.

For instance, in Chapter 2 (The Mystery That Is Writing), she writes
Fiction is more than a recitation of facts or author embellishments. It is reality surprised. It shakes us up and makes us see familiar things in new ways. Fiction is like wrestling with angels--you do not expect to win, but you do expect to come away from the experience changed.
Rembrandt's "Jacob Wrestling with an Angel"
She talks about how a story takes place. (She uses a Japanese phrase I hadn't heard, even after living in Japan for three years, that of saku-taku-no-ki, which is the sound a chick--from inside an egg--and its mother--from outside the egg--make as they tap their beaks on the same spot so that the egg cracks open and the chick can emerge.) "In just that way a story begins, with a physical tapping on the outside: a line of a song that won't leave your head, an article in the newspaper that strikes a chord, a fragment of conversation that loops endlessly, a photograph or painting that touches you deeply, a repeating dream. And then the answering emotion that taps within--sometimes days, weeks, years later. The moment they come together, the story starts."

Finally, she talks about an editor who taught her the most about writing novels, "a wonderful woman named Linda Zuckerman."
Until I worked with Linda, I wrote my novels like a nervous tourist visiting an untidy continent, map and guide book in hand. I was so careful to tread on the properly outlined paths, I never saw the life by the roadside. I gazed in awe at the cathedral; I never noticed the half-starved cats on the cathedral grounds... Linda gave me permission to breathe, to take time in my books, to look about the landscape--both outer and inner--and finally to trust that the reader would follow, even at a leisurely pace, where I led.
(When I googled Linda Zuckerman, I found that she lives in Portland! What a mecca of talent this town is.)

Wrestling with angels.

Noticing the half-starved cats on the cathedral grounds.


I admit that sometimes my writing feels like I'm in a race. It is good to have Jane Yolen, via Linda Zuckerman, give me permission to breathe.

Hope your writing week is going well. Spare a thought for the people of Brisbane and Queensland, Australia (another city in which I have lived) as they undergo terrible flooding. It makes Portland's current sogginess feel completely small potatoes. See you here for more "Take Joy" next week.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Microfiction Monday: Mothman vs. The Joking Wizards

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's the world's best meme, coming to you from Susan at Stony River. One of the highlights of a dangerous writer's week. Enjoy.
Mothman hated being the butt of the wizards' jokes. He grabbed Blue, ready to kill. But(t) Yellow's "Uranus" spell nobbled him first.
(137 characters)

This sort of gutter humor will be understood only if you've seen Susan's other picture of the escapade. (I shall have to put it behind me before I bum you all out.) Here's the pic:

Thanks in advance for your comments. I'm looking forward to visiting as many as possible in return during the next couple of days.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Craft Book of the Month: January 2011 "Take Joy"

Can you imagine writing over 300 books? I suppose I could, if I were dreaming. Well, Jane Yolen, the author of this month's craft book pick, has done just that.

I am currently reading Yolen's Sword of the Rightful King as part of some research I am doing (can anyone say secret work-in-progress?) and I came across this short and inspirational book for writers. I was immediately drawn to the title, Take Joy. Taking joy is always my goal when writing, but once writing becomes the act of trying to get published it quickly becomes (at least for me) "Take Envy, Take Frustration, and Take a Running Jump Off a Very Long Pier."

Yolen begins her book by saying that for some writers "agony oils the writing machine." That's not her way. But she does contend that "it's not writing that makes writers miserable. It is the emphasis on publication."

She goes on:
Know this about being published: it is out of your hands. Even if you do everything you can think of to affect the outcome, you cannot make an editor take your work. You can go to conferences. You can take creative writing classes... you can read books about writing such as this one (she goes on in rather a hilarious vein about all the things a writer can do, ending with Therefore, once the manuscript is in the mail--relax. Read a good book. Or a bad book. Just don't worry about it. Better yet--get busy writing something new.)
She finishes her first chapter by saying that writing is like
flying just treetop level until the story or poem rises up to meet me. There is a joy when the air rushes past my wings; there is a sense of completeness when the journey is over.
I'm looking forward to having Jane Yolen as my companion for this first month of 2011. I hope this will be a year of "taking joy" for all of us.

(To learn more about Jane Yolen, you can visit her website. She also keeps a regular and interesting online journal.)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Jolly Good Start to the New Year

Remember that little poem I wrote about the agent holding a contest? Well, the results are in and Random Number Generator is now my bestest friend ever.

I won! The prize: a 20-minute Skype chat with agents Kathleen Ortiz and Liz Jote about all things publishing.

If you were me, what pressing questions would you ask? I'd love to know.

(P.s. Another Microfiction Monday writer also has good news to start the year. Lisa Ricard Claro's short story won first prize in the Writer's Journal Short Story contest. Three cheers for her!)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Microfiction Monday: Gia'Sou (The Greek "Cheers")

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's the world's best meme, coming to you from Susan at Stony River. One of the highlights of a dangerous writer's week. Enjoy.

Advertize the real Greece? Spiros was delighted. So what was with the silly star and hat instead of a dish of Souvlaki and a glass of ouzo?
(139 Characters)

And a big "cheers" to all of you for 2011. Thanks in advance for your comments. I'm looking forward to visiting as many as possible in return.