You will love this post from Subtle Kate. So good. I just found her blog and it is full of great posts. You should stop by it and say hello.
Hello everyone and happy Saturday!
Because of you, this blog hit a milestone this week and surpassed the 3,000-visitor mark by a good distance! Who would have thought when I started out on this blogging journey that the number of visits would have shot up so quickly. I am thankful to you for stopping by and am also grateful for your thoughtful comments and “likes.” You are all my new friends!
To celebrate this fateful day, I’d like to share with you this playful video that made me laugh. I love the child-like glee a playground slide brought out in these adults.
Thanks again everyone!
In yesterday’s post I shared a fun video of an innovative flipbook. This video is too good to not share as well. You have heard of poetry set to music but what about poetry set to pictures? “Words” is a lovely visual poem by Daniel Mercadante and Will Hoffman.
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.”
Here is an innovative take on what constitutes a “book.” In the words of Mr. Einstein, the creator of the flipbook moved in the “opposite direction.”
You have heard ad nauseum these two cardinal rules of writing:
“Show Don’t Tell”
“Avoid Stage Direction”
“Cookies,” from Douglas Adams’ The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time is a brilliant example of how you can BREAK THE RULES and still write a charming story. Read the text below or watch the video and be read to.
This actually did happen to a real person, and the real person was me. I had gone to catch a train. This was April 1976, in Cambridge, U.K. I was a bit early for the train. I’d gotten the time of the train wrong.
I went to get myself a newspaper to do the crossword, and a cup of coffee and a packet of cookies. I went and sat at a table.
I want you to picture the scene. It’s very important that you get this very clear in your mind.
Here’s the table, newspaper, cup of coffee, packet of cookies. There’s a guy sitting opposite me, perfectly ordinary-looking guy wearing a business suit, carrying a briefcase.
It didn’t look like he was going to do anything weird. What he did was this: he suddenly leaned across, picked up the packet of cookies, tore it open, took one out, and ate it.
Now this, I have to say, is the sort of thing the British are very bad at dealing with. There’s nothing in our background, upbringing, or education that teaches you how to deal with someone who in broad daylight has just stolen your cookies.
You know what would happen if this had been South Central Los Angeles. There would have very quickly been gunfire, helicopters coming in, CNN, you know. . . But in the end, I did what any red-blooded Englishman would do: I ignored it. And I stared at the newspaper, took a sip of coffee, tried to do a clue in the newspaper, couldn’t do anything, and thought, what am I going to do?
In the end I thought, nothing for it, I’ll just have to go for it, and I tried very hard not to notice the fact that the packet was already mysteriously opened. I took out a cookie for myself. I thought, that settled him. But it hadn’t because a moment or two later he did it again. He took another cookie.
Having not mentioned it the first time, it was somehow even harder to raise the subject the second time around. “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but notice . . .” I mean, it doesn’t really work.
We went through the whole packet like this. When I say the whole packet, I mean there were only about eight cookies, but it felt like a lifetime. He took one, I took one, he took one, I took one. Finally, when we got to the end, he stood up and walked away.
Well, we exchanged meaningful looks, then he walked away, and I breathed a sigh of relief and sat back. A moment or two later the train was coming in, so I tossed back the rest of my coffee, stood up, picked up the newspaper, and underneath the newspaper were my cookies.
The thing I like particularly about this story is the sensation that somewhere in England there has been wandering around for the last quarter-century a perfectly ordinary guy who’s had the same exact story, only he doesn’t have the punch line.
The Internet gives us writing tips, advice, hints, and lists of no-no’s. Bookstore shelves are lined with how-to books. There is so much information out there you would have to read all day, everyday, to try to digest it but never have time to put it in action. This poster boils it down so you can get back to your writing. I love item number 12 ½.
On yesterday’s blog, you heard Writing Advice from Kurt Vonnegut. One thing I failed to share with you was Mr. Vonnegut named his son after Mark Twain, who he admired and considered a saint. I thought it only appropriate to follow-up yesterday’s blog post with some writing advice from Mr. Twain.
He wrote these rules governing literary art in a scathing review of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel The Deerslayer. I took the information from an article published by the American Studies Department at the University of Virginia.
I assume Twain put the title of Cooper’s book in quotation marks because he was writing it many years before the invention of the computer, so I left it punctuated as found.
Mr. Twain was one very tough grader. Ouch.
He wasn’t wild about The Last of the Mohicans either but that didn’t stop Hollywood, did it?
- That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere. But the “Deerslayer” tale accomplishes nothing and arrives in air.
- They require that the episodes in a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help to develop it. But as the “Deerslayer” tale is not a tale, and accomplishes nothing and arrives nowhere, the episodes have no rightful place in the work, since there was nothing for them to develop.
- They require that the personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others. But this detail has often been overlooked in the “Deerslayer” tale.
- They require that the personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there. But this detail also has been overlooked in the “Deerslayer” tale.
- They require that when the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject at hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say. But this requirement has been ignored from the beginning of the “Deerslayer” tale to the end of it.
- They require that when the author describes the character of a personage in the tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description. But this law gets little or no attention in the “Deerslayer” tale, as Natty Bumppo’s case will amply prove.
- They require that when a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship’s Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a negro minstrel in the end of it. But this rule is flung down and danced upon in the “Deerslayer” tale.
- They require that crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader as “the craft of the woodsman, the delicate art of the forest,” by either the author or the people in the tale. But this rule is persistently violated in the “Deerslayer” tale.
- They require that the personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable. But these rules are not respected in the “Deerslayer” tale.
- They require that the author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and in their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones. But the reader of the “Deerslayer” tale dislikes the good people in it, is indifferent to the others, and wishes they would all get drowned together.
- They require that the characters in a tale shall be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency. But in the “Deerslayer” tale, this rule is vacated.
In addition to these large rules, there are some little ones. These require that the author shall:
12. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.
13. Use the right word, not its second cousin.
14. Eschew surplusage (sic).
15. Not omit necessary details.
16. Avoid slovenliness of form.
17. Use good grammar.
18. Employ a simple and straightforward style.
Even these seven are coldly and persistently violated in the “Deerslayer” tale.
You will enjoy this short video of Kurt Vonnegut’s advice on writing a short-story. The eight writing tips are pithy, wise, and apropos to just about any kind of writing, not just short stories. Not sure I agree with the one about “suspense.”
Here are some interesting tidbits about Mr. Vonnegut I pulled for you from a Wikipedia article. You can read the full article here.
- He majored in chemistry at Cornell University.
- His mother committed suicide when he was 21-years-old.
- He was a prisoner of war in Germany during World War II and the experience influenced his writing.
- He was awarded the Purple Heart for what he called a “ludicrously negligible wound.”
- After the war, he attended the University of Chicago as a graduate student in anthropology and worked for the City News Bureau of Chicago.
- He worked in Public Relations for General Electric, wrote for Sports Illustrated, was a volunteer firefighter, and managed the first United States Saab dealership.
- He raised three of his own, and four adopted children.
- He attempted suicide in l984.
- An asteroid was named in his honor in 1999.
- He taught at Harvard University and City College of New York.
- He did the illustrations for two of his books and designed an album cover, which is now part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame traveling exhibition.
- He was politically outspoken, a lifetime member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and held unconventional views on religion.
- He wrote 14 novels.
- In 2007. Vonnegut died at the age of 84 from massive head trauma after falling down a flight of stairs.
Interesting stuff. Have you read his books or did you know these things about the man?
Before you send me the name of your divorce lawyer, therapist, or favorite single’s bar, read on.
Do you remember the first piece you wrote that made you push away from your computer (or paper) and say, “Hey! That is pretty good!”? And can you remember your shaking hands when you gave it to someone to read and then holding your breath while waiting for their response?
This short story, “My Husband’s Mistress” was that piece of writing for me. In my professional life, I had been writing for years but it was boring business documents, grants, annual reports and the like. Writing this piece was the first time I let my creativity out of its cage and the words bounded onto the page like puppies after a good nap.
My Husband’s Mistress
By Robin Coyle
My husband has taken a mistress. And I, the ever-supportive wife, unwittingly encouraged him to do so.
It started out innocent enough. Our neighbor mentioned that my husband should meet his friend. He described the friend as athletic, outdoorsy, and quite fun. He thought they would have a lot in common and he was right.
An introduction was made and they hit it off right away. A serious friendship was slow to develop however. They would get together for occasional outings; sometimes in a group and sometimes just one-on-one. As my husband and his new friend got to know each other, they started to spend more time together. My husband is an attentive spouse and devoted father. Because he doesn’t like to take time away from the family, he doesn’t go out with friends much. So I, again the ever-supportive wife, encouraged him to branch out and spend quality time with his new friend.
They find interesting places to explore together. Roads less traveled and favorite old haunts beckon them. This new friend is strong, as is my husband, and they push each other to embrace higher levels of fitness, better technique, and endurance. They like to test the outer edges of their physical limits so it is a perfect match. The more they push each other, the more drawn they are to each other. It is all about competition, the challenge, and the next extreme adventure. My husband reached his new fitness level because of this attraction to his friend.
The new friend is eye-catching and alluring. The Italian heritage, with a bit of Japanese mixed in, gives this friend an intercontinental, sleek, and exotic aura. The friend is provocative with sex appeal that is a blend of coquette and siren. Animal magnetism and seduction wrapped up in a glamorous package. With a tight body and frame engineered by an angel, the friend has an element of beauty and intensity most men could never dream of having in a companion . . . expensive and unattainable for most.
When they go out together people want to talk about my husband’s friend. They ask how they met and how they spend their time together in training. They get noticed. They turn heads. They make a statement. No wonder. My handsome husband and his sexy partner look like they could grace the cover of a magazine.
I should have noticed things were serious with their relationship when my husband began to buy new clothes to wear when they went out together. These clothes are not run-of-the-mill outfits, but expensive European numbers that show off his new muscular physic. These items were things he never would have been caught dead in before. Gone were the safe businessman’s navy, brown, or black socks he usually wore. The socks he now buys have bold patterns and match his outfits. Then came new shoes too – fancy Italian models with intricate buckles and straps. He bought a hat to go along with the more racy outfits. It mattered how he looked when they went out on their adventures. This was from a guy who was most comfortable in broken-in blue jeans and a tee shirt soft with age. I knew I was in trouble when he bought his friend gifts of expensive accessories and high-tech gadgetry. He would do this without a word to me. I got new pots and pans for my birthday. Oh dear.
My husband’s eating habits changed. He now craves Italian food, in particular, pasta. He says he is “carbo-loading,” but I now know better. I’m sure it was his Italian friend’s influence. Mysterious supplements, energy bars, and disgusting sounding gel-packs appear on our garage workbench. The spur-of-the-moment-run to the ice cream parlor to stave off his powerful after-dinner sweet tooth has been replaced with a yogurt and banana in front of the television. Where food had been his guilty-pleasure, his eating energy is now focused on nutrition, power, speed, and performance. He turns his nose up if my meals have butter, sour cream, or velvety sauces. He used to love my comfort-food-dinners, but my husband is now a health-conscience food snob. You know, I think he is a hypocrite. I overheard him saying that he ate six peanut butter and jelly sandwiches the last time he was out with his friend on a daylong adventure. Was he bragging or astonished by the number of calories he consumed?
For a time, all of this was fine with me. My husband was happy, in great shape, and the day’s stress melted away when he was with his friend. However, the amount of time they wanted to spend together escalated. They did their best to not let it interfere with family time, but after a while it did. As a result, my husband decided to take his friend to work with him so they could be together during the workweek. He coerced a work colleague to abet in this tryst by driving them to work. His email was filled with messages about things they could do together. Our dinner table conversation centered on what was new in their friendship. My husband would disappear into the garage for hours to get ready for each new excursion. They joined a club that centered on their common interests, held meetings, offered advice, and organized events. The club even traveled and ate together as a group. My husband’s relationship with this friend became all consuming . . . an obsession. I should have seen the handwriting on the wall.
It all came to a head and I exploded in a fit of jealous rage when my husband surreptitiously cut a romantic weekend away with me short. I discovered he did it so he could be with this friend.
So you ask, who is my husband’s mistress? Who is this seductress that stole his heart, mind, body, and soul?
The irony is I am happy for them. She makes him happy, healthy, and fit. How could I be mad about something that brings such unadulterated pleasure to the man I love. And, it’s not another woman. Ride on honey . . .
What are your memories of your first creative-writing experience?
People are passionate about books but two men in Ann Arbor took it to the extreme and their argument came to blows. Follow the link below to the newspaper article about it.
The article states that the men involved in a literary argument had been drinking for several hours before the fight broke out. Rather than a beer-induced fight, I like to think they were sipping port or single-malt scotch in the manner of Hemingway and discussing the finer points of classic literature. Or . . . maybe they had entered into the “self-publish” vs. “traditional-publishing” debate which is enough to enrage even Gandhi.
I would love to know what books and authors the group sipping libations on the porch were talking about. Which one(s) caused them to resort to violence?
I’m not advocating you pick a fight, but what book’s honor would you defend with your fists . . . in a metaphorical sense, of course.
I ran across this quote the other day and had to share. The Internet was speaking directly to me when it put Mr. Brown in my path. I had been grumbling (read whining) that there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done.
“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Louis Pasteur, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Albert Einstein.” ~H. Jackson Brown
Makes you think, doesn’t it? Just so you know . . . I stopped whining because it was wasting too much time.
I read about the near-demise of two things this past week and it has me rather blue.
After a 244-year run, the good people at Encyclopedia Britannica announced they are giving it up and will stop print-publishing the hefty reference. They will maintain an on-line presence, but it’s just not the same.
My parents never purchased the Encyclopedia Britannica so I would go the school library and hope another student was not using the volume I needed. Remember how they smelled? Musty and intellectual. My brainiac best friend in junior high had a set in her home. Apparently her parents deemed her education more important than mine did. As a result, she went on to be a doctor and I am a lowly writer.
They say the end of the Encyclopedia has nothing to do with Google or Wikipedia, but I don’t believe them.
The second thing in a declining state because of our digitized era is the business card. With LinkedIn, Smartphones, tablets, and social media, who needs a business card to exchange contact information anymore? I understand it, but I still like a business card. I wonder how the Japanese are adapting to this trend. They consider presenting and accepting a business card a ceremonial rite.
Volumes have been written about the disappearance of books, CDs, and DVDs so I won’t go into that. But I must make a note to learn more about this “cloud” thing everyone is talking about.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m all for change, but the changes have me a little nostalgic. I’m going to pat the books on my shelves to let them know I still love them. That could take a while.
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day and because I am part Irish, I am giving you not green beer, but an armchair tour of Ireland. I recently celebrated a milestone birthday and my husband and I traveled there to mark the occasion. Yours truly, or yours truly’s husband took the 14 photographs in this slideshow. I think the pictures capture the essence and beauty of the Emerald Isle.
The scenery is magnificent but one picture tickles me . . . the one of the man with his leprechaun costume’s head off so he can check his email.
Luck o’the Irish to you!
Thirty-four friends were waiting for me in my office this morning. They had barged in without bothering to give me time to have a cup of coffee or scan the newspaper’s headlines. I was still in my bathrobe and looked like a crumpled piece of paper. But they all had interesting things to show with me . . . advice, photos, videos, jokes, and creative writing samples. How could I ignore such an enthusiastic sharing of knowledge?
So instead of the newspaper, I read the thirty-four blog posts waiting in my computer’s in-box. I love reading my fellow bloggers’ posts. Heck, that is why I follow them. But when you have a self-imposed deadline of getting your query letter written by the end of the week, you should be writing the damn thing not reading blogs, right?
I need to find a system of letting my friends in and a way to expedite reading what they have written. Anyone have any tips for how to manage blog backlog? Maybe the “B” in blog stands for “back” as in “back”log.
Today is National Catalog and Magazine Day! For those of you looking at your calendar and wondering why your boss didn’t give you the day off, it isn’t an actual national holiday. I made it up but greeting card companies are considering making it an official holiday.
Why is it National Catalog and Magazine Day? It is because they are suffocating me. They multiply like rabbits when I have my back turned. I’ve been doing most of my gift buying on-line and as a result, the purveyors of these goods consider that license to send me their catalog every other day. Magazine subscriptions have become ridiculously cheap with the advent of being able to read just about anything on-line. The prices enticed me to subscribe and do my part to keep the print industry alive.
The stacks of catalogs and magazines on my coffee table threaten to crush it into splinters. I can’t simply throw them away because they stare at me with haunted eyes like orphaned children.
I am going to take advantage of this holiday and plow through those catalogs and magazines. I’ll flip pages, tear out articles, clip recipes, and then toss the skeletons in the trash. I believe the exercise will be liberating.
If you read my post yesterday – “Query Letter Writer’s Block Anyone?” – you are probably wondering why I am reading magazines rather than writing the query letter for my novel. I have a simple answer for you. Procrastination and I are best friends.
The Internet abounds with information on jump-starting your writing when you are paralyzed by the plague of writer’s block. Bookstore shelves groan under the weight of “How-To’s,” “You Should Try’s” and “1,001 Tips for Conquering Writer’s Inertia.”
I am fortunate in that I have never experienced writer’s block. Ask me to do a 500-word essay on paperclips, and I’m your gal. Ask me to write the all-important query letter for my first novel, and I freeze.
There is more information on the Internet about writing query letters than there are Justin Bieber photos. The problem is the articles coach and guide on how to do it, and then in the next breath say, “Don’t screw this up. You’ll never be published and agents from around the world will be laughing at you at their annual conference.”
The advice encourages and intimidates me. I have written dozens of query letters to only crumple them up and throw them into the fireplace. Environmentalists have a hit out on me for wasting paper.
My promise to myself this week is to write a perfect query letter, send it out, and start praying an agent thinks my book is worthy. I’ll keep you posted.
I am sharing this video with you because it made me laugh out loud. I can’t remember how I ran across it . . . maybe it was Facebook, Twitter, a blog, or perhaps my mom, but it is worthy of passing on to you.
I have been mired in the words of my novel for the hundredth time (I exaggerate to make my point) over the past two days and the hundreds of words in this YouTube video gave me comfort.
The comedian, John Branyan, takes the tale of the Three Little Pigs and retranslates it into Shakespearean-ese. I’ve been changing “happy” to “glad” and weeding out unnecessary words and tightening sentences in my book. Mr. Branyan takes editing and rewording to a new level.
If you love The Three Little Pigs or our friend Bill Shakespeare, you have to watch this. It is worthy of 8 ½ minutes of your time, but be sure to watch at 2:48 when the line “not by the hair of my chinny chin chin” becomes “not by wit or whiskered jowl.”
I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about self-editing. I think of self-editing as getting rid of the clutter – housekeeping if you will. When the writing is tidy, the story shines through, unburdened by extra words and empty adverbs.
I “Stumbled-Upon” this helpful post from the blog “Holt Uncensored.” The post is from 2009 but warrants another look.
Ms. Holt gives us a list of ten mistakes writers make but don’t see. Many of the “mistakes” and “tips” on how to fix them are things we have all seen before, such as avoid adverbs at almost all costs and the ubiquitous “show don’t tell.” However, the guidance she gives is different and precise. Ms. Holt’s post spurred me to look at my novel again and I spent most of yesterday clearing away clutter with a fresh eye.
I’ll leave you with this . . . imagine editing your writing before computers. Making revisions on a typewriters must have been a pain.