Mark Twain

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."

- Mark Twain

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

writers quoted

Writing Quotes

" What I like in a good author isn't what he says, but what he whispers."
-- Logan Pearsal Smith

"Each man has his own way. After all, most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk. I'd say it occurs in the quiet, silent moments, while you're walking or shaving or playing a game or whatever, or even talking to someone you're not vitally interested in. You're working, your mind is working, on this problem in the back of your head ... What's an artist? He's a man who has antennae, who knows how to hook up to the cosmos; . . . why do ideas, why do great scientific discoveries often occur in different parts of the world at the same time? The same is true of the elements that go to make up a poem or a great novel or any work of art. They are already in the air, they have not been given voice, that's all. They need the man, the interpreter, to bring them forth.
--Henry Miller

"I have always felt that the first duty of a writer was to ascend- to make flights, carrying others along if you can manage it. To do this takes courage, even a certain conceit. " --E.B. White

"Failure is just another way to learn how to do something right."
--Marian Wright Edelman

"I keep a small sheath of 3 X 5 cards in my billfold. If I think a good sentence, I'll write it down . . . Occasionally, there's one that sings so perfectly the first time that it stays, like "My boy has stopped speak in me and I don't think I can bear it." I wrote that down on a 3 X 5 card, perhaps on a bus, or after walking the dog." --Joseph Heller

"I started out with nothing in the world but a kind of passion, a driving desire. I don't know where it came from, and I do not know why-or why I have been so stubborn about it that nothing could deflect me. But this thing between me and my writing is the strongest bond I have ever had-stronger than any bond or any engagement with any human being or with any other work I've ever done." --Katherine Anne Porter

"My work is emotionally autobiographical. It has no relationship to the actual events of my life, but it reflects the emotional currents of my life. I try to work every day because you have no refuge but writing. When you're going through a period of unhappiness, a broken love affair, the death of someone you love, or some other disorder in your life, then you have no refuge but writing." --Tennessee Williams

"To gain your own voice, forget about having it heard. Become a saint of your own province and your own consciousness." --Allen Ginsberg

"Whatever fascinates me or at least holds my attention-whether a dream, an incident, an idea, an anecdote, an overheard conversation, a quote-I write in my journal. These are the kernels for my stories, though I'm not saying that everything I write down needs to appear in a story-or should. I also use my journal, as in "Independence Boulevard," later in the process, for research on the story, if it's needed, or for blocking out scenes or character sketches." -- Robin Henley

"Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow that talent to the dark place it leads."
-- Erica Jong

"A writer's problem does not change. He himself changes and the world he lives in changes but his problem remains the same. It is always how to write truly and having found what is true, to project it in such a way that it becomes a part of the experience of the person who reads it."
--Ernest Hemingway

"If you write a hundred short stories and they're all bad, that doesn't mean you've failed. You fail only if you stop writing." --Ray Bradbury

"All writers are observers, fascinated with human goings-on but journal writers are a special breed, I think, suspicious of their own memories, like tourists taking snapshots of everything they see. They're different from diarists, of course-diarists seem, as a whole, fascinated with their own lives-journal-keepers are snoops, fascinated with everyone else's life." --Robin Hemley

"My memory is certainly in my hands. I can remember things only if I have a pencil and I can write with it and I can play with it. I think your hand concentrates for you. I don't know why it should be so." -- Rebecca West

"I started out with nothing in the world but a kind of passion, a driving desire. I don't know where it came from, and I do not know why-or why I have been so stubborn about it that nothing could deflect me. But this thing between me and my writing is the strongest bond I have ever had-stronger than any bond or any engagement with any human being or with any other work I've ever done." -- Katherine Anne Porter

"When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. . . .When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have e made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through." --Ernest Hemingway

"When I sit down at my writing desk, time seems to vanish. I think it's a wonderful way to spend one's life." --Erica Jong

"Failure is just another way to learn how to do something right." --Marian Wright Edelman


"If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried." --Susan Ohanian

"In the evening my griefs come to me one by one." --Linda Pastan

"We owe something to extravagance, for thrift and adventure seldom go hand in hand." --Jennie Jerome Churchill

"Dreams are . . . illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you." --Marsha Norman

"Like all people who have nothing, I lived on dreams." Anzia Yezierska

"Ecstasy cannot be constant, or it would kill." --Eleanor Farjeon

"I always do the first line well, but I have trouble with all the others." --Moliere

"All the fun is in how you say a thing. " --Robert Frost

"A simple style is like white light. Although complex, it does not appear to be so." --Anatole France

"If I chance to talk a little wild, forgive me." --Shakespeare

"I try to leave out the parts that people skip." --Elmore Leonard

"What are significant details and how should you describe them? A significant detail is something that has push or is a symbol of push. By push I mean possessing a force that drives a person. . . . Where you are born pushes you. To be born in Johannesburg will make you a different person than if you are born in Brooklyn. To be born in 1945 is to be different than to be born in 1975. Class, race, time, and place. gender, parentage, education. The weather, your insulation from the weather, your economic condition, your equipment, your car and your clothes, the food you eat, where and how you eat it. Moments of embarrassment, hope of praise, the level of activity in your glands, what you think beauty is, and what brings esteem among your people. These are forces that move a person in a certain direction. Vectors. They can be drawn on a blackboard. Force creates motion. Motion is action. Out of actions come drama." --Larry Reinhart, How to Write A Mystery

"Young readers often think of description as the parts that they can skip. Naive as that may be, that impulse recognizes something crucial-- the parts where the colors of the arroyo or the burnished glow of the furniture are described do not seem quite as . . . . But the creation of the physical world is as crucial to your story as action and dialogue. If your readers can be made to see the glove without fingers or the crumpled yellow tissue, the scene becomes vivid. Readers become present. Touch, sound, taste, and smell make reader feel as if their own fingers are pressing the sticky windowsill. . . . Whatever you're describing, readers need a clear visual image. However, too much visual information is confusing. The mind loses track easily. A brown Naugahyde chair with a long gash in its seat can establish an interior. Big nostrils can make a person. Give one vivid detail, and readers will build the rest." --Jerome Stern, Making Shapely Fiction


"So here's what you do: take your memories and present them to the reader. Take your passions. You take as much guilt and as little total depravity as you can safely mix in. You read. You steal. You want desperately to be a writer. You volunteer to nail your soft parts to a tree. You soak up everything. You take notes. You retire to your garret or your study or your office and you tie yourself to the chair with the belt of your bathrobe. And you write. You slowly go crazy, but you write. You drink lye, if that is what it will take, and you remember the nights and caves in Granada. Because you desperately want to be a writer. You do. You write. You write. And you write." --Bill Brashler, The Total Writer



E.B. White describes Will Strunk of Elements of Style fame: From every line there peers out at me the puckish faces of my professor, his short hair parted neatly in the middle and combed down over his forehead, his eyes blinking incessantly behind steel-rimmed spectacles as though he had just emerged into strong light, his lips nibbling each other like nervous horses, his smile shuttling to and fro in a carefully edged mustache. "Omit needless words!" cries the author on page 17, and into that imperative Will Strunk really put his heart and soul. In the days when I was sitting in his class, he omitted so many needless words, and omitted them so forcibly and with such eagerness and obvious relish, that he often seemed in the position of having short-changed himself, a man left with nothing more to say yet with time to fill, a radio prophet who had outdistanced the clock. Will Strunk got out of this predicament by a simple trick: he uttered every sentence three times. When he delivered his oration on brevity to the class, he leaned forward over his desk, grasped his coat lapels in his hands, and in a husky, conspiratorial voice said, "Rule Thirteen. Omit needless Words! Omit needless words! Omit needless words! Omit needless words!" He was a memorable man, friendly and fun. Under the remember sting of his kindly lash, I have been trying to omit needless words since 1919.

"I have always felt that the first duty of a writer was to ascend-to make flights, carrying others along if you can manage it. To do this takes courage, even a certain conceit. " --E.B. White

"Work every day. No matter what has happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail." --Hemingway

"Whatever fascinates me or at least holds my attention-whether a dream, an incident, an idea, an anecdote, an overheard conversation, a quote-I write in my journal. These are the kernels for my stories, though I'm not saying that everything I write down needs to appear in a story-or should. I also use my journal, as in "Independence Boulevard," later in the process, for research on the story, if it's needed, or for blocking out scenes or character sketches." --Robin Henley

...................................................................................................


getting your memories onto the page

"All suffering is bearable if it is seen as part of a story." Isak Denesen

"My story is important not because it is mine. . . but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is yours. Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track . . . of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity . . . that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally . . . to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but spiritually.

I not only have my secrets, I am my secrets. And you are yours. Our secrets are human secrets, and our trusting each other enough to share them with each other has much to do with the secret of what it means to be human." Frederick Buechner

Sometimes I wish that I had five dollars for every person who has confided with heartbreaking sincerity that he or she has led a fascinating life--not only worthy of a memoir, but also a big-budget movie, preferably starring Tom Hanks and Rene Zelwegger. I also wish I had started a fund for every time I've been faced with the task of editing a badly written memoir. With my memoir fund, my far-off dreams of owning a Tuscan villa might become a reality.

There are so many ways that a memoir can go astray, so many literary sins that befall them. Before you begin, let's cover the basics of memoir writing starting with this premise: We all have stories to tell and possess an inner richness, an inner castle with rooms of gaudy splendor. However, here's something to think about: in most castles, even those that employ a huge staff of minions, some of the rooms are kept off-limits to the public.

Remember a memoir is not a therapy session or an opportunity to vent. Shine a light of truth, but don't dwell on hatred, revenge or self-pity. Many of us have had our share of drenching sorrows and unfair burdens. But all these troubles do not necessarily make a story. A memoir does not equal self-absorbed. Nor does it equal downer. While there's a good chance that you'll uncover difficult moments and sad truths, also write about the good times and the times in between. Strive for balance. Write about people who you love, hilarity and good sex and the magic of a first snow fall and champagne moments.

Frank McCourt neatly sums up the complexity of memoir writing: "There were parts in the books that were hard to write. My mother's humiliations, my father's leavings, the sordidness of my going around from pub to pub looking for him, and then trying to get him to come home. Then there's the time he took the pound my grandparents sent him and just went off and drank it. But it's the process of writing that I enjoy. That's why I was put here."

Uncover your memories. We each have our own particular methods to stir our memories. Look through family photos, read old letters, diaries and magazines from important years in your past. Construct a time line to trace the milestones in your life. Using crayons, (that waxy smell evokes childhood) draw pictures of your home, your neighborhood, and school. Make lists of schoolmates, neighbors, teachers, and friends. List all the landmarks in your childhood and recall vacations, trips, and adventures. If you discover that a memory has taken hold while you're going about your ordinary routine, attempt to trace it to its source to track the association in your current world. What were you doing or thinking about when the memory surfaced?

Tell a story. Like a novel, a memoir needs a beginning, middle and end, but it also needs to incorporate many fictional techniques. Create a hook with the opening. Write some parts of your story in scenes so that the reader feels as if he or she were close up as the story unfolds. You'll need conflict or the story will drift and become static. Use setting details and dialogue whenever possible. (A caveat here: do not reconstruct long passages of dialogue from actual conversations held twenty years ago. In memoir, dialogue is used succinctly, more for flavor than substance.) Work to create suspense-like fiction the reader needs to wonder what happens next?' As you structure your memoir, keep adding new elements, twists and complications to maintain reader interest. Add cliffhangers to close a scene. A memoir is not a mere list of events or memories; it's a story.

In the opening of Homer Hickam Jr.'s Rocket Boys he creates a hook and introduces the broad themes of his story: "Until I began to build and launch rockets, I didn't know my hometown was at war with itself over its children, and that my parents were locked in a kind of bloodless combat over how my brother and I would live our lives. I didn't know that if a girl broke your heart, another girl, virtuous at least in spirit, could mend it on the same night. And I didn't know that the enthalpy decrease in a converging passage could be transformed into jet kinetic energy if a divergent passage was added. The other boys discovered their own truths when we built our rockets, but those were mine."

Search for themes. A memoir is not an autobiography because while it tells the story of a life, it also explores the undertow, the underlying issues and themes beneath the occurrences. Theme serves as a unifying factor, helps you resist the temptation to digress and report trivial matters. Sift through the raw material of your past and note the turning points, regrets, and significant memories. Are there recurring motifs? Questions answered or unanswered? Did historical events or cultural trends play a part in your story?

Sound like you. Create a distinctive narrator's voice, one that contains your personal stamp. Your voice sounds like you on the page, just as your voice sounds like you on the telephone. If you're known for your irreverent sense of humor, then your memoir should showcase each rollicking wisecrack. If you're thoughtful and scholarly, that can work too. Don't force a voice or borrow one from your favorite author. Be yourself, but with the understanding that your voice illuminates your best selfÖat your most witty, contemplative, sardonic or bold.

Analyze published memoirs and notice the structure and the reasons that the writers chose to tell their stories. Some writers focus on one memorable experience, others write to sort out the truth of their past. Reflect on how they express their themes and how much they reveal of themselves. Does their style make you read between the lines? Do their stories stir your own memories?

Here is a list to get you started: Mary Karr, Charles Kuralt, Ruth Reichel, Ernie Pyle, Tobias Wolff, Maya Angelou, Barry Lopez, Truman Capote, Isak Dinesen, Frank McCourt, Joan Didion, David Sedaris, Nuala O'Faolain.

Focus on the most interesting events of your life. A memoir is not a list of every major event in your life, or a birth-to-death chronology. In fact, chronology is often not the best method to organize a memoir. As in fiction, you focus on the most compelling segment of your history. As you focus on specific memories, push yourself to untangle the complexities of events and emotions.

Tobias Wolff wrote two memoirs, This Boy's Life and In Pharoah's Army. The first book covered his first eighteen years, the good and bad; the second book begins with his army stint during the Vietnam War. Neither book covers his adult years or his career teaching at Syracuse University. Here is the opening paragraph to This Boy's Life: "I have been corrected on some points, mostly of chronology. Also my mother thinks that a dog I describe as ugly was actually quite handsome. I've allowed some of these points to stand, because this is a book of memory, and memory has its own story to tell. But I have done my best to make it tell a truthful story. My first stepfather used to say that what I didn't know would fill a book. Well, here it is. "


Tell the truth. While every fact in your memoir is likely not verifiable, the emotional truth of memory must be accurate. Here is Tobias Wolff on the subject: "If you're writing something you're going to call a memoir, I think you owe it your readers to be as honest as you can be. And that includes sometimes putting things in a memoir that may not make you proud, but are an essential part of the story. Otherwise you end up with a book in which you're the one who always has the virtue while everyone else does everything wrong. You're the one who always says the smart things while everybody else says dumb things. That's just a way of going back and doing right what you didn't do right the first time. But it isn't very interesting."

Employ literary flair. Anchor your memoir with specific and sensory details. These details will connect your reader to the large and small moments of your past, and transform recollections into meaning. However, details are never a list, and never substitute for a thoughtful exploration.

Write for the imagination but also for the ear. Use metaphor, imagery, repetition, and rhythm. Sound communicates and lends the words resonance and clout. Mayo Angelou: "Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the spaces between the notes and curl my back to loneliness." Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas

Ask yourself what's in it for your reader. Writing a memoir implies that you believe that your life story is a worthwhile subject, that your motives have moved you past silence. While you are the source for your memoir, readers must find meaning, value, inspiration and information. Hopefully the truths and realizations that you uncover along the way will move and surprise your reader, render your recollections into stunning illumination.
©Jessica Page Morrell


10 Steps to Getting Started

"I often read for an hour or two. Clearing the mind. I'm always reluctant to start work, and reluctant to stop. The most interesting thing about writing is the way that it obliterates time. Three hours seem like three minutes." --Gore Vidal

Set up shop: Ever since Virginia Woolf wrote A Room of One's Own, women have longed for their own space to write in. We need a place all our own, surrounded by reminders of our goals, dreams, and true selves. Behind a closed door, we shut ourselves away from distractions to pursue ideas put to words. If you don't have an office; commando a corner, occupy a makeshift desk, borrow a cubicle at a library. If you share office space with family members, declare official office hours for yourself. Don't make excuses, make plans and create a workspace that calls to you.

Tools of the trade: Writing requires investing in yourself, just as a carpenter buys claw hammers and jigsaws to complete his job, so must a writer. Start with a good dictionary and a copy of The Synonym Finder by J. I. Rodale. Own and study books on grammar and style such as Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale and Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman. Subscribe to Writer's Digest magazine, Writer's Market if you're interested in selling articles, Novel & Short Story Writer's Market if you're writing fiction. Study information at on-line sites and buy books about the techniques in the genre you're working. A neat shelf of reference books is constant reminder that you're a writer, a comfort and inspiration when you're stuck.

Carry a writer's notebook: Always. Record those sudden insights and flashes. Pay attention to weather, recording the first breath of spring or the muffled magic of a snowfall. Write about people, a co-worker who drives you crazy, your high school sweet heart, in-laws and childhood bullies. Write about your memories, beliefs, and questions, but remember this is not a diary. It's a canvass, a safe, deep place to throw words together with Jackson Pollack abandon.

Practice characters sketches, scenes, poems. Write about grief, loss, jealousy. Write about the bugs, creatures, and flowers. Write about how you imagine life in the West of 1800s or England in the Middle Ages. Write about places, worlds far from your own, populated by cowboys, sheiks, philanthropists, gypsies, Arctic explorers, royalty, conquerors, and orphans.

Never go into the world alone, arm yourself as a writer.

Read: Richard Steel once said that reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Most of us came to writing through our love of reading. Reading enchanted us with words, was a vehicle, that carried us far from our everyday world. Return again and again for the voyage. Writers must be constant and omnivorous readers. Never feel guilty about time spent reading because the rhythms and music of language, mysteries of structure and storytelling, will somehow slip into your consciousness as you read.

Stephen King writes, "Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn't, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page."

So while reading, note the point of view, voice, pacing, and fictional structure. Examine how Hemingway's sentences work. Notice the tone and mood that Poe steals into a story to frighten you. Notice how Barbara Kingsolver infuses her love of nature into everything she writes.

Enter the life: Surround yourself with writers. Meet kindred spirits in writing classes, on-line chats, at message boards, bookstores and critique groups. Attend book signings, writing conferences, and workshops. You are not alone, the community of writers awaits you.

Try this: In March we're focusing on voice and style. With this in mind, write a story, scene, a group of letters, or section of a journal in a character's voice completely unlike your own. Perhaps you'll want to write in the voice of Dublin barmaid. The year is 1915, her mum is ailing, and her sweetheart has gone off to war. Or you're traveling with a band of pirates along the Caribbean shores. Or you're a child laborer in Calcutta. A girl living on the prairies like Laura Engels. Or a brave lad about to face the guns of Gettysburg. Think as your character thinks, talk as she talks, write as she writes.

"Pursue, keep up with, circle round and round your life, as dog does his master's chaise. Do what you love. Know your own bone, gnaw at it, bring it, unearth it, and gnaw it still." --Henry David Thoreau

Set goals: Let's face it, goal setting has a bad rap in our culture. It's linked with new year's resolutions, diets, and promises made to our mothers. In other words, hard to follow, easy to break. Another way to fail.

But we all need a measuring stick--a way to check in with ourselves and take honest stock of what we've done and what we plan to do next. A method for taking aim at the person we hope to be someday. Perhaps soon. If you think back on the main accomplishments of your life, they were likely begun with a specific plan and a systematic method that lead to completion. Write down your goals and make them realistic, measurable, and concrete. Commit to big, ambitious, five-year goals and practical, doable goals like cleaning off your desk every night. Once you've committed to your goals post them in places where you'll see them often.

Pay attention: Morley Callaghan once said, "There is only one trait that makes the writer. He is always watching." Let's add listening to Callaghan's statementÑbecause writers constantly have an ear cocked for amusing tidbits, gaffs, straight-to-the-heart truths, and expressions that bring a person into sharp focus.

Life presents endless opportunities for writers. The world brims with interesting people and events, news stories intrigue us with their mysteries and tragedies. Fascinating strangers gossip at the next table, a sad-eyed woman strolls past and we wonder at her obvious sorrow. You hurry through the airport and spot a dozen stories in the lobby, even your fellow passengers' luggage seems to scream a message. It's been said that a writer is someone on whom nothing is lost. Keep your heart, eyes and ears open. Notice, listen, take notes, borrow from brimming life.

Think like a writer: Writers are different from ordinary mortals. They flit through life with their antennae tuned to the moods and marvels of the planet. Like a detective, they're always asking why, searching for answers, for truth. Like children they're tuned into wonder. No matter what genre they choose, like poets charmed by the stark beauty of words. By the thunderclap of a verb. Their heads are full of books. And they simply love to think, tracking their thoughts like a bloodhound on the scent.

So if you count yourselves among this tribe; don't simply plod through your days, don't merely exist, don't just go through the motions. Trace what lies beneath the problems you wrestle with. Question your beliefs. Analyze what you think of greed, dishonesty, adultery. Explore themes that creep into your relationships. Wonder about the people you meet. Ask yourself about where your passions lie. Ask yourself about the roads you never traveled, the risks not taken. Struggle to make sense of your experiences. Write about issues that keep you awake in the middle of the night. Muse over your heartbreaks, betrayals, and disappointments, and of course, savor your triumphs; but then go a step further and put them into words.

Connect to your past: Willa Cather said that most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen. Some of our greatest material can be gleaned through our childhood memories. These memories are the doorway to our authentic writing voice and a rich source of stories and anecdotes. Our childhood memories also stir our emotions, and in turn, strike a chord within our readers. Connecting to your past is a way to meet your younger self and through this child's eyes, to see the world new and render experience through the senses.

Begin by looking a old photos. Make a list of memories; especially noting those that stand out, that still frighten, annoy or make you laugh. Write about your grandparents, siblings, cousins, classmates, and friends. Write about rituals, holidays, landmark events and family vacations. Recall family stories, legends and anecdotes. Recall teachers, landmarks, lonely rooms, favorite hangouts and hideouts. Ask your elderly relatives about the family history. Reread the books that you read as a child. Go back and find your long ago rainbows.

Live a little: This topic brings to mind my life-long




10 Steps to Getting Started

"I often read for an hour or two. Clearing the mind. I'm always reluctant to start work, and reluctant to stop. The most interesting thing about writing is the way that it obliterates time. Three hours seem like three minutes." --Gore Vidal

Set up shop: Ever since Virginia Woolf wrote A Room of One's Own, women have longed for their own space to write in. We need a place all our own, surrounded by reminders of our goals, dreams, and true selves. Behind a closed door, we shut ourselves away from distractions to pursue ideas put to words. If you don't have an office; commando a corner, occupy a makeshift desk, borrow a cubicle at a library. If you share office space with family members, declare official office hours for yourself. Don't make excuses, make plans and create a workspace that calls to you.

Tools of the trade: Writing requires investing in yourself, just as a carpenter buys claw hammers and jigsaws to complete his job, so must a writer. Start with a good dictionary and a copy of The Synonym Finder by J. I. Rodale. Own and study books on grammar and style such as Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale and Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman. Subscribe to Writer's Digest magazine, Writer's Market if you're interested in selling articles, Novel & Short Story Writer's Market if you're writing fiction. Study information at on-line sites and buy books about the techniques in the genre you're working. A neat shelf of reference books is constant reminder that you're a writer, a comfort and inspiration when you're stuck.

Carry a writer's notebook: Always. Record those sudden insights and flashes. Pay attention to weather, recording the first breath of spring or the muffled magic of a snowfall. Write about people, a co-worker who drives you crazy, your high school sweet heart, in-laws and childhood bullies. Write about your memories, beliefs, and questions, but remember this is not a diary. It's a canvass, a safe, deep place to throw words together with Jackson Pollack abandon.

Practice characters sketches, scenes, poems. Write about grief, loss, jealousy. Write about the bugs, creatures, and flowers. Write about how you imagine life in the West of 1800s or England in the Middle Ages. Write about places, worlds far from your own, populated by cowboys, sheiks, philanthropists, gypsies, Arctic explorers, royalty, conquerors, and orphans.

Never go into the world alone, arm yourself as a writer.

Read: Richard Steel once said that reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Most of us came to writing through our love of reading. Reading enchanted us with words, was a vehicle, that carried us far from our everyday world. Return again and again for the voyage. Writers must be constant and omnivorous readers. Never feel guilty about time spent reading because the rhythms and music of language, mysteries of structure and storytelling, will somehow slip into your consciousness as you read.

Stephen King writes, "Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn't, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page."

So while reading, note the point of view, voice, pacing, and fictional structure. Examine how Hemingway's sentences work. Notice the tone and mood that Poe steals into a story to frighten you. Notice how Barbara Kingsolver infuses her love of nature into everything she writes.

Enter the life: Surround yourself with writers. Meet kindred spirits in writing classes, on-line chats, at message boards, bookstores and critique groups. Attend book signings, writing conferences, and workshops. You are not alone, the community of writers awaits you.

Try this: In March we're focusing on voice and style. With this in mind, write a story, scene, a group of letters, or section of a journal in a character's voice completely unlike your own. Perhaps you'll want to write in the voice of Dublin barmaid. The year is 1915, her mum is ailing, and her sweetheart has gone off to war. Or you're traveling with a band of pirates along the Caribbean shores. Or you're a child laborer in Calcutta. A girl living on the prairies like Laura Engels. Or a brave lad about to face the guns of Gettysburg. Think as your character thinks, talk as she talks, write as she writes.

"Pursue, keep up with, circle round and round your life, as dog does his master's chaise. Do what you love. Know your own bone, gnaw at it, bring it, unearth it, and gnaw it still." --Henry David Thoreau

Set goals: Let's face it, goal setting has a bad rap in our culture. It's linked with new year's resolutions, diets, and promises made to our mothers. In other words, hard to follow, easy to break. Another way to fail.

But we all need a measuring stick--a way to check in with ourselves and take honest stock of what we've done and what we plan to do next. A method for taking aim at the person we hope to be someday. Perhaps soon. If you think back on the main accomplishments of your life, they were likely begun with a specific plan and a systematic method that lead to completion. Write down your goals and make them realistic, measurable, and concrete. Commit to big, ambitious, five-year goals and practical, doable goals like cleaning off your desk every night. Once you've committed to your goals post them in places where you'll see them often.

Pay attention: Morley Callaghan once said, "There is only one trait that makes the writer. He is always watching." Let's add listening to Callaghan's statementÑbecause writers constantly have an ear cocked for amusing tidbits, gaffs, straight-to-the-heart truths, and expressions that bring a person into sharp focus.

Life presents endless opportunities for writers. The world brims with interesting people and events, news stories intrigue us with their mysteries and tragedies. Fascinating strangers gossip at the next table, a sad-eyed woman strolls past and we wonder at her obvious sorrow. You hurry through the airport and spot a dozen stories in the lobby, even your fellow passengers' luggage seems to scream a message. It's been said that a writer is someone on whom nothing is lost. Keep your heart, eyes and ears open. Notice, listen, take notes, borrow from brimming life.

Think like a writer: Writers are different from ordinary mortals. They flit through life with their antennae tuned to the moods and marvels of the planet. Like a detective, they're always asking why, searching for answers, for truth. Like children they're tuned into wonder. No matter what genre they choose, like poets charmed by the stark beauty of words. By the thunderclap of a verb. Their heads are full of books. And they simply love to think, tracking their thoughts like a bloodhound on the scent.

So if you count yourselves among this tribe; don't simply plod through your days, don't merely exist, don't just go through the motions. Trace what lies beneath the problems you wrestle with. Question your beliefs. Analyze what you think of greed, dishonesty, adultery. Explore themes that creep into your relationships. Wonder about the people you meet. Ask yourself about where your passions lie. Ask yourself about the roads you never traveled, the risks not taken. Struggle to make sense of your experiences. Write about issues that keep you awake in the middle of the night. Muse over your heartbreaks, betrayals, and disappointments, and of course, savor your triumphs; but then go a step further and put them into words.

Connect to your past: Willa Cather said that most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen. Some of our greatest material can be gleaned through our childhood memories. These memories are the doorway to our authentic writing voice and a rich source of stories and anecdotes. Our childhood memories also stir our emotions, and in turn, strike a chord within our readers. Connecting to your past is a way to meet your younger self and through this child's eyes, to see the world new and render experience through the senses.

Begin by looking a old photos. Make a list of memories; especially noting those that stand out, that still frighten, annoy or make you laugh. Write about your grandparents, siblings, cousins, classmates, and friends. Write about rituals, holidays, landmark events and family vacations. Recall family stories, legends and anecdotes. Recall teachers, landmarks, lonely rooms, favorite hangouts and hideouts. Ask your elderly relatives about the family history. Reread the books that you read as a child. Go back and find your long ago rainbows.


Live a little: This topic brings to mind my life-long desire to utter, "Get thee to a nunnery." I've never encountered the appropriate moment for these words, and this barely qualifies. But sometimes when I meet beginning writers, it seems that they believe that pursuing writing is like taking a religious vow. There seems to be too much emphasis on what we must give up by writing--because obviously all our distractions, hobbies and time wasting idleness, will be changed if we take up the plow of writing. Likely we'll watch less television and chat less on the phone and perhaps not spend as much time shopping than most nonwriters.

But writing is not about retreating or withdrawal. True, there will be many hours spent alone wrestling with words and ideas. But writers need to take in experiences and sensations, so they can in turn, transmit them back to their readers. Writers need to fall in love, with words, with partners, with children, with the sweet feel of spring sunshine on their winter-weary bones. Writers need to garden, and dance and sing even if their voice is more bullfrog than operatic. Writers need to invite friends over for dinner, check out the latest movie, attend theater performances, ballets, concerts, visit museums, clubs, tennis courts and bars. Writers need to sing karaoke, tap dance, fling caution to the winds and wear the lipstick, shoes, blouse that makes them feel irresistible. Writers need to take cruises; ride bicycles; learn Italian; eat sushi, octopus, mangoes; and flirt with exotic types they meet in unexpected place. Writers should mosey through flea markets, browse bookstores and antique shops; take up knitting, or water colors. Writers should try kayaking, white river rafting, climbing a mountain, or downhill skiing. In other words, for goodness sakes, live a little. Or better yet, live a lot. If you never fall in love, how can you write about a lover's spat, or reconciliation, or the annoying habits of your beloved? If you lock yourself away, what will you write about?

©Jessica Page Morrell

Nonfiction Bibliography

Technique:
Creative Nonfiction and Writing a Book That Makes a Difference, Philip Gerard
Writing Personal Essays: How to Shape Your Life Experiences for the Page, Bender
Writing the Memoir, Judith Barrington
Writing From Personal Experience, Nancy Davidoff Kelton
Writing as a Road to Self- Discovery, Barry Lane
Word Painting, Rebecca McClanahan
Writing Dramatic Nonfiction, William Noble
Painted Paragraphs, Donald Newlove
First Paragraphs, Donald Newlove
Writing Articles from the Heart, Marjorie Holmes

How It’s Done:
The Best American Essays, compiled yearly
The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology From the Classical Era to the Present, Philip Lopate, editor
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen
Memoirs, Pablo Neruda
Refuge, Terry Tempest Williams
Essays of E.B. White, E.B. White
The Boys of My Youth, Jo Ann Beard
The Liars Club, Mary Karr
Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt
Naked or Me Talk Pretty Someday, David Saderis
Sleeping in the Starlight Motel, Bailey White
On Keeping a Notebook, Joan Didion
Journal of a Solitude, May Sarton

Resources & Inspiration:
Synonym Finder, J. I. Rodale
Grammatically Correct, Anne Stilman
Sin and Syntax, Constance Hale
The Forest for the Trees, Betsy Lerner
Escaping Into the Open, Elizabeth Berg
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg
The Writing Life, Annie Dillard
Zen and the Writing Life, Peter Mathiessen
If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland
How to Write Attention- Grabbing Query & Cover Letters, John Wood
How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, Michael J. Gelb
Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, Neff, Prues & the editors of Writer’s Market
Living the Writer’s Life, Eric Maisel, Ph.D.
Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury


"I have been looking into schedules. How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends us from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order--willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern."
---Annie Dillard, The Writing Life


Bibliography for Fiction Writers

* The Art of Fiction, John Gardner
* How Fiction Works, Oakley Hall
Creating Character Emotions, Ann Hood
Fiction, The Art and Craft of Getting Published, Michael Seidman
*Dynamic Characters, Nancy Kress
The WriterÕs Guide to Character Trait, Dr. Linda Edelstein
The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing, Evan Marshall
The Complete Guide to Editing Your Fiction, Michael Seidman
*Word Painting, Rebecca McClanahan
Beginnings, Middles and Ends, Nancy Kress
Writing Fiction Step by Step, Josip Novakovich
Fiction Writers Workshop, Josip Novakovich
Elements of the Writing Craft, Robert Olmstead
Get That Novel Started!, Donna Levin
Get That Novel Written!, Donna Levin
Conflict, Action & Suspense, William Noble
Character & Viewpoint, Orson Scott Card
The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery, Robert J. Ray & Jack Remick
Writing the Short Story, Jack M. Bickham
The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes, Jack M Bickham
Writing and Selling Your Novel, Jack M. Bickham
Scene and Structure, Jack M. Bickham
Reference:
***Synonym Finder, J. I. Rodale
*Sin and Syntax, Constance Hale
Your Novel Proposal from Creation to Contract, Blythe Cameson & Marshall J. Cook
***Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, Jack and Glenda Neff, Don Prues and the editors of WriterÕs Market
How to Write Attention-Grabbing Query & Cover Letters, John Wood
On Writing, Stephen King
The Forest for the Trees, Betsy Lerner
Grammatically Correct, Anne Stilman
*Highly recommended

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