Wednesday, August 31, 2011

2nd Novel Jitters

When you’re writing your first novel, there’s no pressure because there are no expectations. But for the second, there is pressure because people know you’re an author and expectations abound. Julie Otsuka @Powell’s Books shares her thoughts on successfully tackling the 2nd book.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thinking in Metaphors: Bloom, McEwan

The Browser, which I had never heard of before this week, conducts a “5 Books Interview” with literary critic Harold Bloom, who offers some hifalutin’ thoughts on literature, criticism, a liberal arts education today, and this little gem about metaphors:

“What Angus Fletcher taught me, and teaches others, is a very complex matter of what it means for thinking to take place in a literary work. It’s the question of how Shakespeare thinks in his plays and sonnets, of how Henry James thinks in his late, intricate work, or of how Emily Dickinson thinks in her extraordinary poems. I've tried to extend Angus Fletcher’s way of looking at the mind as represented in art to the greatest American poet, Walt Whitman, who thinks through metaphors. My real subject, increasingly, is metaphorical thinking – which is how Shakespeare and all poets and novelists and storywriters think.

Constructive Doodles

Booker Prize-winning novelist Ian McEwan, among others, is also given a “5 Books Interview” worth reading:

“Sometimes I experimentally write out a first paragraph – or middle paragraph, even – of a novel which I feel no obligation to write. Those kind of dabblings I always set down in a green, ring-bound A4 notebook. It’s full of paragraphs from novels I will never complete, or hardly start. But sooner or later, one of those paragraphs will snag my attention, and I’ll come back to it asking: why does that interest me so much, why does that seem to offer a peculiar kind of mental freedom? And so I might find myself adding a page or two. It was with a complete free hand, for example, that I once wrote what turned out to be the opening of Atonement – with no clear sense that I was committed to anything at all, I was just playing with narrative positions, with tone of voice, with a certain descriptive moment. Or I might decide that what I’ve written belongs to the middle of a novel, and then I’ll spend some idle time tracing out a beginning. Then abandoning it. It’s a way of tricking myself into writing novels.

The Browser's Literature and Writing sections are definitely worth examining when you get a moment. (Haven't poked through the others sections to offer an opinion, so that's not a back-handed compliment.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Why Poetry Matters

So when it comes to poetry, most of us either love it or hate it. Well... maybe we don't "hate" it, but we just don't "get" it. It doesn't click. Doesn't resonate. We get lost in the metaphors and frightened by the lack of structure.

You've probably sensed from that I'm more of a prose person. I like to think I have an appreciation for both. But just like the American Lit vs Brit Lit (I prefer American) and the Hamlet vs Macbeth (I prefer Hamlet) either-or's, I prefer prose to poetry.

But occasionally I'm reninded of why poetry matters. This was one of those weeks. A friend was showing off a book she just picked up to check out a poet named Czelaw Milosz. Milosz was a Nobel Prize winner in literature after having been part of the Polish underground literary community during the time of World War II.

As my friend was telling me this, I began flipping through this particular volume of his collected poetry and stumbled upon something I'd like to share with you today:

"On Prayer"
You ask me how to pray to someone who is not.
All I know is that prayer constructs a velvet bridge
And walking it we are aloft, as on a springboard,
Above landscapes the color of ripe gold
Transformed by a magic stopping of the sun.
That bridge leads to the shore of Reversal
Where everything is just the opposite and the word 'is'
Unveils a meaning we hardly envisioned.
Notice: I say we; there, every one, separately,
Feels compassion for others entangled in the flesh
And knows that if there is no other shore
We will walk that aerial bridge all the same.

Prayer: a velvet bridge leading to the shore of Reversal. Have you ever thought of it like that? I hope if I'm ever questioned by a nonbeliever, like the speaker of the poem has been, that I can convey it with that much beauty, that I can liken prayer to something so charged and hopeful.

And that's what poetry does and that's why it matters. It's the quilting of words not otherwise 'entangled' to itself weave a bridge leading from our tangible world to others. I hope you find a poem this week that takes you there.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bridging the Gap Between the Arts and Worship

Image Journal offers a web interview with thought-provoking Duke Professor Jeremy Begbie. It's short & worth your perusal.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Words to Live By: Faster!

"There is more to life than increasing its speed." -Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Snapshot: Book Editor Salaries

Galleycat has an interesting take on what Book Editors Earn. The sample is (very) small, but still illuminating, especially if you contrast it against the Comments below it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rick Warren, Atheism, NAYC & More

Sister blog Collideoscope offers some takes on Rick Warren in Europe, whether "fun" should be in fundamentalist or atheism, North American Youth Congress, and other cultural topics.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dilbert, Goethe, and Creativity

Dilbert creator Scott Adams has an interesting take on how boredom leads to superior creativity. Not everyone who comments afterwards agrees, but that doesn’t make the article less relevant.

I would also say that times of great ugliness can create an unexpected climate of creative productivty. I just escaped extended months of ugliness, but was surprised at how the last six weeks of that season was accompanied by an unexpected bonanza of disciplined creativity.

Too often in the past I got bogged down or allowed unhappy circumstances to grind down my writing progress. This time (perhaps because I was so desperate to flee parts of my reality?), it was the opposite. I flew to the laptop at every opportunity to see what my muse would reveal. (Frankly, I was shocked she was showing up so often.) Sometimes time and circumstance would allow me only a paragraph, sometimes it unleashed pages, but at every point my story progressed, producing a great peace within me, probably because it was something that went right as everything around me exploded.

I’m not sure I’d choose to continue that combination of progress through explosions, but I suddenly understand how Goethe (family man, lawyer, politician) could write despite too many responsibilities. It was yet another lesson to be learned through creating. I’m sure there are so many more.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

TV Shortens Your Life.... go read a book!

A new study says watching TV over the age of TV can cut up to 5 years off your life! Wow.

Researchers believe it's probably due to activities related to television (overeating, lack of exercise) than the actual TV itself, but it's still worth investigating.

Other studies have shown mentally curious people who read daily are less likely to get Alzheimer's, than those who don't, so here's yet another reason to ignore the plasma screens and pull a classic off the shelf!

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Snagged Mine on Saturday

If you haven't perused the most interesting part of every contemporary bookstore - the magazine section - then you might have missed The Atlantic Monthly's 2011 fiction issue. It's always a mix of new and established writers, often covering issues of faith.

For a snapshot of current short fiction, I find this the most reliable available. (Maybe because The New Yorker too often relies on established writers sticking to the famed New Yorker style, while The Atlantic Monthly has no such limitations.

Or check it out on The Atlantic's site.

Friday, August 12, 2011

London Rioters Ignore Bookstores

Another sign of the Apocalypse: the UK rioters hit every type of store possible - except bookstores.

Maybe that proves the rioters weren't Pentecostal..?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Words to Live By: Creating Your Future

"Goals are the way we time travel into the future that we want. You can drift, or set goals and get to where you want to be." -Kennon Sheldon, professor of psychological sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia.

So what type of future do you want to live in every day?

If it's writing related, then it will include writing daily, creating an adequate support group for your efforts (local or via the internet), sources of inspiration, moving out of your comfort zone to attend local author visits and writing conferences, reading author interviews for tips, and finding internet sources for regular feedings.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Words to Live By: Circumstances

"People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them." -
George Bernard Shaw

So what do you want your circumstances to be soon? Whatever it is, I guarantee it will push you out of your comfort zone to achieve it!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Appendix A: Favorite Summer Reads

Despite the sun setting on Summer 2011, Maud Newton (whose thoughts are not to be missed) & others of note share their favorite Summer reads.

I'm wracking my brains as to what I would include in this list (most of which I've never even heard of, much less read), and so far have come up with nothing.

Do you have a suggestion to add?

Friday, August 5, 2011

FFW: It's All About the Awards

The latest on the "shouldn't-be-missed" Festival of Faith & Writing at our sister site Collideoscope.
If you're wanting your writing to include Christian themes, then follow FFW.