Monday, April 30, 2012

Storytellers or Authors?

"Only mediocrity can be trusted to be always at its best. Genius must always have lapses proportionate to its triumphs." -Max Beerbohm

Is it fair to say that most authors who crank out a book every year (or more) are mediocrities and our best authors only deliver a book once every few years? Or are those annual authors actually "storytellers" who fill our mind with wonder over a short period, while "authors" feed our soul forever?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Got a book you need to publicize? Here are great instructions on how to create your own "Do It Yourself Book Tour." The source is "Writer's Ask," a solid source of writing insight culled from endless interviews with published, often famous, writers that is sorted by topic. All of my copies are highlighted all over.

"Writer's Ask" is worth subscribing to if you want to deepen your writing skillset.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Put Yourself in the Classics!

Want to be the one falling in love with Mr. Darcy? Want to have your nephew duel wits with Long John Silver? Want to solve that dastardly murder with that mysterious Baskerville hound? For a unique gift, put yourself and your family or friends into a classic novel!

It sounds like a great gift to me.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Science Says "Read Fiction!"

Mysteriously, reading somehow rewires the brain into something better the more you read. This is one of the reasons to mourn the lack of reading in today's society. As the New York Times illuminates in a synopsis of neuroscience considering, "Your Brain on Fiction." For instance:

". . . individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective. This relationship persisted even after the researchers accounted for the possibility that more empathetic individuals might prefer reading novels. A 2010 study by Dr. Mar found a similar result in preschool-age children: the more stories they had read to them, the keener their theory of mind . . ."

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Fork on the Page

Strangeness. Have you ever been writing a story you know you're making progress on and keep getting nagged with solid ideas for another story? Sometimes this happens to me when I'm stuck in the primary story or I'm scared (perhaps not even admitting the fear to myself) where to go next, so it's easier to pursue another (underdeveloped) story where everything is still in the infatuation stage of perfection. That make sense to me.

This doesn't.

At present I'm working through a fun, extended scene of a first date where romantic magic & mischief intertwine -- and I'm being cascaded with whole swaths of dialogue & character insights & interesting settings from a (probable) short story. It's maddening, because it keeps drawing me away from my primary. It's also maddening because -- forgive my self-confidence here -- a lot of these distractions are pretty solid and some of it's quite good.

I have too many distractions from writing as it is. Getting distracted by my own imagination is unbearable!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Food for Thought: Portraying Motives

The value of reading cultural criticism is you can learn to perfect your craft by reading the criticism of others. From The New Yorker:

"It’s Mad Men’s neatest trick: By letting a character’s motives bubble beneath behavior, rarely expressed out loud, the show has maintained an air of perverse, contradictory realism. Story developments that seem out of the blue make sense only in retrospect, sometimes years down the line."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Steven Johnson: What is the Space for Creativity?

In his Ted Talk, Steven Johnson offers some fascinating insights into how certain spaces encourage creativity--and better ideas. After all, as he says, an idea is a network, not a single thing.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Food for Thought: Talent vs. Character

"Talent develops in tranquility, character in the full current of human life." -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Friday, April 13, 2012

The "Mysterious Strengths" of the Novel

One great reason to read literary criticism is that often the writer fills you in on a specific author, their major works, and then adds some nifty insights into the writing process as well. Jonathan Franzen does this in the New Yorker (Febraury 13 & 20, 2012 edition) on Edith Wharton. It's not the best criticism/literary article I've ever read, but there are some great insights on the novel and fiction writing, for instance:

"One of the mysterious strengths of the novel as an art form, from Balzac forward, is how readily readers connect with the financial anxieties of fictional characters . . . Money, in novels, is such a potent reality principle that the need for it can override even our wish for a character to live happily ever after, and Wharton, throughout the book (The House of Mirth), applies the principle with characteristic relentlessness, tightening the financial screws on Lily as if the author were in league with nature at its most unforgiving."

And this:

"But sympathy in novels need not be simply a matter of the reader’s direct identification with a fictional character. It can also be driven by, say, my admiration of a character who is long on virtues I am short on (the moral courage of Atticus Finch, the limpid goodness of Alyosha Karamazov), or, most interestingly, by my wish to be a character who is unlike me in ways I don’t admire or even like. One of the great perplexities of fiction–and the quality that makes the novel the quintessentially liberal art for–is that we experience sympathy so readily for characters we wouldn’t like in real life. Becky Sharp may be a soulless social climber, Tom Ripley may be a sociopath, the Jackal may want to assassinate the French President, Mickey Sabbath may be a disgustingly self-involved old goat, and Raskolnikov may want to get away with murder, but I find myself rooting for each of them. This is sometimes, no doubt, a function of the lure of the forbidden, the guilty pleasure of imagining what it would be like to be unburdened by scruples. In every case, though, the alchemical agent by which fiction transmutes my secret envy or my ordinary dislike of “bad” people into sympathy is desire. Apparently, all a novelist has to do is give a character a powerful desire (to rise socially, to get away with murder) and I, as a reader, become helpless to make that desire my own."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Top 100 Fantasy & Sci Fi Novels

Let's give NPR credit for revealing a fascinating list of high brow and low brow titles that almost everyone has to admire. If you're mulling over your Summer Reading List, this is a good place to start.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hemingway: Author or Brand?

Slate magazine ran a great piece (with new angles and insights, who would've thought it possible?) on Papa.  Solid criticism like this:

“His work of this period connects with our animal habits of consciousness. And the struggle it brings to the foreground is the struggle to make sense of—to find a line of narrative through—this disordered experience. Hemingway’s insight was to understand that this struggle was not just a literary one. It’s a fundamental part of how people themselves perceive and try to make sense of the world.”

Definitely worth your time.

Also, Hemingway does a book trailer - and tells us how much profit he'll be receiving out of the $3 per book price:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chip Kidd @ TED: The Story Looks Like This

Chip Kidd, the preeminent book designer in the business today, offers his thought on how to entice people to buy the books he designs at a recent TED talk.  A fascinating take on Jurassic Park, Haruki Murakami, and two old movie stars, among others.


Monday, April 9, 2012

John Grisham's Favorite Mistake

Yep, he gave away multiple thousands of dollars worth of first editions away without realizing it. Real all about it here!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Poetry: How Great is Our God?

“How Great is our God” is the song that we sing
As we bring this thing call worshiping as our praises wing
Their way to the throne of grace which pervades both light and space.
No word evades when He invades the place to taste our praise
But how much do we really know about God?
We nod in response to the preacher’s rod,
And when he makes a good point we all applaud!

But how great is our God? That’s the question.
Well, first I should mention His suspension
Of His condemnation for us in our sinful station;
We’re free from sin, but death still has us on probation
Did we miss the orientation on what it means to praise Him?
Not just words, a lifestyle should be our life’s ovation.

Secondly His creation of us with the formation of our brains
To generate great information.
How about the fact that He placed us in this nation
With freedom to praise Him without fear of segregation?

God is good to us. He gave food to us, He’s never rude to us
And He took the punishment due to us on Himself in lieu of us.
God is always true to us, but all this truth shouldn’t be new to us.

Here’s the point, let me clarify, because if I don’t really try
To tell you why we should shout His praises out to the sky
Then you will listen and maybe cry, but let these words pass on by continuing to fly
Blind, not knowing why we praise Adonai the most high.
So let’s take an example from the seraphims in the praises that we share for Him,
Singing “Holy!” worshiping Him, just like we worship in psalms and hymns.
Check it out in Isaiah 6 and once again in Revelation 4:
We can see them singing “Holy!” just because He’s the eternal LORD.
Psalms 7 verse 17, we see a command to praise the king
Just because of His righteousness, not because He gives us things.
The Maker of all the universe, the Creator of everything on earth
Is a righteous, holy God Who was manifest in a virgin birth
To save us from death’s curse; that’s what gives His name worth.
We owe Him, it’s not reversed; He beat sin to remove the curse;
We should’ve died, we deserved a hearse, but He stretched His arms wide to save the earth.

That’s the God that I praise; Do understand now why I raise my hands
And say “Worthy is the Lamb!” I can’t stay still, I have to stand and worship the great Jehovah-Olam:
Everlasting God, He stays the same. Do you comprehend now why I praise His name?

So because of Christ’s purchase of my worthlessness and purposelessness;
In return I got assurance of an eternal insurance
So I worship to honor and give furtherance to His holy purpose
And my actions every Sunday service are not just a show, like a circus
But a response to Christ goodness; that’s why I worship.

Submitted by college student Johnnie Peyton.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Have You Entered the Kill Zone?

If you're looking for a solid blog for thriller and mystery writers, you can't do much better than The Kill Zone, which features James Scott Bell, Nancy Cohen, Kathleen Pickering, Joe Moore, and several others.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Flash Mob? No, a Book Mob!

The St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance is reinventing the (now dated) Flash Mob concept by hosting a Book Mob on World Book Night, April 23, 2012. Yep, expect a group of readers to appear beneath the Arch that day with a favorite book.

What a great way to have fun and encourage reading! More details here.