Grow the heart

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Stuff worth reading

“Flexibility and Strength” by Casey Blair

The more I level up, the greater narrative control I need, the stronger I need my vision to be for what my story really is at its core. There will always be people who wish for something different from a story. In the end, though, if I’m the author, the onus is on me to make sure I’m writing my story, the way I think is right. And the ability to do that is a skill, and also, I think, a form of artistic strength.

“Inherit the Word” by Annie Liontas

I was raised to understand work as having direct and immediate impact, and the truth about writing is that it takes decades, sometimes longer, before you can collect your harvest. A life of writing is and is not a privilege; it is and is not a luxury to do this work in the darkness. Lately, I have been trying to tell myself that an honest day’s work for me means achieving honesty on the page, in planting something that may in time offer nourishment to someone.

“On Editing” by Karen Outen

The way that we serve our stories best in revision is in that spirit of expectation, wonder, and, yes, enough fear and trembling to invite the unexpected.

“All In” by Benjamin Percy

The writer is always a careful observer, but if you are constantly evacuating your imagination, your eyes and ears grow even sharper, and you lean forward with hunger for every experience, knowing that it will offer up a card to add to your hand.

This is, after all, a gambler’s trade. All in. Always.

“Scraps” by Trevor Crown

It’s this: don’t be too proud or pure to take scraps. … By all means, let bad work burn, but occasionally try to rescue a salvageable page or two from seven you cringe to recall.

“Mozart Had a Mother-in-Law” by Taiyaba Husain

I’ve been gorgeously funded, and I’ve lived in a two-room windowless apartment above an electrical shop. In each situation, I’ve found it difficult to do the work. Distractions and worries abound. … What inspires me in these moments is knowing that I am part of a fellowship of admirable, stubborn people who face the same challenges I do.

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Promise

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Kitchen moments

My mother showing me how to peel a cucumber, slice it in half long-wise, and scoop out the insides with a spoon.

My señora filling a bowl with fresh cherries from the market, swirling them in water, massaging them clean.

Plates stacked high around the sink, empty wine goblets and juice glasses, the remnants of Thanksgiving waiting to be boxed up for next week’s leftovers.

A tray of chocolate chip cookies warm out of the oven, and the boy who liked me eagerly sampling one and proclaiming it delicious. (Only later would I discover that I had mixed up baking powder and baking soda, turning the cookies to rocks within the hour.)

Two friends and I back from college, eager to play adult, preparing a meal for one of their families, laughing and chatting while the radio sings softly in the background.

Alone at my aunt and uncle’s house, with a glass of orange juice and handful of Hershey’s Kisses beside me, laptop flashing a blank screen, deadline looming for my sophomore fiction class.

Baking banana chocolate chip bread for the first time, nervously following the recipe (double-checking baking powder versus baking soda!), and marveling at the magnificent treat I made all by myself.

Baking banana chocolate chip bread for the third time, realizing I am missing a few ingredients, and improvising with a bottle of Sprite.

Sitting on the wobbly wicker stool while my mom cooks dinner, steam rising in the air, oil sizzling in the pan.

Peeling a cucumber, or filling a bowl with cherries, or watching my husband bake mini key lime pies for a work event, and imagining the kitchen moments my future children will remember, the images and feelings that will come unbidden to them during the smallest of daily tasks, even so many years later.

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Stuff worth reading

“In Defense of the Struggle” by Meg Fee

The thing about struggle, is that it inversely affects entitlement. It engenders gratitude and increases value. It gives shape and provides context. And yet we live in this culture that espouses ease and convenience above all else.

“Idea Debt” by Jessica Abel

Idea Debt is when you spend too much time picturing what a project is going to be like, too much time thinking about how awesome it will be to have this thing done and in the world, too much time imagining how cool you will look, how in demand you’ll be, how much money you’ll make. And way too little time actually making the thing.

“Ten Warnings About the Small Children You May One Day Have” by Chuck Wendig

I appear before you now: a specter haunted by the realities of life with a tiny human. Some of you are thinking of having children. Some of you are already on your way to having them, or have children who are not just small, but very tiny, and those tiny immobilized larvae will one day soon grow up. You’re not ready. I wasn’t ready.

But I am here to prepare you.

“What Makes Fiction Literary: Scenes Versus Postcards” by Donald Maass

One thing we’re talking about is the difference between scenes and what I call postcards. What are the building blocks of a novel? The term “scenes” is most often used, but that is imprecise. Scenes, summary and postcards are three different ways to shape the discrete blocks of narration that build a novel. These blocks are arranged either in strict chronological order, or in some other pattern, which taken together tell a story.

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