Category: Reading/Writing (Page 1 of 81)

Stuff worth reading

“The Curious Border Between Fiction and Nonfiction” by Nelli Hermann

It is a natural part of the writing and reading process, to feel curious about the veils of a work of fiction, perhaps because the creation of a book is such a private and solitary process, and in so many ways is simply irretrievable—a writer can so very rarely specify exactly what was going on for him or her when s/he was writing a particular passage or scene. This is part of why the fun of writing and reading never goes away, because you can just never get to the bottom of it.

“The Gift of Research” by Abby Geni

In the end, of course, it is my own story I tell, as all writers do. I discover mine by traveling away from myself. In reaching for the unknown—in that middle realm, somewhere between what I understand and what I have never before imagined—I feel the spark of inspiration begin to glow.

“Terry McMillan: By the Book” (New York Times feature)

Reading a good novel can have the same effect as a self-help book because I gain more insight, empathy and respect for how others not just survive, but thrive, which is empowering.

“On Making Good with your Ghosts” by Erin Rose Belair

My stories come from little obsessions, ghosts that won’t leave me alone… I used to think stories had to come from some higher order, some grand tale. But I only started writing stories when I learned how to make peace with those ghosts, when I learned how to listen to what I was already telling myself.

The vein of strangeness running through you might very well be the best thing about your writing.

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The Night Of — spoiler-free musings on pacing and promises

the-night-of-hbo-banner

Are any of you watching this show? Andy and I have seen 4 episodes — out of the 6 that have aired and the 8 that are planned — and I have thoughts.

First and foremost, there’s no question that the show is well-made. In particular, the acting, cinematography, and music are top-notch. I really love the intro/credit sequence.

In spite of the high quality, I find myself frustrated, and uncertain whether or not to commit to watching the rest. Mostly it’s an issue of pacing and promises.

See, the show is called The Night Of. It’s about a murder. (Sort of.) In the first episode, we see the chain of events surrounding that murder, and we meet our main characters — namely, the suspect and his lawyer. All of this sets the tone, sets our expectations. The title and the pilot episode say, very clearly, “Mystery.” 

However, the show is not actually about whodunnit. It’s just barely a mystery. It’s really about the criminal justice system. In fact, the original UK series was called just that: Criminal Justice. Not as sexy of a title — which is surely why HBO changed it for US viewers — but more straightforward and accurate. The story is a vehicle for exposing the contradictions, flaws, and dirty little secrets within our legal system. That’s all very compelling, but it’s not what I was promised.

Edit to add: Oh, I didn’t even mention my issue with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who captivates our “hero,” lures him to doom, and then dies, leaving us with basically no prominent female characters… #fridged for #manpain #sigh

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PLACES I STOPPED ON THE WAY HOME by Meg Fee

Places I Stopped On The Way HomeI link to Meg Fee’s blog occasionally, but I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned her ebook. It’s a short collection of essays about life and love in her 20s in New York City. It’s about home — leaving it, seeking it, creating it. Some of the essays started as blog posts on her site; some are brand new. All were thought-provoking and enjoyable to me.

A few notes from my reading:

“The female doesn’t want a rich or a handsome man or even a poet, she wants a man who understands her eyes if she gets sad, and points to his chest and says: Here is your home country.” – Nizar Qabbani

Those aren’t Meg’s own words, obviously, but it’s a good thesis, so to speak, for everything that Meg does say. And the qualities that she’s seeking in love and in a partner? I have them, with Andy.

I’m not sure how I got so lucky — between him and my parents — but I know what a difference it has made in my life.

The best people I know are comfortable with failure, willing to hang out in discomfort. They aren’t interested in looking cool or terribly concerned with fitting in. They understand the value of listening and are willing to apologize and admit wrong. They are engaged in the very active thing that is fighting for the life you want, and fighting for the love you think you deserve. And at the end of the day, when asked what they bring to the table, they know the answer.

This is the type of person I strive to be. Some days I succeed, some days I don’t. But hopefully the don’t days are getting fewer and farther between.

Occasionally I am rendered breathless by how much there is to look forward to.

I probably cry an average of once a day about something terrible that has happened in the world. And I worry. And I rage. But in spite of everything, there is still hope, joy, goodness, and endless possibility. That’s what we live for. That’s the how and the why. That’s everything.

And now, many months after I originally read and saved Meg’s words, that’s what I feel when I place a hand on my growing belly, and my baby girl moves inside me.

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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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How a story starts

“What Form It Will Take” by Roxana Robinson

I start out with a particular moment that I find troubling, or compelling, or devastating. Sometimes it’s a moment that I’ve been part of; sometimes it’s something that I’ve watched happen; sometimes it’s something I’ve heard about. That moment itself is always drawn from life; it’s always a moment that I find deeply disturbing. If it’s powerful enough, then I need to write about it.

My task then is to write a narrative that will make that moment become as powerful for you, the reader, as it was for me, the writer. I must describe a landscape, introduce characters, and create the action as it unfolds, but all of this is directed toward the creation of that last vivid moment—difficult and breathtaking—that I found so compelling.

This is often how it starts for me as well. Not always, but often.

It’s like the eye of a storm. Everything else can swirl around in chaos — characters, setting, plot points, language. It can all be thrown about, changed, destroyed. But what’s at the center, that emotional core, that’s where you as the writer have to stand and stay and make your home. That’s where you have to bring the reader. Into the heart of it all.

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