Writer’s, Society, & the Human Condition

A writer without interest or sympathy for the foibles of his fellow man is not conceivable as a writer. ~Joseph Conrad

ww1Reading and writing are collaborations. When you read someone you truly love, their writing reaches your innermost self. You’re soulmates. ~Gina Berriault

I often imagine God laughing and slapping His knee as He watches our antics. The Human Condition — our foibles and predilections — those things that make us unique among all other creatures of the earth. We are a comical group of creatures, taken as a whole, and I believe there is more joy than sadness to most lives. So, God being outside the boundaries of time, able to see the years of our existence without limitation, must find us a comedic riot.

I believe He finds writer’s an especially interesting and hilarious group because we so often forget we are human. We berate ourselves and expect the impossible: constant perfection, endless mental energy, and resolute daily writing performance. We forget that writing is a part of us, our social lives, and the world around us. We fall prey to an ill-conceived Ayn Rand vision that I call the Writer-as-Superman-Delusion.

I’ve been pondering this delusional tendency among writer’s since reading the book, The Tea Ceremony: The Uncollected Writings of Gina Berriault, several months ago. In, Don’t I Know You, an interview between Berriault and Bonnie Lyons and Bill Oliver, Berriault is asked a question that touches on the ebb and flow in a writer’s creative output. In this instance, it is the interviewer presupposing the Writer-as-Superman-Delusion:

In your career there’s a big gap between The Son and The Infinite Passion of Expectation. Why?

That’s a question that should never be asked. It opens a wound. What can a writer say about the gaps and silence? The question can’t be answered because the answer involves the circumstances of a lifetime and the condition of the psyche at one time or another. How can a writer possibly answer it without the shame of pleading for understanding of one’s confusions and limitations and fears? You call it a gap, but that’s the time between publications. There is no measurable gap. I roomnever ceased writing….

This is a hauntingly sad and beautiful response to me. Berriault is raw and open in this passage. The wound red and bleeding. We feel the wince. That split-second of dismay as she tries to explain the inexplicable.

Perhaps she was thinking the gaps and silences are where life happens, where the struggle manifests from thought into expression. Or, she may have wondered whether to answer honestly and openly, as she did, or provide a more socially-acceptable response. After all, the mentally disturbed-obsessed writer locked in a room creating his masterpiece is a very popular stereotype!

The more accurate truth about writer’s is that most are normal human beings. A fact wonderfully explored by Daniel Wallace in the post Writing Cycles, Writing Funks on The Incompetent Writer blog. Wallace delves into the normalcy of a writer’s life. His post explores the “artistic well” of creative energy and the “flows of energy and strength” that a writer experiences. I love the truth exposed when he repeats a discussion with author Michelene Wandor, in which she tells him:

…writing is supposed to be a social activity. It’s supposed to have a social function, too–a wider purpose. …writing is supposed to be like everything else, with a rhythm and flow. It’s supposed to interact with life as well as, at times, require a retreat from it.

She makes a vivid and insightful point: writing is life, and not, life is writing. There are no magic Oracles ww2speaking words into the writer’s ear. There is only existence in time and place. The daily life experience of people interacting with other people. Writing occurs within the social context not outside of it.

Could Hemingway be our Hemingway without his experiences and participation in the Spanish Civil War and WWII? Does one imagine Dostoevsky separate from the people, the landscape, and the experiences of Russia? Can one picture Voltaire apart from France? Could Richard Wright give birth to Native Son anyplace other than American soil?

While it is true that writers spend vast amounts of time alone working on their art, it is just as true that these same artists spend time in the world among others enjoying, observing, and participating in life as a whole.

The Writer-as-Superman-Delusion is an illusive dreamscape from which we must wake. Writer’s are simply human beings living and speaking. We mirror our place in world history, we capture the culture of the moment to help understand it in the now and to preserve it for future generations. They will know us through the words we leave behind. And, as Berriault says, in us the future may find a soulmate in the past.yes3

 

 

 

Time, Hackers, Projects & Watching

I’m late to the party. It’s been a busy few months.  Time is always my scarcest commodity. I sit down to write today and notice the calendar on my wall is still on January. Ooops!

I’m four months into the new year before starting the traditional New Year blog entry. Okay then, make the best of it. I’ll start a unique tradition of writing my New Year post in April, after having given myself a few months to see how the new year is working out!

Thoughts on a New Year

new yearI don’t do resolutions. I’ve never been very good at them – so it seems ridiculous to set myself up for failure in that way. The popular weight loss/diet objectives are lost on me. I know myself better than that!

The other cliché self-delusions drop to the side and disappear as well – no get-rich-quick schemes, no rearranging my personality, and I’m certainly not going to promise to be nicer to others or better at anything!

Marking time is a way for us to analyze and understand ourselves and our world. The New Year, like a birthday or wedding anniversary, can be a time to celebrate where we are, the gains we’ve made; or it can be a time of sadness, marking the loss of others from our lives or the promise of potential we failed to fulfill or attain. It’s a ritual we love. A way of considering who we’ve been and where we’re going.

So, here’s my takeaway:  I’m satisfied with last year and ready for the remainder of this year. Here’s to a new chapter in the book of me that is still being written. Happy Belated New Year!

A Plague of Hackers

Hackers, who I’m convinced are either the evil Jinn of legend or demons from the pits of Hell, have plagued me relentlessly this year. My Yahoo and WordPress accounts are inundated with Acacia Berry Ad emails or other such nonsense with links that friends, coworkers and readers inadvertently open. So, a note to all, I Will NEVER send you links in an email or post a post with ONLY a link. These high-jinks are the work of evil invaders! Beware and do not open or follow!

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I’m fighting this horde of evil attackers as best I know how. My accounts have so many levels of protection that I need a notebook filled with directions to use them!

Several friends have mentioned the linking of various social media accounts as an entry point for the evil Jinn. Others say certain astrological signs predestines one to attack! There are tons of crazy theories out there too! Me? I’m simpler than that, I’m here to use the technology not to spend all my time chasing down the forces of evil.

So, I’m hopeful we’ll soon assign this problem to some of our greater minds for the solving. You know, the same guys who figured out how to kill the zombies. Maybe in the near future we’ll be able to buy a Demon-destroying Hacker Survival Kit. With luck, it might be on the market by the end of the year!

Projects Public and Private

A writer works on projects both public and private.

The Blog is a public project – ideally, a straight-from-the-gut type of endeavor that gains a readership due to style and quirkiness as much as content.

Professional Bloggers may disagree with me, along with those in the business and marketing communities, because they see the Blog as the newest, most powerful form of written media in the modern world. They are entitled to that belief. However, as an old fashioned journalistic writer, I see the Blog as a different entity – one as much about style and positioning as content and relevance. It is immediate, live in real-time, and Public by nature.

Literary or images (16)journalistic work – such as short stories, essays, memoirs, and novels – are by necessity private projects, requiring hours of alone-time staring out windows and writing three sentences a day for months on end.

A good window is well-known to be the number one requirement for a successful writer. Mental illness, alcoholism, and creativity are always fighting for their places in the kingdom hierarchy (and it’s anyone’s guess which of them wins on a given day), but the window is always the King.

I’ve spent the past eighteen months in front of my window working on those private projects. Writing, crafting, editing, re-writing pieces for publication. It is a consummation that continues and makes me realize the need to apologize to my blog readers – forgive me this time I must take away from public writing.

Thank you for continuing to read when I do post – I will try to write a few more pithy, remarkable pieces for your amusement as time permits!

warningWarning! Writer at work! Periods of delirium and a general withdrawal from human interaction may occur.

 

Watching: It’s What Writers Do

I have a new GSM at work who is delightful and funny. (He’s also intelligent and witty…ahem, in case you’re reading this Charles!)

He prides himself on accurately “reading” people and has mentioned this skill several times.  Of course, always a good sport, I felt it necessary to test his abilities.

I asked him last week to share his impressions of me. There were some interesting revelations, but the primary thing he said that struck a chord was that I enjoy 55“watching.”

It was a profound observation because on my “day job” I perform in a vibrant, peacock stage personae. The Colleen of the sales floor a very different person from the Marissa of my writing career. Score a solid point for Charles! Most people are blinded by the false eyes on the feathers and miss the deeper truth of who I am as a complete person!

I cannot remember a time before watching was central to my character. I watch and listen and pay attention to everything. It’s what I did before I ever understood that it’s what writer’s do. It’s one of those “things” that makes a writer different. I believe it might be the most integral and important skill to develop as a writer.

Language, mannerisms, movement — all are necessary elements of story. And all writing is in some sense story. Consider the trend in recent years toward “Creative Nonfiction” in the journalistic realm. Even our news stories are STORIES! We want a little back story, some dramatization of events, and some quirky personal details with our news now, Thank You.

The man burglarized an apartment and stole a necklace, but was quickly arrested by police no longer satisfies our hunger for story.

Instead:

The young man with biker tattoos on his left arm, a sleeve of skulls and roses, stalked the Burrows house for three hours before finally making his move. He pulled the heavy rock from the bag, smashed the picture window in the living room to bits, then crawled inside, snagging his jeans on the ragged glass. The pearl necklace, Mrs. Burrows most prized relic from a long-dead grandmother, was on top of the cherry chest. The culprit snatched it up and ran down the hall and out the back door. He was apprehended a block away by police. A concerned neighbor wburg2ho heard the glass break dialed 911 and reported the incident just in time.

Now that, folks, is news the way we want to read it! We no longer want reporters who reports the facts. Rather, we want writers who make the facts interesting by way of story techniques. This requires the skill of watching, the ability to see the most minute of details, and then the further ability to transfer what was seen by the writers eyes and imprinted in his brain to the reader.

A Writer learns as a child does – by mimicry. A tone or dialect is heard, sounded out, memorized, and then recreated. The details of a scene – the type and location of a tattoo, the style of clothes someone wears, a particular twitch or movement – are noticed, memorized, recreated. The nuances of everyday life, people, and culture are captured and frozen on the page for others to share.

imagesCAW3R9U1

Isn’t it amazing how our eyes watching become the seeing eyes of another?

Isn’t it wonderful that we are able to capture the world inside and outside of ourselves through words. Then, share that with other people regardless of time and place. How very beautiful is the eternal.

Happy Writing, Happy Living… Marissa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ getting yanked from some library shelves

I’ll never accept or agree with banning (burning) books. What I read is MY CHOICE – parents can prevent children from reading inappropriate materials, but “banning” in any fashion is government control over our freedoms (what few remain?)…

 

 

E L James’ kinky bondage-themed Fifty Shades trilogy is still finding a massive audience — the three books currently occupy the top spots on The New York Times best-seller list — but if you live in Wisconsin, Georgia, or Florida, you might have a harder time finding the titles in public libraries. Counties in those states, including Brevard County in Florida and Gwinnett County in Georgia, have pulled the “mommy porn” books from its libraries, deeming them “too steamy or too poorly written,” according to the AP. Other states and areas are expected to follow suit.

My Five Favorite Blogs of 2012

February is a month dedicated to love. The month we seek out a valentine of our very own, a like-soul with whom we can share joy, hope, and happiness. This celebration of love makes February a perfect month to do a post about things I love. Or, more specifically, the top five blogs that I love. It’s with that concept in mind that I give you My Five Favorite Blogs of 2012 post.

I spend many hours each month reading blogs on a variety of topics from all over the web. Oftentimes it amounts to over a hundred different blogs in a month. Some I read occasionally, but others become a ritual for me (like the morning coffee and daily newspaper). The five blogs below are just a few of the great blogs out there, but they are a part of my “ritual reading” due to their quality and my enjoyment. I like these writers and the stories or information they share.

These blogs are specifically notable because of their high-quality writing and their interesting and refreshing approach to topics. My favorites selection was based on the following criteria:

  • Vibrancy and consistency of voice;
  • Adherence to expectations of theme;
  • Lovely, crafted writing; and
  • Stimulating and/or diverse content.

I hope you’ll take the time to visit these blogs and sample the writing. And, if you’d like, please feel free to share some favorite blogs of your own in the comments section below!

1. 101 Books http://101books.net Author, Robert BruceI’ve been reading Robert’s blog for over a year and am always happy to see his newest post arrive in my Inbox. Simply put, he’s on a mission to read the books off a Time Magazine list (see his description below) and the readers of his blog are involved in an interactive journey with him. 101 Books is a great blog that explores literature in the here-and-now, with direct audience feedback, rolling conversations, and extra fun “tidbit” posts along the way. Robert introduces himself and his journey on his About page:

My name is Robert Bruce, and I’m a 35-year-old full-time writer and former English major who loves to read. I currently live in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m going to read all 100 of Time Magazine‘s greatest English-speaking novels since 1923 (plus Ulysses). I don’t know how long it will take. After all, I’m married, I have a ten-month-old, and I like to train for marathons. But hopefully I’ll get through this list before my eyesight goes bad and the interwebs stop working.

Robert has a friendly, non-assuming guy-next-door quality to his writing that I love. It’s obvious that he’s a literate person, but he never hits his readers on the head with who he is; rather, the reader comes to know him through the warm conversational tone of his posts. He’s a guy you like and trust almost immediately. He’s just a normal guy writing about books he loves (or doesn’t) with a warm, friendly tone:

You might’ve guessed at some point that I’m a white guy. Maybe not. But, yeah, I’m a white guy.

I was born in 1976, when race relations in the U.S. were somewhat improving—at least in the sense that we were past the days of segregation and overt hostility. So when I read about some of the things African-Americans faced in the early part of the 20th century, it’s a real eye-opener for me.

That’s what I love about literature—it has a way of giving you a sense of time and place through the eyes of a character who is experiencing it all firsthand. Richard Wright’s Native Son does that brilliantly. I believe To Kill A Mockingbirdand Go Tell It On Mountain are other great examples of this type of novel.( from http://101books.net/2012/02/21/bigger-thomas-growing-up-in-a-white-world/).

His reviews are well-written – containing relevant, striking excerpts from the texts – and can be emotionally and culturally challenging. I was impressed by his posts about David Foster Wallace to the point of buying and reading Infinite Jest and The Pale King for myself.

Robert offers a little of everything to his readers at 101 Books, using the books and their authors as a backdrop for deeper cultural conversation. The blog serves as a platform for discussion of such topics as literature (as expected), cultural mores, racial relationships in the South, current political issues, et cetera. The blog, 101 Books, by Robert Bruce takes my #1 favorite blog slot for 2012.

 

2. NARRATIVE http://richardgilbert.me Author, Richard Gilbert. There was a sheep farmer from… and so starts the unique quality of NARRATIVE. Its author, Richard Gilbert, did own a sheep farm and is a talented and diverse individual as his Bio explains:

I’m a memoirist, essayist, and journalist whose writing has appeared in Orion, Fourth Genre, Chautauqua, Farming: People, Land, Community and other publications. Two of my memoir essays can be read on line, “Kathy” at Brevityand “My Father’s Tractor” at SNReview. Memoir (and) offers the opening of  “Remembering Paul,” about my helper on our sheep farm in Appalachian Ohio, the complete text of which is available on Scribd. Also on Scribd is my Pushcart-nominated Chautauqua essay “A Dry Year,” about rebuilding a pond during a summer of Biblical plagues—heat, drought, locusts, storm—with a legendary excavator who carried a tragic secret.

I operated a sheep farm for ten years, and for those really interested in animal husbandry, Sheep Canada published my essay on the history of selective livestock breeding, “From Bakewell to BLUP”; the Google reader version of part one is here.

I worked in newspapers and university press book publishing, each for more than a decade, was a Kiplinger fellow in journalism at Ohio State, and earned an MFA in creative nonfiction at Goucher College. I have taught writing at Ohio State, Indiana University, and Ohio University and now teach English and journalism at Otterbein University, on the banks of Alum Creek in Westerville, Ohio. I’m writing a memoir about farming and Appalachia.

NARRATIVE is a gorgeous site that looks like a glossy magazine, feels like a high-brow literary e-zine, and reads like a lyric poem. It’s one of the best websites I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, in both style and content, anywhere on the web. Richard has done a wonderful job of creating a site filled with literary riches.

Richard brings his talent and experience to the pages of NARRATIVE in a way that offers insight, technique, guidance, and inspiration to emerging writer’s and general readers. If you love the art and craft of writing – you’ll love NARRATIVE. If you need inspiration or motivation – look no further than the pages of NARRATIVE. Richard writes in a clear, yet lyrical style. His book reviews and style/technique articles are some of the best I’ve found. The site is a treasure-trove for writers and a sheer pleasure to read for any and all who visit.

3. Mother2rah http://mother2rah.wordpress.com by Siobhan Ironically, though I am a Poet, this is the only poetry blog to make the list. I personally believe it’s very difficult to do a poetry blog well. It takes a strong voice to carry poetry in a way that reaches many people while staying true to itself.

Siobhan is an exceptional poet. Her work is often erotic and tinged with sadness – we feel the depth and intimacy of the human heart beating behind the words. She has a strong voice and her poems remain true to her and themselves while avoiding any sense of triteness or repetition.

Siobhan describes herself and life on her About page in a concrete but mysterious fashion. This same duality marks much of her poetry and gives it a hypnotically transcendent feel:

My verse thrives on the tensions inherent in loneliness, longing, and fulfillment – either through the life of the mind or those moments of life in which our senses are filled with the external to the point where loneliness is forgotten.  I have written poetry for over twenty years. I tend to use verse to deliver my observations on being a woman in the world today.  My work is very personal yet holds a universal quality to which most can relate.  (As an aside – I graduated from the University of IL at Chicago in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, with an emphasis in Business & Inter-personal communications.)
In the last few months of 2008 I watched my life unravel and felt helpless to stop it.  I did my best to remain calm and tell myself everything would be ok; it wasn’t.  So, as 2008 came to a close  I wasn’t entirely sure I’d see very far into 2009, however I made it to the end of 2009 and I am still breathing (albeit painfully at times.)

These are raw poems with a lyrical beauty. The writing is deeply moving in an emotional sensory-filled way. The poems breath the poet – we feel the wisp of her presence, but nothing heavy-handed or overly structured. The beauty of her voice shines brightly and the work on the blog revolves around intense intimacy and considerations of love. If you don’t like poetry, you should read Mother2rah – you may fall in love with poetry after all!

4. Charles J. Shields at http://www.charlesjshields.com I became acquainted with the work of Charles J. Shields through his book, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. I reviewed the book on this site (go here for that review), and was surprised and pleased when Mr. Shields dropped by and left a comment thanking me for the review.

I started following Mr. Shield’s blog at that time – about the process he was going through writing his new book, And So It Goes – Kurt Vonnegut: A Life. The blog is beautifully written, like his books, and gives wonderful asides and stories not found elsewhere.

I highly recommend the two books listed above, and I’m sure you would enjoy a visit to his site. The site contains news stories, reviews, and stories about Kurt that didn’t make it into the book – stop by for a fun and enlightening visit!

5. Barking Up The Wrong Tree http://www.bakadesuyo.com/ Author, Eric Barker I debated about including Eric’s blog because he doesn’t write as much as he adapts news stories, research, current studies, etc. adding commentary. However, as this is a blog I read constantly and I do love his site…he made the cut!

If you have any interest in Science or cultural insights, then Barking Up The Wrong Tree is the blog for you. Eric gives us up-to-the-minute news and research results in concise, bite-size nuggets. It’s a fun, amazing, and sometimes, very surprising read. Stop by for a visit, and let me know what you think!

Well, that does it, my five favorite blogs for 2012. Please let me know what your thoughts are if you stop by to give them a try. And, by the way, what are some of your favorite blogs and why?

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Artwork: Notes Forgotten by Bob Orsillo. Please visit Bob at Http://www.orsillo.com to find out more about him and his artwork. Or, purchase his prints, notecards, and more at a his Fine Art America page  http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/bob-orsillo.html

Sell Art Online

 

 

Writing an Author Bio: How to Win the Race Part 2

Running Down the Track: Creating an Image of You as Writer

You’ve selected your Type from the list in Part 1 (go here to read part 1) – this alone should help you narrow your focus and describe the intent of the work. Now, once you’ve reached a place of honesty and distance toward yourself and your work, it’s time to start the actual work of writing your Author Bio.

The writing process takes time. This is why most writing advice suggests that you write something and then put it away for awhile before coming back to re-read and edit. Good writing is even better writing when you return to it later. Bad writing will scream for edits and fixes when you go back to it (a crippled animal needing help before it goes off on its own)! Allow yourself the time you need to focus, write, and revise your Bio. The goal is to write an excellent Author Bio, not to write one faster than everyone else.

Here are some examples of how a not-so-great Bio becomes a better one:

Example One: Type A

Type A Indistinct: Jane Doe received her BA degree from Blank University, her Master’s degree from Blank University, and her MFA at Blank University. She graduated last month and took a course at Blank Blank Writer Retreat. She has always loved to read and is an aspiring writer of fiction. She has had work published in ABC Journal and One Journal.

Type A Specific & Individual: Jane Doe is a graduate of the MFA program at Blank University. She attended the Blank Area Writer’s Retreat last June with specialized study in the art of fiction. Her short story, “From Here to There,” recently appeared in Blank Journal. Other writing has appeared in Blank 3 Magazine and We Are Journal. Her fiction seeks to explore the connections between childhood myth and adult neurosis.

We get a much stronger sense of who the writer is and what she cares about in the second example. Remember to be concise but thorough. If you’ve earned degrees and attended retreats please let the editor know (you probably spent a fair amount of money to do so) as it allows them to understand your training and quality of writing they can expect.

However, be careful not rattle-off a litany of schools and accomplishments without tying them to your work, or explaining their relevance to your writing. I love butterflies, but would not include that in an Author Bio unless it was pertinent to the article I’d written.

Example Two: Type B

Type B Indistinct: John Doe is a writer and has a BA degree in architecture from Blank University. His wife and children are his greatest inspiration. He loves music, opera, and Frank Sinatra. He writes for his local paper, the daily news. He also won a poetry contest when he was younger.

Type B Specific & Individual: John Doe has been writing since childhood. He is the author of “Today’s Best Music,” a weekly column for the Any Town Newspaper. John enjoys all music, but Frank Sinatra is his favorite vocalist. He is working on a short-story collection about the changes in the music scene over the past decade. This essay is an adapted version from that project.

There is a temptation to include any professional or educational accomplishments in your Author Bio. This usually comes from a fear of not mentioning educational levels when sending work to literary magazines. However, information just for the sake of information, without relevance to the topic, is a wasteful use of your limited word-count. Try to avoid this!

In John’s case, the BA degree in architecture is irrelevant information for this piece. His mention of his wife and kids is sweet, but it is also unimportant to the piece and more about sentimentality than relevance. John’s love of music and prior writing about music is more relevant and provides a deeper, stronger vision of who he is and why he’s writing the essay we’re going to read.

Example Three: Type C

Type C Indistinct: My name is Jane Doe and I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I have written in journals all my life. I read a lot and have over 100 books on my shelves. I live in the west and hate the hail storms, but I love the snow. I should have started writing before. I’m glad my husband talked me into it.(And, yes, I have received Bio’s like this!)

Type C Specific & Individual: Jane Doe is an avid reader and lives in Oklahoma. She has always been fascinated with journal-keeping and is researching the history of journal-keeping in the prairie states during the 1800’s. The essay, “Life of Prairie Storms,” is her first published work and evolved from her journal-keeping research.

OR

Type C Specific & Individual: Jane Doe moved to Oklahoma from New York in 1974. She soon discovered that the hail storms in that area were more violent and damaging than the Northeasters she had faced back home. Jane told her husband that people in New York would never believe the ferocity of the storms. He encouraged her to write about them. The resulting essay, “Ice Battering at Tulsa,” included in this issue of Blank magazine is her first published work.

It’s always difficult being new at something. As a new writer, there is much to absorb and many new skills to polish when seeking publication. A new writer often has a Bio filled with sentimental, personal things that are irrelevant to their new career effort, or they have a “one liner” Bio with no content or warmth. It’s is essential to find a middle ground.

The examples for Jane above show two opposite tactics based on the content of the submitted work. Either option takes for granted that she is writing about something in which she has personal experience or direct knowledge. I advise all new writers to start in that way. Hobbies and passions are wonderful places to find and build stories, family and regional history are also filled with possible story ideas.

There is a key difference between being a new writer and an unprofessional one. Take yourself and your writing seriously and approach submissions in a professional way. Write an Author Bio that exemplifies your desire, talent, and humility. Submit material appropriate for the specific market you’ve targeted with a professional Bio and a good Cover Letter. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed due to a lack of publishing credits. Instead, be proud of the new voice and career path opening before you. Remember that being new to the writing profession doesn’t mean that your stories aren’t valid. Believe in who you are and what you have to say!

Into the Home Stretch: A Word of Caution

Every writer has a distinct voice that shows in their work, helps shape and define it, but that is not necessarily the voice or personhood of the writer as an individual. Writing, much like the arts of music or painting, should speak for itself. Be careful not to provide a voice stronger than your writing-voice in your Author Bio.

The voice within your writing may be the voice the reader will enjoy most or want to hear. After all, haven’t we all watched that in-depth interview with a lead singer we once loved turn into an episode of TMI (Too Much Information) or a whine-fest that makes us decide we’ll never buy another one of their CD’s? Or, there’s the movie star interview (think about Mel Gibson or Charlie Sheen here) that starts out okay and quickly disintegrates into a hellishly bad episode that makes us wonder why we ever liked them.

We may love the voice and tone in a writer’s work and still, as with Gibson or Sheen, be insulted and turned off by the true, unrestrained, everything-exposed personality. Much like the wizard from The Wizard of Oz – there’s a reason and a purpose for the curtain covering a writer’s magic.

Crossing the Finish Line: Flexibility & Revision

Wow! Congratulations! You did it! You wrote an articulate, professional Author’s Bio! That’s it, you’ve won the race and we’re finished, right? Well, almost. There are a few final things you should know…

An Author’s Bio is constantly evolving and changing. I recommend a basic Bio like the examples above as a starting point. If you’re putting your Author Bio on a blog or book it will be more permanent. However, for general submissions over time, and as you establish new credentials and published credits, you’ll need to tweak it and edit often. Consider your submission content and adjust your Bio accordingly.

Remember, your Author Bio is like your business card or resume – it is the biographical information on you as a writer. It will continue to change and grow with you on this wonderful journey.

Becoming a vampire without being bitten: A new study shows that reading expands our self-concepts

Very informative piece on how the reader becomes one with the community created by the writer.

In an upcoming study in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, Gabriel and graduate student Ariana Young show what that something is: When we read, we psychologically become part of the community described in the narrative—be they wizards or vampires. That mechanism satisfies the deeply human, evolutionarily crucial, need for belonging.

 

Check out the complete article: Becoming a vampire without being bitten: A new study shows that reading expands our self-concepts.

A Post About Nothing

Wallpaper__Elegant_1680_x_1050_by_beanhugger

 

It’s been rainy and cool here in South Carolina today. Strange weather after two weeks of sunshine and 70 degree temperatures. It will be a little cooler this week, but still in the 60’s so I’m happy.

Yes, I broke the rule and started a story with the weather, but it’s okay. This isn’t meant to be a serious post about anything – surely you figured that out by the title! No, you probably didn’t expect the title of the post to be true. Nothing is ever about nothing, right?

Okay, so maybe the post isn’t about nothing, but it is a mundane post without any intentions. Sometimes it’s just nice to write a rambling post that isn’t dressed up in the finery of purpose or deep intent.

I’ve spent the day reading numerous research papers and articles about neuroscience, memory retention factors, and the psychological and philosophical elements and theories about Bipolar disorder. These are all background study and/or sources for two research essays I’m working on. Both pieces seem timely considering the Charlie Sheen meltdown and the new medical findings in several areas of cognitive science. So, I’m putting my “serious writer” hat on and actually working on some serious writing, except for here at the blog.

 

Charlie Sheen, Religious Arguments, and Self-Delusion

Is it just me, or does it seem like America has slipped down the rabbit hole with Alice? It reminds me of the Brandon Jenkins song, The Whole Worlds Gone Crazy.

Video of the Week

What is up with Charlie Sheen? He’s been notorious for years now – stripper problems, drug issues, and now seriously sad and crazy behavior. I’ve always liked his acting (and ditto for Mel Gibson and his bizarre behavior). They’re very talented actors, but what is going on? I have no answers, I’m just asking…

Earlier today I was reading my Facebook page  and noticed where my sister and friends from our school years  ended up in a heated argument over God and religion. Okay, can we all accept that everyone has a right to their belief system without having the right to inflict it on others?

It seems like a simple agreement, a basic social courtesy to extend to others, but, considering the past two thousand years of religion-based warfare, I’m probably just expecting too much. Still, peaceful disagreement is always better than a heated argument that leaves people feeling hurt and unloved.

It was a rough week at work (sales were great, but personnel issues took center stage). I’m learning that the title Sales Manager puts a dart-board target on my back and that every disgruntled worker we terminate grabs a handful of darts on the way out. It’s no biggie in the larger scheme of things, but it’s amazing to me the level of self-delusion many people live in.

Twice now I’ve hired people as a favor to my kids, their friends, and that just doesn’t seem to work out. So, no more of that! The sad part is that these people were given an opportunity that they would never had been given otherwise.

I actually care about this situation and these people. It hurts me that it doesn’t work, that they prefer delusions to true growth. I want very much to help the less fortunate, the people who can most benefit from an opportunity, but they don’t want the opportunity as much as I want to give it to them. It is sad to watch the jealousy and venomous behavior of people that you’re trying to help end up destroying them.

 

Pondering an Important Question

Lately, I’ve been pondering the following question: Am I a writer selling cars or a car salesman that writes?

I have a tendency to “fall into” situations, careers, relationships. It’s a unique and quirky part of who I am. Plans are fine. I make them, of course; but life always twists and turns in some unexpected way…and…oops, there I go, falling into the next new thing!

The car business has been an accidental success. I loved it almost immediately and my tenacious determination to win kicked in. It’s been a good business for me, one in which my verbal talents serve me well. One that pays me very well.

I was a writer for many years before I was in the car business. writing is and has always been my first love. I seldom write as I once did, my output and body of work has diminished due to time constraints. I have finally taken a few vacation days this month (my first time-off in two years) and am looking forward to some extra writing time. I have several major projects I hope to complete by the end of the month.

It’s ironic to think that two years ago while in Pryor, Oklahoma I thought I would never write again. Rather, I am at a place where major, deeper works seem more likely just a short while later.

Writer’s are writer’s because of two major things:

  1. because they write, and
  2. because they see the world with a different level of perception, depth, and detail than most people around them.

A writer is always a keen observer of the people and the world he or she lives in. Even more ironic is the fact that the same observation skills are what makes a great sales person. I suppose the answer to my question could be both. After all, we all carry various names, tags, and titles through our lives. Our identity doesn’t come from a title. Our true identity comes from the various mixture of titles and intricate details of our personality combined into the whole of us. We are the sum of all that has touched us, taught us, claimed us, and identified us, We are individually wonderful in many ways. ~

 

 

 

Passionate Art

  

“One should never write just to avoid being silent…. I feel a writer MUST write what is in his heart, and if there is nothing there of strong content or passion, then he must LIVE and EXPERIENCE before he can truly write….writing is, after all like art, simply sharing our passion with the world.”      ~from a letter to my mother, April 2001 
       
Today, I found an old copy of a letter written to my mother ten years ago. Reading the letter reminded me of the exuberant passion I’ve always felt toward writing as art and my sincere, consistent belief that “one should never write just to avoid being silent.”

 I believe that the best writing comes from deep belief, sincere passion, and a strong connective tissue between the writer and the written. These qualities allow great writing to transcend the particular time of its creation.

A writer suffering deep loss, of a child or spouse, will put that loss into the words of a poem or story. It is an intimate loss to him, but it is also a common experience, a shared sadness among other human beings. He will articulate the loss, others will read and identify with his words, the poem or story will always be his but will also become an independent identity in many ways. It will outlive him, or keep him alive, in coming centuries depending on your view. It has its own permanence.

This permanence, or legacy, is part of arts truth, so to speak. Most people can name a few classic writers and artists without great trouble (Shakespeare, Hemingway, Van Gogh, Rembrandt), but how many could name current artists? Very few could name the current Poet Laureate or a current popular painter. Artists understand, to some degree, that their work may well have more meaning and be worth more value in the future. A writer writes now with an eye focused a decade away. An artist creates now with the understanding that his canvass is more permanent than himself.

The artist is a creator. He excavates his emotional soul and pours deep truths onto the waiting page or canvass; he dissects and maneuvers the universal realities he sees as he lives, recasting and reworking them into a timelessness that becomes art. This art becomes a flexible representation of the universal passion of humanity and endures because of that kinship. He creates a legacy, an oeuvre, for himself that will eventually be all that remains.

Art is steeped in the history of it’s time of creation to some degree, but that is more reference point than anything else. The language, dress, and backgrounds’ may change, but the faces and voices are timeless. Eyes look out hauntingly with fear or joy, action takes place with a certain tone or with laughter. The experience is universally human regardless of the time period.

Great writing, like all great art, will show us a truth we know in a way we didn’t know how to express. The combination of new insight along with recognizable, enduring truth gives us an “ah-ha” moment – a moment in which we become one with the words and the writer, one with the art and the artist.
 
 

 

 
 

 

 

The Bird Calls His Presence

It is a first memory. The plaintive call of a Whippoorwill in the night. I’m a small child sitting with my grandparents on their front porch as a gentle wind drifts by carrying the smell of gladiolas on its wings. The bird calls his presence.

 

Whippoorwill has been calling to me for the past year. A quiet, sad sound rolling through my mind like the song of the bird I listened to as a child.

The list of pros and cons for starting an online literary magazine (or any literary magazine for that matter) in our world today does not add up in equal columns.  We are a world of sound-bites, quick thrills, and Twitter. The list of cons is much longer than the list of pros in a culture that grows less literate with each passing year. And, of course, there are the questions one must ask: Is there a market for such a publication?; Do we really need another lit mag?; and, Can there possibly be anything left to say? These are all valid questions to ask and consider.

For most of the year my answer has been a resounding No. No, the market isn’t very large. No, we really don’t need another lit magazine. No, there isn’t anything left to say. After all, everyone is talking, but so few people are actually listening, right? Everyone has a blog, but how many followers do they really have? The news shows and Internet are filled with voices 24-7, but Americans are so busy they seldom have time to listen. I (like many of my peers) need a secretary just to keep up with my “favorites” and my RSS feeds, and my subscriptions, and then there are the Tweets and Facebook updates. We are inundated with words – we can’t possibly need more.

And then, a strange thing happened to me. I realized that I had not welcomed the shift from printed materials to online materials into my life. I decided it was time to stop dismissing online magazines and blogs as “online diaries” and investigate and explore their true essence.

I started reading more blogs, amassing RSS feeds and subscriptions, joining various writers blog groups, and listening to what the world was saying. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’ve discovered surprising writers with tremendous talent lurking in the mist of Cyberspace. I found new information mixed in with totally unexpected epiphanies.

I’ve come to understand that there are literate, diverse writers and publications with great insight and joyous gifts to offer. I’ve also discovered that people ARE reading, commenting, and contributing.

My recent exploration helped me to realize that art isn’t usually about what we need in a logical sense. It is more often about what we need in the deepest parts of our human selves. We need to create, we need to express, we need to sing our songs. And we need to have those sides of our truest, deepest selves validated and cherished by the world around us in some way.

That artistic expression and validation is the goal of Whippoorwill. It is intended to be a place for exploration and growth, a place where we can sing and here another’s song, a place of validation for our artists ego’s – where talent can become inspired, shared, and appreciated among peers. It is with that train of thought that Whippoorwill begins its journey. I hope you’ll join us and I bid you a heartfelt Welcome!

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Note on Whippoorwill content and submissions: The theme and purpose of the magazine are intentionally loose and undefined to encourage open artistic submissions. Submissions will be accepted on a continuous basis. Initially, two to three issues per year are planned with a possible print edition of “The Best of…” produced yearly, depending on the submissions and audience we obtain.

Please feel free to email with ideas, suggestions, or questions about possible content. Please send submissions in body of the email to: marissa@whippoorwilljournal.com. We are seeking poetry, fiction, flash fiction, essays, non-fiction. However, we prefer not to see genre fiction, horror, or deeply erotic works at this time. Again, email or send a blog link if you’re not sure. We are also seeking regular bloggers and contributors. Pay scale is determined individually with the author.

 

 Re-Post from Whippoorwill at http://whippoorwilljournal.com/blog/editorial-musings/the-bird-calls-his-presence

 

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