“Artists are people who are not at all interested in the facts—only in the truth. You get the facts from outside. The truth you get from inside.” --Ursula K. LeGuin

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

One Sure-fire Way to Get Smarter

Read more books.

Wait, I have to vent here or a lump will stay stuck in my craw. 
That lump is the statement from people who say they only read non-fiction. 
And there I am, a person awaiting the publication of my own non-fiction book.
Don’t get me wrong, non-fiction can carry you to heights unknown, but fiction? Fiction will carry you to the Universe and Beyond.
Fiction will teach you ways you won’t know until years later when some thought will come zinging in like one of Zeus's lightning bolts.
One aside is that many of the most respected entrepreneurs -- from Bill Gates to Elon Musk -- are voracious readers.

PBS just announced a new TV series called The Great American Read.
 The series celebrates what PBS has deemed America's 100 favorite novels.

To select the top 100 novels, PBS polled thousands of people and asked them to name their favorite novel

Then, PBS pulled in 13 literary professionals to cull down the list according to a few criteria. Each author got only one book for the list. Series such as  Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings counted as one book.

Books could come from anyplace in the world and any time-frame, but they had to be fiction, and written in English.
 It’s fun to troll through the list and see how many you have read, how many you want to read, and how many you say, “Nope, I’ll pass on that one.”
Here's the final list of America's 100 best-loved novels:

  • 1984, by George Orwell
  • A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
  • A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
  • A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
  • The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
  • Alex Cross Mysteries (series), by James Patterson
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
  • Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie
  • Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • Another Country, by James Baldwin
  • Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
  • Beloved, by Toni Morrison
  • Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
  • The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz
  • The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
  • Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
  • The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D.Salinger
  • Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White
  • The Chronicles of Narnia (series), by C.S. Lewis
  • The Clan of the Cave Bear, by Jean M. Auel
  • The Coldest Winter Ever, by Sister Souljah
  • The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  • The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
  • Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
  • The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
  • Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes
  • Doña Barbara, by Rómulo Gallegos
  • Dune, by Frank Herbert
  • Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
  • Flowers in the Attic, by V. C. Andrews
  • Foundation, by Isaac Asimov
  • Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
  • Ghost, by Jason Reynolds
  • Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
  • The Giver, by Lois Lowry
  • The Godfather, by Mario Puzo
  • Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
  • Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
  • The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
  • Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift
  • The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
  • Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
  • Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen
  • Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
  • The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
  • The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
  • The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy
  • The Intuitionist, by Colson Whitehead
  • Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
  • Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
  • The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan
  • Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton
  • Left Behind, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
  • The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • Little Women, by Louise May Alcott
  • Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry
  • Looking for Alaska, by John Green
  • The Lord of the Rings (series), by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
  • The Martian, by Andy Weir
  • Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden
  • Mind Invaders, by Dave Hunt
  • Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
  • The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez
  • Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
  • The Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan
  • The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
  • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
  • Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
  • Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
  • The Shack, by William P. Young
  • Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse
  • The Sirens of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Stand, by Stephen King
  • The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
  • Swan Song, by Robert R. McCammon
  • Tales of the City, by Armistead Maupin
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
  • This Present Darkness, by Frank E. Peretti
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  • Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
  • War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
  • Watchers, by Dean Koontz
  • The Wheel of Time (series), by Robert Jordan
  • Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls
  • White Teeth, by Zadie Smith
  • Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë

I'm shocked that none of Ray Bradbury's books were listed. and I would think that Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray Love would beat out Fifty Shades of Gray, but what do I know, sex sells. The list was called The most favorite, not the best novels. 

Some of my personal favorites are: Illusions by Richard Bach, The Color of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Oh, it was not written in English). Was Don Quioxite? (I do believe that was written in Spanish and translated.) The Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilscher, and my childhood favorite The Black Stallion by Walter Farley.

What are yours?

From my pen to your eyeballs. Thanks for reading,

PS. A comment from an eighty-something lady: “I don’t read fiction because I will get so engrossed it will keep me up all night.”


Muriel Spark on writing: “If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially on some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle under the desk lampAnd the tranquillity of the cat will gradually come to affect you sitting there at your desk. The effect of a cat on your concentration is remarkable and very mysterious.’ 

*From her character Mrs. Hawkins in A Far Cry from Kensington.)
Three minutes ago:

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Do You Have a Home?

After Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth’ Gilbert’s second book bombed, she said it was alright. She went back home.

HOME to her was not her parent’s farm, nor the house she lives in; it was doing what she loves.

For her, it is writing.

Do you have a HOME?

My friend in San Diego has a studio built outside her house and a humongous kiln beside it. While potting, she’s home.

Mrs. Chiropractor in Hawaii also has a potting kiln and displays her beautiful art on the walls of her husbands business. At her house she has handmade tiles that she loves so much she doesn’t want to move, although her husband is itching for it.

Barry, the painter in Hawaii, sixty-something, lives in a school bus, rides a bike the 15 miles from Pahoa to Hilo weekly in heat, or rain, and paints beautiful Island girls and scenes. Is he HOME? I think so.

Kathey, here in Eugene, is home at her sewing machine producing exquisite doll clothes.

In War of Art Steven Pressfield says, first, “Nobody wants to read your shit,” (that’s a book, too, by the way), and secondly, it’s your job to do the work whether people like it, read it, or crumple it. Or worse, give it no attention.

You give it attention. It’s your baby. It’s your job. It’s your HOME.

The more you practice your art, the better you will become, and most importantly—you will be happy doing it.  Sometimes what we call tinkering is more home than that job.

It’s what you were meant to do.

Pressfield says that since nobody really wants to read your shit, it forces you to write something worth reading.

And think of the honor when someone gives their time to read/watch/listen to your job.

You might say this is well and good for creative sorts, like painters, photographers, musicians, writers, and actors, but no, creativity lives in everyone.

“HVE ENC ,  See, even my cat. He wrote this by walking over my keyboard. Finally, he has settled down behind my computer, and not on my CAPS Lock key where he likes to sleep.

Now I can get my work done.

All along I have encouraged people to go for their dreams. Why? Why would I care?

Because my job is to do what I like to do and to encourage others to do the same.

What do you like to do?

This morning I was humming, “How Great Thou Art,” the gospel song. (I heard an Elvis Impersonator sing it recently and that set off fireworks in my brain.)

I thought of the writer of that song, of the connection with the source, the muse, the universal consciousness, God, whatever you want to call it. “Consider all the worlds thy hands have made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder…” [Build to a crescendo.]

Incidentally, that song, of all the songs Elvis Presley sang, gave him his first and third Grammy. Ironically all Elvis’s Grammys were for gospel songs. (To be fair the Grammys began in 1958 when Elvis was in the military.)

Artists of old called that creative connection the muse. Some said their work was inspired. Those are the artists who know it was not they who did the work, and thus their ego stepped aside.
Van Gogh, while not financially successful in his lifetime, did come from an earnest desire to share what he saw, and to present it in his own unique way. That was his work. (And perhaps while painting, it quieted somewhat the voices that yammered inside his head.)

Someone else convinced us that Van Gogh’s paintings were worth the price they go for today.

To my friend in San Diego California--You rock!

To  Mrs. Chiropractor –keep on keeping on.

To Barry—your love inspires.

To Kathey, your granddaughter must feel the love in every stitch.

Go forth, do your work.  Have fun. Be happy,

I love you,

P.S. Remember the accountant in the movie “You Can’t Take it With you,” who secretly made a little wind-up bunny? With encouragement, he left his job and moved into the artist’s home to make toys.

Now, Go HOME! 

 Barry's guitar