Saturday, September 5, 2020

Art, Typos, and Everything In-Between

When I found this in my inbox, I almost choked: “Do not respond to this email, sadly; we are not able to respond to 1,000 emails a day.” 

 “Whoa. I get a thousand emails a day too, but mine are all trying to sell me insurance.”

 I had turned to my emails as a diversion from editing my novel and saw that comment about not responding to their emails. 

 Thank you. I won’t. 

 Back to editing: I’m not an editor, I stink at editing, but I’m giving it my best shot. 

A friend told me to read a manuscript from the back to the front, that way you are more apt to see errors. Yeah, fine for a page or two, but 403 pages? I think not. I will keep my sanity and throw discretion to the wind. 

You know how it is when reading our own material. Your eyes glaze over, you slide past a mistake without seeing it, for your brain fills in what you believe is there. Let a typo slip through in a published book, though, and it pops off the page like a boa constrictor. 

This work I’m editing has been in my computer, on flash drives, in the file cabinet, and worked on for over 40 years. It is titled Where the Birds of Eden Sing. (The birds of Eden sing in Africa.) Two Sara’s populate this book, an old one and a young one. I was reworking the first dinner date of the young lovers, Sara and Ryan, at the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, California. For their menu, I was using my daughter’s and my Easter dinner at the Anasazi Restaurant in Santa Fe New Mexico. 

Wait a minute. That’s not fair. Don’t copy the Anasazi. 

The Bonaventure might not be as good. 

Readers might go expecting this dinner. So, I scrapped the menu, although it had me salivating, and it was doubly hard to erase the dessert that was chocolate mousse served in a four- inch by four-inch chocolate grand piano—lid up. However, courtesy of the Internet, I looked up the Bonaventure’s La Prime Restaurant menu—a research option not present 40 years ago. Now Sara and Ryan’s dinner is authentic. 

The thrill of the Bonaventure is that a glass elevator shoots through the ceiling at the fifth floor, and climbs, hanging on the side of the building like Spiderman up to the 32nd floor, home of their revolving restaurant. If you sit in the restaurant for an hour, the entire restaurant will make a complete revolution, and you will have a panoramic view of the City of Angels. 

Someone commented that if you eat at the Bonaventure regularly and have a daughter, send her to me—that was in reference to a steak costing 70 bucks. 

 While I can sit at the computer writing until both legs fall off, when I edit my butt goes numb in a half-hour or so. Andy Warhol said, “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” 

 Ernest Hemingway said to “Write drunk, edit sober.” Figuratively or literally, either way, the principle is the same. While writing you’re a little intoxicated with or without alcohol. But you need a clear head while editing. 

A while back I read something Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother. Vincent was sitting in a cheap little hotel room looking out the window at a watery twilight, a thin lamp post, and a star. “It is so beautiful,” he wrote, “I must show you how it looks.” And he the most beautiful, tender, little drawing of it. When I saw the movie Vincent where he pointed his brushes with his mouth, I said, “That man had lead poisoning.” But then perhaps his mental condition existed before he began painting. Poor guy, his letters to his brother were so sweet, he wanted love so badly, yet he felt continually rejected. 

“There may be a great fire in our hearts,” wrote Van Gogh, “yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke.” 

What struck me after reading about Van Gogh’s lamp post view was that he wanted to show his brother what he saw. He wanted to bask in the beauty of the scene, and share it with someone else. “Do you see what I see? Do you feel what I feel? Is it exciting you as it is me?” Once a teacher of a writing class said that “All art is flawed.” I’m not sure I agree, for some paintings look pretty damn perfect to me, but maybe that’s what he meant—a rendition can never truly depict what the creator sees, neither can it adequately convey what is in his heart. Have you ever had a dream or a soliloquy in your mind that sounded like God’s gift to man, but when you tried to write it down, it stank like a dead whale washed up on the beach? 

 Van Gogh’s little drawing and later painting, was his perspective, his rendition of the world. It wasn’t a photograph (not that photographs can’t be art), I’m talking about that rarefied experience where a creator’s perception is heightened. It’s like sparkles in your eyes. It’s where a painter wants to slap paint on canvas, a musician wants to pound the keys, and a writer wants to throw up. Are the images I see seen the same way by others? How can I capture that? No wonder Van Gogh had a mental condition. A painting titled “The Girl on the Pier,” in my novel sparked this line of thought. I want the painting to ignite something ethereal in the viewer, something magical, something that will make the painting more valuable than the subject painted on the canvas. I want people so awestruck that when they view it that they will plunk down dollars for it at an auction.  

Where the Birds of Eden Sing is now published and available on Amazon in both a Kindle version and a paperback. Click on the link. You can read an excerpt there. 

Thanks for reading here, 

 Joyce/jewell d 

 https://www.amazon.com/Where-Birds-Eden-Sing-jewell-ebook/dp/B087HZ5VD7/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=where+the+birds+of+eden+sing&qid=1592429913&sr=8-1


 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Why Story?

 Well, it's been a quiet week in Junction City.

After the Disneyland trip and the trauma of a husband in the hospital, life has settled down, but not my need to get things done. 

I’ve been manically running my manuscript through an editing program—not that you need to know this or want to know it. Sometimes, however, people want to know what happens before something else happens. Guess that’s called the back story.

The Frog’s Song Publishing LLC will publish my book. Guess you know who the CEO of The Frog’s Song Publishing is—me. But don’t tell, it’s for your eyes only.

Time's a wasten'. "I have miles to go before I sleep"—thanks Robert Frost. I don't want to wait two years for my book to be published. And I'm not paying $3,000 to get it edited. Actually I got a quote for $7,000. So I'm doing it myself. And I’m someone who can’t keep her fingers on the correct keys. Preparing a book for publication requires a learning curve such as acquiring an ISBN, a bar code, formatting, signing up with a distributor. and I had a heck of a time preparing my cover for the paperback for it didn't fit into their specs. I got it by using one of their templates and modifying it as best I could. (I can be a resource here.)

Most writers praise their editors for tightening up their story, and I would if I could. I'm sure input would make it better, but what the heck. I'm doing what I can.

It scares me. What if my novel--40 years in the making--falls on deaf ears, or is it blind eyes?

That's what most people think when they put their work on the line.
But think of this: “Faint hearts never won fair maidens.” (Disney’s Robinhood).

In Martha Beck’s Joy Diet (that has nothing to do with food), she admonishes us that “We are responsible for our lives past, present and future., no shifting blame, no playing victim. If you don’t like this, please allow me to suggest (in the kindest, most supportive way) that you suck it up and deal.”

Whew, heavy stuff.

 "A beautifully told story is a symphonic unity in which structure, setting, character, genre, and idea blend seamlessly."—Robert McKee

Yipes, how about putting the pressure on.

I discovered what McKee talked about in describing story when I read a novel that struck a cord so loudly my ears rang for hours afterward. Or was it my voice wailing, “I can’t do it!” 

 But you think I’m giving up?

 NEVER!

Alfred Hitchcock defined a good story as “Life with the dull parts taken out.”

Even a seasoned writer like McKee says that “There is no writing recipe that guarantees your cake will rise.”

Rats.

Most everyone has a story in them; it’s just that some people write it. So, I guess I’m talking to the people who want to write.  Readers can listen, though.

Why am I writing about story?

I’m trying to sway the non-fiction readers to check out novels. Do read the non-fiction though, just don’t leave the fiction out.  Oh good, I looked up fiction vs non-fiction and found that those who read a mixture of both is 44%

Yea, I had heard earlier that non-fiction far out-sells fiction.

Those preferring fiction rank is 26%

Non-fiction is 22%.


Why story?

Steven Pressfield says that even non-fiction ought to have a story element. Our brains are geared to listen for it. Long ago around the campfire, if someone said, “Once upon a time,” the audience plopped their butts to the ground and tuned their ears for what happens next.

Story is about principles, not rules.
Story is about archetypes, not stereotypes.
Story is about eternal, universal forms, not formulas.
Story is about thoroughness, not shortcuts.
Story is about realities, not the mystery of writing.
Story is about mastering the art, not about second-guessing the marketplace.
Story is about respect, not disdain for the audience.
Story is about originality, not a duplication.
 

    www.McKeestory.com

Invest the time—do the Work—write the truth.

And that’s the truth.
So be it.
Joyce
 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Jump From the Bucket

crab crawling out of bucket

“The highest treason a crab can commit is to make a leap from the rim of the bucket.” –Steven Pressfield

Have you ever decided to start a diet or spiritual practice, maybe you would like to sponsor a child in some far-off land, or maybe you wanted to run for office. Maybe you wanted to get married or have a child, or campaign for world peace.

You didn’t do it, or else the whole idea quickly drifted away.

Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter that doesn’t paint, or an entrepreneur who doesn’t begin a venture?

Then you know what Resistance is.

Resistance is a word I got from Steven Pressfield's book The War of Art. It means not doing the work you were meant to do.

Did you know that Hitler wanted to be an artist? At eighteen he took his inheritance and applied to the Academy of fine arts, and later to the School of Architecture. Pressfield asked if we had ever seen any of his drawings. He said--and this was a stretch--it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than to face a blank canvas.

Actually, Hitler was ravished by defeat. He flunked out of high school, and both entrance exams to the art schools he wanted.  He was selfish, egotistic, and lazy and would not take any criticism, and this man rose to prominence. You figure.

Many people have been told they have no talent, would never make it, and said, “They’re nuts,” and went on to do the thing they wanted to do.

Pressfield’s point is you do your work anyway—even if it’s terrible. You show up. You put your butt on the chair.

Resistance hits any health regime, spiritual advancement, diet, any calling in writing, music, education, or political movement.

The awakening person must be ruthless with themselves and with others who sabotage their efforts. You know how many times, “The starving artist,” has been played. Me neither.

Procrastination? Well, what can I say? You know about that. There are always distractions. Ill health, getting into trouble, soap operas—nothing like dad getting drunk, mom getting sick, and junior showing up with a swastika tattoo, to set a family spinning out of control.

Do we believe in freedom, affluence, stability, and enough resources to permit the luxury of self-examination? Do we believe that the world is advancing, however haltingly, toward a better world?

Or do we view humanity as fallen from a higher state? Do we believe in a philosophy of powerlessness? Do we need a doctrine to tell us what to do, rather than decide for ourselves?

I woke up this morning humming, “We’re simply soldiers in petticoats.” Remember Mrs. Banks in the movie Mary Poppins? The original Mary Poppins, that is, released 1964. That was 55 years ago! I saw the movie with my mother and little sister, and my mother didn’t quite get the laughing on the ceiling bit—what a shot. Ed Wynn was perfect.

“Although we adore men individually, as a rule, they’re rather stupid.” See what Mrs. Banks could get away with.

That is art.

Don’t be insulted men, we adore you individually, but as a rule, we’ve had some pretty stupid men circling the globe recently.

Some people might think Mary Poppins as a frivolous child’s movie, but think of this, Mrs. Banks was a suffragette. The Fiduciary Bank, where Mr. Banks worked, was greedy and controlling. The altruistic little boy, Michael, wanted to feed the birds with his tuppence. The parents were distracted and shuffled their children off to a nanny.

I hope I didn’t use too many of the song lyrics for *”Sister Suffragette,” by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.  My publisher says that a song company can make you shred your book if you use too many song lyrics.

Don’t shred my blog.

Song titles are okay.

 Okay, I go to the computer to do “my work,”—but first resistance, check my email. Hey, one of you might have sent me something grand.

This popped up.

$500.00 off coupon for a coaching course to make me beautiful.

 “Enrol here,” they said.

Doesn’t enroll have two L’s? (Look whose talking. I found two typos on this page--and the last blog had a mistake in the title. I embarrass the heck out of myself.)

Ha ha. Don’t get too serious.

*“Our daughter’s daughters will adore us…”

A bit of trivia; In the Walt Disney World in the lost and found, there is a wooden leg with the word, ” Smith,” on it.

Monday, July 27, 2020

What Do You Wonder About?

I’m stealing this as my manifesto:

Step One: Wonder about something.

Step Two: Invite others to wonder with me.

Stolen from Auston Kleon’s book, Steal Like an Artist, 10 things nobody told you about being creative.

That man is brilliant.

I came across his small book, free yesterday on Amazon Prime, and I read it before lunch.

Steal like an artist, cover

“You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself,” he wrote.

I slapped my head and declared, “Thank you, God,”

(Thank you Auston Kleon. I don’t know if God had anything to do with that statement.)

I know I have bounced all over the place with subjects—metaphysics, the spiritual path, life blog, travel, writing about writing, writing about blogging, chickens, animals, horses, home life, family, story, Hawaii, Oregon, and California, I’ll even throw in sea life if that strikes me. And then I hear the voice of the blogging gurus who say to find your niche and stick with it.

I scream, “WHAT’S MY NICHE!”

Kleon says, ”You can cut off a couple of passions and only focus on one, but after awhile, you’ll start to feel phantom limb pain.”

I love this man.

“Do not leave your longings unattended.”

Right on.

Yesterday I began the day deciding that I would write something about writing for I saw that I have a few readers on my blog “The Best Damn Writer Blogger on the Block.” (Fair to say, I’m the only one writing one, maybe I should check my city block to see if there are any other bloggers writing about writing.) http://www.thebestdamnwritersblog.com

I don’t know how those readers found me, for nine chances out of ten I can’t find it myself. (Maybe it’s the damn in the title, or my firewall, something.)  However, if someone shows up, I am happy to offer them something.

Except that yesterday I had nothing to say.

Blogs are supposed to add something of value. So, where did that leave me?

With Zilch. Nada.

Kleon to the rescue, “If you try to devour the history of your discipline all at once, you’ll choke.”

Okay, back to the beginning of the day. I figured Hemingway was a good place to start. However, Hemingway was reluctant to talk of writing for he felt that saying too much might inhabit his muse.

And although Hemingway was known for his adventurous spirit, first and foremost he was a writer. He might have been reluctant to talk of writing, but over the years at different times, to different people, in varied parts of the world, he commented about it in letters and stories.

Along came Larry W. Phillips who ferreted out Hemingway’s comments regarding writing and placed them in a book called Ernest Hemingway on Writing.

Hemingway on writing brightened

 

“All good books are alike,” wrote Hemingway, “in that they are truer than if they had really happened, and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterward all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.” –By-Line Earnest Hemingway pg 184.

This quote explains why my eyes cross when I hear people say, “I only read non-fiction.” As though fiction is frivolous and they are into “serious” learning.

Quite the opposite is true. Good fiction writers can hit you with a truth when you don’t even know you’ve been hit.

Two secrets from Hemingway:

“The secret is that it is poetry written into prose and that is the hardest thing to do.” –From Mary Hemingway

“Then there is the other secret. There isn’t any symbolysm (misspelled). The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy, and the fish is a fish. The shark are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know.” Hemingway to Bernard Berenson, 1952

I beg to differ. The Old Man and the Sea says a lot about Hemingway—symbolism or not.

Hemingway left a lot unsaid. He wrote simply, quite against the flowery prose of his day. His style was considered the iceberg effect, that is much was beneath the surface.

Okay, back to Steal Like an Artist:

“We’re talking about practice, not plagiarism. Plagiarism is trying to pass someone’s else’s work off as your own. Copying is about reverse engineering. It’s like a mechanic taking apart a car to see how it works.”

If you steal from one author its plagiarism, but if you copy from many, it’s reverse engineering, Gary Panter says, If you rip off a hundred people will say, “You’re so original.”

One is copying.

One hundred is research.

I believe the following (from Kleon) applies not only to artists but to anyone starting a business:

You will need:

  • Curiosity
  • Kindness
  • Stamina
  • A willingness to look stupid.

Barbara Kingsolver in her last tip of five on writing said, “If you are young and a smoker, you should quit.”

I qualify as a writer. I don’t smoke and I’m not young.

 

Friday, July 17, 2020

How to Start a Blog

 I tasted my first avocado after I was grown, married, and had graduated from college.    

When I encountered a sugar-cube size of avocado in a salad, I thought I have bitten into a raw fish. But when I discovered guacamole, the avocado world opened her doors and played celestial music.  

Now we wrap raw fish and avocado in a pillow of rice tie it up with seaweed and call it a delicacy.  

See how times change.  

When I began reading Natalie Goldberg’s book Writing Down the Bones (The 30th year edition), she told of tasting her first avocado in the 1960s, and with that, she gave us permission to write of such things.   

This was before blogging became a national phenomenon.  

To become a writer, you write. You put pen to page and begin and keep on keeping on.   

If writing about avocados will do it for you, write about avocados.  

You can write for fun, as self-examination, to journal, as a way to access the subconscious, or you can believe as Natalie Goldberg says, “Writing will take you where you want to go.  

I believed Goldberg those 30 years ago, and I’m still writing.  

Seth Godin, premier daily blogger, says everybody ought to blog, and it appears that 600 million people are. Last week I read someone’s post where they named the 5-best books on writing, and that set me off and running.  

I had read his five best books. But wait—my favorites weren’t there. So, I added five more. They are the ones that will set your pants on fire.  

Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones—has been the most sought-after book on writing, Goldberg was one of the first writing instructors to tell her students that writing is a therapeutic endeavor.  

Look where it got her.  

I lost my copy of Goldberg’s book in Temecula, California, but after being reminded of the best books on writing, I want to read Writing Down the Bones again, so I bought the 30th year edition.  

My desire here is to do more than tell you how to start a blog. It’s to encourage you to write.   

But first, #How to Start a Blog.  

Bloggers try to get to the point. Sometimes we ramble about what’s going on around the farm, or house, or area. (A life-blog.) We do try, however, to give people what they want. If you don’t know what people want, lay out a smorgasbord—they’ll choose.  

Blogging in a Sunflower seed shell:  

Get a Host  

A domain  

A template   

A Nitche

A brand  

A media presence.  

Now, write content.  

What to Write:  

How-to’s.  

Advice  

Entertain.  

Teach.  

Whatever floats your boat.  

So, here are the basics in Three Easy Steps  

One: Choose a Host.  

A host is the property where you build your blog. They carry your mortgage.  

You’ve heard of Go Daddy, and there are many others. Look up the best host providers, and they will give you a list.   

Blogger.com, is simple, can be free, or you can purchase your own domain, that is your dot com without their name attached. I also use Site Ground. Blue Host is great in that it blends seamlessly with Word Press templates.  

You’ve heard of Go Daddy, and there are many others. Look up the best host providers, and they will give you a list.  

Two: Choose a Domain Name:  

Your host will either give you access to a domain selector, or you can buy your own. It ‘’s easier to go with the one provided on your host.  

Your domain is the https://www.yourname.com, or dot net, or dot many others. Dot com is the most used.  

Your first choice may not be available—remember your name is one-of-a-kind—no one else can have it.   

Keep trying.   

Some hosts offer free domains with the purchase of their templates. If you go for free, they will have their name in the .com line. A domain isn’t expensive, about $12.00.  

I’ve made a lot of mistakes. For example, the blogger gurus say not to put numbers in your domain name—I’ve done that. They say not to use hyphens—I’ve done that too.   

There’s a lot of trial and error in this. Now I see why people want a directive.  

Three: Chose a Template:  

The template is your floor plan. That’s where you see your content, pictures, and the layout of your blog. If you don’t like the one you’ve started with, you can change without losing your content. Whatever floats your boat.  

Initially, I had trouble with the templates. I didn’t know the commands. I didn’t know how to set up the first page, how to make pages, or use widgets. The templates frustrated the heck out of me. It takes time. Keep at it. You’ll figure it out.  

Some sites will say your pictures are too large, so you must go back and reduce them. Some will refuse to put spaces where you want, All the templates I have found have qualities I like and some I don’t like. And most templates have limitations and quirks—one of mine writes in italics, and I haven’t found how to turn that off yet.  

It’s the price we non-tech-folk pay for some savvy someone to set up coding. But look at the opportunities they give us.  

Begin with a simple free blog. I began on Blogger, and continue that one because I simply can’t part with it and have a readership I don’t want to lose. That’s https://www.wishonwhitehorses.com.  

I think to learn while doing works the best. If someone told you how to use WordPress in one setting, your brain would explode.  

Just google Blogger, or WordPress or Weebly, or Go Daddy or BlueHost. There are many that I haven’t tried. But once found, they will direct you.   

Four: Write Content

Oh, yes, that’s what it’s about.

Good luck with blogging. Tell me how it’s working for you. If you have suggestions, please share.  

Thanks for reading,   

Joyce   

Here are the best books on writing.   

1.On Writing by Steven King  

A shoo-in for someone with that name and body of work  

2. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr & CB White.  

Remember from freshman English? “Omit needless words. Omit needless words.”  

3. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield  

Overcoming resistance—could be called procrastination. And you find ways you didn’t know you were procrastinating, but when you get moving, you will also notice a lightness of spirit will envelop you, even if your writing sucks.  

4. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury  

Zen didn’t seem quite right for Bradbury, but hey, his enthusiasm for writing will set your pants on fire.  

5. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleoh.  

Not, don’t plagiarize. However, everybody gets inspiration from somewhere. Take it from the best and make it your own.  

6. Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg  

7. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont.   

Love that girl.  

8. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  

Many quotes, much practical and spiritual advice.  

9. Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, by Steven Pressfield.  

“Your sh*t is your self-centered, ego-driven, unrefined demands for attention.” –Steven Pressfield  

And it is more, “Believe in yourself when no one else on the planet shares that belief.  

10. BrainStorm by Don Hahn. “Unleashing Your Creative Self”  

Written by a Disney Imagineer. This is not strictly about writing but to encourage creativity.  

I love it.  

Now, dear writer, go out and kick some ass.