“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, September 22, 2020

Grab a Pen and Kick Ass

“I have put my heart out to be shot at.”

J.R.R. Tolkien 


Do it anyway.


What’s the first book you remember? 


I’m not talking about the little boring readers we had in grammar school. I’m talking about a novel, a real chapter book. Mine was Anne of Green Gables. My mother read it to me, and then she read Black Beauty—I wish she hadn’t. Don’t torture a horse for me, and I was too young to know it was a muckraker. Then I discovered Walter Farley’s Black Beauty and fell in love, and continued with his books until I had read them all. Then there was Heidi, and Jack London’s Call o The Wild. 


Those people kicked ass. 


You know what I mean, their boot didn’t touch anybody’s backside, they touched our spirit. They made us love books. They gave us an adventure and set us on a never-ending reading trail.


Join the group. Write your book. It’s worth the effort, even if your work get’s shot at.


Don’t you sometimes read words presented so beautifully that it makes your mouth water? And then you try to do it, and end up with mud on your face?

You’re in the GAP.


The Gap is the place where you hear those lofty words you want to put down, you see the story, you have good taste, you know what’s good when you see it. The trouble is when you read your words, they just don’t sing as you had imagined.

That just means you’re here and want to be there.


The gap will close. Keep on writing.


It’s good that you have discerning eyes and can be objective.


You know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you know that the writing life is magical, painful sometimes, yet worth the doing.


I’m here to nudge, I could say kick your ass into belivin’, perserverin’, doin’. (I’ve been reading Where the Crawdads Sing and have developed a southern drawl.) Talk about salivating over words. That woman kicked ass.


I will give you my list of the best books on writing—did I give these before? Well, I’m offering them again. They are too good to pass up. Hang on, I will list them, I just need to keep my pen moving. Yep, I’m writing (scribbling) with a pen sitting in our Pries with the heater on and my little dog beside me.


Later I will type this into the computer. Some brain experts say that writing longhand provides a deeper connection between the hand and the brain than a keyboard. Of course, if you compose well on a keyboard, do whatever works. 

I’ve heard that many novelists write their stories first in longhand. I wrote longhand for a long time for it was hard for me to compose on the computer. I had to graduate to it. 


Which is better? I don’t know. 


It works if you work it.


Begin reading. The following books will make you a better writer:


Anne Lamont’s book Bird by Bird is a must-read. (I love that girl.) thirty years ago, her little 10-yer-old brother had a report on birds due the following day. He had three months to do the assignment but faced the next-day deadline. We never do that, do we? The little guy was overwhelmed and in tears. His father sat down beside him, put an arm over his shoulder, and said, “Just take in bird by bird, Buddy, bird by bird.”


And so, dear reader/writer, as Lamont advises, take your words like the birds. Bird by bird, buddy, bird by bird.


Here are the best 10 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 & C.B. White.

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

3. ThWar of Art by Steven Pressfield

Overcoming resistance—could be called procrastination. And you find ways you didn’t know you were procrastinating. Still, 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 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

This is an all-time most popular book on writing, and it is celebrating its 30th year. It is one of the first books on writing I read, and I lost it on a move from California to Oregon, so I’m ordering it again.

7. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont. 

Dear Anne.

8. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

Many quotes, much practical advice.

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

“Your sh*t is that nobody wants to hear 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. Brain Storm by Don Hahn

A Disney Imagineer writes on Unleashing Your Creative Self


Read these people, then put your pen to page and kick some ass.

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