“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

Thursday, November 19, 2020

I Love This Guy

 If you happened to see this blog before today, it had  all CAPS from Fahrenheit 451 quote on down. I don't know what happened. Here we go again. 

This is how I remember him.

Ray Bradbury.


Remember him?

He says the reason we remember so many of his stories is because he is strong in metaphor. 

 “With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history.”-- Fahrenheit 451

Wow, you’re full of them, aren’t you, Bradbury?

 I’m terrible at them. It must be something in my brain that stops me from saying something is something else. But I can learn.

 “If Life is a Bowl of Cherries—What am I doing in the Pits?” Bradbury is right. I remember that title (1985) when I don’t remember Erma Bombeck’s book, except that it was funny.

 I remember Forrest Gump’s metaphor, “Life is a box of chocolates—you never know what you’ll get.”  

 But back to Bradbury. I saw today that this year, 2020, Bradbury would have celebrated his 100th birthday. Hope you’re having a good time Ray.

Whether you are a fan of his books or not, he was one of the most enthusiastic writers. He loved writing. He relished in it. He woke up in the mornings, ready to run to his typewriter. Yep, typewriter. I think he and the computer had an adversarial relationship. 

 “If you don’t love it, don’t do it,” he said.

  “Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun at it. Ignore the authors who say, oh my god, what work, oh Jesus Christ, you know. No, to hell with that. It is not work. If it’s work, stop it, and do something else.”

Once upon a time, I attended a writer’s seminar in San Diego, where Bradbury and about 12 students at San Diego State University sat outside on the grass while he talked of writing. (Like Socrates teaching his students.) And although I don’t’ remember what he said, I walked on air when I got out of there. (Is that a metaphor?)

 Another time I attended an Optics Conference with my husband where Bradbury was the key speaker. Wow, he sat those scientists on their eats, and instead of shaking my hand, he hugged me. I figured I was blessed.

 -from a 1974 interview with James Day:

 Don’t write towards a moral:

[Trying to write a cautionary story] is fatal. You must never do that. A lot of lousy novels come from people who want to do good. The do-gooder novel. The ecological novel. And if you tell me you’re doing a novel or a film about how a woodsman spares a tree, I’m not going to go see it for a minute.

 Read these three things every night:

 What you’ve got to do from this night forward is stuff your head with more different things from various fields . . . I’ll give you a program to follow every night, very simple program. For the next thousand nights, before you go to bed every night, read one short story. That’ll take you ten minutes, 15 minutes. Okay, then read one poem a night from the vast history of poetry. Stay away from most modern poems. It’s crap. It’s not poetry! Now if you want to kid yourself and write lines that look like poems, go ahead and do it, but you’ll go nowhere. Read the great poets, go back and read Shakespeare, read Alexander Pope, read Robert Frost. But one poem a night, one short story a night, one essay a night, for the next 1,000 nights. From various fields: archaeology, zoology, biology, all the great philosophers of time, comparing them. Read the essays of Aldous Huxley, read Lauren Eisley, great anthropologist. . . I want you to read essays in every field. On politics, analyzing literature, pick your own. But that means that every night then before you go to bed, you’re stuffing your head with one poem, one short story, one essay—at the end of a thousand nights, Jesus God, you’ll be full of stuff, won’t you?

 -from “Telling the Truth,” the keynote address of The Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, sponsored by Point Loma Nazarene University, 2001.

 That’s quite an assignment isn’t it?

 Advice from a Master.

 Carry on,

 I’ll keep writing.

  How about you?


Saturday, November 14, 2020

Nobody Can Look Away From a Good Story

 I’m so happy to see you here. I don’t know who you are, but welcome. If you’d like to tell me about yourself, please do, no pressure. It’s fun for me to talk about writing, and I see that you care about it too. 

I wonder about other things on https://travelwithjo.com.

Nobody can look away from a good story.


The rub, dear writers, is making the story good.


You know the basics, right?

  • The character (hero) wants something.
  • The hero encounters a problem.
  • A guide steps in and offers a plan.
  • There is a call to action
  • The idea is to avoid failure and end with success.
What will happen if they are not successful?




Most really successful stories use this formula. You can deviate from it, but those stories rarely work well. We, as readers and movie watchers, are geared to the formula. Of course, within that framework is a myriad of stories.


George Lucas mastered the story in Star Wars. 


You’ve heard that we know within 15 minutes if we are going to like a movie. If it’s awful, we walk out; at home, we switch to another movie. In a book, we stop reading. Horrors.


In his book, Building a Story Brand, Donald Miller writes, “Story makes music out of noise.” Mark Twain emphasized that when he wrote. “Sorry about the long letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.” (Making music takes time.)


When a storyteller bombards us with too much information, we tune out. You know the novelist who gives so much description we skip over that passage? Miller says the reader burns too many calories organizing the data.


If you are writing to sell, the story idea works as well. The idea is to pass the grunt test.


Let’s say you are selling to a caveman:

  1. I sell aspirin. “Uh”
  2. It makes you feel better. “Uh.”
  3. You buy it here. “Uh.”

Remember the formula for story? Sell it.

  1. The customer is the hero.
  2. He has a problem.
  3. Meets a guide (One who helps him solve his problem—you.)
  4. The plan (agreement)
  5. Take action.

I believe most of my problems in selling is that I don’t meet a need. Trying to sell a book because you want to sell it is like selling refrigerators to Eskimos. (Although maybe they need a refrigerator to keep their food from freezing.)


If you are selling a book for entertainment, or education, you must first convince that person they need it. I'm crummy at that--but trying to learn.

I am working on a story, though, in Where Tigers Belch. (Small ebook like a newsletter.)


My problem: Finding one’s purpose.


I have met a guide: a little white-haired blind kahuna living in the jungle.


What happens next?

I don’t know. I’m making it up as I go along.

It’s coming out on November 21. I better get cracking.

See ya later,


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

A Punch in the Gut

I hear that people are asking Google if they can change their vote.

From whom to whom?


In times of trouble, I turn to you guys, fellow writers, or readers who would be attracted to a site such as this.


I wonder how much we as people and as writers should reveal. How honest are we? How much of our hearts do we expose? To be vulnerable means we can get hurt. Yes, there is a long history of keeping quiet lest you end up on the chopping block. 


However, if we as people do not express ourselves, what good are we? 

One reason people like our present Commander in Chief is that he lets words fall out of his mouth without giving them much thought. Basically, we know where he stands. 


However, where he stands is not the sort I would elect to the land’s highest office. 


I’m talking about basic goodness, integrity, compassion, those sorts of attributes. I’m not talking about Health care, racism, or women’s rights; I’m talking about who we are as people. If we got our act together, of course, we would take care of our people--and cure many other things too. 


If I talked about money, this site would get more attention.


I’ve heard of The Age of Aquarius ever since the play came out and didn’t know what it meant. Now I think it’s moving into a new age (although that is an emotionally tainted phrase.) What words can I use--a more enlightened state of being, letting go of being afraid of what people will think? When do we come into our own as loving, caring, compassionate human beings? Marianne Williamson tried to bring up such issues, and she was laughed at for being a kook.


Nelson Mandela has been attributed to this quote, but it was Marianne Williamson who wrote it:


 Generally, I do not write about politics but instead want to focus on uplifting thoughts, but then I fall off the wagon and want to throw a tantrum—hey, I’m not the President; I can get by with it. Oh, wait, so can he. 


In this Zero hour, before the votes are counted, I am a bit late. I think it all boils down to I didn’t think I had much power to influence. (And perhaps that is a basic fear in many people: “Do I have what it takes?”)


The idea once held that the pen was mightier than the sword has fallen into sound bites, and videos, and visuals, with propaganda running the show. No wonder we are disillusioned people. 


We feel that we, boiled down to one little person, can’t make a difference. 

However, one little rich and powerful person can change the course of a country. 


I would not vote for a man who:


1. Pledged to build a wall between our neighbors and us. (Haven’t we learned about walls? They keep people out, and people in.) 

2. Would separate children from their parents in deportation and put children in cages.

3. Who said in an interview before the election, when asked, “What could you get by with? answered: “I could grab a woman’s crotch and get by with it.” (He didn’t use the word crotch.)

4. In an interview during his Presidency, he said he could shoot someone on the street and get by with it. 

5. “Oh, yes,” he has rationalized, “I’m the President.”

6. Numerous women have come forth to say he had raped or groped them.

5. Judges women by numbers or by their looks. (Barbara Corcoran, Real Estate agent and member of The Shark Tank) said he made some comment about her breasts, and this was supposed to be during a business dealing. He commented to Heidi Klum, “You’re not a 10.”)

7. Cares little, if not at all, about the environment.

9. Has incited racism in our country.

10. Has further polarized the country.

11. Cheats at golf, and fellow players let it slide.

12. Is known to lie.

13. Panders to the rich. 

13 Allowed a foreign country to interfere with his previous election.

14 I believe he cares little about the “little guy” farmers and workers who keep this country running. HOWEVER, he wants their votes.

15 He is against mail-in ballots—saying they can be tampered with, while probably the opposite is true.

16. Has eliminated some voting boxes or made them so far away from dense areas that do not support him. (I think this has been corrected, but not by him.)

18. Has declared that he will not leave the White House.

19. Has embarrassed us to our allies overseas. Someone who had lived under a Totalitarian Regime yelled at an American Traveler, “Now you know what we have had to put up with.”


Rob Brezsny writes a column titled “Free Will Astrology” in the Eugene Weekly, punched me in the gut.


For AQUARIUS (that’s me), he wrote, 

“I’ve been writing my horoscope for a long time, and it has evolved dramatically. One aspect that hasn’t changed is that every four years, I’ve endorsed a candidate for the President of my home country, the United States. Another unchanging aspect is that I regularly reveal my progressive views about political matters. Some people who have only recently discovered my writing express dismay about this. “I don’t want politics with my horoscopes,” they complain. But the fact is, politics have permeated my horoscopes since the beginnings. Now I urge you to do what I just did. Aquarius, but in your own sphere. If there are people who are not clear about who you really are, educate them.”