Category: Uncategorised (Page 1 of 20)

5 Reasons Your Book Should Sing

Over the summer I reread  Georgette Heyer’s Sylvester.  I have all her romances on my keeper shelf, but I’d forgotten this one, so it was like reading it for the first time. What a treat! When I finished it,  I picked up New Girl in Little Cove by Damhnait Monaghan. This book is set in modern day Newfoundland. I felt as though I’d switched the soundtrack from Mozart to Great Big Sea.

That got me to thinking about the music I might associate with my own books. For the Prospect Series, Gord Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy was an obvious choice. It combines the excitement of opening up a new land with the hardships that come with the adventure. The fact the song has three parts plays well into my storylines as well.

I’m currently working on a short read with an older couple. I don’t have a particular song in mind, but I’m thinking of a community dance. I went to many of those in my younger years. The music ranged from waltzes to square dances to The Twist — the music wasn’t the most important thing–it was who chose you for a partner! And yes, in those days the boys did the choosing and the girls did the hoping. With that image of the town Odd Fellows Hall and the homegrown band in my ears, I can stay in the story world more easily.

I tried out my idea on my author friend in Australia and learned that she had specific songs in mind when writing her books too. “Yes my books do have theme songs… although not always logical. Evil in Emerald was ‘Cat Like Tread’ from Pirates of Penzance, The Postmistress was ‘Peter Hollens Shenandoah’ and The Gold Miner’s Sister was ‘Shallow’ from the latest Star is Born movie. The oddest was probably ‘Arms’ by Christina Perri which was the theme for Gather the Bones.

So, why have a soundtrack for your story?

  1. Tone  The soundtrack playing in your mind will keep the tone of your writing consistent. The English language is rich and varied. Authors have many choices for the “right” word. A song can help make those choices better. Is your book a stately gavotte or a rollicking sea shanty?
  2. Mood  Even though stories move through light and dark times, a book can be strengthened if there is a consistent mood. War stories carry that hint of danger even when we aren’t on the battlefield. Children’s books are full of wonder, regardless of the actual scene. When the reader puts down the book, what do you want her mood to be?
  3. Setting  I am an author who views setting as a “character” in a story.  The mountains in my Prospect books, for example, played a role in the heroines’ reflective scenes. Those towering peaks gave strength and courage to Lottie and Emma and Louisa.
  4. Inspiration  “What happens next?” is a constant question before a writer.  The lyrics or the music of your soundtrack can provide some ideas. Country and western songs are legendary for telling a complete story from joy to heartbreak in only a few lines.  Tammy Wynette’s   Stand by your man, give him two arms to cling to
    And something warm to come to/When nights are cold and lonely.–might provide the nudge to take your story down a different path.
  5. Fun  Sitting at a keyboard or holding a pen over a lined notepad, can get lonely and dreary.  We all start this journey because we want to tell a story, we love words, we want to send our ideas into the world. That’s the part that makes us want to write. But the process from idea to finished work can be a slog. The soundtrack playing in our heads can remind us to have fun. Maybe we could all “Whistle While You Work.”

What about you? As a reader do you hear music in a book? As a writer do you consciously choose a soundtrack to accompany your story?

Hits: 34

My Summer Vacation

    In my part of the world, school starts this week. Even though I’m long past school age, at this time of year I still get the urge to purchase a clean note-book and a sharp pencil with a fresh eraser. Another back to school ritual is the “how I spent my summer vacation” essay. I think teachers used that topic in the first week to give themselves time to organize the classroom and memorize the students’ names. Anyway, here’s my essay.

       First, I took a break from writing this blog. I don’t cope well with hot weather and we had lots of hot days this summer. The weeds flourished, but the garden suffered from a cold, wet spring. Even plants that grew well failed to produce much fruit as the bees were missing at the vital time. For years we’ve been hearing about the loss of honey bees and how that effected the honey producers. This year, every gardener in my neighbourhood witnessed the effects of no bees first hand.  I’m preparing for next spring by hunting for bird feathers on the beach. If it is too cold for bees at blossom time, I’ll use the feather for a little human-assisted pollination. 

The lovely Jennie Crusie hosts a blog called Argh Ink One day a week she asks the question, “What made you happy this week?” I love reading the answers. Happiness, it seems, comes in many different forms. For me, happiness is good friends. So I’ve spent a good part of vacation time re-connecting with friends finally coming out of COVID protection. I know the virus is still out there and poised to whack the world again, but we’ve all been lonely these past few years so I’m hoping the endorphins released by laughter, along with all my vaccines and boosters, will help my immune system win the battle. Plus, I’m staying off cruise ships. I know a lot of healthy people who went on a cruise and came home with COVID.

    Over the Labour Day weekend, I had triple happiness as I was able to combine my garden, friendship, and nostalgia with a trip to our annual Fall Fair.  The photo at left shows my ribbon haul. I consider it a win if I get ribbons on at least 50% of my entries and enough prize money to cover my entry fees and my admission to the grounds. I declare success on all fronts this year.

   I reconnected with my farm roots as I walked among the horses and cows and chickens and sheep. (See photo at top.) Jeans and straw hats bring happy memories. Score one for nostalgia.

   Then,  I met my friend at the fair. We’ve been doing that for over twenty years. This  long friendship makes me happy. Our fair experience together is also a happy one. I give her produce from my garden, she makes jam and wins a prize. We’re in this together!

    Speaking of friends, my pen pal from the other side of the world is a “best seller” in Canada with the first book in her Guardians of the Crown series, By the Sword. So, I’m happy for her.

   So, the first day of school is over. I’ve written my essay. Tomorrow the real year begins.

  What did you do for your summer vacation? Did it make you happy? 

Hits: 12

A Beginning

The calendar reads July, summer, hot days, lazy days, vacation days, winding down days. January or September is the time for new things, days when the weather is sharp and clear, the garden is put to rest and a new term has begun. Yet, today I began work on two new projects. When the mood strikes . . .

First I organized a reading list for my book club. We won’t meet until September but many of us like to have the reading list in advance so we can get a head start. We’ll read nine books over the fall and winter. We take December, July and August off. The suggestion list is long and enticing. I had a hard time paring my choices to nine. Some I’ve read before, like The Dictionary of Lost Words. Much as I enjoyed that book and think it would make for a great discussion, I didn’t vote for it because there were so many other intriguing suggestions.

Ann Patchett is on the list and she’s one of my favourites so one of my votes went there. There’s a history of Victoria that I want to read even if it doesn’t make the final cut.  There’s a family saga that will go into my TBR pile, along with a romance, a couple of mysteries and a Canadian Classic, Fifth Business, by Robertson Davies. There is a book set in Japan, another written by a First Nations author and another set in Afghanistan. 

I’ve mentioned my book club before on this blog. We’ve been reading together since 2000, with the same core members. Of course, over twenty two years there have been some changes. We all started out as working women and now we’re all retired. We’ve seen each other through some major life changes, like big moves or the loss of a parent or a spouse. We’ve read nearly 200 books — everything from children’s literature to William Faulkner. Through the medium of books, we’ve gotten to know each other very well. 

The marquis at my local gas station reads “the best antique is an old friend.” Well, my book club is full of some genuine “antiques.”

The other new thing I’ve started is a contemporary story with a “seasoned” heroine. Since I usually write historical with twenty-something heroines, this is a whole new endeavour, but I’ve started it in July, so there must be something drawing me on. 

One of the advantages of growing older is that we become more secure in who we are. I’m hoping that attribute will be one of the main characteristics of my heroine. Instead of a girl/woman feeling her way into adulthood, I’ll write about a woman who knows her own mind. Who knows what she values in a partner, and knows the cost of love is often heartbreak.

I hope you are all enjoying the lazy, hazy days of summer. Unless you live in Australia, in which case I hope you enjoy the nip of frost in the air and a warm apple cider by the fire.

 

Hits: 19

How Old is Too Old?

Since my last post here, I have been the soloist at a wedding. What a treat! So many happy smiles. So many good wishes. So much love in the room. So many grandchildren in the wedding party.

Yes, I said grandchildren. The bride and groom at this wedding were both over 75.

In the romance world the shorthand for couples over thirty is “seasoned,” although I’m not sure a 30 year old has enough life experience to be considered “seasoned.”  I think the couples in these stories should be at least 50+ to qualify for the term. Then again, the older I get, the cut-off age for elderly gets younger!

I did a little research with authors who write older couples and found that editors used to get squirmy when the characters, especially the romantic heroine, was over 30. So all those, “second chance” books would be hard sells. Come to think of it, a major publisher used to put out a romance line called “second chance.” It folded. Perhaps the protagonists were considered too old by readers?

In my “Prospect” series, all of the heroines have had major life events before the story begins. Lottie, in The Man for Her, has loved and lost, and borne a child out of wedlock. Emma, in Her One and Only, has suffered a broken engagement, a scandal and her father’s death, before coming to Prospect, looking for a second chance. Louisa, in Her One True Love, has spent years caring for a tyrannical father before escaping to Prospect and a chance for a new life.  

So all of my heroines are mature women even though I did not consider that I was writing “seasoned” romance. Still,  I consider the events before the books begin essential to the love stories that follow. Having been “seasoned” by life, these women have a deep appreciation of the gift of true love — perhaps a better appreciation than their more naive counterparts.

Many romance readers yearn for that first passionate love of a girl on the precipice of womanhood. That is a magical moment, and one worth celebrating. No wonder readers devour those stories. But, could love be “sweeter, the second time around?”

Years ago I sang at another wedding and couldn’t hold back the tears as I looked at the  youthful faces of the bride and groom. I knew the years ahead would have some hard days, and I feared their love would be tested.

But as I looked at the love beaming from the grandmother’s face at last month’s wedding, I couldn’t keep the smile off my own face.

Love, at any age, priceless.

What do you think, dear reader? Do you want romances about first love or are you willing to read about the second time around? What is the ideal age for your romantic heroine?

Voice your preference in the comment section below.

Hits: 45

7 Wonders


doing homeworkA schoolgirl, when asked to name the seven wonders of the world, skipped the pyramids and the Taj Mahal and came up with this list.  The seven wonders of the world are:
1. to see
2. to hear
3. to touch
4. to taste
5. to feel
                                                                  6. to laugh
                                                                   7. and to love.

The child may have failed her social studies exam but she nailed it for fiction writers. 

These days much of the author world is is focused on marketing,  Do ads work? Do we know an influencer? Can we find a niche? What’s the ROI on a publicity campaign? Should I buy space on a highway billboard?

With all these business questions hovering about our writing, we sometimes forget about craft. But craft is paramount. Without it, marketing is selling an empty promise.  

So, let’s take a little time today to think about the art of writing as opposed to the science of selling. 

One of the first “rules” a newbie author encounters is “use the five senses” — the first five wonders in our schoolgirl’s list. I notice she left off smell and that’s a really important one. Scent conjures up emotions and memories faster than any of the other senses.

But the senses alone aren’t enough for fiction. 

I’m reading a travel book just now . Here’s a description of town of St. Ives. “From the station we walk a jagged route along beach and cobble streets into town. A maypole dance is taking place just off the foreshore,  . . . Children skip and weave ribbons in a twisting rainbow.”

This passage uses the sense of sight but it misses out on feeling, laughing and loving. While colourful exposition is fine for a travel book, it is too shallow for good fiction.

By contrast, consider “The peaceful sea sighed as it lapped gently onto the white sand. . .” A.M. Stuart, Evil in Emerald. 

In the St. Ives example, we are observers only. We see the children skip, we see the jagged route, but we are indifferent. The second example adds feeling to the senses. Sighed and lapped are evocative words that draw the reader into the mood of the story. We expect romance — or mayhem, but we are no longer mere observers. We are participants.

**

“The Marsh stretched before them, smiling and lush in the September sunshine, yet with a suggestion of eery loneliness, about it. . .  ” Georgette Heyer, The Unknown Ajax. Even though Heyer is known for her light touch and sense of the ridiculous, this example shows her skill at conjuring a dark mood, in the midst of sunshine. 

**

“Intense wind picks up – fifty miles-per-hour gusting to sixty. Tide’s out, fishing boats and dories askew in the bay.” Here the travel book tells me the author is experiencing rough weather. But, although he may feel the wind, the reader doesn’t. We merely observe.

“My house stands at the edge of the earth. Together, the house and I have held strong against the churning tides of Fundy. Two sisters, stubborn in our bones.”  Ami McKay, the birthhouse. Ms McKay gives only a minimal description, “churning tides,” but the reader is drawn into the battle to survive on the edge of a heaving ocean. 

**

“A man sitting in a chair in the sun, reading a paper, and three children kicking a ball about. A dog jumping around the children and barking. The scene before her was so ordinary after what she had just  been though that she almost laughed in disbelief. ” Tracy Chevalier, A Single Thread

Can you identify with the terror of the heroine in this example? We see and hear a pleasant scene, yet the last line draws us into the emotion of the moment. This is more than a travelogue.

**

“She watched as [they] strolled across the village green. At first she thought they were going to the bistro for a nightcap, but then they veered to the right. To the light of Clara’s cottage.

And Reine -Marie heard them knock on her door. A soft, soft, insistent knocking. . .” Louise Penny, The Long Way Home.

Note how the word choice entices the reader into the drama. “veered” instead of “turned”, knocking that is “soft” yet “insistent.” There should be a great distance between the reader and the story at this point. We are watchers observing a watcher, and yet we sense the danger/intrigue/menace/heartache of the unfolding events.

**

“A glaring sun bore down on the small mining town . . . bleaching the colour from the landscape and sapping the strength of its citizens.” Alice Valdal, The Man for Her.  In this opening sentence I’ve set an ominous mood with oppressive heat and listless citizens. The reader not only observes the street, she feels sweat under her collar.

**

“[The dog’s] head would rise like a periscope and he would slide over the edge of his basket and work his way into the bedroom, keeping low to the ground, as if he were hunting. He would stop a foot short of the bed and cock an ear and listen . . . his nose only six inches away.” Stuart McLean, “Arthur”

Laughter, the sixth wonder. No reader can be disengaged from a story that makes her laugh. Shakespeare knew this. Even in his most heart-rending tragedies, he included scenes of comic relief. An audience, or a reader, needs release from tension. Put a little laughter in your story. Your readers will thank you for it.

**

“In her dreams Evelyn would always return to a pristine white beach where the sand felt soft between her toes and Henry’s hand was warm in her.” Joanna Nell, The Last Voyage of Mrs. Henry Parker.  Here we have the seventh and greatest wonder of them all, love.

**

In science class we are taught that the five senses are sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste. As writer’s we should include the school girl’s wonders, feeling, laughter and love.

Hits: 36

Our Little Libraries

I took a mini holiday last week and visited Coombs, a tiny village about a three hour drive from my home. While wandering the boutiques I saw this jumble of books through an open doorway. There were at least three more doors, all with teetering piles of used books. If anyone thought paper books were dead, think again. 

Since my own public library has removed most of its books and replaced them with computers and dvd’s my browsing ability has been hampered. So I have become a regular at used book stores and  “little libraries.” Those little neighbourhood “bring one/take one” stands have filled a need, not just for me, but for many. On lower Vancouver Island we have over 600 of them, which have received over 67,000 books. That’s just counting the “professional” supplier. No one knows how many volumes are off the shelf before they are counted. I heard that a copy of How to Knit and Felt with your Cat’s Fur was swooped up seven minutes after it landed in a little library.

The little libraries reflect the communities they inhabit. Fourteen of our 600+ include a seed drawer. Victoria is a city of gardens after all. Jigsaw puzzles and art supplies are also exchanged. 

used books galore in Coombs

In other words, the little libraries are meeting the needs of the community in a way the public library never did or could.

There are five of these delights within a one mile radius from my house so when I want something to read, it’s an easy walk. I’ve brought home all sorts of books — romance, history, travel, lifestyle, adventure, mystery — if I don’t like them, I can put them back and take something else. The freedom encourages me to take chances.

One of my latest picks turned out to be a gem.  I almost didn’t take it home. The title is Republic of Dirt and it looked as though someone had dropped it in the dirt. Still, the mule on the cover intrigued me.

The story has four narrators, each in the first person. Again I had doubts,  but the narrators turned out to be so engaging and so individual I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Not only that, the book had me laughing out loud. 

As a writer I can never leave off the editor’s hat when I’m reading, so much as I enjoyed this story, I also took a lesson from the author on creating unique voices for different characters. As a bonus, the story is set on Vancouver Island.

I so enjoyed this treasure from a little library, that I checked out the author and found she is a critically acclaimed writer, winner of the Leacock Medal for Humour for the book I’m reading. Her other works have been on best seller lists, and book of the year lists. A young adult series is being turned into a TV show. Since the book I read is the second in a series, I’ll recommend the first one to my book club for next year’s reading list.

So, three cheers for our little libraries who have kept books out of the landfill and put them into the hands of readers instead.

If you are lucky enough to have a little library in your neighbourhood, go check it out — you may find hidden treasure.

Hits: 41

6 Takeaways from Mark Lefebvre

On the weekend my writers group, VIRA, sponsored a workshop with Mark Lefebvre. 

I admit, the main impetus for me to attend this workshop was to re-connect with my writing tribe. I’ve missed the in-person contact for the past two years. Thanks to our terrific leaders and Mark’s obliging nature, the workshop was made available on Zoom for those who chose not to attend in person. One thing about COVID, it forced us Luddites to learn a lot of technology!

Once Mark started to talk, I quickly realized I was in for information overwhelm. To say Mark is an industry insider is an understatement. He knows the publishing world as a writer, a book-seller, a professional speaker. He has been at the forefront of digital publishing and book selling. He has served as the President of the Canadian Booksellers Association, been on the Board of Directors for BookNet Canada, helped to create Sheridan College’s degree program in creative writing. He has worked for Kobo, where he created the Kobo Writing Life self-publishing platform. He currently consults with Draft2Digital for eBook and print distribution. With such a wide-ranging resumé and a surname that is difficult to spell, he mostly defaults to the title “The Book Nerd.”

We had four hours of non-stop teaching. It will take me a while to digest the wealth of information, but here are some of the immediate standouts for me.

  1. Optimize your author brand by being consistent, professional and courteous. As public figures, authors must remember that we are watched and judged all the time.                        
  2. Keep your ideal reader in mind as you craft your book. He showed us something called a Venn diagram to help determine who that ideal reader is.  The diagram is useful, but thinking of your readership as one person, like your Aunt Sally, is a good way to keep the writing on tract. If you are just telling a tale to Aunt Sally, you are less likely to go wandering down dead-ends.                                                                                                                                            
  3. Universal book links are necessary on the world wide web. Who wants to limit their customers to just one platform? But who wants to clutter up their book page with a dozen links either? Draft2Digital has a tool that allows you to make one link that will work on any platform. It’s under the Books2Read page.                                                                             
  4. Writer Beware is a website where authors can check out the too-good-to-be-true offers of companies that want to “help” you self-publish your books. There are legitimate companies that do this, but there are myriad scam artists who prey on hopeful writers. Beware!                                                                                                                                            
  5. Be kind. With so many avenues to publication, authors have more opportunity than ever to get their work in front of readers. Unfortunately, getting noticed is very, very difficult. Being compassionate makes you a  better person. It helps you build relationships, and those relationships will help to advance your career,  be that with booksellers, book buyers, other authors, or strangers in the street.                                                        
  6. As much as you are kind to others, be kind to yourself. Writers are constantly faced with rejection. Don’t let an editor’s “no thanks” letter defeat you. If you have written a novel, or a poem, or a song, or a blog post, or even left a comment, you are a writer. Be proud of that. Millions of people have said, “I should write a book.” You, who have written a book, have accomplished what millions have not. Wear your title of “writer” with pride.

There was much, much more from the workshop but I’m still processing! I told you it was information overwhelm. I’m glad I went. i saw old friends. I met someone new. I learned a lot about the book industry. I got material for this blog. Pretty good return for a rainy Saturday.

Hits: 117

Easter – Rebirth

For those of us who follow the Gregorian calendar, Easter was three days ago. In my faith tradition we gathered early in the park for a “sunrise” service, then met again in the sanctuary of our church, to give thanks for the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was a joyous time. A time that rang with hallelujah’s. A time for hugs and smiles and gratitude. Even our lousy weather was greeted with a wry smile. We saw rebirth all around us–the daffodils in the fields, the robin on a branch, the silver lining on a storm cloud. Easter – holy day and holiday.

For the people of the Ukraine, who follow the Julian calendar, Easter is four days from now. As I watch the horrors shown on television news night after night, I cannot help but wonder how they can celebrate Easter this year.  Then I saw a priest in a bombed church, sorrow etched deep on his face. Yet his answer to the reporter was “Jesus forgave. How can I not forgive?” Last night I listened to an old woman from one of the recently occupied Ukrainian towns speak of meeting a Russian soldier. Even though the bodies of her slain countrymen lay in the street around her, she had taken pity on the young soldier and gave him food. 

With a humbled and aching heart, I pray for the people of Ukraine — and their oppressors. There will be no peace in the world until the bullies and aggressors turn their hearts and minds toward love of their fellowmen. The pope has called for an Easter “pause” this weekend to let peace talks go ahead. I am not a Roman Catholic but I fervently echo his plea. 

As the natural world welcomes rebirth in the spring, may humanity welcome a rekindling of compassion and a deep desire to live at peace with our neighbours.           

Hits: 29

Exiting the Cave

This week I took a 20 minute drive and a 35 minute ferry ride to meet up with an old writing friend for lunch. That was it, a total of 55 minutes from my house and it felt like a daring adventure. Just shows what being stuck at home can do to a person. I’ve always considered myself adventurous but after two full years of pandemic “being careful” I’m developing hints of agoraphobia. When I shared that bit of humiliation with my friend she admitted to similar feelings.

Apparently we are not alone in our nervousness. There is even a new acronym for the condition, FOGO or FONO. It means fear of going out or fear of normal. The human brain doesn’t like change, a trait left over from our evolution. We don’t like change, even good change. We want to be in control and change means we’re not. The world we used to know, pre-pandemic, is now the unknown and it scares us.

Since we were in confessional mode my friend and I discovered that both of us had been “stuck” in the writing process. We both have story ideas. We’ve both written and re-written and re-written the opening a dozen times. We’ve tried skipping ahead and writing pivotal scenes. We’ve even tried writing the ending — with no success. I found it interesting that we’d been travelling the same path without ever comparing notes. Maybe we are part of a wider writer-response to the pandemic.

If we are, we are in good company. I read over the weekend that Anne Tyler, the highly successful author of 23 novels, hasn’t been able to start a new book in the past three years. To her surprise she has missed the stimulation of eavesdropping!

Eavesdropping has a nasty connotation but in the context of an author it is merely adding grist to the imagination. Overheard snippets of conversation while waiting in line at the grocery store may spark a whole new level of conflict in a work-in-progress. The body language of people in a crowded coffee shop may bring insight to a character’s motivation. These normal, every day interactions are barely perceptible — until they aren’t there.

When the pandemic narrowed our lives to a few rooms or a few people, nourishment for our imaginations also narrowed. For some, like me and my friend, we got stuck.

Reading other people’s stories or watching other people’s movies doesn’t have the same power as listening to the voices around us and telling our own stories.

So, now that our pandemic restrictions are loosening and the sun is starting to shine in my part of the world, I’m resolved to push my personal boundaries beyond the backyard. I grew up with the adage that one must face one’s fears in order to overcome them. I still believe that, so while my snail-self wants to retreat into my shell, my grizzly-bear self urges me to explore new horizons. I’m going to do that.

I hope a fuller life gets my writing unstuck. Even if it doesn’t, I’d rather embrace life than hide from it.

.

Hits: 61

An Old Treasure

While looking for something else on my reference shelf,  I came upon Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. It wasn’t the reference I sought, but I took it down anyway. I’d read the book years ago when I was just beginning my writing journey. As I remember, it left me a bit confused. Now that I’ve been in the trenches for a while I found myself shouting Yes! to her observations. Her metaphorical approach to writing that had left me puzzled at the start of my career, now resonated on every level.

After attending many, many workshops and reading many, many “how to write” books, I questioned if I could  write fiction. I can draw up charts, do character interviews, fill in the blanks in plot sentences, create deep and wide back story. But when it comes to writing the tale  it will not conform to all those patterns laid out by generous and wise writers. Having spent weeks plotting an outline, I’ll run off course by the end of the first chapter. For me, the cerebral act of plotting does not connect to the intuitive act of story. 

My story has to grow organically. I don’t know what happens next until I get there. I don’t know what happened before until something happens “now” that makes the “before” relevant. My name is Alice Valdal and I’m a pantser.

Imagine my relief then, when Ms Lamott says that a writer may stare out the window for hours while waiting for a good idea. A writer will write thousands of words that don’t belong in the story but need to be put on paper anyway. Observing, reflecting, writing it down are ways to make sense of ourselves and the world we live in.

The act of writing is its own reward.

Publication is a whole other thing.

Many books on writing advise the would-be author to focus, to keep her head down and plug away on her important work every day. Don’t waste time warming up your writing engines writes the guru.

Ms Lamott suggests the opposite. Her first word of advice is to write some short assignments just to help you get started. Tell a story from childhood, describe your prom dress, reminisce about your pet chicken. This blog is a short assignment. I love these suggestions. Something that lets me write without having an editor/reader/publisher/marketer/publicist/accountant looking over my shoulder. It’s a reminder of what first prompted me to pick up a pen and start a story on a pad of foolscap. 

By today’s standards Bird by Bird is an old book, published in 1994, at a time when traditional houses ruled the publishing world. Even so, her non-business approach to writing– seeing it as an art form instead– is refreshing and affirming. If you are a writer struggling to get “it” right, I recommend you dip into Bird by Bird if only for the jokes.

Hits: 24

« Older posts

© 2022 Alice Valdal

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑