You can visit my Writing Life Blog at http://dallaswoodburn.blogspot.com/
I also blog weekly at Day-by-Day Masterpiece.
You can visit my Writing Life Blog at http://dallaswoodburn.blogspot.com/
I also blog weekly at Day-by-Day Masterpiece.
You know what? I was going to write about all the art that people physically do with books. You know what I am talking about. Those cool sculptures created with bound together used books, or the photographs of falling books, or even the entire rooms built with books. While those are very cool and worth talking about, I have changed my mind.
You see, when I think about art and books I do not think of impressionist and modern artwork. I do not think of book roses or book butterflies. I think of the words on those pages: the words that represent hours and hours and even years and years of an author’s hopes, dreams and efforts to produce. You know, there are so many readers out there today that forget that real people, just like them, write books. We are not fabulous figures from the past like Mark Twain or William Shakespeare. We are not rich or famous or even super talented. What we are, us authors, is real people with real things they need to share.
The only thing that differentiates us from your average Joe is that instead of talking about things or singing about things or drinking about things, we write about things. Those written words are a reflection of our own souls; our fears and desires and experiences. Those books you casually walk by, priced and printed and ignored, are parts of real people displayed for public view. When you think about it that way, writers are actually extremely brave.
The thing I love about books is how much of the author you can see shining through. It is kind of like acting. How much is the character and how much is the actor playing the character? Like with some actors, some writers have a unique voice that comes through no matter what they write. That unique voice helps them to have a following of readers that either love their work or despise it, no in between.
However, some writers seem to actually become the characters. Their voice is so well hidden that you can read two separate books of theirs and never realize it is written by the same person. Some authors even write characters that are from entirely different cultures, backgrounds or sexes and do such a good job with them that when you discover who the author really is you can only gape in wonder at their talent.
It does not really matter which kind of author you are though. Many of the most popular authors are ones that do not have a particular talent but instead tap into what is going on in society at the time. Those authors seem to have a finger on society’s pulse and are able to express what the average person is going through. Even if they do not write true stores, or even if they do not write realistic fiction, they can still create characters that speak to us.
Another thing that most people forget is that every movie and television show that touches your heart started out by someone writing it down. Now, I am not talking about reality television here, but authentic stories are just books put into motion. Screenwriters are no less writers than fiction, history, or fantasy writers are. They just have a different style and you can see their writing visually, which I think is often a great benefit to them.
A writer’s life can be a lonely life. No one can see the words as you write them. Even if you have people to edit your work it is not the same as say an audience clapping or a person crying at the beauty of a song. Writers very rarely get much attention, and even the best writers see only moments in the limelight before people turn to other sources of entertainment. Is it any wonder that writing is sometimes not considered an “art”? The closest we writers come to being considered artists is the poets out there, or maybe a songwriter. Other than that we are a job, and not a very profitable one. There are always exceptions, of course, but in general writers have to be okay with living solitary lives. There are not many writers who can work together to successfully create a book or story. Team writing is not something you see very often outside of text books.
What was my point? Oh, yes. I think that we writers should strive to show the world that writing is art. It is a beautiful, difficult and sometimes dangerous art. Like graffiti on the walls protesting government, writing can often be a catalyst for change. Think 1984 or Animal Farm or Huckleberry Finn. Simple stories written by normal men who changed the world. Not only that, but I think that writers are ignored in favor of more visual arts. Yes, a painting or sculpture is art, but so is a compelling story. I know that when I write I see entire worlds in my mind. If only I could wield a paint brush or computer mouse with the same clarity as I do my thoughts! I could create works of art so beautiful and realistic that you could swear you were looking at a photograph of another world. I could tell you every brick on the wall, every cloud in the sky, every animal and bit of hay, the smell of grass, the light breeze, the warmth of the sun, the chill of the fog, the clatter of horses hooves, the howling yip of a coyote, the chirping of frogs, the clatter of raindrops against the window.
Are these not arts? Wouldn’t you pay to see a movie or play a game so detailed? Wouldn’t you look around in wonder at a world created so carefully that you could walk into every room and expect it to amaze you? And yet, when we read books and stories of these carefully created worlds we often take them for granted.
Writing is art. Books are art. Words are art. Writers should get just as much appreciation for their work as painters do, as photographers and sculptors, dancers and actors, graphic designers and videographers. Just because you cannot see the worlds and people we create does not mean they are not there. They are there; they are real, as real as any other work of art. Carefully preserved in a way that others can understand and picture within their own minds. And isn’t that the more difficult task? To translate something so personal to yourself into something that everyone can see. Using no colors, no shadows, no careful shaping, just word after word poured out onto the page until entire world and galaxies and races and languages exist between the printed, creased pages of a simple paperback book. Is this not art?
About the Author: This guest post is contributed by Debra Johnson, blogger and editor of Liveinnanny.com. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: – jdebra84 @ gmail.com.
I’m really delighted to be sharing these poems with you all today as part of Write On’s partnership with NYWC and their Ten Under Ten Series. I know you will enjoy these amazing poems written by kids under ten years old:
by Amaraa F. Harris, Age 8
My dad’s ears are like eggs
that’s alive. My mommy’s ears are
as beautiful as a tree blowing in
the winter. My grandma’s ears are
as silky as grass.
But my ears are
weird. They feel like
elf ears. They hurt when the
wind blows. But when I move
my ears move too.
When the wind blows
it’s like they try to tell me
My sister’s ears
Are an oval that will never stop.
This poem was contributed in 2005 by Amaraa F. Harris when she was eight years old and appears in Making the Trees Shiver: An Anthology of the First Six Years of the Fort Greene Summer Literary Festival. You’ll find this and other poems from the Fort Greene Summer Literary Festival in the NYWC Bookstore.
* * *
A Stringy Coconut
by Maya Kushnick, Age 7
This coconut looks like a hairball from a cat. (Even though I never saw one before.) It is an asteroid with rings on it. Is it heavy? Is it light? Don’t know! Bumpy, lumpy it hurts a lot. Mmmmm. Yummy, milky. Why did it fall on my head, off a tree? This someone has a big Mustache! What a nice hairdo. What a stringy coconut.
Maya Kushnick is a member of the NY Writers Coalition youth workshop Ridge Kids, which meets every Thursday at Brooklyn Public Library, Bay Ridge Branch. Click here for more information on NYWC youth programming.
* * *
Dead Rat Hamburgers
by Tiffany Wong, Age 8
1. 18 dead rats
2. 2 hairy tomatoes
3. Bleu cheese
4. Moldy bread
5. Blood (optional: shoot a person with a bazooka gun to get the blood.)
1. Grate bleu cheese and drop 3 gallons of blood into the bowl
2. Dice tomato
3. Wash dead mice or rat in blood*
4. Cook rats
5. Put everything together
Stink up and enjoy!
*Do not dry
“Dead Rat Hamburgers” was contributed in 2006 by Tiffany Wong when she was eight years old and appears in If These Streets Could Talk: Fiction & Poetry from the NY Writers Coalition. You’ll find this and other writing from our youth program in the NYWC Bookstore.
* * *
by Cindy Lei, Age 7
I am from New York City
I am from brushes with daisies
I am from big white dumplings with things inside
I am from long pink dresses that I wear for dances.
I feel excited when I am wearing the pink dress.
I am from fudge
I am from congratulations and happy birthday.
I am from presents, medium-sized in a blue box with a pink
I am from fresh air.
I am from quickly-spoken Chinese.
I am from the stories I write, stories with problems.
I am from little and big sisters.
I am from Chinatown where there are interesting signs
and English-speaking people can’t understand.
“Pretty” was contributed in 2006 by Cindy Lei when she was seven years old and appears in If These Streets Could Talk: Fiction & Poetry from the NY Writers Coalition. You’ll find this and other writing from our youth program in the NYWC Bookstore.
Hi everyone! A couple months back I shared the exciting news that my play “A Frog in Boiling Water” is going to be produced in New York City as part of the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival! (Read my interview on the Samuel French website here: http://oob.samuelfrench.com/index.php/a-frog-boiling-in-water-by-dallas-woodburn/)
I could not be more thrilled to be part of this prestigious festival and to be working with the amazing director Brian Gillespie and Pull Together Productions.
We’re looking for a little bit of help to cover the costs of producing and rehearsing the show for its Off Off Broadway, New York premiere on October 27th. We’ve created an Indiegogo page with various “perks” for donors, including a thank-you shout-out on our Facebook page, the Pull Together Productions website, and right here on this blog!
About the Play:
On the surface, an ordinary family lives a sheltered existence — but on a dry, still Friday night, something is sparked to life that reveals the tension and secrets behind their perfect facade and ultimately changes their lives forever.
About the Festival:
Now in its 37th year, The Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival is Manhattan’s oldest, continuous short play festival. In the first 36 years of the Festival, over 500 theatre companies and schools from across the U.S. and around the world have participated. The Festival has served as a doorway to future success for many aspiring playwrights, and has helped launched the work of notables such as Theresa Rebeck. In many cases, Festival participation has sparked agent contracts for Festival finalists and all of the final forty plays selected to be perform in New York are guaranteed to be seen by an Artistic Director of a major theater, a professional playwright, and a theatrical agent. Many past Festival playwrights have gone on to win major Playwriting awards and honors, as well as to have major theatrical productions of their works staged.
Check out the festival’s website for more info: http://oob.samuelfrench.com
What your donation will go towards:
We don’t need much; about $1000 should come pretty close to covering our expenses. But that’s just a little bit more than a struggling New York director and a grad. student playwright can pay for out of pocket. We’re hoping friends and supporters like you can pitch-in and help us along. Every donation, no matter what amount, will help us make this play a success.
Here’s the link one more time: http://www.indiegogo.com/afroginboilingwater?a=21564
A writer’s group is a great tool for helping you grow as a writer. A good group can hold you accountable for producing more work, can inspire you to do more and to try new things, and can give you helpful feedback to improve your work. A bad group can waste your time and make you frustrated with the process. If you aren’t able to find a writers’ group in your area — or you just aren’t happy with the groups that are available — you can start your own. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure that you create a successful writers’ group that helps to support and nurture your writing:
Recruit the Right People
The most important criteria for your writing group is that you have the right people in it. These should be people who have compatible views about writing and who have similar goals for the group and attitudes toward work. In other words: You should agree about why you’re there and what you’re going to do while you’re there. It also helps if you have similar writing styles. You can find the right people to join your group either through word-of-mouth referrals or through targeted classified advertising on sites like Craigslist or Meetup. Take your time recruiting your members: If you rush and select the wrong people, it could seriously undermine your group.
Once you have a plan for selecting your members, determine a cap for the number of members you will accept. Large groups benefit from a diversity of perspectives and experiences, but they can become unwieldy and ineffective. Trying to fit too many members into a group may mean that not all members get a chance to share their feedback or to get feedback on their own work. Figure out a good number that works for you based on your goals for the group. There is no right or wrong answer, as it depends on your own personal preferences. However, as a general rule, most groups succeed if they have fewer than a dozen or so members.
Create a Schedule
Writers may work best when inspiration strikes, but an effective group can’t operate on whims. Create a detailed schedule to keep your group on track and to make sure that everyone gets their fair share of critique. Your schedule should include when each writer should submit work to the group and when critique will be given. Be sure to include some flexibility into the schedule. Even with deadlines, some writers may not turn in material when they are supposed to, or extenuating circumstances such as inclement weather or computer malfunctions may mean that a group can’t meet or members aren’t ready to provide feedback.
You know who and you know when, now do you know how or where? Determine logistical details for your group such as where you will meet, how members will be responsible for distributing work (in person? through e-mail?), and how feedback will be distributed (are additional notes required to be e-mailed? Does a hard copy need to be handed back in person? etc.) Figuring out these details ahead of time will help the group run more smoothly and efficiently so you can focus all your energy where it matters: on the writing.
Set Ground Rules
Now you’re ready to meet. So how exactly will your meetings be run? Will there be an open conversation between writer and readers? Will the writer be asked to give a short reading or to explain some of the thought process behind a piece? Or will the writer be asked to remain silent during the course of the critique, only to respond to all feedback at the very end? Lay out these ground rules for writers at the beginning so you can all be in agreement about how to present and receive feedback. If you don’t, the meeting may become a free-for-all that devolves into a rambling conversation or a heated debate. Like good writing, a good writers’ group take thought and planning.
Use these tips to create your next writers’ group, and you will set yourself up for success so you create a group that helps to support and challenge you as a writer so you can grow and hone your craft. Have you created or joined a writers’ group? Share your tips for successful groups in the comments!
BIO: Kay Winders is presently the resident writer for badcreditloans.org, where she researches the best way for people to pay off their debts without damaging their credit. In her spare time, she enjoys freelance writing, the beach and gardening.
We all derive some of our personality from our parents, and some of it from rebelling against them. It’s a healthy, dialectical process: we get to choose which of their beliefs, inclinations, and habits are beneficial to us, and which we can improve on.
Personally, I was raised by a wonderful mother who also happened to be a librarian by trade. Although you would think that this vocation might imply an orderly, organized nature, that part of the job description was not as evident in her own personal life as was the compulsion to hoard.
Admirable enough in the context of a library, where it can be put to use preserving mankind’s knowledge for posterity, this retentive, pack-rat quality made for an unbelievably cluttered house. Kitchenware and other goods, however obsolete or redundant, were never, ever thrown away. Surely, someone will want those someday! Newspapers (remember those?) and magazines were piled and clipped and shredded, and piled again, on any available surface. My sister and I would sometimes joke that our living room looked like a gerbil cage.
My father had the same tendency, though his was mostly confined to the realm of gadgetry and electronics. Boxes of wires that once belonged to God-knows-what. Defunct computers. A whole slew of long-obsolete MiniDisc players, which he had bought in multiples, not because they’d be worth something someday (at least he wasn’t that delusional) but just so he’d never have to buy another one, even if he could find someone still selling them.
Dad also had some bad habits when it came to work. A government attorney, he often found himself working long into the night, due less to any overly onerous caseload than to his own procrastinating ways. He would schmooze and dawdle and not get nearly enough done at work, to the point that it ate into his personal and family life, thus affecting us all.
Unfortunately, as a writer, I find myself replicating this behavior pattern frighteningly faithfully. I’m not in analysis or anything (though maybe I should be!), but I frequently find myself thinking, D’oh! I’m doing exactly what I used to judge Dad for. It’s something I have to actively struggle against.
The hoarding compulsions less so: now don’t get me wrong, I’m no Spartan, but I don’t like clutter. I relish the feeling of control that comes with a well-organized and streamlined household, though without ever being totally anal about it. In other words, I think I’ve found the balance they never did between keeping a sterile and uptight “museum house” and being a complete slob with cars up on cinder blocks in the front yard.
If only I could find that same balance with the productivity issue. Some parental curses are hard to break, as mythology soberly notes. In Christianity we trace this “original sin” all the way back to Adam. But whether you’re religious or not, it’s hard to avoid recognizing that the sins of the father often truly are visited on the son, whether by genetics or environment. We do each have the choice, however — and the ability — to be a little bit better than the last generation. We would want the same for our own children. Right?
So think about it: which of your habits constitute a helpful inheritance from your parents? On the other hand, can you recognize places where these ingrained ways of living might be holding you back? Mom and Dad formed you, but it’s your life to live.
BIO: Karen Smith is a versatile freelance writer who often writes for onlinebusinessdegree.org. While her writing focus is trends in small business, she also enjoys writing about the challenges of parenting, continuing education, health, and more. Karen welcomes comments below!