Writing Gives You Wings

You’ve seen the memes all over the Internet, I know. They tell you we’re a weird bunch. Weird, unstable, emotional, eccentric, crazy even. It’s a cultural cliché that in order to be a writer, you must be a bohemian, jobless, penniless, loner who, at times, indulges in a good-sized dose of narcissism balanced by self-deprecation. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? The thing is, that's not exactly what it's about. And those aren't necessarily the characteristics that make a writer a writer. The thing is: being a writer is hard. It’s really hard. Actually, it’s really, really, really hard. Not just because the craft of writing is challenging, but because of what is required for the craft to come to fruition. Not to mention the thick skin required to withstand frequent rejection. At the Tucson Festival of Books this year, I had the opportunity to hear Alice Hoffman speak during a Young Adult Fiction panel. Near the end of the session, a mother from the crowd stood...
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The Space of the Unknown

The process of creation happens in the present moment. Michelangelo said of his journey as an artist:  “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Alchemists knew this process well—the act of fashioning “something” from “nothing.” Solve et coagula, that is, "dissolve and coagulate" meaning nothing new can be built before we break the old and we make space. Before a project is revealed, the artist may not (and most likely doesn’t) know what the final work will be.  The artist may have a vague idea about theme, or character, or scene, or tune, but the work reveals itself during the process of creation. It doesn’t happen during a planning phase or a crafting session. The artist, the writer is a channel—one who is willing to go into the space of the unknown, into the space of uncertainty, and be present in that space long enough for the work to reveal...
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Frankly Explicable: A Conversation with Mary Burger

The art of poetics begins with the intersection of the visual and the unseen. Word gives way to image, image to thought, thought to inspiration. As communicators, human beings desire to bring value to the exchange—something ambiguous in the visual art world, value. What holds meaning for one may not for another, and what inspires is highly subjective. More than value, we search for meaning. Who are we? To what do we devote attention? On what do we spend our time? The idea of categories amongst thought makes experience easily interpretable. But what of the things that meet and mingle? Where does communication end and poetry begin? How is experience cataloged as “art”? Writer, visual artist, and environmental designer, Mary Burger is interested in cross-genrewriting that merges aspects of poetry, essay, and fiction. Her books include Then Go On (Litmus Press, 2012), a collection of lyric prose pieces, Sonny (Leon Works, 2005), a novella on the Trinity bomb test, and A Partial Handbook for...
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A Succession of Nows: The Writing Craft of James Balestrieri (Part 2)

In the last entry, we learned a bit about James Balestrieri, his likes and dislikes, and how he approaches the craft of writing.  In this post we'll learn a bit more about The Ballard of Ethan Burns, what it means to craft a work in the "Western" genre, and what the Romantic era still has to do with modern writing. The work contains modern references to YouTube and yet Ethan Burns doesn’t feel dated or outdated in any way.  When you were writing this book, what did you have in mind when you decided upon how to convey time, timeliness, and the Western genre?  "I wanted the audience to be sure the story was rooted in the present, though when I first conceived it, there was no YouTube—there was barely an Internet! My experience of the American West stems from my day job at J. N. Bartfield Galleries in New York. We sell original works of art by the greats—Remington, Russell, etc....
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A Succession of Nows: The Writing Craft of James Balestrieri

Crafting a believable story is no small feat. Character, plot, subtext, conflict, dialogue, setting, detail: these are just a few of the elements that make up a believable but fictitious world. The art and craft of writing can, at times, be a slow and painstaking process—and at other times a seemingly channeled slew of words that come as an outpouring so quickly that fingers and pen can hardly keep up. Each writer has their own personal process, perhaps by way of a schedule or series of rituals, an unplanned meet-cute with the muse, or a deliberate pairing of pen and paper in an intimate way that draws forth word after word. If ever you've had a conversation with a writer who truly knows their craft (or you yourself are a writer), you already know that writing is a delicate process. That craft is essential for the work to convey what it intends to convey is unquestionable. And art, then, becomes the specific...
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Synchronicity: Being in the Flow of Life

Each month, I send out a subscriber-only newsletter and I want to share with you a section of the last newsletter.  I include a Q&A that covers a wide range of topics  including writing, editing, metaphysics, astrology, and other similar info.  This month's Q&A was particular poignant, so I wanted to make it available here for you. Stephanie from San Francisco, California wrote: How do you explain synchronicities and what do they mean? What if I told you that your question is itself a synchronicity? Leading up to this newsletter I’ve been thinking about and wanting to write about co-creatorship. The mention of Sagittarius and the planet Jupiter, earlier, starts to discuss this. Not only that, in the second interview installment with M.J. Rose, she mentions near the end the idea of synchronicity as the term was coined and defined by Carl Jung. Bravo Stephanie for being in the flow!   Synchronicities are most often seen as 'coincidences' that appear when we do not expect...
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M.J. Rose on Writing, Reincarnation, and Aromas

In the last post we learned about M.J. Rose and her adventures in the publishing world. In this post, we'll learn more about her writing style and inspiration. What is the one thing that always puts you in the space or frame of mind to write when you’re working on a project—even if you’re not feeling particularly inspired? "I have a talisman for every book…an object that belongs to the main character. All I have to do is focus on it. Right now it’s an old silver and amethyst ring that I believe my character, a 16th century perfumer, wore on his forefinger all his life." How do you approach plot when you’re writing a new novel? Do you use an outline in your process? "I spend a long time on my main characters, creating scrapbooks for them filled with all the mementos of their life. I give about three months to this process not writing a word, but finding my characters in the...
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M.J. Rose on Books, Buzz, and Business

There are many contemporary writers that delve into interesting topics, but I believe few are as interesting as M.J. Rose. Her writing bridges the gaps between art and artifact, fiction and nonfiction. She weaves historical events with fictional characters, moves plot across and through multiple eras, and makes connections between eclectic and seemingly disparate things and people, to leave readers with a sense that everything is truly connected. M.J. is the international bestselling author of the novels:  Lip Service, In Fidelity, Flesh Tones, Sheet Music, Lying in Bed, The Halo Effect, The Delilah Complex, The Venus Fix, The Reincarnationist, The Memorist, The Hypnotist, and The Book of Lost Fragrances: A Novel of Suspense. She is also the co-author with Angela Adair Hoy of How To Publish and Promote Online, and with Doug Clegg of Buzz Your Book. Her newest novel Seduction, became available on May 7. She is a founding member and board member of International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first...
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Integrating the Shadow: The Light and The Darkness in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan

In the early twentieth-century, when Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung parted ways, the future of psychoanalysis was unclear. Sure, Jung had presented academic papers to his peers and had volumes of journals and research, but his interest in the esoteric, astrology, the “occult,” the invisible, was well beyond his peers’ understanding of such subjects and how these subjects may relate to the study of clinical psychology. Darren Aronofsky has always been one of my favorite directors since his early beginnings with Pi and Requiem for a Dream.  The Fountain remains one of my favorite films of all time for many reasons, but when Black Swan debuted at the theater, I didn’t rush out to see it.  It came and left the big screen, won an Oscar, and still I had made no attempt to view the film. I knew that it would require attention, I knew it would have a profound effect upon its viewers, including me. I knew it would be intense and...
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More Fun with Sandy Florian

In the last post, we learned a bit about Sandy's work, got a sense of her creative writing style and learned a bit about her.  In this post, we'll learn whether Sandy  likes typewriters and black ink (among other things) in an A-Z list, and birthday prompt. For each items in the alphabetized list below, Sandy gave a  “yes” for  a thumbs up and “no” for a thumbs down—and a few answers in between. A.  James Joyce’s Ulysses – Yes B.  Magical realism – Yes C.  Catchy hybrid terms like “jeggings” – Haha! I had to look that one up. I’ll give that a double Yes. D.  The Chicago Manual of Style – Yes E.  Silent films – Yes F.  Harry Potter – I’m not sure. I haven’t read them. I probably should. I’ll say Yes because it turns kids on to literature. G.  The revision process – Yes H.  Perfectionism – Yes I.  Ink wells – As metaphors? Yes. As writing tools with plumes? No. Too sloppy. Too self-aware. J.  Using...
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