More Words from Bloggers

Yellow Bug parked in front of the NM Museum of Art, photo by author
Yellow Bug parked in front of the NM Museum of Art, photo by author

Best Piece of Writing Advice Ever

Best Piece of Writing Advice Yet  (from the venerable Mark Twain)   “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” Nothing could be more simple, right?

Today’s look around the internet includes more on Amazon-Hatchette, words from a black screenwriter and a bunch of Tom Swifties.

Does Anybody remember Boyz in the Hood?

Don’t go through the system. Do it yourself. Do something you believe in.”
Oscar-nominated writer/director John Singleton (Boyz in the Hood

The title definitely caught my eye when the film first came out in 1991, but I never got around to watching the movie (on DVD) till a few years ago. I must say I enjoyed the show immensely. It’s a great coming of age story about a tight-knit group of black teenagers trying to cope with the urban, drug-infested neighborhood that they find themselves thrust into.

The amazing thing about this film is that Singleton wrote the screenplay and landed the director’s spot just a year or two after he graduated from UCLA film school. I can’t imagine anything like this happening today, even though they are more opportunities out there and internet sites like the Black List have made Hollywood more accessible. Do it yourself is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

This Hatchette-Amazon Thing Drags On

“Consider the French Revolution. A bunch of blue bloods really thought they were born to rule, and the peasants couldn’t live without them to govern. They were wrong.” Joe Konrath

Mr. Konrath continues his defense of ebook publishing and self-publishing with this timely rage against Author’s United. His assertion that the ebooks are radically changing the publishing world has been around for several years. Now that the Amazon-Hatchette feud dominates the literary conversation, Joe has gained more notoriety as the great defender of Amazon and the new reality of cheap ebooks. No different than the rise of paperbacks right after WWII or the emergence of DVD discs and the consequent demise of VHS tapes, ebooks are here to stay. Check out his blog…….even if don’t agree his opinions you may the argument compelling.

Who Was Tom Swift?

Last week while discussing the overuse of adverbs, Anne Allen dug up the popular 60s phenomena of Tom Swifties, which derived from the Tom Swift character of YA fame that has been around since 1910.

Here are some of my favorites.

“Careful with that chainsaw,” Tom said offhandedly.

“I might as well be dead,” Tom croaked.

“I wish I drove a Scandinavian car” Tom sobbed (Saabed)

“I wonder if this radium is radioactive?” asked Marie curiously

“We could have made a fortune canning pineapples” Tom groaned dolefully

“That’s the last time I’ll stick my arm in a lion’s mouth,” the lion-tamer said off-handedly.

“I’ll have a martini,” said Tom, drily (dryly)

“I unclogged the drain with a vacuum cleaner,” said Tom succinctly

“Hurry up and get to the back of the ship!” Tom said sternly

“I have no flowers,” Tom said lackadaisically

Don’t lend me more yarn— / I can’t mend worth a darn,” / Said Tom, as he knitted his brow.

Kind of silly, but in a way they still retain some of their charm.

Final Quote of the Day

“Don’t write a book someday, write a book today. That’s what I did.” Chuck Wendig

 

Advertisements

Working Class Writers

Though not literary writers, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe were two American icons that rose from a modest background to stardom.
Though not literary writers, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe were two American icons that rose from a modest background to stardom. Here they are pictured on an exterior wall in Las Vegas.

Labor Day Rant

Today is Labor Day and maybe it is a good time to celebrate those writers (and other artists), who held day jobs to support their  dreams. Actually this list is quite long, so I will concentrate mostly on those who toiled in the “School of Hard Knocks” outside the academic system. For a close look at the various and sundry jobs, writers have held in order to maintain their craft, check out this article at Huffington Post.

Now…..Don’t get me wrong……Academia has produced some amazingly talented writers. First to mind, are those wonderful British professors, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. They both taught at Oxford and at the same time each in his own right produced some of the most remarkable fiction of the mid-twentieth century. In fact, the two were best of friends, who created and nourished The Inklings, an extra-curriculum literary discussion group that always met in one of Oxford’s many well-attended watering holes.

Jack Kerouac and the Beats

Jack Kerouac and company are notorious for allegedly spurning a whole cultural revolution that spurned higher education and encouraged various non-conformist activities, such as socializing at coffee houses (and bars), digging jazz music and writing offbeat and dissident poetry. Except for Kerouac and Neal Cassady, this group racked up quite a slew of impressive academic credentials. Though Alan Ginsburg dropped out of Columbia to write poetry, he did return and complete his degree program. Furthermore, William Burroughs was a Harvard graduate., while Gegory Corso attended the elite university as a a non-matriculating student— a poet in residence. Rounding out the group are Gary Snyder, who attended UCal Berkeley and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who received an advanced degree from the Sorbonne in Paris, France. All in all, that’s a pretty impressive collection of degrees and academic experiences.

The British Class System

Just by the sheer number of writers and poets that have come from the British Empire, this commonwealth of nations has to be one of the most literary places on the planet. Some of the Empire’s finest writers, actually grew up in the British hinterlands and so they never had to opportunity to attend an institute of higher learning. At the top of this list would be  Doris Lessing, a Rhodesian writer, who recently received a Nobel Prize in Literature, and the ever-popular George Orwell, whose real name was Eric Blair. Eric grew up in remote India and so he was never able to obtain a proper education. Still, this did not prevent the writer from producing several 20th century classics.

Back in old Londontown, fans of the mystery and crime genres will be interested in the life and times of Agatha Christie, who spent her childhood years in both London and Devonshire. Despite being home-schooled, Agatha Christie’s books have sold more copies for all authors except Shakespeare and the Bible.

My Labor Day Reading List

Following are some classic titles by a few brave writers, who went out and did things for themselves…..and then wrote about it. In reality, there are many books in this field. These few titles are just a my personal favorites and perhaps a jumping off point for your own reading adventures……for there are many more great titles out there.

1. You Can’t Win by Jack Black    This autobiographical tale from a turn-of-the-century hobo-cat burglar was William Burroughs favorite read. Need I say more.

2. The Drifting Cowboy by Will James    Though born in Quebec, Will James (an alias used to cover his cattle rustling past) escaped to the U.S. and worked many western ranches as a 20th century cowhand and roper. He also worked as a Hollywood stunt man during the early years.

3. Down and Out In Paris and London by George Orwell    Orwell’s firsthand account of washing dishes in 30s Paris and marching from one shelter to the next in England will leave you spellbound.

4. Roughing It by Mark Twain  Before Twain made it big with Tom Sawyer, the man did many things including tramping across the West during the Civil War.

5. Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry    Here the author of the Little Prince recounts his flying days and a crash in the Sahara that may have lead to the petite prince story.

6. Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour  Louis L’Amour was more than just a western writer. He was also a professional boxer and merchant marine who traveled the Seven Seas. This book takes you through his world traveling and roundabout ways of his younger days.

In Conclusion

Perhaps the biggest working class heroes of all…….the Liverpool Lads

“They hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool
Till you’re so crazy you can’t follow their rules
A working class hero is something to be”

John Lennon from Working Class Hero

Probably no other group of artists better represents  the working class than the British fab four, John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Probably no other group of artists better represents the working class than the British fab four, John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Will The Short Story Survive

USS_Annapolis_ICEX
USS_Annapolis after surfacing through three feet of Artic ice, credit: photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Tiffini M. Jones, U.S. Navy

Over at Absolute Write the subject of short stories came up and there was a link to an online site that had an interesting premise as a title, “Why Book Publishers Love Short Stories.” Here’s the link, if you want to go there and share Alan Rinsler’s optimism. Alan is an editorial consultant in New York City and here are a few of  his observations about the current status of publishing vis-a-vis the short story.

There’s a robust market for books of stories,

Literary journals publishing short fiction,

Book publishers take chances on new writers,

Short story collections can sell very well,

The short story as dress rehearsal.

Had enough?  I have and those are just the sub-headings; there’s a lot of comments and opinions still left in the article. My first reaction was this guy’s off his rocker; everybody knows short stories don’t sell, but then just the other day I was in the local independent bookstore, where they list and display all the best selling books for that particular store and the number one book was Olive Kittredge by Elizabeth Strout. And it’s a collection of short stories and it’s been at the top of the list for months.

OK!  First, let me explain a few things. I live on the coast of Maine and that’s where all these stories take place – in Crosby, Maine. But still Ms. Strout is also doing pretty good on the NY Times Bestsellers list and I think she picked up a Pulitzer Prize for fiction too boot. Not bad for a collection of short stories.

400px-Titanic-bow_seen_from_MIR_I_submersible
Titantic bow as seen from MIR 1 submersible: credit NOAA

And then there’s Jimmy Buffett’s collection of short stories. That book is called Tales from Margaritaville. And if you think the title has just more than a faint resemblance to a song of a similar name you’re right. Being a famous songwriter didn’t hurt, but seems I remember somewhere that not only did Tales of Margaritaville make it to the top of the NYT Bestseller list, but so did his A Pirate Looks At Fifty. Quite a feat because both books were at the top of the list at the same time. (no it wasn’t a tie, one was fiction and the other was non-fiction). The last somebody fulled a stunt like that was over a hundred years, back at the turn of the century when Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain did the same thing. Now that’s a pretty good accomplishment for a pop star and if you think Buffet’s writing’s a fluke check out his reading list. It’s available if you thumb through the Pirate book.

Don’t forget about the short stories that became a movie. That list includes Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Rear Window based on a It Had To Be Murder by John Michael Hayes and the Pit and the Pendelem by Edgar Alan Poe.

So now that I think about it, the short story might be a little more important than one realizes. Even though only a few of the big NY magazines still pay good money for a short, they still  act like a proving ground for mainstream fiction writers.

Mark Twain Comes Out With New Unpublished Collection of Essays and Stories

The Hale-Bopp Comet as seen in 1997
The Hale-Bopp Comet as seen in 1997

Samuel Clemens may have died when Haley’s Comet passed by earth on it’s awesome journey nearly a hundred years ago, but Mark Twain lives on, at least in the hearts and minds of readers all around the globe. Next month those of us, who can never get enough of the literary giant will be treated with special release of unpublished short stories next month by the publisher Harper Studio.

In an online article posted a couple of weeks ago by the Guardian Online, it has been announced this collection of unpublished short stories and essays will be released next month in book format. The collection has been edited by Robert Hirsh of the Mark Twain Project and they will be featured this spring in the noted literary magazine, The Strand.

So for you Mark Twain fans, who want to keep reading, next month you will get the chance.

And for all those, who thoroughly enjoy Jack Kerouac, hope is just around the corner in the April release of “The Sea Is My Brother”. This is an unpublished Kerouac novel to be put out by the very same publisher, Harper Studio.