Editor’s Corner 101.3

Written by Shawn MacKenzie

You Gotta Have Style

“Fashion fades, but style endures.” …Coco Chanel

Scribe smallNow, I assume that everyone has done their homework and brushed up on their grammar, punctuation, and all the other pesky elements of our craft.

Which brings me to the second part of William Strunk’s treatise: style.

What is literary style and how does it play into a writer/editor’s labors? Can we even discuss style or is it like Potter Stewart’s obscenity, we simply know it when we see it? Perhaps it’s a bit of both.

Curiously, over this past week my thoughts veered away from the world of letters and into – for me – the unfamiliar world of haute couture, specifically the wit and wisdom of Ms. Coco Chanel. One does not usually put Strunk and Chanel in the same breath, and yet, when it comes to style, they actually have a great deal in common. Both emphasize simplicity and clean lines, a style which is natural to the wearer, not forced or laden with ornamentation.

In words or cloth, despite publishers’ fads or the vagaries of the marketplace, style is like a little black dress, well-made, beautifully tailored, and right for any occasion.

So, how do we get there? Are there rules to literary style? Nothing as specific or rigid as those of its elements. More aptly, I would say there are principles – some of which I will examine in detail in upcoming weeks. These principles vary slightly with region, culture, and, to a degree, time, but the underlying tenets remain the same. A few things – and only a few – to bear in mind are

• Write naturally. It is high artifice for a 21st century author to write like Brontë or Twain, and has a tendency to wear thin. That said, you also want your style to fit your genre. The language of sword-and-sorcery is not that of noir mystery or gritty YA.

• Fit form to project. For example, few people – Joyce is an exception who springs to mind – would, could, or should spend 500 pages on a tale as intimate and temporally restricted a single day in a man’s life. Most of us would see this as the stuff of a short story, play, or perhaps a narrative poem.

• Chanel said, “A woman is close to being naked when she is well dressed.” So dress your story well. Write with nouns and verbs. The rest is needed, of course; it is the flesh on the skeleton. But without the skeleton, you have only a blob of distracting words.

• Don’t overstate. Few readers want to have everything spelled out, let alone be hit over the head again and again.

• Avoid qualifiers. “Rather,” “around,” “sort of,” et al., only make for fuzzy writing and make the reader wonder if you know what you’re talking about. You are the author. You know that you character is not “about twenty-five years old” but was born on May 20, 1987 and will be turning 26 in seven weeks.

• Don’t get cute or slangy or use fancy or foreign words when simple, native ones work just as well.

• Be clear. A reader will work with a book that deals with difficult subject matter or tells a tale in an unusual way, but don’t make them scratch their head because you didn’t take the time to be clear. Strip away the clutter so you can see your story from A to Z. With dialogue, make sure the reader knows who is speaking when and to whom. (This is not just a matter of dialogue tags, but we’ll get to that another time.)

• Don’t fall in love with the sound of your own voice. It’s something we all do. That exquisite phrase we labored over for hours, days, so hard to let go of it. But sometimes we must learn to say ‘No!’ (“Elegance is refusal,” Coco said.) If it puts you, the author, in the spotlight and your story in the shadows, then it has to be cut. What we do is ultimately not about us writers; we are simply servants to our stories, and serve them best in the background.

In the end, hard-edged as Raymond Chandler or lyrical as Alice Walker, regardless of tone, hue, or voice, style comes down to dressing your story in effortless elegance. Ms Chanel noted, “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” We want people to remember our storied women.


Simplicity is the keynote of true elegance. coco_chanel1

Luxury lies not in the richness of things, but in the absence of vulgarity.

If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.

Women think of all colors except the absence of color. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.

…Coco Chanel

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I will try to respond to messages as I am able. At times it may be in the form of a post or a direct email response. Guests who post, I will forward messages addressed to them. It is up to them how they decide to correspond. Shawn MacKENZIE – MacKenzie’s Dragonsnest

Op-Ed: “Dream”

November 24th 2014 OP-ED #3


 Rant of the Week

Experience.  Dream.  Risk.  Close one your  eyes  and  jump. Enjoyed  the  free-fall.   Choose  exhilaration  over comfort. Choose a magic over predictability.  Choose potential over safety. Wake up to the magic of everyday life.  Make friends with your intuition. Trust your gut.  Discover the beauty of uncertainty. Know yourself fully before you make promises to another.  Make millions of mistakes so that you will know how to choose what you really need. Know how to hold on and when to let go.  Love hard and often and without reservation. Seek knowledge.  Open yourself to possibility. Keep your heart open, your head high and your spirit free. Embrace your darkness along with your light.  The wrong every once in a while, and don’t be afraid to admit it. Awaken to the brilliance of ordinary moments.  Tell the truth about herself no matter what the costs.  Own your reality without apology.  See goodness in the world.  Be bold.  Be fierce.  Be grateful.  Be wild.  Crazy and gloriously free.  Be you. Go now, and live.

© Jeanette Leblanc 2008

Video of the Week

When You Love A Woman – Journey

Art of the Week

tomorrow's window (c) jkm 2014

tomorrow’s window (c) jkm 2014

Quote of the Week

“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”

— Gabriel Garcia Márquez


Thoughts On Writing – Susan Sontag [Series Pt 5]

a writer's word new 14th june 2014Thoughts on Writing

A Multiple Part Series – Part # 5

“Think With Words—Not Ideas”

by Susan Sontag

Post by Jennifer Kiley

Post Sunday 23rd November 2014

susan sontag photo for series

Weakness of American poetry — it’s anti-intellectual. Great poetry has ideas.

*       *       *

Not only must I summon the courage to be a bad writer — I must dare to be truly unhappy. Desperate. And not save myself, short-circuit the despair.
By refusing to be as unhappy as I truly am, I deprive myself of subjects. I’ve nothing to write about. Every topic burns.

*       *       *

The function of writing is to explode one’s subject — transform it into something else. (Writing is a series of transformations.)
Writing means converting one’s liabilities (limitations) into advantages. For example, I don’t love what I’m writing. Okay, then — that’s also a way to write, a way that can produce interesting results.

*       *       *

‘All art aspires to the condition of music’ — this utterly nihilistic statement rests at the foundation of every moving camera style in the history of the medium. But it is a cliché, a 19th century cliché, less an aesthetic than a projection of an exhausted state of mind, less a world view than a world weariness, less a statement of vital forms than an expression of sterile decadence. There is quite another pov [point of view] about what ‘all art aspires to’ — that was Goethe’s, who put the primary art, the most aristocratic one, + the one art that cannot be made by the plebes but only gaped at with awe, + that art is architecture. Really great directors have this sense of architecture in their work — always expressive of immense line of energy, unstable + vital conduits of force.
(undated, 1977)

*       *       *

A Short Note for the end of each part of this 8 part series.

Sontag was quoted by Editor-in-Chief Brendan Lemon of Out magazine as saying “I grew up in a time when the modus operandi was the ‘open secret’. I’m used to that, and quite OK with it.” – Susan Sontag

gold fountain pen for sontag series

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Into It. Over It. “The Shaking of Leaves”

close encounters of the creative kind
Into It. Over It. “The Shaking of Leaves”

Directed by John Komar & Reza Iman

Post Saturday 22nd November 2014

Poetic Lyrics by Intersection

Post by Jennifer Kiley

Into It. Over It. “The Shaking of Leaves”

Into it. Over it. “The Shaking of Leaves”
By Intersection

Late this afternoon I heard your voice
It was the first time in what felt like years
It was a whisper in my ears and then the wind in the trees
It was the shaking of leaves that shook the streets while shaking me

Late this afternoon I heard your voice
I got hit for the first time in what felt like years
It struck me down a harmless jab at you while you rang loud and clear
You tore down the walls
Just as quickly you were gone

The New Haven expose
Must’ve heard me call us off
Must’ve heard my brief applause
Must’ve heard my disbelief

The New Haven expose
Confirmed they caught a killer
Well I caught a chill
When the newsprint said the gunman was nineteen

Late this afternoon I heard your voice
It was the first time in what felt like years

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Opening to Live

implicit imaginative impressions
Rose of Jericho – video

“Opening to Live”

Poem by Jennifer Kiley
Post Saturday 22nd November 2014


I am using this beautiful video with a rebirth and music to accompany the poem I am writing and not have written.

Rose of Jericho

Opening to live

Opening to live

An arms moves

The hand engages

The writing begins

Words with meaning

Searching for release

A thought lost

But now found

Inside the mind

Trying to make sense

Out of words

That come together


A truth

All who believe

Will try to understand


Will it be found

Or become elusive

Take flight

Like a butterfly

Doing its death flight

Never knowing

What is ahead

Do we want

the same privilege

no knowing

keep it to yourself

we will meet the time

when it arrives

not a moment before

isn’t that a relief?

(c) jkm 2014

opening to live (c) jkm 2014

opening to live (c) jkm 2014

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Roma – A Short Film

tell me a story
Roma – A Short Film

Post Friday 21st November 2014

Roma is an extremely important short film to see. It brings to our awareness the consciousness of a people forgotten. There are so many in existence who barely make it through. The Roma aka Gypsies, shunned people, who live in a vortex of impossibility to find their dreams and a place to live that is not disturbingly minimal under any condition anyone would state is horrible.

Raise you awareness and watch this film. It will open eyes where we can see the unfortunate situation and poverty the Roma live under and the red tape of the government make it impossible to get any help. They live on collecting plastics and can to cash in. They may get $3 to $5 dollars at a time. This they use to buy bread and some food.

It is a shame people have to live in such squalor and so many do across the world.

Roma [the forgotten ones]

Roma is a documentary that brings to light a community that has been somewhat forgotten.
Delighted to have been featured as Doc X on Dazed Digital – bit.ly/XFIRiK
Directed by Sam Davis
Produced by Alex Lloyd
Director of Photography Chris Seager
Sound Recordist and dubbing mixer Matthew Alston
Original music by Ben Brannan
Edited by Joe Walton

Colourist Susumu Asano

“Inspiration” by Enrique Pacheco

tell me a story



A Short Film

by Enrique Pacheco

Post by Jennifer Kiley

Post Thursday 20th November 2014
He is the creator of the short film I posted yesterday on ‘the secret keeper.’ In this short film, he talks about what he does in order to capture the images we are able to see as his audience. In this video he includes amazing visions to show as examples of his work.

“Inspiration” by Enrique Pacheco

Directed by / Enrique Pacheco: enriquepacheco.com
Music by / The American Dollar: theamericandollar.info
Cinematography / Macgregor: blackmilk.eu
Edited by / Jota Aronak: jotaaronak.com
Sound by / Ross Curry: facebook.com/rosscurry
Thanks to : Barbro Rakos, Basti Jean, Quique Arias, J.F Calero.

Time-lapse shot with Sony a99 and Zeiss glass
Video shot with Sony F35 and Nikon glass.

Enrique Pacheco is a cinematographer specialized in travel. He is world renowned for his timelapse technique. His videos capture and embody the beauty of remote and hidden places as well as urban landscapes. This time Enrique shows us his more personal side, putting himself in front of the camera. Explaining the roots of his work and what motivates him to carry on moving forward.