“Writing is…being fiercely alive”

a writer's word polished or raw

 “Writing is…being fiercely alive”

Written by Mary Gaitskill

Post Sunday 5th October 2014

Created by Jennifer Kiley

 

“Writing Is… Being Fiercely Alive”

“Writing is….
being able
to take
something
whole
and
fiercely alive
that exists
inside you
in some
unknowable
combination
of thought,
feeling,
physicality,
and spirit,

and to then
store
it
like a genie
in tense,
tiny
black symbols
on a
calm
white page.

If
the wrong
reader
comes across
the words,
they will
remain
just words.

But
for the right
readers,
your vision
blooms
off the page
and is
absorbed
into their
minds
like smoke,
where it will
re-form,
whole
and
alive,

fully adapted
to its new
environment.”

― Mary Gaitskill

smoke billowing black the dance crizzcrozz

Typewriter Song played by Boston Pops

[Reminiscent to the days of the battering the keys & the famous bell at the end. Time to throw the "carriage" back.]

“I Am One of the Searchers”

a writer's word polished or raw

“I Am One of the Searchers”

By James Kavanaugh

Post by Jennifer Kiley

Posted on Sunday 15th June 2014

water ocean gif

sun rays into forest“I Am One of the Searchers”  There are, I believe, millions of us. We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. We continue to explore life, hoping to uncover its ultimate secret. We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach, we are drawn by the ocean, taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know. Unless it be to share our laughter.

sunrise in the mountainsWe searchers are ambitious only for life itself, for everything beautiful it can provide.Most of all we love and want to be loved. We want to live in a relationship that will not impede our wandering, not prevent our search, nor lock us in prison walls; that will take us for what little we have to give. We do not want to have to prove ourselves to another or compete for love.

river thru rock walls  by cocoaaaaa

For wanderers, dreamers, and lovers,

for lonely men and women

who dare to ask from life everything

good and beautiful. It is for those who

are too gentle to live among wolves.

— James Kavanaugh

[There Are Men Too Gentle To Live Among Wolves]

rain on window in the city gif

*       *       *             *             *

Editor’s Corner 101.37: All Good Things….

shawn mackenzie's editor's corner day monday
Editor’s Corner 101.37
All Good Things….
Written by Shawn MacKenzie
Originally Posted on MacKenzie’s Dragonsnest in 2013

Reposted on ‘the secret keeper’
Monday 3rd February 2014

101.37

All Good Things….

There’s a trick to the ‘graceful exit.’
It begins with the vision to recognize when a job,
a life stage, or a relationship is over — and let it go.
…Ellen Goodman

Scribe smallStories, films, lives – all things come to a close. Sometimes neatly, sometimes not. And so, after nine months, I am bringing the Editor’s Corner to what I hope is a neat and graceful end.

Over the past thirty-seven weeks, we have covered topic both minute and sweeping, and yet, in the end, I find it fitting to return to the beginning. To our words.

I originally wrote the following back in March of this year as a guest piece for Karen Sanderson’s blog. I now amend, update, and present it to you as my parting thoughts. My thanks to Niamh and Plum Tree for this forum, and to all who have traveled with me on this writer’s journey. Enjoy.

P1010342

You Are Your Words

We humans are creatures of custom. It frames our existence and structures our lives. In the course of my daily custom, once I begin to feel the dream-webs lift from my mind, I brew a fresh pot of tea, play with the kittens, and allow my thoughts to mosey along paths both cosmological and mundane, reasoned and stochastic. The other day, I started thinking about words.

Magical, mystical, wickedly creative, oh, the glorious power of words and we who wield them.

“In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was God.”

This is not just a Judeo-Christian notion. The Popol Vuh – Mayan Book of Creation – speaks of how Sovereign Plumed Serpent (who later became Quetzlcoatl) and Heart of Sky came together at the beginning of time:

“…And then came his [Heart of Sky’s] word, he came to Sovereign Plumed Serpent, here in the blackness, in the early dawn…. they joined their words, their thoughts….And then the earth arose because of them, it was simply their word that brought it forth….”

Quetzlcoatl - Vampire Princess

Quetzlcoatl by Vampire Princess

Now this notion (naturally) draws me down a whimsically syllogistic rabbit hole: The Word is divine; the divine create with words. Writers create with words; writers are divine.

Hey, makes sense to me.

Ok, we writers may not be divine, but we do cloak ourselves in Creator’s motley as comfortably as jeans and broadcloth. Mind blowing for gods to shape the universe in the round of a word, yet that’s what we do every day. Out of the chaos of random thought, the void of the blank page, we create whole worlds and the beings who live in them. Earthsea, Darkover, Yoknapatawpha County, OZ and East Egg, Wonderland and Wessex – the list of literary terrae nova are legion. Even places we think we know, like Richard Wright’s Chicago or Edith Wharton’s New York, are, in authorial hands, transformed into alien landscapes ripe for exploration.

Wizard of Earthsea - Torture Device

Wizard of Earthsea by Torture Device

And so we string one word after another, counting our hours from phrase to sentence to paragraph to tome. We weave tales of myth and wonder and supernal genesis. For words are creative. With them we name things and by naming them bring them into being. They are active, breathing life into those named things, making them romp and fly and do handsprings through the treetops. They are descriptive, coloring and shaping the world that it might be recognized and marveled at in all its beauty and strangeness. And that is without even touching upon the mind and heart, the emotional power of words. The power that reaches out across our inherent aloneness and makes people feel and think and remember, even change their lives. For words are lash and cradle, warming spark and unholy conflagration. They heal and nurture, wound and kill.

Complex stuff. God stuff.

Sue Blackwell book sculpture

Sue Blackwell book sculpture

Which brings me to a story. More memoir than fancy (though there are tangential Dragons); just a little something I thought I’d share.

Two years ago, my book, The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook, was making its way into print. In anticipation of this event, my publisher invited me to the Book Expo of America in New York. Sign some ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies), generate book buzz, and spend two days in Gotham with all stripe of book folk – authors, publishers, agents, librarians. Commercialism be damned, for a writer, what could be more delicious?

Not to mention the swag!

A convention neophyte, I was quite unprepared for the booty laid out like Smaug’s hoard, just there for the taking. From simple promotional bookmarks and house totes, to signed copies of the year’s (hopefully) hottest titles, one was limited only by one’s interests, greed, and in the case of acquiring a major author’s John (or Jane) Hancock, no small amount of stamina. Even though I was hobbling about on a broken leg at the time, I returned home with several bags – now weekly filled with groceries – and a far from shabby passel of books. For all that, my favorite BEA keepsake was from the folks at the American Heritage Dictionary of English Language: a modest white 6” x 4” oval magnet, adorned in black Arial with the deceptively simple gnome: You Are Your Words.

URYourWords

Every morning since, I rub the sleep from my eyes and focus on this reminder of how I am defined by the words in my life. They are my tools, my paint and canvas, soil and seeds. I shape them, play with them, with luck make them croon like an armadillo and pirouette on the wings of a damselfly. They represent me to the world, my ideas and dreams. Whether tripping across page or tongue, they have consequences, so I must choose them with care. They are my children sent into the world, and I am responsible for them, in all their beauty or ugliness.

I am my words; my words are me.

As logophile, whimsical scribe, exacting editor, wielder of words.

As a writer.

I give you my word.

1219782482yLCfpg

Happy Holidays, my friends.
Write well.

The Last Edition of the Editor’s Corner To Go To the Archives Click On the Highlighted “Editor’s Corner”

Anais Nin’s Response to June in Her Head – Part Two

a writer's word - day title sunday

Anais Nin’s Response to June in Her Head – Part Two
Written by Anais Nin
Transposed Edited by Jennifer Kiley
Illustrated j. kiley
Post Created on Monday 11th November 2013
Posted On Sunday 24th November 2013
A WRITER’S WORD

John_William_Waterhouse Boreas

Anais Nin’s
Response to June in Her Head
Part Two

When she talks,
she has the same
expression of intensity
she must have
while making love,

that forward thrust
of her whole head
which gives her
the appearance
of a woman
at the prow
of the ship.

The coal brown
of her eyes
turns to
cloudy violet.

…her eyes,
and it was her face
which became
like a poem’s
bedchamber,

tapestried
with twilight
and velvet.
As it glowed
from within her,

it could appear
in totally
unexpected places,

early in the morning,
in a neglected café,
on a park bench,
on a rainy morning…
anywhere.

It was always
the soft light
kept through
the centuries

for the moment
of pleasure…

— Anaïs Nin’s

Echo and narcissus  john william waterhouse

Poetry Out Loud: And Now You’re Mine

poetry out loud - day title saturday

And Now You’re Mine
Sonnet LXXX
Written by Pablo Neruda
Poetry Reading found by Jennifer Kiley
Post Created Saturday 19th October 2013
Posted on Saturday 2nd November 2013
Poetry Out Loud

And Now You’re Mine — Pablo Neruda

And Now You’re Mine
Sonnet LXXX

And now you’re mine. Rest with your dream in my dream.
Love and pain and work should all sleep, now.
The night turns on its invisible wheels,
and you are pure beside me as a sleeping amber.

No one else, Love, will sleep in my dreams. You will go,
we will go together, over the waters of time.
No one else will travel through the shadows with me,
only you, evergreen, ever sun, ever moon.

Your hands have already opened their delicate fists
and let their soft drifting signs drop away; your eyes closed like two gray
wings, and I move

after, following the folding water you carry, that carries
me away. The night, the world, the wind spin out their destiny.
Without you, I am your dream, only that, and that is all.

Pablo Neruda

Editor’s Corner 101.23 — Hedge Trimming – Bidding Adieu to Ambivalence

shawn mackenzie's editor's corner day monday

Editor’s Corner 101.23
Hedge Trimming – Bidding Adieu to Ambivalence
Written by Shawn MacKenzie
Originally Published on MacKenzie’s Dragonsnest
Posted On Tuesday 30th July 2013

Reposted on the secret keeper
Monday 28th October 2013

Hedge Trimming – Bidding Adieu to Ambivalence

Dragon ScribeIt is another glorious August morning; the dog days are past, there is a slight nip in the air, and the New England sky is taking on the vibrant blue of ear…ly autumn. A perfect day for hedge trimming.

I am not talking about shaggy privets or laurels, or overgrown rhododendron and yew turning the yard into a wilderness and begging for the touch of well-edged shears. No, I am referring to the stray equivocations that seep insidiously into our prose – wee, verbal field mice, gnawing away at our meaning. Seems to be, more or less, essentially, about, almost as if, sort of, as it were…. The list goes on with the persistence of a Minoan labyrinth.

fxdrtfde65564

They dilute our prose and sap our meaning. Unless spouted by a character less decisive than Hamlet’s second cousin twice removed, they are unnecessary 99.9% of the time. We know this deep in our souls, yet they continue to plague us like verbal viruses we just can’t shake.

From where does this urge to mitigate our authorial voice come?

As with most of our bad writing habits, I believe it comes from writing as we talk. And live – or strive to.

In my youth, lo so many years ago, I was taught to tread lightly through the world. Each step, each word has consequences even if they’re not immediately evident. I was also taught that truth is seldom absolute and to presume to know The Truth about anything is the height of arrogance. The pride before the fall. Call it the Rashomon Effect. (note: truths are not to be confused with facts, which, while open to interpretation are in and of themselves quantifiable constants.) In a cosmic sense, there are as many truths as there are beings in the universe. If we are lucky, we will find one or two that meet our needs, asking for more is just greedy. A venal sin, avarice.Truth%20Cartoon

While such life lessons served me well for being in the world, it took me years to discover – then believe – that the opposite was true for writing in the world. Writing has hedges of a different cut, and the fictive voice must be authoritarian, even dictatorial. Shed the hedges – trim them, if you will – from your prose. Set doubt aside and rage through the landscapes of our making. Be certain. No deference to the masses or shilly-shallying will suffice. We serve the story, after all.

I know this sounds arrogant, and, well, it is. You are the architects of your novels and short stories, and no structure stands with foundations ‘sort of’ level or walls ‘roughly’ plumb. There is nothing relativistic here. As the sole creator of your universe, your truth is absolute and no one can say otherwise. But make your truth precise, memorable, and believable enough to touch.img_artemis A heroine isn’t ‘rather impressive,’ she’s six feet of Artemesian grace, with a mind like Susan Sontag and the riveting gaze of the Delphi charioteer. This is a woman you not only see in your mind’s eye, but know how she’ll stack up against whatever villains come her way.

I am fond of saying the anarchist in me balks at blind obedience to even the most reasonable rules. In the case of hedging, I am more inclined than usual to set my anarchism aside. Still, if the mantle of authorial power sits uncomfortably on your shoulder, and you feel compelled to equivocate, try to do so unequivocally. And when you must hedge here and there to appease the spirit of your prose, let those hedges be topiaries, wild and wondrous, adding to your world, not detracting from it.

962120-bigthumbnailSo be sure of yourself.
Be dynamic.
Be a little arrogant.
Be memorable.
1299_1L
If you have missed any past editions of Editor’s Corner, you’ll find them at the Editor’s Corner Archive.

Editor’s Corner 101.22 — Bonsai Writing: Down to the Bone

shawn mackenzie's editor's corner day monday
Editor’s Corner 101.22
Bonsai Writing: Down to the Bone
Written by Shawn MacKenzie
Originally Published on MacKenzie’s Dragonsnest
Posted On Tuesday 30th July 2013

Reposted on the secret keeper
Monday 21st October 2013

Bonsai Writing: Down to the Bone.

Scribe smallGood morning! I want to thank everyone who dropped by last week and joined in the Editor’s Corner Q & A. A fun day for me, and, I hope, a helpful one for you. I will be pulling it all together and adding it to the EC archives sometime later this week.

Today I want to discuss trimming the fat we marble into our tales and presenting the cleanest, leanest work possible. (Vegetarians, my apologies for the metaphor. Think of shaping a bonsai, instead.)sculpture-1-600x824 In my experience, most verbal excess comes from a simple bad habit: writing as we talk. Unnecessary conjunctions and prepositions, qualifiers and redundancies, litter spoken English – and, I imagine, most other languages – slipping in as casually as a hem or a haw or a thought-filled caesura. But put that into fiction or poetry and the flow sputters and stalls like a crusty engine.

The fact is, most of us overwrite. Stephen King advised, look at your work then cut 10%. Draconian? Perhaps. Still, it’s a standard to which we can all – including Mr. King – aspire. (Don’t get me started on famous writers who shun outside editing! In my humble opinion, they are of a piece with fools who choose to represent themselves at the bar.)

But what to cut and where? ‘That’ is a great starting place. Ubiquitous to the point of passing unnoticed, ‘that’ in its conjunctive form is a colloquialism easily excised 90% of the time. “The manuscript that he gave his editor…” sounds better and loses not a whit of meaning as, “The manuscript he gave his editor….” Take a scythe to your ‘thats’ and don’t look back.

A slew of other prepositions, articles, and conjunctions fall into this same category, their misuse serving only to muddy syntax and emasculate verbs and nouns. “Join in on the fun,” for example, may be fine on the playground, but, on the page, “join the fun” is more effective. Likewise, judicious use of gerunds can eliminate the need for stray words, usually conjunctions: “He growled through his teeth and refused to give ground.” vs. “Growling through his teeth, he refused to give ground.” Or: “He growled through his teeth, refusing to give ground.”

Spoken English is also rife with redundant phrases: end result; complicated dilemma, enter in, completely sated, etc. All results come at the end, all dilemmas are complex, to enter means ‘go in’ and sated to be ‘stuffed to the gills.’ Choose your words with care, understand their meanings, and toss any extraneous adjectives or adverbs. (Note: Some editors say, slash all adverbs and adjectives by half. A tad extreme to my thinking, still ruthless eyes – and ears – make for more-concise prose.)

When it comes to iterating ideas, don’t give into temptation. You will simply be paraphrasing yourself, which not only bogs down the narrative but also ticks off readers eager for a story not a lecture. Write it well the first time and trust your audience to get it.

Qualifying words and phrases – verbal hedges – fall squarely into the category of literary fat, but, as they are a particular peeve of mine, I will leave them to next week. For now, read your work aloud, see where it stumbles or gets lost in verbal superfluity. Then, mindful of integrity in tone and tale, if your sentences work without the thats, ands, ins, and buts, cut as deep as you can.

Down to the bone.

honebana

If you have missed any past editions of Editor’s Corner, they are easily accessible at the Editor’s Corner Archive.