Some good advice to writers….”Get A Dog!”

Today, I received this really good message from Advice To Writers…”Get A Dog!” I happen to have a faithful and loyal senior dog and I totally agree with what Jennifer Weiner says. I think I better start following her advice! “Okay, you’re thinking, what does getting a dog have to do with becoming a writer? More than you’d think. Writing is about talent and creativity, but it’s also about discipline – about the ability to sit yourself down in that seat, day after day, often after eight hours of work, and make yourself do it, day after day, even if you’re not getting published yet, even if you’re not getting paid, even if ABC is hosting an all-star reunion of your favorite cast members from The Bachelor and The Amazing Race. It’s a form of training that’s as much physical as mental in nature – you sit down, you do the writing, no matter what distractions are out there, no matter that you’re tired or bored or uninspired. Being a dog owner requires a similar form of discipline. You wake up every morning. You walk the dog. You do this whether you’re tired, depressed, broke, hung over, or have been recently dumped. You do it. And while you’re walking, you’re thinking about plot, or characters, or that tricky bit of dialogue that’s had you stumped for days. You’re out in the fresh air. Your legs are moving. Your dog is sniffing the butts of other dogs. It gives you a routine, a physical rhythm, a loyal companion, and a way to meet new people when you’re in a new...

You Write In Order to Change the World

James Baldwin once said, “You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world.” I agree with him – without literature, we have no way to find a reflection of ourselves, of our lives, or our world. I just wrote about 400 words on this subject and pushed the wrong button and it is all gone. I will have to come back to this another time…too...
O’Henry :”Secret of Short-Story Writing”

O’Henry :”Secret of Short-Story Writing”

Many writers wonder what the secret of short-story writing was for all those who have successfully written them. “I’ll give you the sole secret of short-story writing, and here it is: Rule 1. Write stories that please yourself. There is no rule 2. The technical points you can get from Bliss Perry. If you can’t write a story that pleases yourself, you will never please the public. But in writing the story forget the public.” O. HENRY This is SO true! Back in 1996, I was joyfully spending hours at a time writing The Great American Novel about the 7 years I spent sailing mostly alone or at times with my teenaged daughter when she was either on break from college or didn’t like the job she had. I was having a blast writing about all the adventures. And then, I was stopped short one night at 1:32AM when the phone rang and her father was calling from Philadelphia to tell me while she was on Spring break from Penn State, Sandi had been run over and killed by a drunk off-duty policeman. She was stopped in a long line of traffic on Interstate 80 because of an accident ahead. She had just stepped out of her car to light a cigarette when the drunk came racing down the shoulder — he was on vacation and didn’t want to have to wait his turn in the backed up traffic. They didn’t even give him an alcohol test because the state troopers said, “Well, he’s an officer of the law and it’s not necessary.” Thank goodness for the coroner who...

” Get to the Mystery of the Human Personality”

“You must get beyond divertissement, sketch, anecdote, the interesting moment. You must get to the mystery of human personality. What is the line of the story that leads us to a point where we see or intuit something we haven’t before?” John L’Heureux I love this because it is the mysteries of life that intrigues most of us and to add the dimension of the mystery of the human personality makes for a good read. People often ask me, “Why did you buy a sailboat when you didn’t even know how to sail?” or “How did you find the courage to take off alone in the Pacific for all those years?” I always have trouble coming up with answers to these kinds of questions. It’s sort of like the question mountaineers get, like, “Why did you climb Mt. Everest?” There’s something in the human personality that encourages a person to live by or rather to thrive on the challenges that confront them. Speaking strictly for myself,sometimes, I have to create challenges so I won’t feel like I am half-dead. To feel real? to feel scared? to feel happy? to feel threatened? to feel amazed? Who knows the answer, but fitting into my writing a sneak-peak into a person’s raison d’etre sometimes provides a hint at what the questions might be but seldom the answers are there until the book is finished and sometimes not even then. I guess the climber would say, “Because Everest was there.” I guess I would say, “Because the Pacific was there.” I always like to say adventure is in my DNA…my father was an...

What do bananas have to do with writers’ fears?

What do bananas have to do with a writer’s unreasonable fear of repetition? I am going to be posting some quotes I get from “Advice For Writers” which I find useful and helpful. This one is especially funny since I spent six months in Guatemala and all over Honduras some years back during the United Fruit Company fiasco. Ironically, many years before, I had dated a fellow from Harvard while I was going to GW who would write a well-respected book about that whole banana thing. While living on my sailboat in the Sea of Cortez, I met an American who had established a fantastic plantation of a zillion varieties of bananas from all over the world. As all the plants had grown up and were producing these gorgeous specimens, he suddenly said he had “found Jesus” and started spending all his time going around the Baja with his Bible. I felt so sorry for the fruit that was dropping to the ground that I told him I would sell it for him and not take any commission. Each week, I would go out to his banana plantation and collect big arms of ripe bananas then return to my boat and hang a big arm of bananas from my boom. I’d get on the radio and announce, “Chiquita Banana here. We have some splendid arms of bananas for sale, fresh from the plantation. And do we have a good deal for you!” It didn’t take long before I was known as the Carmen Miranda of the Sea. Boaters loved the bananas and sometimes, if there were just too many...