Category Archives: On Writing

On Writing: What I Listen to When Writing

Loreena McKennitt’s adaptation of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” has always been a favorite of mine. I enjoy listening to it when I want to get lost in the world of Camelot and Avalon.

As always, I hope that the music inspires you to write.

Enjoy!

Chris

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On Writing: Inspirations from John Green, Author of The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars author John Green appeared on Monday night’s episode of Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report to talk about his book. What I found particularly interesting in the interview occurred when Green discussed his emotions when writing the novel. You can see a clip of the segment here:

Green acknowledges that he wept over the novel when writing in Starbucks. He had an emotional tie to the characters that developed because of his personal experience with Esther Earl, a cancer patient. The book is dedicated to her memory.

I have never written in a coffee shop; I write in my home office. I do become emotionally attached to most of the characters I create. (I haven’t wept when writing yet, but I also haven’t created a character based on someone I know who died of cancer.) I sometimes hate it when bad things happen to my characters in the story, which is ironic because I am the one putting them in those situations. Yet the story goes where it will.

I would be interesting in learning about how other authors deal with this issue. Please feel free to post your thoughts in the comments.

(Disclaimer: I have no association with The Colbert Report or John Green.)

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On Writing: What I Listen to When Writing

Madilyn Bailey covered Lana Del Rey’s song “Young and Beautiful.” I think the words in the song are evocative and the simple treatment Bailey gives this with just the piano playing and her singing adds to the haunting effect of the music.

As always—I hope the music inspires you to write.

Enjoy!

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On Writing: The Love Book APP and Poetic Inspirations

The Love Book

A friend of mine recently gave me The Love Book App. I have been under the weather and he thought it would cheer me up. Mission accomplished! There is nothing like a virus to sap your energy and creativity, and nothing like a collection of works by great authors to help restore your spirit.

The APP is an anthology of timeless poems, short stories, quotations, and letters collected by Allie Esiri that are all inspired by love. The poems are narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, Emma Watson, Tom Hiddleston, Gina Bellman, Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory.

The following is a video of Tom Hiddleston reading Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare. (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day”).

From the APP you can tweet the works, post to Facebook, or email. You can record your own version and share it. You can write your own work. And, of course, you can listen, read, and be inspired.

(Disclaimer: I am not associated with Allie Esiri or The Love Book APP in any way.)

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On Writing: What Makes a Word Real?

As a writer, Anne Curzon’s TED Talk, “What Makes a Word Real,” was fascinating to watch. She discusses the people who work behind the scenes at dictionaries and how a word is determined to be “real” in our society. Think about how many words are added to the English language every day because of technology. For example, Curzon discusses the word “defriend” in her speech and my first impulse was to question the term: “Isn’t it unfriend?” Neither one is a word one would find in a dictionary–yet both are “real” in our society. (One is just a bit more popular.)

What words have you heard recently that might fit this definition of “real”?

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On Writing: Emily Dickinson and Poetic Inspirations

emily_dickinson (1)

Emily Dickinson is one of my favorite poets. Over the last week I have had what is termed a “summer cold” and have spent a lot of time reading new works and re-reading my favorites. Like Dickinson, I write mainly at a small table placed near the window of my bedroom so that I can look out and see my garden. Unlike Emily, I have a laptop computer.

I hope that you enjoy my musings on her poetry.

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson wrote many of her poems seated at a small, one drawer table placed near the window in the corner bedroom of her family’s Amherst home. This young, single woman did not travel very much; indeed, due to a progressive medical condition that nearly destroyed her eyesight, she did not leave her family’s household grounds and often refused to see visitors. Yet Dickinson wrote ground-breaking poetry about diverse subjects, including volcanoes, deserts, physical passion, suicide, the afterlife, wild beasts, power, rape, madness, eternity, separation, and the grave. Dickinson’s poems heralded a new way of thinking about verse—a new poetic form.

Although Dickinson wrote nearly 2,000 poems in a span of a few years, she recognized her poetic style to be unorthodox for her time, which is why she did not seek to have many published.

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—.

These eight lines contain the fundamental principle of Emily Dickinson’s poetry—perhaps of all great lyric poetry. She wanted her writing, her poems, to express great truths, but realized that not everyone who read them would want, or even be able, to see the truth expressed in the verses. A blunt declaration would cause people to turn away or to argue—to turn a blind eye to what the poet is saying. To tell the truth “slant” allows the author to ease it into the consciousness of the readers.

Many of these “truths” that Dickinson expressed did concern the idea that women could (and should) be writers. In many of her poems on writing, she agonizes over the choice she felt she had to make—between being an artist and being a woman in the Victorian Era:

I would not paint—a picture—
I’d rather be the One
Its bright impossibility
To dwell—delicious—on—
And wonder how the fingers feel
Whose rare—celestial—stir—
Evokes so sweet a Torment—
Such sumptuous—Despair—

I would not talk, like Cornets—
I’d rather be the One
Raised softly to the Ceilings—
And out, and easy on—
Through Villages of Ether—
Myself endued Balloon
By but a lip of Metal—
The pier to my Pontoon—

Nor would I be a Poet—
It’s finer—own the Ear—
Enamored—impotent—content—
The License to revere,
A privilege so awful
What would the Dower be,
Had I the Art to stun myself
With Bolts of Melody!

As Adrianne Rich (1979) explains, this poem is about choosing an orthodox Victorian Era “feminine” role; the woman is receptive rather than creative; she views rather than paints; she listens rather than makes her own music; she is acted upon rather than being active. Yet even while seemingly choosing this role she wonders “how the fingers feel / Whose rare—celestial—sir / Evokes so sweet a Torment—.“ At the same time, the typical Victorian Era “feminine” role is praised in a curious sequence of adjectives: “Enamored—impotent—content—.” Rich (1979, p. 108) explains: “Moreover, the images of the poem rise to a climax (like the Balloon she evokes) but the climax happens as she describes, not what it is to be the receiver, but the maker and the receiver at once.” The lines “A privilege so awful / What would the Dower be, / Had I the Art to stun myself / With Bolts of Melody!” reveal Dickinson’s dual nature: She wants to remain a writer and still fulfill the role that her society has determined for her as a woman. She wants to write poetry that she can also be “stunned” by as a reader.

Much of Dickinson’s life was fueled by the pursuit of writing. Imagine what it was like to write poetry you knew was in a class by itself—to pour the energy into the creation and physical task of writing, to copy out the poems, and then to place them in a trunk or mail out a few to your friends and relatives in confidence—to create a body of work that you realize will never be recognized or appreciated in your own lifetime:

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,–
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!

Most of Dickinson’s friends, including T.W. Higginson, found her poems to be puzzling and unorthodox. Literally, she had taken a giant step forward in style and technique, so much so that her poems are still considered “innovative” in the modern era. Many of the topics would also not have been considered appropriate for a female author in Victorian times. “It is an extremely painful and dangerous way to live—split between a publicly acceptable persona and a part of yourself that you perceive as the essential, the creative and powerful self, yet also as possibly unacceptable, perhaps even monstrous” (Rich, 1979, p. 115). It was this type of negative reception from her friends and certain family members that, in all probability, made her want to wait until after her death to publish her work. “The poems became Dickinson’s “letter to the world, / That never wrote to [her]” by her own choice.

References

Rich, A. (1979). Vesuvius at Home: The Power of Emily Dickinson. In S. M. Gilbert & S. Gubar (Eds.) Shakespeare’s sisters: Feminist essays on Women Poets. (pp. 99-121). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

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On Writing: Strawberry Moon

strawberry moon

The first full moon in June is called the “Strawberry Moon” by people in the Midwestern United States. Many people believe that the name derives from the color (and it is usually tinted pink/red), but the name actually comes from the fact that strawberries are generally ripe this time of year. The name was a reminder to go out and pick them.

This phenomenon has me brainstorming short story ideas. I like it when nature provides a writing prompt!

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On Writing: What I Listen to While Writing

I enjoy the music that Kina Grannis creates–whether it is her own work or a cover. I have listened to this song–”Without Me”–for years and I cannot believe that I never watched the music video until now. The song itself is wonderful but I love the way she incorporated the images–newspaper clippings with the words of the song–into the video.

As always, I hope the music inspires you to write.

Enjoy!

Chris

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On Writing: What I Listen to When Writing

I first heard Brandi Carlile’s “Dreams” on Samantha Brown’s Girl Meets World series. The lyrics speak of going after your dreams–something which is very much a theme for me this week. (See my prior post for more information: http://chrispavesic.com/2014/05/18/first-novel-to-be-published-with-musa-publishing/ )

As always–I hope the music inspires you to write.

Enjoy!

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On Writing: Regency Era Words as Both Compliments and Insults

Mac and Cheese

Note: This is not a cooking post, although after publishing it I will be heading to the kitchen.

I enjoy researching different times, places, and cultures. Part of what attracts me to writing is the fact that I can either try to recreate these for my readers, invent new times, places, and cultures to explore, or use a combination of the two techniques in my writing.

Sometimes, though, I come across a fact when researching that I find difficult to believe. I will research further and, if find out that it is true, I will then wonder if I can ever use it in a novel or short story.

Some facts would stretch a modern reader’s incredulity just a bit too far.

Take, for example, the term “macaroni.” Is it easy to believe that this word is both a compliment and an insult when applied to a young English man in the mid-1700s?

While researching meal plans for the Regency era I came across an article by Laura Boyle (2011) titled “Early Macaroni and Cheese.” It does have a nice recipe for the dish, but it also includes a history of the food item in England and how the term “macaroni” influenced the culture.

This is the web site link:

http://www.janeausten.co.uk/early-macaroni-and-cheese/

During the 1700s, macaroni was considered to be foreign cuisine. Young men who revelled in foreign fashions, including tasselled walking sticks and elaborate powdered wigs topped by tiny tricorn hats, used the term in a positive manner. For these young men, if something was “macaroni,” it was the height of fashion. They formed Macaroni Clubs, which were not physical locations but a way to describe those who were in the clique.

Others used the term “macaroni” to deride and ridicule these young men and their fashion sense. From artwork and sketches of the day, it may be easy to understand why these fashion choices did not become mainstream Regency wear.

Philip_Dawe,_The_Macaroni__A_Real_Character_at_the_Late_Masquerade_(1773)

Of course, as Boyle (2011) explains, this term is familiar to Americans because of the song “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” written by Richard Shuckburgh, who was a British surgeon at the time of the American Revolution. The line “he stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni” was meant to be an insult to the poor fashion sense of American Colonists, but Americans found the song to be catchy and embraced it.

On an end note–I have read and written the word “macaroni” one too many times.

I have to go cook and then eat something made with cheddar cheese and noodles.

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