Notes on Writing and Reading

Notes on Writing and Reading

October 25, 2015

Lazy afternoon,

sprawled on my bed with book and window open,

listening to the syncopated rhythms of the rain,

reading,

                 dozing,

                               dreaming,

                                                     waking,

wandering through mind-drifts of memories...

              of the farm at Barwon Downs,

              of hiking up Mt. Takao in autumn,

              of planting the chestnut with Dad,


while listening to the rain, reading.

 

 

 

 

In a recent Writer's Digest article, David Corbett, author of The Art of Character, writes:

"People don't turn to stories to experience what you, the writer, have experienced--or even what your characters have. They read to have their own experience."

Good to remember: Write in such a way as to give the reader an experience--of joy or sadness or fear or excitement--instead of merely reading about someone else's experience.

 

 

 

 

 

I usually recommend reading a book before seeing the movie version. However, I am re-thinking my position after watching Ron Howard’s film, In the Heart of the Sea. I’d just finished the book by Nathaniel Philbrick and loved it—about the ramming and sinking of the whaleship Essex by an enraged sperm whale in 1820, the inspiration for Melville’s Moby Dick. I was eager to see what Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13) would do with it.

The film was certainly spectacular, with gee-whiz special effects and a taut tension running throughout, but I realized that I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t read the book first. I was continually distracted by the film's departure from historical accuracy. “That’s not right,” I would find myself thinking. “It didn’t happen like that.” “They made that part up.”

To make matters worse, there were all these rude people sitting around me in the theater, going, “Sh!-Sh!-Sh!”

 

 

December 12, 2015

"It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. Today, for instance, as man and woman, both lover and mistress, I rode in a forest on an autumn afternoon under the yellow leaves, and I was also the horses, the leaves, the wind, the words my people uttered, even the red sun that made them almost close their love-drowned eyes."


Gustave Flaubert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 10, 2015

 

At WordFest this week, retired physician Dan Roberts read from his novel in progress, a medical thriller titled The VRSA Syndrome.

Dan shared that when he sent out his manuscript, an agent responded with thirty pages of notes for re-working it.

Thirty pages? I'm just happy if the form rejection letter sounds heartfelt.

 

 

 

 

 

May 19, 2015

Reading Dickens' unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Hurrying to see how it doesn't end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 12, 2015


The shortest book review I ever read was for David Leavitt's 1998 novel, The Page Turner--"It's not."

I admire Leavitt's writing but suggest that one would do better to start with his novel, The Lost Language of Cranes (1986), or his short story collection, Family Dancing (1984).

 

March 2, 2015

 

I will be making a rare appearance at the next WordFest on Tuesday, March 3, 6:00-8:00 PM, reading my short story, “The Conquest of Mt. St. Helens: A somewhat true account of the harrowing 1999 assault on the treacherous peak.”

Like movies typically proclaim: "Based on a true story." (e.g., The Hobbit--Based on a true story.)

 

WordFest meets at Cassava, 1333 Broadway in Longview.

Can't make it? You can also read the story and see photos of the ascent here: The Conquest of Mt. St. Helens

 

 

 

February 24, 2015 

I like this time of day:

In the late afternoon, the books in my living room begin to glow, appearing golden, as if revealing their true value.

Erasmus, the Renaissance humanist, famously wrote: "When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes."

We all have our priorities.

(He also less-famously wrote "Your library is your paradise." 

I have at times turned to my books, whether seeking enlightenment or entertainment, insight or solace, or simply to enjoy the company of great minds, and have thought, "Welcome to Paradise.")

 

 

 



 

Bernhard Schlink, author of The Reader
(Der Vorleser):

 

"I write for the same reason others read:

You don't want to live only one life."