Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Road...

Hello everyone!!

How are you all enjoying the summer heat? Well, I suppose if you live somewhere that is perpetually cold you aren't. And if you live somewhere really hot (mid-Georgia right about now) you might not either. I for one can't complain-- I hate the cold with a burning (get it?) passion that consumes all my being. Everyone always says you can put more clothing on but there comes a time when you can't take any more off. Well, for me, I'd rather sweat, because one) sweating is good for you (as long as you bathe) and two) I don't warm up once I'm cold. I stay cold and I shiver and it's not fun. Because I shiver *really* hard.

Speaking of cold, here we go! I won the Sidney Lanier Prize for fiction this last semester for a short story I wrote called "The Scholar," and the reward was two books, one of which is "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy. I have never before read this book, and my professor, who not only picked me to be the receiver of the award, but also chose the books in question, decided on this title because she thought it would give me more grit in my own writing. Always a good thing, and I certainly can't claim to have too much-- I used to have the terrible habit of deleting anything I wrote that creeped me out too much. Terrible. I have since then quit of that habit, but unlike some writers I know I have never written something deliberately creepy or terrible just to see what would happen or how I would go about it. That is probably something I should attempt as well. I'm getting there.

In any case! "The Road" is about a father and son in a sort of post-apocalyptic America (the country has been entirely burned somehow) and their struggles to get to the warmer coast, all the while avoiding murderous bands of vagrants along the way. I haven't gotten very far in-- just a few pages on my break at work today-- but already the writing style is intriguing. A bit distracting in its simplicity, to me, but it's very much a part of the character (the father) and adds, in a weird way, a bit of depth. But what I really love is the vocabulary-- me and vocabulary!! Gorgeous stuff. I mean, in describing a nightmare cave creature McCarthy writes:

"Crouching there pale and naked and translucent, its alabaster bones cast up in shadow on the rocks behind it." 

The cold and silence of the night he describes as:

"Carried forth and scattered and carried forth again. Everything uncoupled from its shoring. Unsupported in the ashen air. Sustained by a breath, trembling and brief."

Wow. I haven't even gotten to most of the 'grit' in the story and already it's beautiful, if in a bare, desperate way. I mean really, I'm not even twenty pages in. I should get to work on that.

And so I shall! Keep reading, friends, and wiggle your toes-- just because it's hot doesn't mean the pages are too sticky to turn!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Writer Encouragement

Hello everyone!

It's been a little while since my last post. I've been officially bumming it up for the summer-- well not really, I've actually been working part time to save up for next year's tuition and my trip to London at the end of the summer. Most exciting : ) I've also been dabbling in my reading and writing; working my way through The Lord of the Rings and various other things here and there, nothing too serious. I'm between new books at the moment, though I do have some on my floor beside my bed: The Gravedigger's Daughter and The Road...need to get to those at some point.

But as you all know, it can be very easy in the busy *and* lazy months to suffer from writer stagnation-- nothing seems inspiring, you just want to lie around and stare at the're recovering from the hard work you've put your brain through during the working months, or working life, and you don't feel like you have any energy left. This then leads to a sense of self-loathing at your weakness for not doing as you're supposed to (you *are* a writer aren't you? So why aren't you writing!?!?!?!) and a feeling of general worthlessness and lack of talent.

Yes. I know. I've been there.

The truth of the matter is-- writing is hard. I've mentioned this in a blog post before so you don't need to hear me rant about it. But something else we need to keep in mind is that it is all too easy to be sensitive, especially with our own nasty inner voices. You don't think you have any talent? Alright then, say you don't. What then? write anyway. Tell me, do you write for your audience or do you write for you? Well, some of you will say, I don't really have an audience at the moment other than family and friends, a spattering of caring people. And they all adore your work, but it's so easy to think they're just being biased or being nice. Alright then, so you're writing for yourself. Then *write* for yourself, and if you like it, then hey! What do you know? there's one person in the world whom you've pleased, and if writing isn't to some extent meant to please, then I don't know what it's for. Even intellectual and painful writing can be pleasurable in its own intellectual and painful way. And if you don't like it, move on, shrug it off. Everyone is going to write badly (ever read any of Harlan Ellison's old stuff? Yeeeaaaahhhhhh........terrible.) None of us are going to be the amazing writers we want to be now, as much as we'd love to be. I'd personally love to be great now-- why go through the pain of growing? But it has to happen, and like everything else in life, everyone goes through it.

But sometimes thinking logically doesn't help our sense of worth or talent. Here's a solution, and I haven't even put this one into practice yet myself, so we'll be doing it together. Another great writer friend of mine has suggested a book: Annie Dillard's "The Writing Life". Apparently it's full of personal anecdotes, analogies, and observations about the writing life meant to encourage writers in all of their duress. One analogy he brought to mind was that writing is like chopping wood-- when you try to aim directly for the log, you miss.

Interesting thought, that.

In any case-- give it a try! Don't give up, no matter how talentless you feel. Believe me, there is always someone worse out there. And there is always someone better. But just remember some of the truly *awful* books that get published. Yours one day can too (and I know, I heard this argument earlier and thought, but I don't *want* mine to be part of the rubbish! Don't worry-- if you love it, it won't! There will always be people who hate your stuff, and people who just go mad over it. I'm pretty sure you can handle both.)

And as a random closer, if you have a finished manuscript that you've been trying to get published or have just been sitting on, take a look at a place called They're a professional printer (not a publisher) that will take your digital manuscript and print it for you, as few or many copies as you want, and in many different sizes. Their printing is great quality, professional grade and their binding is superb, tight, and clean. It's all paperback at the moment, but they're thinking about adding hardcover soon. You get a full color cover, spine, and back, as well as beautiful clean printing on the inside in black and white. You format your manuscript into PDF on their easy to follow step by step guide, line up all the margins, fill in the info, and order away! Their prices are wonderful, and I was able to print 3 promos of my book in an 8.5x11" sizing for around $30, including shipping. Not bad, eh? I've already made a 5x9" size for once I've given the content a last looking over and they even have something called an eCommerce set up (kind of like a store?) where I think you can sell books to people. Not sure on that one, I have to still try it out, but for first time writers who don't want to try self-publishing but still want to share their work-- pretty good gig, if you ask me. And even if you just want a physical, professional copy for your own warm fuzzies or for information security, it's great quality for your price.

And besides...nothing is cooler than seeing your name on a gorgeously art-ed cover.

Anyway, that's enough from me for now! Keep your chins up, friends, and keep those feet bare! It's summer, you've got no excuse, your toes should be dirty with grass and happy dirt by now!