A Writing Coach Becomes a Listener/NYT

William Zinsser’s work on creative writing has influenced countless aspiring writers – up close, though his tutoring, and from afar through his long-time best-selling book, On Writing Well.

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Now blind and 90 years of age, he’s still doing what he’s always done. That should be inspiration enough for all writers to keep on keepin’ on.

NYTimes

 

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The Mysteries Lurking in Mind

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Black Dogs, By Ian McEwan

 

I still find it odd that some (if not most) people will never re-read a book. I’ve just re-read this one because it was my first McEwan and I was so unfamiliar with his odd story structure that the essence of the book didn’t stay with me. But that was something like ten years ago. I like to think I’ve grown as both reader and writer in that time, so I knew the book would speak volumes to me now.

It does. But given that you might not have read it, a little something about the storyline.

English couple June and Bernard Tremaine are former Communists who have married immediately following WWII, Jenny their daughter, who subsequently marries the story’s narrator, Jeremy. By the time Jeremy and Jenny marry, the parents are separated, and Jeremy is fascinated with both, who use their son-in-law as a conduit to one another. By now both have forsaken communism, Bernard for something of a secular humanist approach to life, June immersed in spiritual practices. The book’s – and Jeremy’s – project is to discover the nature of their growing apart, presumably as a tool of understanding to prevent something similar from happening to Jenny and him. On the way to such understanding, Jeremy unearths the singular moment of the older couple’s division, an event occurring in France’s Midi, involving a pair of black dogs.

 

McEwan weaves his story back and forth in time and centers it on the heady days of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The narrator’s tone here is one of reasoned detachment, but that does little to erase the mystery of June’s experience with these black dogs, an event the Bernard didn’t witness and wishes to rationalize away.

Here the author personalizes the eternal conflict between human experience and humanity’s fascination with what might lie beyond such experience. It’s a skillful, tastefully told tale, measured as perhaps only McEwan can do today in giving us literary insight.

 

My rating: 19 of 20 stars

 

 

 

 

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Amazon Broadens Its Terrain/New York Times – Books

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Writers, are you looking for a new pathway to being discovered?

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Then Amazon’s Kindle Singles may be the thing. The article linked below introduces you to Singles, and to their mastermind, David Blum.

NYT

 

 

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Tips of Self-Editing Fiction Books/The Indie Writer’s Guide

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It’s always tempting as an indie writer to go your own way in editing. It can be done – and  done well – but you often get caught up in the minutiae and lose the big picture of your characters and story.

The five simple guidelines at the link below will help make self-editing a success.

But remember – if you have the $$$ and time, hire a pro. Some work inexpensively and do good work.

Indie Writers

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Adam Johnson’s North Korea Novel Takes the Pulitzer Prize/The Millions

This almost slipped past me – and probably past you as well – what with the sad but riveting drama in Boston.

 

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I haven’t read the fiction winner (yet) but it seems an attempt to enlist non-fiction aficionados among its readers. Most of the other books testify to the fascination we in the U.S. have for war and politics, and the way the rest of the world has adopted our versions of those interests.

Of all the books listed in the link below, the one that intrigues me most is Tom Reiss’ “The Black Count.”

 

the millions

 

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Stellar Writing Will Out

How Wendy Redbird Dancing Survived the Dark Ages of Nought, by Lyn Fairchild Hawks

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Sometimes a novel steps out of the safety of genre and takes its chances. Fairchild Hawks’ book is one such, and by my reckoning, it’s a success.

The story here is of Wendy, a fatherless sixteen year-old girl coping with a flighty, romantic mother and a crusty, lost-in-the-last-century grandmother. Wendy is smart, wise beyond her years, but she has a hard time with high school and its social conventions. And Wendy is hiding another secret – abuse at ten years old, at the hands of one of her mother’s former boyfriends.

At a loss for intimate friends, Wendy adopts pop star Michael Jackson as her avatar, his music constantly preaching, consoling, reassuring. Then her world is shaken by a tandem evil, as Wendy might term it – Shaye Tann, a music A&R man, and Shaye’s latest project, Deanna Faire, a teen country singer, who happens to be Wendy’s high school nemesis.

Wendy does make one friend – a black girl named Tanay, who is also struggling with high school life, and they determine to run away from “it all” -if only briefly.

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Fairchild Hawks’ writing here is taut, her dialogue alive with teen jargon and edginess. And there’s the masterfully slow unwrapping of Wendy’s interactions with Shaye Tann. As I read, I wanted to criticize the novel’s latter pages – the runaway segment – as being too adjunct to the rest of Wendy’s story – almost an afterthought. But the author uses her story telling abilities to make this segment the novel’s most compelling part.

This is what I mean by taking chances. This is what I mean by authorial talent in taking such chances.

Is this novel mainstream fiction? Young adult? Literary? Yes to all, and possibly inclusive of other genre subsets as well. Fairchild Hawks’ novel is an example of the direction fiction seems to be taking in the 21st century – a story written from the heart, with talent, going where it will, that makes genre inconsequential.

 

My rating 19 of 20 stars

 

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Something New (and Short)

I wanted to have an audio version of my new book, “SAM’S PLACE,” down, but the cost was prohibitive.

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Then I started playing around with Garage Band, and discovered I can record easily on it. So…

…now I’m half down recording the stories – Southern stories in my Southern voice. Then to have it mastered and duped….

 

 

 

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