Revolutions and Writing


It’s been said that the best creative writing comes from periods when political and social revolutions are happening. I suppose the drama of a revolution is a part of that, and the intellectualizing or rationale for the revolution generates situations and characters that writers can easily work with. But a quick survey of modern revolutions and their run-ups reveals different sorts of creativity.

Nothing much in the way of literature came directly out of the American revolution, but in its aftermath, as American society began to settle in, we had novelists Melville and Hawthorne, poets Whitman and Dickinson. The French revolution? Here think foremost of Hugo and Marat, who wrote their stories amid the revolution’s action. And similarly in Russia, the great writer Tolstoy. However, preceding the Soviet Union’s dismantling – a relatively gentle revolution – we have firebrand novelist Solzhenitsyn and poet Yevtushenko.


In later years, the literary medium changed. The Cuban revolution and the U.S.’s almost-revolution of the fifties and sixties brought a new form of creativity to the fore: songs. Things were happening so rapidly, in the U.S. particularly,  that songs quickly written, recorded and put on the airwaves were the best way for energy to coalesce about the day’s drama.

In South Africa, the grander literature preceded the revolution outright, in the novels of Coetzee, and Gordimer, to name a mere pair of many.

And so we see the great fertile literary periods of the twentieth century were in times of ideological change and consequent revolution. What will this century bring, with its social media and blogs – something new and as yet undeveloped?

Visit my website here, where you’ll find more information on my books. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.


The Biz of Books


To be committed to the profession of writing today requires both an ability to write well and a business sense unique to each writer’s goals.

For me this has meant starting my own publishing arm. My promo efforts, which include a solid website, a thoughtful blog, and a strong social media presence, have seemed lacking without my own formalized business. Now my efforts fall under the umbrella of Gridley Fires Books, LLC. While this means extra payouts and attention to business details, it also means I keep sales money that would have gone to middle men in other arrangements.

This may not be your preference; it takes both time and money. For me, it’s worth it.

Visit my website here. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

The Brave New Future


Note: I occasionally post on magazines; I’ve always read them, and would seriously bemoan their passing. While I don’t have the time to do all the mags justice that I might have an interest in, I do try to post regularly on the ones I think have the most substance to offer readers.


The Atlantic, December 2013



I remain heartened by this magazine’s approach to informing its readers. Much of what interests me here is apparently gained from polls on various subjects, particularly the modern effect of male-female interactions.  In a similar form we come face to face with capitalism’s amoralities, and their effect on social unrest.

If this causes you unrest, don’t read the article on inmate control tactics in the nation’s prisons – a subject mostly hidden from the public – the article leaving this reader wondering how widely these tactics might be applied to the rest of us.

Too, we gain insight into John Kerry and his approach to foreign policy, which may very well ask you to wonder what he might’ve been like as president.

One subject bound to unsettle readers has to do with data and data mining in the workplace and how that might affect your life as a worker. Altogether fitting for sure, but big data need not be a workplace onus. Such data systems, properly used, can set workers free from almost all clerical work and much of the drudgery of reports, analyses, and the like. Why not, for instance, set these freed workers down in front of the organization’s future, using them creatively to further improve such organization’s products and services?

There’s more here, of course, and The Atlantic is doing those of us committed to reading this fine magazine a most welcome journalistic service.



Visit my website here, and my FB Fan Page here for more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you. I’ll soon be adding podcasts of selected book reviews to my website, as well as an opportunity to buy mp3 files of my reading of Sam’s Place – Stories, so look for those.

The Artist and the Work

GF Readers, I’m finally back, my eight-day absence caused by a total knee replacement, and I’m more or less in the pink once more. Thanks for hanging in there with me and GF.


The Writer’s Chronicle, December 2013



Writers, how much have you thought about your personal relationship to your creative work, completed or not?

Well, you say, I have ideas, I develop them, edit them, and either publish them or stick ‘em in a drawer for a rainy day.

That’s not quite the answer I’m looking for. How do you relate to the voice of what you write? Is it the same as your everyday talking voice? Did your article or story end up exactly as you planned it, or did it take on a new mood or slant on the subject matter once it was in progress?

Hopefully these questions will stick with you long enough to get to the news stand and buy this issue of Writer’s Chronicle. Julie Wittes Schlack talks about this sort of connection, between mindfulness and the memoir. Sometimes you get caught up in creative whirlpools within when approaching your subject matter, says poet Stephen Dunn, and you either swim for shore or you fight it out, perhaps become that whirlpool, leaving some of your best work in your wake. And then there’s the near-perpetual concern about connecting activism and art, says Natasha Saje. But, she says, what writer pays attention to activism when they’re deep into character, voice and mood? (I’m paraphrasing here.)

These considerations concerning connecting self to creative output may be a bit out of reach for writers struggling to develop a style and voice within a particular genre, but not to worry: as you refine your writing’s technical aspects, the ways in which self and output differ and connect will slowly emerge.



Visit my website here, where you’ll have an opportunity to download an audio eversion of my latest, Sam’s Place, as well as select book review podcasts. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.



Why TV Is Pummeling the Movie Industry/TheAtlantic


The article linked below is an indication of just how technological innovation can drive artistic fertility – and vice versa. Whether or not you like the tone of some things appearing on U.S. TV, this is where the experimentation is. Experimentation is always edgy, creative (of course), and usually a peg too honest for people’s comfort. And it’s always in retrospect, it seems, that we come to appreciate this edgy honesty.


The Atlantic

Dave Brubeck Lives On

image via The Atlantic
image via The Atlantic

Years ago, when my learning curve at guitar was a lot steeper, an old pal, Alan Joyner, and I played around with 5/4 time. As a musical metric, it was a mind-blower for both of us.

Of course, Brubeck’s famed Take Five brought that meter into prominence, not because odd-timed jazz had become so popular, but because he found a way to make music in that time signature memorable and downright infectious.

And, by the way, I hope to write, and live creatively otherwise, as long as he did. In fact, I’ve just this past week begun to learn an arrangement of Take Five on guitar. So for me Dave Brubeck lives on.

The Atlantic

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Body’s Creativity

Gee…wow! I did it again! Six ten to twelve hour days of modernizing the house's interior a bit by putting up some crown molding and replacing the dippy little base molding with something that looks so much better. It's cost my aching body some lost sleep, a lot of physical discomfort otherwise, and not a few bucks.



So why do it keep doing it? I could live with things as is. Or I could always hire a trim crew, pour a brewski, sit back, roll my eyes at the noise and dust – and then simply write a check.

It's creative, that's why. 

I expend a lot of my creativity in writing and playing music – a lot of things that may never see the light of day in the conventional sense. And they're mostly mental exercises of one sort or another.

But my mind needs my body. I can be creative in some fey world all I want, but sometimes the body craves it's own sort of reality. And so I can now look around at my garden, my pond, my berry vines, my house's increasingly pleasing interior, and I see that physical creativity already rewarded, a perhaps perfectly egoistic mirror of who and what I am. It's at times like this that I begin to understand why Tolstoy used to work in the fields with the serfs.



Ahem. Tomorrow I'll rub on some liniment and get back to writing. Maybe there'll also be an hour in which I can get reacquainted with one of my guitars. But when I go back upstairs for a second cuppa, I'll pause for a moment to note with great satisfaction what wood, tools, nails, paint – and a few drops of blood – have wrought.


Visit bob's web site here, and his FB Fan Page here.