Archive for January, 2009

IF YOU DON’T WAKE UP WRITING……

January 26, 2009

“WRITE!  EVERY!  DAY!” she said.

“Yes m’am” we said., not really thinking she meant it.  Not  literally.

I had finally decided I really, really wanted to take writing seriously and so, naturally, I enrolled in a writing class taught by Peggy Fielding, the best-known (and loved) writing teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I then lived.   And here I was, in night school, first class, promising to “write every day.”  (Well, except for….)

Next class:   Roll call.

“Please stand as I call your names.  John, did you  write every day?”

“Well, actually, uh, no, you see…”

“Are you serious about becoming a selling author?”

“Yes.”

“Then, how will you answer my question next week?”

And so it went.  One poor woman had been ill and Peggy explained in kind and deadly tones that writing while feverish often produced some of the best work.

By gosh, she really MEANT write every day, and woe befall the student who didn’t honestly answer “Yes, I did,” in every class–or else lied.

Thing is, she lived what she taught.  A couple of years ago our beloved Peggy suffered a stroke. A friend took her to the emergency room and, as she was being wheeled away, heard her telling orderlies and nurses all about her latest book and asking for someone to take dictation so she could continue work on her current writing project.   (And, you know, a loyal friend was there in the hospital taking dictation from Peggy almost every day until she could write on her own again.)

The whole point is, are you taking the writing profession seriously?   Do you really want to be a writer, or are you one of those who wants to have written, avoiding the sometimes tedious production process?

Another writer I admire, a newspaper editor, headed an essay on writing this way:  “If you don’t wake up writing….”  Richard Cattani didn’t finish this sentence anywhere in the essay, and he didn’t need to.  I think he meant (thanks Peggy!) that, if at some time in a 24 hour period, words don’t so fill your head that you are compelled to write them down–well then, why do you say you are a writer?

Right this moment, January 26. 2009 in the Arkansas Ozarks, dire weather forecasts tell us we are facing a major ice storm.  There may be (they say) accumulations of an inch or more on tree branches and power lines.  We know what happens then. The power goes out for days (sometimes weeks).

No computer, after the battery on the lap top runs out.  So, Radine (who has thought it was the very fact of sitting down and turning on the computer that got her writing started every day) can’t write.  Right?

No.  You betcha no.  I have my legal pads and pens ready and, Peggy dear, I AM, BY GOSH, GOING TO WRITE EVERY DAY!

With love and thanks,   Radine

Too much information

January 12, 2009

Does anyone besides me feel overloaded with information?  Though I subscribe for and read five newspapers, (one of them on line) my husband and I never watch TV news except for “The News Hour” and “Washington Week” on Public Television, and, when we are in the car, we hear a bit of NPR news.  What must those of you who watch network news have to take in?

Technology has brought us almost instant breaking news from around the world, yet there is little we can or would do about it  from our living room couches in “Middletown, USA.”  I am beginning to wonder about the importance of all this news.  Sure, much of it impacts our lives, but , except for weather, plus necessary your “action needed now or in the near future” information, or meeting announcements, or disaster news,  wouldn’t a weekly digest serve us just as well?  Guys, let’s think about all this for a while, and not throw out the latest news bomb that may prove totally unreliable or inconsequential the following day. (Shouldn’t we have thought longer and harder about that “Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq” information?)

What made me bring this up right now is the news I get as a writer. For some time (and as recently as last week) I have been bombarded with topics like these:   “Reading down in America.”   “Reading in the 18-24 age group has dropped by ?? % in the last ten years.”  “New York Publishers cutting (or eliminating) advances,” and,  “Bookstores struggling.”

And then this came along from the New York Times this morning:  “Fiction Reading Increases for Adults.”  In his article, Motoko Rich quotes a report: “Reading on the Rise: A New Chapter in American Literacy,” that was released January 12 and is based on “The Survey of Public Participation in the Arts” conducted in 2008.  For the first time since 1982 (the survey tells me) more adults 18 and older are reading novels, stories, and poems.

Hooray, for sure.  Good news for me, as a writer.

But… in the midst of all this good news-bad news stuff, sales of my “To Die For” novels have remained steady and even increased over the years.  I plod along writing and promoting and selling while news of all kinds about what is happening  (or not) in my chosen profession swirls around me. I must admit most of this news now feels like it’s “out there” somewhere.  I used to read it all, take it in, and worry.  But now…?  I’ve chosen to paddle my own canoe and not sweat the speed boats (or speed bumps?).  (Gotta love mixed language pictures.  I am sure you get the idea I am sharing!)

I ask you…except for cocktail party-type conversation, did I really need to know boat-loads of “facts” right this minute, especially when some wizard who’s in the know (?) may come along and amend them before this evening’s news deadline?

Radine

Reading for Pleasure

January 4, 2009

Do kids ever ask adults to “Read me a story” these days?  When I was growing up, Mother reading to me or making up the next episode in the lives of two shoes, “Dit” and “Dat” in a an on-going series of adventures she invented, was high pleasure.  We didn’t have television, let alone video games or ipods or…you name it.  Reading, or listening to various thirty minute adventure programs on the radio was it.  (If you’re old enough to remember “The Lone Ranger” on radio, you know what I mean.)

For some of us, then, the very words “Read me a story” signifies pleasure.  The term “Reading for pleasure” needs no explanation.

By reading we can, of course, learn how to beautify, make, repair, appreciate, or understand something.  We learn history, we see other worlds, and we do this all by reading.

Do any of you read cereal boxes?  Oh, I hope so.  I grew up reading cereal boxes and, though cereal isn’t on my breakfast menu very often now, when it is, I still read the boxes.

Do you read for pleasure?  Nutrition information for Special K? Recipe for Rice Krispy Marshmallow Treats?  Or do you limit yourself to the instructions for opening the box?

What about fiction–adventure, mystery, romance, sci-fi, fantasy?   Whatever…for me, there’s just something about anticipating a good story that awakens my smile juices.  How about you?

I think it’s still true that reading TO a child is the best of all reading pleasures.  Not only can you enjoy the story, (no matter how child-oriented), you are creating lifetime memories for the child you are reading to.   And this is something I know for sure.                                                      Radine