Writer Wednesday: Ode to Professor King

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“Most of what writers write about their work is ill-informed bullshit.”

 

 

 

You gotta love Stephen King, if not for his fiction, for the way he sets things straight and to the point.

This is the line that begins King’s rewrite for his novel The Gunslingerking4, originally released in 1970, rewritten and rereleased in 2003.

He rewrote and released the novel – only Stephen King could do that.

In any case, I found his forward notably valuable. His words are not only ever for his readers, but for writers as well.

His approach to revision he says, “hasn’t changed much,” and it is “to plunge in and go as fast as I can, keeping the edge of my narrative blade as sharp as possible through constant use…. Looking back,” he says, “prompts too many questions.”

I agree. I’m one to power through and not consider edits until I’m completely finished. This way I don’t get hung up wondering if this is right, if that flows, should I change this word here? Nothing is finished until the end is on paper, then comes the time for change; however, King puts his work away for a time. I, personally, give it an edit or two or ten. I give it to my friends, I reread, fawn over every word, sentence and…. it still has errors I don’t catch for six months or a year.

king2For the original writing of The Gunslinger, King has this to say about his younger self, “too many writing seminars, and had grown used to the idea those writing seminars promulgate: that one is writing for other people rather than oneself; that language is more important than story; that ambiguity is preferred over clarity and simplicity…”

I was once in one of those very seminars when someone brought up Stephen King, “don’t worry,” the professor announced, “he’ll never be remembered in the annals of history.”

The same professor, the same class, a few sessions later, eyed me after my story had been workshopped and discussed. “I’m still trying to figure out the reason for writing the story.”

“I think,” braved another student, “she wrote it for pleasure, for publication.”

The Professor’s eyes narrowed, her lips thinned, and she sat forward in the old wooden desk, “we don’t do that in this class,” she hissed.

My nervous smile slipped away as silence rose from our feet up. No one moved. No one breathed. One girl had already run out crying, perhaps they were waiting for me. I didn’t want to cry, nor run out, but I’d felt everything I’d done up til that point undeniably wrong.

I learned to write, over the next few year, the way of the MFA, ambiguous, language king5heavy, story slipping under the covers of darkness of words and rhythm.

Stephen King, I thought then and now, by sheer volume and honesty of craft, will not be forgotten. And I’m not sure he cares one way or the other.

I think we can all learn a thing or two from Professor King.

Food Crimes: Lavender Misdemeanors

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I like lavender, I do. In calming oil, in the vapor misting at the yoga studio, and in my shower gel. I have a few bushes in my yard, love to pick a sprig or two for the patio and to bring in the house to scent the air.  When I travel, I have a roll-on oil that I put on my scarf. Not only does it calm me, but it masks any odors left behind by previous travelers or brought on by the snugly conditions on airplanes.

lavender4I am not ignorant to the lavender cookies, ice cream, drinks and everything else floating around shopping aisles at the local markets and calling to me from the bakery store windows.

When I went to San Juan Island, I discovered there’s a lavender farm with, I think they said, 40 different varieties of lavender from all over the world. It’s absolutely beautiful.

Lavender has a light floral scent, not at all over powering, and it’s lovely to look at. It’s lavender3musk reminiscent of the sweet earth on which we thrive.

But, I have recently discovered, I’m not a fan of lavender infused food. While they are beautiful creations, the lavender macaroon I tasted at a nearby bakery was barely flavorful, made with a synthetic extract barely hinting of the purple flowering plant. The made-for-me lavender cupcake was moist and not overly sweetened – both of which I appreciate – and I ate it, liked it. But, ultimately, decided, what’s the big deal?

Overall, I’m not a fan of cross-over and maybe that’s what’s tripping me up. I have no lavender6desire to scrub my pores with chocolate scented exfoliate nor spread a mocha cappuccino mask over my hands, I don’t want a minty fresh eye gel or an apricot foot cream.

I desire separation. I don’t want to be tempted to lick a pineapple-coconut shower spray, and I’d prefer my cake not to reek of argon and tea tree oil.

Enjoy your fluff and fold mango laundry detergent and your vanilla frap leave-in conditioner; night-shade dryer sheets and white chocolate cookies are good enough for me.

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Food Crimes: How PSL Saved My Life.

We’ve all had those days. For one reason or another, we didn’t get enough sleep, on the verge of exhaustion, or worse – near ill, but we need to make it through, we need to show up and be functional.

Enter: Caffeine. psl3

Every day I read a different article about caffeine, it’s good, it’s bad, tea has more, coffee has more, they have antioxidant effects, people live longer, live shorter. No one study has definitively come up with one right answer.

But here’s the truth:  Too much caffeine can cause anxiety.

psl2See me two months ago for my first set of anxiety attacks. There’s a lot going on right now, but I’m usually the queen of calm. But too much caffeine and not enough physical exercise, and the onset of anxiety happens.  I know this because my sisters have anxiety and the first thing their doctors said is “cut out the caffeine and chocolate.”

Well, before I let a doctor tell me to cut out chocolate, I decided to ease back. During the summer, I’d been drinking three or four cups of tea by 2pm and sometimes an added cup of coffee by 4pm.  I know some people drink coffee all day long and are not affected; it’s what you’re used to and what your body can take. Mine decided too much was too much. I cut back to one cup a day. It wasn’t too hard. I actually still had two cups made from one tea bag; my way of cheating.

Then, school begins. Not related to caffeine, or coffee, psl1tea, chocolate or any guilty pleasures, but to a new schedule and my body trying to get used to it – I spent one night tossing and turning and getting up and laying down, breathing deep and keeping my eyes closed, but to no avail – I ended up falling asleep around 4 in order to wake up at 6am. I felt zombie-like.

I made it through my first class, but had another class to teach after an hour of office meetings.

Enter: PSL.

pslStarbucks sent me an email (yes, me personally, about their early release of Pumpkin Spice Latte), but I ignored it, telling myself I was off the hard stuff. I didn’t need any espresso and sugar to get me through the day, just good healthy food and clean, clear water. Besides, it’s far too early to imbibe on pumpkin anything.

But, see, it was one of those damn dirty lies we tell ourselves. When our next sleep is off on some unknown horizon, we must continue to function. My car turned, almost automatically into the Starbucks parking lot, and I found myself in a mist, floating to the barista as they handed me an iced-grande-half-caff-PSL-no whip.

The mixture of caffeine and sugar, the delishness of it all, kept me awake so I could earn a living, not fall on my face in front of 30 some students, and hold worthwhile conversations (I hope), with my colleagues.

Good, bad, friend or fiend, crime or not, caffeine isn’t going anywhere. Thank goodness.

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Food Crimes: Always Ask a Local

What I learned traveling is to not settle for the food that is offered to most tourists, but to ask a local. By doing this, I’ve eaten at the most wonderful places.

Recently I visited the San Juan Islands; while browsing the shops, I began to grow hungry, so I asked the clerks for a recommendation. They all said Mike’s.

20180819_192147I wandered the streets on the hot day, pleasantly surprised when I arrived at Mike’s Cafe and Wine Bar and read: The Islands Tallest Waterfall.

I had images of a cool mist wafting over with the breeze. I entered and asked for the patio. Even more surprised when the waterfall was a mere four feet from the ground.  An island joke – it is actually the tallest!

Being too late for lunch and too early for dinner, I had the place nearly to myself.

20180818_161700Famished, I ordered the Tomate plate. A vegan version of caprese salad. I began with that. Farm-fresh, warm tomatoes: Mmmmm…. delish.

Another secret to eating a good meal is to ask the server for suggestions: 20180818_163559(0)

The Pulled Jackfruit Tacos, she told me, were only on the menu for a limited time, a summer special edition. I was not disappointed.

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For desert: a vegan berry cheesecake.

This is the best meal I’ve had in quite a long time!

On the way

I like to ask locals their ideas for activities as well. The next day, a woman recommended I visit the small town of La Conner.

I ended up at the WaterFront for fish and chips where the server introduced their special: Guinness battered Fish. I opened the menu and asked her what she liked best. She pointed to another plate of fish and chips. This, she said, we make fresh here.

Their special came in a bag and was deep fried. It might have been good, but when I travel I want to get a flavor for the area as well as a fresher, healthier choice.

In Florence, a side street tattoo artist led me to a grande deserto: authentic tiramisu.

Lost and found at a skate park in Paris, teenage skaters pointed out a corner cafe serving Galletes.

I’ve gotten lost in every major city of every country I’ve ever traveled too. This is where you meet the locals, eat the best food, and have the most authentic experiences. Get off the beaten path and explore! Ask the locals for food and other ideas.

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Friday Feature: Building a Community of Writers – Rebecca Clark

Hi, All.  Today, I asked Rebecca Clark to tell us about The Writer’s Point.

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My name is Rebecca Clark. I am the founder of The Write Point, a free social networking community for writers, editors, publishers, beta readers, and literary agents.

Here’s my story.

For the past 15 years I’ve been writing fiction stories. Mainly for myself. It wasn’t until about 7 years ago that I thought maybe I could actually publish something! I wanted to share my make-believe worlds with others. So, I dug deep into the Internet to see what I could find about agents, publishing, the editing process, and what ever else a successful book entailed. I found several forums full of knowledgeable authors.

Forums are messy, in my opinion. I was a brand new writer lost in a world of writers who knew everything I needed to know, but somehow I felt that I didn’t fit in. There was one forum website in particular that made me feel like I shouldn’t be a writer at all. Every question I asked was answered with “google it”.

So, I googled it. I learned so much on my own, but I really just wanted to be a part of a community, some place where I felt at home with people just like me.

Last year, I decided that if I couldn’t find a place to call “home”, I’d create one. So, I did! Fortunately for me, a couple of years ago, I graduated with a degree in Computer Information Systems: Website Development and Design. I could take the time to build upon the idea, and actually understand what I was doing in the process.

The Write Point is a FREE community that I hope will become a place for new writers to feel welcome, and experienced writers can share their expertise without making anyone feel like they aren’t good enough!

Noreen, thank you for allowing me to share the story of The Write Point. To learn more about us, visit https://thewritepoint.com.

The Write Point Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/thewritepoint

You can also find me tweeting here: https://www.twitter.com/bekkahclark and here https://www.twitter.com/twp_network

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Many thanks, Rebecca.

Writers, Enjoy!

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Writer Wednesday – The Mystery of Flow

Door-Into-MindIdeas come easily to some writers, not so smoothly to others.

There’s a little door to our writing mind which must always remain open and then things will flow in and out. it’s a frame of mind, to be open and to listen, or to always have writing on your mind, like a song playing in the background.

In a supermarket, the cashier says something to me. It could be an every day comment that strikes me a little strange. That (creative) door is standing ajar and a shadow is leaning against the frame when the cashier, red hair piled 50’s high, said something about “blueberry pie.” But I heard Blue Pie. My writer mind twirls within possibilities. That idea that lingered at the door-frame to my writer mind smacked right into the blue pie and it became a dog named Blue and Grandmother’s award-winning pie at a local fair in the height of the home-making 50’s.

I’m standing in the window of my little home watering plants; the catnip falls to my feet and I remember a dream I had the night before. Catnip Dreams begins whirring.doors

Enough of the bleating sirens, says an annoyed neighbor upon hearing yet another car alarm as my dog anxiously howls at the buzz. He says sirens. I hear a howl. I see ancient mermaids sitting on a rock caterwauling.

The space between our everyday life our creative brain must not close. Between kids and to-do lists, work and school, it must become a screen which catches things and holds them, even somewhat distorted, until we race to a notebook and write.

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Friday Feature – Fantasy for Mental Health by Lara Lee

 

Today, I’ve asked Lara Lee, fantasy author to write something for us.

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fantasy2In brainstorming ideas for one of my novels, I decided to research the question: Can a person be immune to brainwashing? We have all seen on television or in movies or even old books the trope of someone being brainwashed to do horrendous crimes against their will. It is overused, so I often stay away from it. My villain just seemed the kind of person to try and brainwash my hero, but I was curious how this worked in reality. Other books have their protagonist resist by the strength of their will. Was that how it is done?

No!

I was absolutely shocked by the research I came across. Strong-willed people were not immune to brainwashing, daydreamers were. Often, those resistant to brainwashing were people no one would expect, average looking people with little to brag about. Why is this?

First, we have to deal with what brainwashing is. Many people over the recent years have argued that true brainwashing doesn’t exist. Just like hypnosis, a person cannot be forced to do something against their foundation beliefs. The term and identification of the phenomenon of brainwashing came from around the time of the Korean War. Prisoners of war were “brainwashed” and then released to their home countries as spies for the Koreans. The same phenomenon was also seen in cults in the US and other organizations. These people did change. They did act in a way that they previously thought was wrong. Something happened to them that changed them.fantasy1

Brainwashing, like the movies, doesn’t happen. People’s thoughts are not wiped clean and then planted with new thoughts, but what does happen is that a person is put in such restrictive environment that denies all basic needs until the point that the person either is on the brink of a nervous breakdown or experiences one. Then the captor offers “kindness” such as water or food and slowly breaks down the victim’s foundational beliefs to those that the captor wants. They are convinced and persuaded under pressure to adopt new ideas. Sometimes these new thoughts stick for a lifetime. Sometimes they only last until a healthy lifestyle is restored. It again depends on the person.

As I read this description, I realized that sometimes life events bring people to the point of breaking, even without a captor. We have all heard of people who suffered emotional breakdowns just from trauma in ordinary living. Deaths, illness, financial struggles, relationship problems produce extraordinary strain. Life can be hard, and at times people break. Depression, anxiety, and PTSD are common. Some people endure a lot in life and stay strong. Some people crumble relatively quickly. So I continued my research wondering how one would fight this mental breakdown. It stopped being about brainwashing and more about mental health. How do we endure high stress without falling apart?

The secret is dissociation.

It turns out, that people who can disassociate from the circumstance that they are in do well. This practice is often taught to soldiers in the military to help in case they are captured and tortured. Dissociation is the process of mentally removing yourself from reality and separating your emotions from your circumstances. If not done intentionally, it can be a psychological disorder, but, when done intentionally, it provides a brief relief from the pain of reality.

To me, this sounds like escapism literature, my favorite being fantasy. We all either have said or heard someone say that they read or go to the movies to “get away” from life. This act of “getting away” is to remove yourself from reality for a time into a fake world. Escapism is often about ignoring the pain of reality to have a little fun, or just to “veg” for a while. Sounds a little like disassociation right?

Not all entertainment is escapism. Some highlight the painful realities of life, but the popularity of the superhero movies, Harry Potter, Twilight, Game of Thrones, and The Hunger Games show that escapism is alive and well. I personally remember in some of the darkest times of my life escaping into books to bring relief to my emotions. I read nearly the entire Dresden file series that had been written up to at that point when a loved one was dying. I was often asked how I survived some of what I went through without shutting down, getting a divorce, or turning to substance abuse. I do have a Christian faith that I depend on, but I think I was also provided a way of emotion disassociation through fantasy fiction that helped me bare the emotions. God is not against fantasy; he told parables himself.fantasy

From the beginning of human history, we have had folklore, myths, legends, and fairy tales. These are the precursor to our modern fantasy fiction. The ancient world knew they needed an escape from the harsh realities of life. The human mind can only handle so much before breaking and caving in. Some seek relief in substance abuse or unhealthy relationships. Fantasy is a place in which you can be the hero and in control for 300 pages. Perhaps you will never endure the type of stress used in brainwashing, but I think we all can benefit from a bit of fantasy.

 

Lara Lee

The Shadow of the Gryphon

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Thank you, Lara!