What makes good literature?

An extremely good conversation in my literature class about intelligence (Inspired by Ted Chiang’s The Great Silence). We talked about other species that fall under the definition of intelligence, which is “the ability to understand and apply knowledge.” parrot.jpgConsidering Alex the Parrot and Koko the Gorilla, and other species: crows are problem solvers and remember faces. We discussed dogs, cats, and others. Is love, as an abstract idea, understood and applied by animals? And then – is intelligence found in showing love?

This is what good literature should do. Teach, delight, and create wonder.

Read The Great Silence here

Food Crimes: A Lover’s Revenge

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Many years ago, in a suburb north of Los Angeles, Eat My Cupcake was in danger of becoming another victim of the gluten-free, sugar substituted society when Zin stepped in.

People wanted choices, she said. Eat my Cupcake changed to Eat My Muffin and featured exclusive, secret recipes that other bakers tried to duplicate but none succeeded; the some sweet, some savory, some healthy, some masquerading as healthy became a much sought-after experience.

Therefore, in the once nondescript neighborhood with the small bakery, lines around the corner formed beginning early each mornings, people waiting for the one and only Zin’s famous muffins.

Among one of the favorites was a Millet Muffin. The savory-sweet combination of light and fluffy grain pastry was a hit. muffins1

Zin was offered money, lured by head baker guarantees at more established places with promises of salary, health insurance, assistants.

But she liked where she was, who she was, and the freedom to create.

Rob became Zin’s lover years before she became almost-famous. Rob followed her from place to place, always a second to her baking but accepted the position. They loved each other.

But more hours meant more workers meant more people in Zin’s life. Zin had two weaknesses, fresh white flour and sweet young flesh. She slipped into an affair with one of her assistants, Rob was heartbroken and angry.

muffin3One night, crying over a tequila sour, the recipe came out in a drunken slur. Friends who sympathized turned for a single moment to make a note.

Zin begged forgiveness and agreed to work fewer hours, no assistants. Rob forgave her. He barely remembers his drunken night but thinks something may have slipped. Zin is blissfully unaware that her recipe is being shared in whispers like a friend’s quite insinuations.

What follows is the rumored recipe from a once famous bakery and a once famous baker.

Millet Muffins

½ cup of millet

1 ½ cup of flour

1 tsp baking soda

Dash of salt

½ – ¾ cup of brown sugar

1 (room temperature) egg

1/3   cup of butter (room temperature)

¾  cup of buttermilk (room temperature)

Mix the wet ingredients

Mix the dry ingredients

Oil the muffin pan/preheat the oven to 375.

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together and place the muffins in the oven.

Bake for 18-20 minutes.

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*Based on a true story. Names/places changed.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the original recipe. Although I have not baked them myself, I’ve been the beneficiary of the final product. Mmmm.

There are two lessons to this story. First – don’t cheat on your partner who may have your secret recipes. Second, don’t trust a writer with your stolen secret recipe.

Writer Wednesday: Writer and Writing is a Relationship

heartI know people say writing is a commitment, but it’s more than that. Writing isn’t “like” a relationship, it IS a relationship. A writer must be involved with the whole process of writing, must love it, need it, want to continue to work to make it better. It takes commitment, time, dedication, and the desire to move forward in life with writing.

A few years ago, I was at a conference where the main speaker (don’t remember his relat 1name) said, “You have to be selfish. You must take the time for yourself, for your writing.” He went on to say he spent every Friday at a hotel with his writing. (are you picturing him checking into a seedy, no-tell motel with an old typewriter?;-)

My friend joked, “Noreen does this thing where she actually spends time writing.” My regular action became fodder for humor because he is a writer, but he falls under the category of non-writing writers like many others.

Life happens. We have families, pets, jobs, homes, tons of responsibilities. But notice that list – I put family first. People we love comes first. This is why a writer might consider writing as a relationship – so they give it priority.

I schedule things around my writing whenever possible. I will make doctor appointments, meetings, and everything I have power to plan secondary to my writing by scheduling them before or after my planned writing time.

Once a person considers themselves in a relationship with their writing, they may relat 3naturally form relationship goals! If writing were a romantic relationship, how would you handle it differently? Would you want to go to sleep with it or wake up with it or both? What would you want to give it? Would you spend more time with it, going over the details, working it out so it was just perfect, going over it and over it again to work it out nice and smooth? What do you do for your significant other? Take it out to dinner? On vacation?

Writing, like a lover, needs constant attention and nourishment. Placing it on the back burner means we may never get to it. It’ll be there, but not as warm and flush as we’d like. Being in a relationship with writing means the needs of both are fulfilled. Writing is fresh and flowing and continually improved and the writer is happier, more productive.

We do this because we love it, we are driven to do it. Treat writing like it’s important to you.

Think of writing before you fall asleep, when you wake up in the middle of the night just to say one more thing.

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