Oct 19

Three Questions. Three Questions!

This weekend I was at a Romance Writers of America (RWA) meeting and trying to come up with a through-line for the wildly disparate kinds of things I write—literary fiction, fantasy, science fiction, erotica, non-fiction. Now that you’ve seen the list you can see why I was at a loss. So Beth Barany, who’s in this RWA chapter, asks me what my tagline is. “Dark. Edgy. Fiction,” I say.

“Why that?” she asks.

“Because I write about the human condition, the bits that wriggle away from the light. We all have to look at those bits if we want to live and not be driven by them.”

She says, “Tell me why you wrote your cookbook.” (Dharma Feast Cookbook, out February 2012)

“I went through hell before I figured out how to eat well and I want people to know what I know so they can take the short-cut.”

“So what you write about is the human condition because you want to help people. That’s your through-line.”

Wow. Three questions. She’s good. www.bethbarany.com

Listen, anyone who’s a writer should join RWA. The conversations about the craft of writing, the speakers, the other members, some of whom are NYT best sellers—you can’t get better motivational input. Plus the women in my chapter (SF Bay Area) kick ass.

Aug 14

What Are Photos, Really?

This here’s me. It’s windy. I’m wearing a burgundy net shirt. I’m about to see Midnight in Paris, which will crack me up with its depictions of Ernest Hemingway and other writers and artists and put my mind in overload with its brilliant take on, among other things, the nostalgia of the past coming to bear on the present. My friend Carol Elkovich and I will spend two hours after the film in a coffee house discussing art, writing, and the creative process. “Who wants to fight?” and “I see….a rhinoceros.” will enter our common vocabulary.

Shortly after this photo we will sit in the dark together in a sparsely-populated theater and we will laugh with the other audience members, trading looks in the flickering light of the film, strangers not so strange in the delight of an amazing film. We will all fall in love with Woody Allen all over again.

But at this moment, I’m standing in the wind, and my hair is tickling my cheek.

You never know what’s in store for you.

 

 

 

Jul 20

Welcome to my Worlds

When I’m lying in bed at night, trying to fall asleep, I write scenes in my head. I can see them as they’d be written out – title in bold, paragraph structure, dialogue enclosed in quotes. I understand that this is not normal.

My father is a poet, and my first attempts at writing were in that genre. I can vividly remember a poem I wrote early on about the Black Hills. Not completely understanding the timeline of my dad’s history lesson, I thought the Hills were currently swarming with illegal gold prospectors. Outraged, I penned the following:

The Black Hills! The Black Hills!

They’re trying to take the Black Hills!

With all that junk so shallow

Just beneath the surface

They’re trying to take the Black Hills

For less than they are worth.

I think I was trying to rhyme “surface” and “worth.” It went on, but, perhaps mercifully, I have lost the second page. More importantly, that was my first attempt at expressing a strong emotion through the written word.

During college I began the next phase of my writing life – learning my craft. At that point I was an unreformed academic and intellectual so my first thought was to get a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. Ahhh! The structure of class and study, produce and critique. But, given the amount of time and money involved in such a pursuit, I had to be realistic.

I bought books on the aspects of writing that mystified me. First came books on editing. And the floodgates opened. The more I explored, the less I knew. Next came “Show, don’t tell” and I figured out why my first novel was so bad. “Why show when you can tell?” was my unconscious motto. “I want the reader to get it! Here – here’s what you’re supposed to think.” It seems that this writing style produces a bad novel.

I read every book I could get my hands on – editing, show-don’t-tell, characterization, plot, scene structure, sentence structure, syntax, anything and everything. I devoured books by other authors talking about their own writing process. I talked for hours to other writer friends.

So now I am where I am. Where is that? I’m not sure that’s the right question. A better one: What are you doing now?

Still reading. Still studying. And, most importantly, writing. Every day.