Introducing Maya Angelou to someone who is new to her work

Friday, 6 June, 2014

US author and poet Maya Angelou died last week, aged 86. While the many readers of her writings will probably never forget her, how might you explain who she was, and the significance of her work, to someone, who has not heard of her? An anonymous Quora member, whose name, I think, is Anita, outlines the answer she would give to her six-year old child:

Has anyone ever told you that you can’t do something? Because you’re too young? Or too weak? Or too stupid? Because you’re the wrong color? Or because you’re “just” a girl? How did it make you feel to be told those things? Did it hurt you? Did it make you sad? Did it make you mad? Well, there was a woman named Maya Angelou who felt all those things when she was your age.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

To look forward to, some new books by J.D. Salinger

Monday, 2 September, 2013

It looks as if “new” books by J.D. Salinger, the manuscripts of which have been sitting in a safe in the late US author’s house for possibly decades, may see the light of day sooner rather than later, even though it was apparently Salinger’s wish they not be published until 2051, though it seems this directive may only apply to certain works.

This could be a double treat for fans of The Catcher in the Rye, as the unpublished books sound like follow-ups to Salinger’s iconic 1951 work:

The Salinger books would revisit Catcher protagonist Holden Caulfield and draw on Salinger’s World War II years and his immersion in eastern religion. The material also would feature new stories about the Glass family of Franny and Zooey and other Salinger works.

Read more posts on related topics

, , ,

Even bestselling authors are only writing, it seems, for the love of it

Monday, 25 March, 2013

Just because you wrote a bestselling book doesn’t mean you can necessarily go making plans to pursue a career as a full time author, something Patrick Wensink found after he started receiving the royalty payments for his 2012 book, Broken Piano for President.

My book was the No. 6 bestselling title in America for a while, right behind all the different “50 Shades of Grey” and “Gone Girl.” It was selling more copies than “Hunger Games” and “Bossypants.” So, I can sort of see why people thought I was going to start wearing monogrammed silk pajamas and smoking a pipe. But the truth is, there’s a reason most well-known writers still teach English. There’s a reason most authors drive dented cars. There’s a reason most writers have bad teeth. It’s not because we’ve chosen a life of poverty. It’s that poverty has chosen our profession. Even when there’s money in writing, there’s not much money.

This despite the profile generated by the overly reasonable cease and desist letter from Jack Daniel’s (a must read by the way), that played a part in propelling the book – whose original cover design bore a striking resemblance to the well-known whiskey’s bottle label – to the upper reaches of bestseller lists in the US.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

All this time I thought that writing wasn’t remotely mathematical

Wednesday, 14 November, 2012

Not to impune Ernest Hemingway’s opinion in this regard, but I for one am not convinced that writers need to be – how do I say – mathematically literate:

Fiction writers have rarely expressed such earnest appreciation for mathematical aesthetics. That’s a shame, because mathematical precision and imagination can be a salve to a literature that is drowning in vagueness of language and theme. “The laws of prose writing are as immutable as those of flight, of mathematics, of physics,” Ernest Hemingway wrote to Maxwell Perkins, in 1945. Even if Papa never had much formal training in mathematics, he understood it as a discipline in which problems are solved through a sort of plodding ingenuity.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

If in doubt don’t wing it when writing non-fiction

Friday, 21 September, 2012

Since writing fiction is oh so easy – writer’s block notwithstanding – there’s no need to post links to resources offering assistance in that regard.

Non-fiction however is another matter, you can’t go making that stuff up after all (though I’m sure it’s been tried), so this is probably an area that we need some advice in.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

The greatest of novels are not necessarily page turners

Friday, 10 August, 2012

A little light reading for the weekend? The work of authors such as Djuna Barnes, Jonathan Swift, and James Joyce, are included in a list of “the most difficult of the most difficult” books to read. Needless to say I haven’t actually read, at least in full, a single title.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

Gore Vidal and the myth of writer’s block

Wednesday, 8 August, 2012

US writer Gore Vidal, who died last week, made a few waves in his time, but there may be one or two writers who will take exception to his thoughts on writer’s block:

That famous writer’s block is a myth as far as I’m concerned. I think bad writers must have a great difficulty writing. They don’t want to do it. They have become writers out of reasons of ambition. It must be a great strain to them to make marks on a page when they really have nothing much to say, and don’t enjoy doing it. I’m not so sure what I have to say but I certainly enjoy making sentences.

I write a little bit but wouldn’t call myself a writer, but I can see where he’s coming from here. Either you want to write or you don’t. The only times I really find myself struggling are when I’m distracted by some sort of external or personal problem, otherwise I mostly plough through it.

A real writer who I once met though told me there is no such thing as writer’s block, as long as you have something to say, and she’s right. Besides writing is far too therapeutic, calming, to be retained from. After a hard day of writing, there is nothing more relaxing than writing.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

Mixing writers and cocktails, a recipe for literary success?

Thursday, 7 June, 2012

I’m not sure that emulating the drinking habits of authors such as Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Flann O’Brien, Dylan Thomas, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, will make you a better or more successful writer, but you might have fun and meet some interesting contacts in the process.

It’s only fitting that the man who brought us the raucous parties of The Great Gatsby know a thing or two about partying himself. He and his wife Zelda were a raging pair of drunken pranksters, a ferocious force to be reckoned with. I mean, when your buddy Ernest Hemingway tells you that your wife is a bad influence on you and makes you drink too much? That’s saying something. The Fitzgeralds’ decadent lifestyle did not come without its consequences, but that’s a story better saved for the sequel. “First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you,” said Fitzgerald, and for he and Zelda, that drink was the gin rickey (supposedly, he thought that gin was more difficult for others to detect on your breath): 2 shots of gin mixed with ¾ oz of lime juice, poured over ice in a highball glass and topped with club soda and a garnish of lime. While I can’t guarantee this drink’s discretion, I can guarantee a deliciously refreshing cocktail.

Read more posts on related topics

, , ,

Going from zero to ten thousand words in a day

Thursday, 29 March, 2012

US fantasy writer Rachel Aaron describes how she increased her output from two thousand words a day to ten thousand. That’s definitely impressive.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

Great expectations may take quite some time to be realised

Tuesday, 21 February, 2012

A number of novels written by English author Charles Dickens, that are among his best known titles today including “Great Expectations”, “A Christmas Tale”, and “A Tale of Two Cities”, fared very poorly when first published, likely selling not much more than 100,000 copies cumulatively up until his death in 1870.

Read more posts on related topics

, , , ,