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Archive for the ‘Learning to write by reading’ Category

The Power (captured in the words of Kahlil Gibran)

kahlil-gibranI just read The Crucified by Kahlil Gibran, and then found it published in this blog entry  by Dave Feucht. I offer it to you with this introduction and prayer:

In the words of Gibran:

On this one day of each year, the philosophers leave their dark caves, and the thinkers their cold cells, and the poets their imaginary arbors, and all stand reverently upon that silent mountain, listening to the voice of a young man saying of his killers, “Oh Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”

But as dark silences chokes the voices of the light, the philosophers and the thinkers and the poets return to their narrow crevices and shroud their souls with meaningless pages of parchment.

Please, dear friends, don’t let it be this way for us this Easter season. Let us use the power in our words to tell our readers something they need to know! Something that may bring them more joy or understanding or even a greater capacity and desire to love one another.  Amen.

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The Power of Words–and Words to Prove It!

I have been teaching my Public Speaking students about language, especially the  great power of our words to create or destroy.  Writers  are always influencing  by the words  we choose to describe something or someone.  I wonder if we are constantly conscious of what we are doing…. Do we always choose the word that is the clearest and most descriptive, and not a judgment? After all, readers are limited to the world we create, with its values and visions of what is–or could be–in it. Are we painting brave new worlds with our word pictures or are we prescribing a life that only gratifies or glorifies our self-centered natures? And are we conscious of the beauty and precision of the grammatical context of our words, or do our fingers go tripping and tumbling along a path, throwing commas and other punctuation wherever we please with no thought to scooping up the excess?

Here are some possible answers, quotes I found on Goodreads:

magnetic-poetry“Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say infinitely when you mean very; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.” ― C.S. Lewis

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”― Ludwig Wittgenstein

“Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall.” ― Jodi Picoult, Salem Falls

“There exists, for everyone, a sentence – a series of words – that has the power to destroy you. Another sentence exists, another series of words, that could heal you. If you’re lucky you will get the second, but you can be certain of getting the first.” ― Philip K. Dick, VALIS

“We live and breathe words. …. It was books that made me feel that perhaps I was not completely alone. They could be honest with me, and I with them. Reading your words, what you wrote, how you were lonely sometimes and afraid, but always brave; the way you saw the world, its colors and textures and sounds, I felt–I felt the way you thought, hoped, felt, dreamt. I felt I was dreaming and thinking and feeling with you. I dreamed what you dreamed, wanted what you wanted–and then I realized that truly I just wanted you.” ― Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince

How have you been changed by the words you’ve read?

I Review, too! Here’s my Critique of “The Fountains of Paradise”

The Fountains of ParadiseThe Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought the book to learn more about space elevators and Arthur C. Clarke didn’t disappoint me there. Thirty-five years ago Clark imagined a time when Earthlings would find space travel available to the masses. How? By replacing rockets with an elevator moving straight up and down along hyperfilament thread held taught by an orbital anchor 31,000 miles up and a counterweight anchored in the ground on the equator.

The magnificent part of this story is that his vision may become a reality by the middle of the twenty-first century–and using some of the same materials and procedures so descriptively laid out in The Fountains. Clarke doesn’t weave a story of magic; he shows just how difficult it will be. But it will be worth the cost and effort when humans need to escape from our planet.

Yes, Clarke does include a peek far into the future where the Starholme return to Earth at the site of the Elevator (they’re not evil aliens, though). What makes this novel mind-boggling was the other end of the time traveling. Clarke also lets us look way back to the time this same site was the home of Kalidasa, a doomed king who created astounding engineering feats as his legacy.

One astounding feat was enough for me! Including both the far past and very distant future seemed to distract from the focal point, the amazing science in fiction called a Space Elevator.

View all my reviews

I Disagree with NYTimes Choice of “Out Stealing Horses”

Out Stealing HorsesOut Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel almost criminal giving only 4 stars to a book acclaimed by the UK Spectator as “a remarkable novel…as touching and enthralling as any more traditional novel, its qualities enhanced by the candor and simplicity of Per Peterson’s style…” and chosen by the New York times as one of the 10 best books of the year. I admit I don’t have the critical insight of professional readers—and maybe I’ve been too influenced by Writers’ Group members who demand a strong story (typically referring to action-packed and fast-paced) told as succinctly as possible. Then again I bring my teacher’s eyes to the grammar and writing style, and expect most sentences to follow the Chicago Manual of Style format.
Petterson’s fifth book is subtle and elegantly written, even as it breaks or at least bends rules of grammar. The majority of sentences are long; run-on would be the term I’d employ. Here’s an example from page 79: “Finally there was no way they could go on, and there was no sense to it anyway, we could just as well start a new pile, which would have been the last one, because we had kept at it for a week, and now we could see the end of the felling and the stacking, and what we had so far accomplished and the amount of timber we had produced, lying shiningly yellow and stripped on the bank, was so awesome to me that I could hardly believe I had been a part of it.” [Long release of breath]
His words describe the characters’ emotions so elegantly it’s as if a painting we’re viewing suddenly comes to life. Here’s an example from page 171. “And the sun was shining and flashing in the river, and it would have been a perfect picture of that summer and the things we were doing together, if I were not still hobbling on one leg, and because inside me, not far from where my soul was, as I saw it, there was something worn and tired that just now had made my ankles and thighs too weak to carry the weight they normally would have done.”
Maybe what I miss most in this tale is drama and conclusions and grand finales. Petterson tells a story of major changes in the world and in personal experiences subtly. The main character’s father leaves the family forever when the son is fifteen for a partner in the resistance movement; yet when he encounters one of the woman’s sons fifty years later it is unknown whether the woman is still alive. Neither of the men shows any interest in finding out.
I wanted to know.

View all my reviews

“Pieces of You” is free to Kindle users for the next three days!

Pieces of You

Free to Kindle users from October 5 through 7

 

For readers who like an unusual love story that mixes the supernatural with issues of our time, a story that makes you think and feel, a story that may even answer some of your questions about life and an afterlife, I  suggest my  novel, Pieces of You.

Oh, and did I mention that this weekend this is a book for readers who appreciate a bargain or, better still, a freebie? From October 5 through 7, Pieces of You is free to download as a Kindle eBook. For those who don’t have a Kindle or prefer paperbacks, I have authorized a Twitterhood Quiz Special. From October 8 through 16, editor Linnet Woods will run daily quizzes on her Twitter account and the winner on each day will receive a free paperback copy of Pieces of You!

To download to your Kindle starting Friday, Oct. 5., please click on the image of the book’s cover. To participate in the Twitterhood Quiz Special starting Monday, October 8, follow @linnetwoods at http://www.twitter.com/linnetwoods and watch out for details.

Great Novels are Handbooks for Personal Development

[A review of “Reading for Personal Development” by Marta Merajver-Kurlat]

The premise of this reflective little book is that reading provides much more than entertainment–books provide keys to some of the questions in our lives. A great book, one that stands the test of time, discusses issues “so profoundly human that we feel they inform the present.” Merajver-Kurlat also says, “Books have an ending, but are not truly finished until readers reinterpret and actualize them.”

I’ve chosen two of the ten books she interpreted in “Reading for Personal Development” to reinterpret for myself and to let other readers glimpse what Merajver-Kurlat’s researched analyses offer us.

I chose is Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” primarily because some of us find the future more fascinating than the past, maybe because we think we can have a part in improving the future while the past…is past. Huxley warns us of a future under a totalitarian regime. Merajver-Kurlat adds to this prophecy the potential to become a casualty rather than a liberator if we “renounce individuality for the sake of safety amid the flock.”

In my other choice, “The President” by Miguel Angel Asturias, Merajver-Kurlat asks us to bleed over this book to truly comprehend the nature of evil. For those of us who’ve never experienced life under a Latin American dictatorial government, the “unspeakable abominations” written about seem unreal. Yet those who’ve lived through these circumstances must be abler to place themselves in the roles of those who pretend nothing is wrong, or with those who must make themselves invisible to survive. Admitting to the horror would likely be a death warrant. Could it be that those of us who dare to read The President and similar books are the ones able to survive when we have the courage to demand an end to the horrors?

After finishing each chapter, I felt like I needed more of Merajver-Kurlat’s astute insights into each book’s meaning and application for my life–until I reviewed her purpose for writing: to teach me, the reader, to read between the lines.  Once I accepted her challenge to reach my own conclusions, I knew I‘d found the keys to answering my questions—instead of the author’s.

What books have been your handbooks for personal development?

On Writing Stephen King’s Way

Having just finished On Writing, Stephen King’s memoir of the craft, his nearly final words— before And furthermore—at first seem to encapsulate the book’s purpose: ‘Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.” |
Even though this captures King’s emotional tie to writing, a tie that helped him recover from a near-fatal accident, this doesn’t seem very much like the man I met in this book. King doesn’t come across as a poet; instead, he seems to be a rather coarse guy; prone to swear; clearly a person capable of conjuring up repulsive characters. But I learned to like him. I may even read a second SK novel—my first was 11/23/63, one I only read to compare his treatment of bygone time travel to my own.
What I appreciated most about this book on writing is its focus on honesty: writing truthfully—writing in ways that define your voice as distinct rather than a chorus of authoritative voices. That’s precisely what King models. He doesn’t just rise above the din of countless authors who’ve written eight or ten or 30 rules of writing.  He cuts his own path. Maybe that’s why this book is called by The Plain Dealer “the best book on writing. Ever.”
What are the differences between Stephen King’s “rules of writing” and those I’ve read or heard at conferences and workshops? Here’s a few I highlighted:

  1. On vocabulary: Use the first word that comes to your mind if it’s appropriate and colorful
  2. On paragraphs: Let nature take its course–the turns and rhythms of the story dictating where each paragraph begins and ends. The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader feel welcome and then tell a story.
  3. On description: Good description usually consists of a few well-chosen details that will stand for everything else (your first visualized details will be the truest and the best). Figurative description—the use of similes and other figurative language—is one of the chief delights of reading and writing fiction. (more…)

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