Monthly Archives: January 2012
I have actually had some loyal BC readers (all of whom are both attractive and intelligent) ask me when I do my writing. Now, usually only other writers are interested in how and where other writers write, so it’s nice see that readers and other people have an interest in this question. When people ask me this, my initial thought is “In the kitchen…with a knife…” but I usually mumble something like “Whenever I get to it,” or “When I’m slammed up against a deadline.” So, there’s nothing much to see there but I don’t want to disappoint units of loyal readers so I thought I’d make the topic a bit more grandiose and write about (cue the trumpet fanfare):
looks like it
goes out to
and not true)
true that it fades
into near nothingness.
through the blue
and come back
if they are
they are never
all of them
after a while
through the near nothingness
through the blue
the Large Place
Her poetry has been published in Ignite Your Faith (formerly Campus Life Magazine) and her debut novel, Some Kind of Normal, was published by NorLights Press in 2009.
She also takes amazingly beautiful photographs. Indeed she has been put here in this place for a time such as this, and we are all better off for all that.
Dan Verner: This is another classic thread, HR Lady. Will you be visting FB again soon with your magic carpet bag, flying above the city with your little pink parasol while charming chimney sweeps sing and dance on the roofs, at the same time contracting odious diseases from unprotected exposure to coal dust?
I know, every post could have the title of this one, but I do have a collection of random subjects to write about, so today is as good a time as any.
Lions and Tigers and…Panthers?
My dad’s financial guy extraordinaire, Mike Washer, was telling me that my dad told him that years ago there was a park ranger at Manassas Battlefield Park (about six miles from where we live) who was tired of deer overrunning the place and got some panthers to let loose and control the deer population. Since then there have been panther sightings around the area, including the Battlefield, Haymarket and Prince William Hospital. If you see a large black kitty cat, do not approach him/her/it. Raise your hands high above your head, back away slowly and intone “Nice kitty, kitty” in a low voice. Be careful. It’s a jungle out there….
Smarty Pants and Other Similar Appellations
I am indebted to Chorale soprano extraordinaire Marcy Pratt for this linguistic invention. Here’s the actual Facebook back-and-forth that we had about a new “pants” expression that Marcy used:
Marcy: Jessica Chastain played the blonde heroine of the Help (not the snotty pants [role]). 🙂
Dan: I love the idea of a “snotty pants” role. It’s just intuitively understandable. We had a security guy at school we called “Mr. Grouchy Pants.” Because he was.
Marcy: Yes, funny to think about now that you mention – “I’d like to audition for the Snotty pants role, please?” :)
Dan: I see it as a role type, kinda like an ingenue role or a best buddy role. “She was best know for playing Snotty Pants roles in a variety of films that spanned decades…”
A few days later, this series:
Dan: Look, Marcy, it’s Miss Snotty Pants’ sister! She has written a book!
GREAT book, by the way! 🙂 LOVE Tina Fey!
Then, recently I found this passage in an article about a change in editorial leadership at the New Yorker magazine:
Who Knew? EZ Pass, i Phones and Automatic Backup
OK, so I’m not an Early Adopter when it comes to technology. We still have VCR’s and had the original NuTone intercom/radio that came with the house in 1967 when it was built, right up until we remodeled the kitchen about three years ago. So we just got EZ Passes for the cars. Incredible! When we drove to New Jersey to catch the Jersey Transit to Manhattan, we used the pass for tolls. Worked like a charm and saved us probably 15 minutes in travel time. We don’t use toll roads much but when we do, it’s EZ Pass all the way. Who knew?
And then daughter Amy’s bf Chris #2 (Macgee) gave me his iPhone 3 when he upgraded to a 4. It’s an incredible piece of technology and came in very handy when we were in New York for determining things like which way to go when we came out of the subway and the location of nearby restaurants. I can also check email on texts on the fly. Who knew these things were so useful?
And then there is my newest friend, Automatic Backup. Blogspot, which I’m using this very second, backs up my work every a couple of minutes or so. This has saved me hours of work when the power goes off or I hit an unknown combination of keys and lock the computer up or clear the post I’m working on. Who knew how useful this was?
In honor of our trip this past week to New York City, this week’s poem is by Walt Whitman, who lived in Brooklyn where he edited The Brooklyn Eagle as a young man. It wasn’t until he moved to Camden, NJ that he acquired the persona of “The Good Gray Poet” although his sometimes explicit verse made him a controversial figure during his time. When the book was first published, Whitman was fired from his job at the Department of the Interior after Secretary of the Interior James Harlan read it and said he found it very offensive. Poet John Greenleaf Whittier was said to have thrown his 1855 edition into the fire. Thomas Wentworth Higginson (Emily Dickinson’s editor) wrote, “It is no discredit to Walt Whitman that he wrote ‘Leaves of Grass,’ only that he did not burn it afterwards.”
Some scholars believe Whitman’s signature long-line free verse form was influenced by his habitual wandering of the long north-south avenues of Manhattan where he saw the world come to him. He writes about the island and the people he encountered in his forays in this poem.
by Walt Whitman
Whereupon, lo! upsprang the aboriginal name!
Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane, unruly, musical, self-sufficient;
I see that the word of my city is that word up there,
Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays, superb, with tall and wonderful
Rich, hemm’d thick all around with sailships and steamships—an island sixteen
Numberless crowded streets—high growths of iron, slender, strong, light, splendidly
uprising toward clear skies;
Tide swift and ample, well-loved by me, toward sundown,
The flowing sea-currents, the little islands, larger adjoining islands, the heights, the
The countless masts, the white shore-steamers, the lighters, the ferry-boats, the black
The down-town streets, the jobbers’ houses of business—the houses of business of
ship-merchants, and money-brokers—the river-streets;
Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty thousand in a week;
The carts hauling goods—the manly race of drivers of horses—the brown-faced
The summer air, the bright sun shining, and the sailing clouds aloft;
The winter snows, the sleigh-bells—the broken ice in the river, passing along, up or
with the flood tide or ebb-tide;
The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form’d, beautiful-faced, looking you
in the eyes;
Trottoirs throng’d—vehicles—Broadway—the women—the shops and
The parades, processions, bugles playing, flags flying, drums beating;
A million people—manners free and superb—open voices—hospitality—the
courageous and friendly young men;
The free city! no slaves! no owners of slaves!
The beautiful city, the city of hurried and sparkling waters! the city of spires and
The city nested in bays! my city!
The city of such women, I am mad to be with them! I will return after death to be with
The city of such young men, I swear I cannot live happy, without I often go talk, walk,
drink, sleep, with them!
I want to devote Thursdays to advice for writers, so to kick it off, here’s a post by Elizabeth Hagen, the pastor of Washington Plaza Baptist Church, on Lake Anne in Reston, VA, used with her permission. Elizabeth’s blog is called Preacher on the Plaza and is worth reading, with wonderful insights, trenchant commentary and a warm inclusive tone. It’s also well-written. You can check it out at http://preacherontheplaza.wordpress.com/.
Recently I have found myself being asked more about writing. Such as: “How do I find time to do so much of it?” ”How do I decide what to write about?” “Why write a blog when you don’t know if anyone out there is really reading?”
I giggle a little to think that someone would ask me such questions because only in the past six months have I been able to confidently say that I am a writer as much as I am a pastor among other things. Yet, the truth of the matter is that I’ve been steady at the discipline of blogging since 2006– back before it was cool– and have loved every minute of it. If you want to make me smile, let’s have a conversation about writing.
If you want to know why I blog, check out the “About Elizabeth page.” For the rest, here’s my in the process of learning list for today:
1. You must write and write a lot to get better at it. Sounds un-profound, but it’s true. There is no magic formula to being a writer. As much as you might have a natural inclination for words, you have to learn the craft. Blessed be the friends who read you stuff even when it is bad and don’t tell you how bad it really is– these are the people you need in your life cheering you on believing in the fact that it will get better. They’ll be plenty of editors or critical blog commenters who will tell you the truth!
2. If you are going to be a writer, you need to know when is your time of day when ideas come. For me this is annoyingly the moment I put my head on my pillow at night. I lay there and my head floods with topics for new blogs or ideas for how I want to arrange the chapters of my upcoming book project. I try to fight it, telling myself to forget until morning. But, usually such a declaration doesn’t work. So, I say, if creativity calls, run with it. (Just don’t publish a blog after 11 pm. Most I know are usually sorry for this in the am).
3. Write with heart. Again, not profound. But often, I’ve found readers forgiving me for a multitude of grammar sins if they know I believe and am passionate about what I am trying to say. Especially in persuasive writing (which is what I mostly do– sermons and op ed type pieces), readers need to know you personally care about what you describe. There’s nothing worse to read, I think, than a journalistic type writer trying to give you the facts and then expecting you to care when you have no idea if the writer cares first! Caring of course don’t have to explicit. People know if you do or don’t implicitly.
4. Make friends with other writers. Non-writers just don’t see prose they way a writer does. My mom or my husband, for example, will read my stuff and will often comments in helpful ways, but their feedback is never as a good as that of my writing friends. Fellow writers will tell me that I had “a nice turn of phrase” or “this theme connection really made the essay work” or “I didn’t start liking you as a character until half way through the chapter.” Other writers speak your langauge and so you always need to stick close to them.
5. Do not be afraid of the delete button. In the beginning of my weekly writing career, especially with sermons, I was really anxious about cutting large chunks of the piece out. I had worked so hard! It was so sad to see a paragraph go that I would cut and paste it into another word document hoping to come back to it later. The funny thing is that I NEVER would need it. Sometimes the delete button can be your writing project’s very best friend. Though a tear may be shed, the best thing is to just go with it. Tear the band-aid quickly though and you’ll feel better for it.
And, most of all read about writing. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is one of my favorites.
We’ve known Sheila Lamb since she was a small child, and it has been a pleasure to watch her grow up into a smart, talented and literary woman.
Sheila is currently an MFA candidate at Queens University of Charlotte. Her stories have appeared in Steel Toe Review, Soundzine, Referential Magazine, Santa Fe Writers Project, and elsewhere. Her short story “Swim” has been nominated for the 2011 Pushcart prize.
Once A Goddess, the first in her trilogy about Brigid of Ireland, is an historical fantasy about Irish mythology that works even for people who aren’t familiar with the genre, as I was not. The novel features well-drawn characters, compelling conflicts and evocative descriptions. It’s a winner, as is this long-time friend.
The book is available in paperback or ebook on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble or for order through your local independent bookstore.
I hope we will have many more books like this one from Ms. Lamb!