Posts tagged with "quote" - Faerye Net 2011-03-09T21:59:14+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Underpopulated 2011-03-09T21:59:14+00:00 2011-03-09T22:12:06+00:00 <p><a href="" target="links">My dear friend Jeannine</a>, a speculative poet of great talent, is also a vigilant <a href="" target="links">lit-blogger</a>. It was she who alerted me to this <a href="" target="links">interview the amazing <a href="" target="links">Duotrope</a> did with the fantastic <a href="" target="links">Sheila Williams</a>, editor of <a href="" target="links"><em>Asimov&#8217;s</em></a>.</p> <p>Now, I&#8217;ll own Jeannine brought it to my attention because I am mentioned therein, but something else about it caught my eye. In part of her response to the question &#8220;What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?&#8221; Sheila said: &#8220;Most stories are underpopulated. A lot of the tale can be told through the interaction of characters.&#8221;</p> <p>I don&#8217;t think Sheila knows it, but she has my number here. (She doesn&#8217;t know it unless I&#8217;ve mentioned it to her. I&#8217;m a procrastinating perfectionist, so she doesn&#8217;t see a story from me until I&#8217;m pretty damn proud of it.) I have learned from hard experience that when a story is just not working &#8212; it doesn&#8217;t want to unfold onto the page, or the first draft is flat as a board &#8212; adding a character often fixes it.</p> <p>I actually wrote a story draft last year where only one character appeared in the flesh (a few more via videoconference. And a cat.) Did it need to have only one character? Was it about solitude, loneliness, shut-ins, or anything of the sort? No. In fact, having only one character made the story flat and unengaging. Once I added a second character, the draft started working and more conflict started seeping in. I hardly need tell you that a story needs conflict like a sled needs snow. With a second character on the scene and a few more revisions, I deemed that story ready to go to Sheila, and it will appear next month <a href="" target="links">in the June issue</a>.</p> <p>I wish I could say that that was the first time I&#8217;ve needed to add more characters to a story, but in its first version, <a href="" target="links">&#8220;Conditional Love&#8221;</a> was missing one of its most important characters. I threw out that version and rewrote from scratch. It took a lot of revision even so, but the story found its heart as soon as I wrote Minerva in.</p> <p>Like most specific writing advice, this doesn&#8217;t apply to everyone. I know I&#8217;ve talked to other writers who have to cut characters out routinely. Maybe my tendency to draw a small cast onto a stage is related to my tendency to write spare drafts that need to be expanded &#8212; another habit many writers don&#8217;t share. But I am pleased to report that like many bad habits, underpopulation can be minimized through practice. I haven&#8217;t had to stop mid-story to rip up and reweave with a new character for a while, and hopefully I&#8217;ll continue the streak. Even though I&#8217;m alone with the page, my characters don&#8217;t have to be.</p> A timely reminder: this is what we do 2010-12-03T13:28:18+00:00 2010-12-03T13:29:04+00:00 <p>I love reading James Gurney&#8217;s blog, <a href="" target="links">Gurney Journey</a>. (I think <a href="" target="links">Steve</a> tipped me to it originally? If so, thanks, Steve.) I love Gurney&#8217;s work, and I love learning about art and how it works and has worked. Also, I find a lot of cross-disciplinary pollination in the things he talks about. Sometimes it&#8217;s hard to explain how the stuff he says about painting or drawing seems very apt for writing. Sometimes it&#8217;s not.</p> <p>Here&#8217;s <a href="" target="links">Thursday&#8217;s blog post, &#8220;Mutter and Growl&#8221;</a>, about perennial Shoulders family favorite John Singer Sargent. It&#8217;s about his making a lot of noise as he worked, but here&#8217;s the part that really struck me:</p> <blockquote>Another observer noted that he talked to himself: “This is impossible,” Mr. Sargent muttered. “You can’t do it. Why do you try these things? You know it’s hopeless. It can’t be done.” <br /> <br /> Then: “Yes, it can, yes, it can, it can be done—my God, I’ve done it.”</blockquote> <p>I always feel so grateful when I find that cycle of despondency and triumph in master artists, or hear <a href="" target="links">writers whose work I really admire confess to it</a>. It&#8217;s not schadenfreude, it&#8217;s recognition: oh, this is fundamental.</p> <p>When you&#8217;re in it, you feel like the only one. Whether it&#8217;s a small cycle during one session of painting or a big long-form up-and-down, you feel trapped in the solipsistic agony of it. But you&#8217;re not alone. We&#8217;re all down there, toiling our parallel ways out of our oubliettes to stand heedless and triumphant in the light.</p> "Flabbergasted by the commonplace" 2010-11-13T08:07:13+00:00 2010-11-13T08:17:33+00:00 <p>I&#8217;ve blogged a bit of late about <a href="" target="links">observation</a>, and harvesting potentially telling details from the world about you. A longer while ago, I blogged about <a href="" target="links">&#8220;try[ing] to make the world strange again, so I can dive into it anew.&#8221;</a></p> <p>I thought <a href="">this blog post</a> was sharply relevant to all that. It&#8217;s by Stephen Kuusisto, a writer and professor attached to <a href="" target="links">the <span class="caps">MFA</span> program</a> I attended (though I&#8217;ve never worked with him, myself.) It&#8217;s about how he sees the &#8220;dreadful color&#8221; of school buses.</p> <p>How you see something is shaped by everything that came before it: who you are, the sum of your past experiences, the associations your brain forms, your mood at the moment, what you think is important or unimportant. In Steve Kuusisto&#8217;s case, it&#8217;s affected by his history with vision as well as with school buses: &#8220;I&#8217;ve been blind for for most of my life, and now that I can see a little I&#8217;m largely flabbergasted by the commonplace,&#8221; he says.</p> <p>I love this blog post because it&#8217;s so unexpected &#8211; I honestly see the color of school buses in an entirely different way that probably has to do with the color of standard #2 pencils, and not so much with failure &#8211; and also for what that unexpectedness gives me, the reader. No two people see a telling detail the same way, and the shock of seeing the school bus from someone else&#8217;s context is one of the lovely, rich displacements of reading.</p> <p>But also I love that phrase he uses: &#8220;I&#8217;m largely flabbergasted by the commonplace.&#8221; As writers, I think that would be a good state to cultivate. Our habitual, ordinary world can lull us, and stop us perceiving it or piercing it. I want to be shocked anew by the strangeness of things that have surrounded me for decades. I want to be flabbergasted by the commonplace, don&#8217;t you?</p> One of my favorite quotes, Number Two (Shakespeare edition) 2010-08-18T23:01:43+00:00 2010-08-18T23:10:29+00:00 <p>In <a href="" target="links"><em>King Lear</em>, Act II, scene 4</a>, you can find one of my favorite quotable morsels of Shakespeare. A friend of mine recently blogged <a href="" target="links">about truncations of Shakespeare that change the meaning</a>, so I&#8217;ve been wondering if my delight in this little line is a similar sin. In the interests of full disclosure, I&#8217;ll put the full text of the speech, with my favorite bit in bold. I&#8217;m keeping my delight, though. I can&#8217;t help it.</p> <blockquote> <p><em>[Having found his follower in the stocks, Lear is now also shorn of his retinue by his daughters.]</em></p> <p><span class="caps">KING</span> <span class="caps">LEAR</span>:<br /> O, reason not the need: our basest beggars<br /> Are in the poorest thing superfluous:<br /> Allow not nature more than nature needs,<br /> Man&#8217;s life&#8217;s as cheap as beast&#8217;s: thou art a lady;<br /> If only to go warm were gorgeous,<br /> Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear&#8217;st,<br /> Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But, for true need,&#8212;<br /> You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!<br /> You see me here, you gods, a poor old man,<br /> As full of grief as age; wretched in both!<br /> If it be you that stir these daughters&#8217; hearts<br /> Against their father, fool me not so much<br /> To bear it tamely; touch me with noble anger,<br /> And let not women&#8217;s weapons, water-drops,<br /> Stain my man&#8217;s cheeks! No, you unnatural hags,<br /> I will have such revenges on you both,<br /> That all the world shall&#8212;<strong>I will do such things,&#8212;<br /> What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be<br /> The terrors of the earth.</strong> You think I&#8217;ll weep<br /> No, I&#8217;ll not weep:<br /> I have full cause of weeping; but this heart<br /> Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws,<br /> Or ere I&#8217;ll weep. O fool, I shall go mad!</p> </blockquote> <p>Even in context, the bold line is, I&#8217;d maintain, funny. I snicker when I hear it said onstage. It&#8217;s also very unfunny &#8212; Lear has, after all, lost his power and is now losing his faculties. That&#8217;s terrifying and, for those lucky enough to grow old, inevitable. The form of the speech underlines this reading: it starts out rhetorically perfect and personally sharp &#8211; the stab at his daughters&#8217; necklines is great. But by this point in the speech he can no longer name his threats. And of course, if he could, he would have no power to carry them out. His inability to name his revenge may be part of his failing mental powers, but also perhaps a realization or reflection of his relinquished secular powers.</p> <p>For the audience, who are not failing monarchs, these words still have resonance: this is an all too familiar sensation &#8211; that feeling of being so angry that any coherent expression of it is beyond you. &#8220;You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!&#8221; he says, in the first break in his fluency. That feeling is, if not universal, then incredibly accessible. That gives it a rueful humor, makes it a little sweet amidst all this bitterness.</p> <p>I can&#8217;t help but also think of it as a rather writerly shorthand. &#8220;[Insert awful threats here]&#8221;, if you will. The truly fanciful might imagine Shakespeare running out of polemical gas here, scribbling a placeholder, then realizing how perfectly that would work in Lear&#8217;s fury.</p> <p>And lastly, of course, it&#8217;s just damn funny. Because believe me, when I finally think of what I&#8217;m going to do, it&#8217;ll be awesome. It shall be <em>the terror of the earth.</em></p> In praise of post 2009-01-28T13:02:53+00:00 2009-01-28T13:03:26+00:00 <p>If, like me, you have a fondness for postal mail and find paper letters a particularly meaningful way to connect with others, perhaps you will appreciate this report from the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake:<br /> <blockquote>&#8230;William Burke, the postmaster&#8217;s secretary, recounted what happened when he took a U.S. Mail sign from a streetcar barn and mounted it on the top of a car he had pressed into service to collect the mail.<br /> <blockquote>&#8220;The effect was electrical. As people saw the machine bearing the mail coming, they cheered and shouted in a state bordering on hysteria. We told them where the collections would be made in the afternoon and asked that they spread the news. As we went into the Presidio there was almost a riot, and the people crowded around the machine and almost blocked its progress. It was evidently taken as the first sign of rehabilitation and, as it proceeded, the mail automobile left hope in its wake&#8230;&#8221;</blockquote>&#8212; Simon Winchester, <em>A Crack in the Edge of the World</em></blockquote></p> <p>Perhaps we take the mail for granted, relying as we so often do now on faster, more ethereal transmissions. But think about it &#8212; for under two bits (for no money at all, in the generous wake of the earthquake) a man or woman you do not know will take your message and ensure it gets to your friends and family. Your piece of paper, your artefact, can cross all the great miles of this country safely and promptly, and assure your family with its very weight and reality that all is well. That&#8217;s civilization.</p> Recent uses of Book Darts, part V 2008-08-21T11:17:51+00:00 2008-08-21T19:56:54+00:00 <p>I&#8217;m reading <em><span class="caps">VALIS</span></em> by Philip K. Dick.</p> <p>&#8220;Basically, Sherri&#8217;s idea had to do with bringing Fat&#8217;s mind down from the cosmic and the abstract to the particular. She had hatched out the practical notion that nothing is more real than a large World War Two Soviet tank.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;Fat realized that one of two possibilities existed and only two; either Dr. Stone was totally insane &#8211; not just insane but totally so &#8211; or else in an artful, professional fashion he had gotten Fat to talk; he had drawn Fat out and now knew that Fat was totally insane.&#8221;</p> Recent uses of Book Darts, part IV 2008-05-23T11:14:08+00:00 2008-05-23T11:15:02+00:00 <p>&#8220;There is such a thing as the poetry of a mistake, and when you say, &#8216;Mistakes were made,&#8217; you deprive an action of its poetry, and you sound like a weasel.&#8221; &#8211; Charles Baxter, <em>Burning Down the House</em></p> <p>&#8220;The twentieth century has built up a powerful set of intellectual shortcuts and devices that help us defend ourselves against moments when clouds suddenly appear to think.&#8221; &#8211; Charles Baxter, <em>Burning Down the House</em></p> <p>&#8220;All moralizing implies some knowledge of the future.&#8221; &#8211; Charles Baxter, <em>Burning Down the House</em></p> <p>&#8220;They&#8217;ll never know it&#8217;s actually possible for a boy to be so boring you&#8217;d agree to kiss him just to get him to shut up.&#8221; &#8211; Alice Hoffman, <em>Local Girls</em></p> <p>&#8220;Sam laughed. &#8216;I&#8217;m very gullible when it comes to my own words. I believe everything I say, though I know I&#8217;m a liar.&#8217;&#8221; &#8211; Roger Zelazny, <em>Lord of Light</em></p> <p>&#8220;It would be nice if there were some one thing constant and unchanging in the universe. If there is such a thing, then it is a thing which would have to be stronger than love, and it is a thing which I do not know.&#8221; &#8211; Sam, Roger Zelazny, <em>Lord of Light</em></p> Revision party-hardy 2008-04-05T20:42:45+00:00 2009-09-18T11:09:35+00:00 <p><em>&#8220;Revision isn&#8217;t cleaning up after the party, revision is the party.&#8221; &mdash; William Matthews</eM></p> <p>The quote above is well-distributed in writing circles. When it was last passed back to me, by my current advisor, I remembered the shape of it, worn smooth and familiar by many fingers. I also suddenly recognized it as very true.</p> <p>In this <a href="" target="links">grad school adventure</a> of mine, I&#8217;ve changed as a person, and gotten to know myself a lot better. I&#8217;ve also written a <em>lot</em>. With the exception of the microfictions with which this site is peppered, I had only written three short stories when I entered the program. Three. I&#8217;m now running about twelve, not counting microfictions and stories I&#8217;m not sure will work out. And yes, I love to write. I like messing with stories, being able to fall asleep daydreaming and call it work, stealing a moment or an image and making it into something of my own. But revision? Revision is pure play. </P><p>Creating for the first time is self-conscious work, full of doubt and soldiering on through the frustration. When you revise, you know you have something. You may not know what it is, but its promise is as physically present as a weight you roll in your hands. You feel you&#8217;ve accomplished something, even as you try to figure out what. I love revising.</p> <p>And this is the season of revision. I graduate in a few months. My thesis needs to be ship-shape to embark on the library shelves, and besides those stories, I find myself itching to revisit, revamp and renovate others. In between nervous trips to big-box bookstores (my first publication will be out soon, but I don&#8217;t know the precise date) I find myself remembering this story I laid aside first semester, or even my third short story ever, which I wrote for the application process. I imagine new paths into them, look at them from far off and try to squint out their shapes. Yesterday I made a list of firm to-dos and wishful goals for April. The first word on about half of the entries? &#8220;Revise.&#8221;</p> One of my favorite quotes 2007-09-12T19:39:09+00:00 2010-08-18T23:05:41+00:00 <p>If there is one quote on this Earth that I constantly think of (and all too rarely say out loud) it is this one, from the inimitable Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, <span class="caps">KBE</span>:<br /> <br /> <b>&#8220;You always were a fatheaded worm without any soul, weren&#8217;t you?&#8221;</b></p> <p>It&#8217;s so universally applicable, you see. Whenever anyone disagrees with me on any really pressing matter of taste, it is likely to float through my brain. However, I do realize it might not go over well, so tact refrains. In context, you may see why the quote&#8217;s charms are so multifaceted:</p> <blockquote><p>&#8220;I say, Bertie,&#8221; he said, after a pause of about an hour and a quarter.<br /> <br /> &#8220;Hallo!&#8221;<br /> <br /> &#8220;Do you like the name Mabel?&#8221;<br /> <br /> &#8220;No.&#8221;<br /> <br /> &#8220;No?&#8221;<br /> <br /> &#8220;No.&#8221;<br /> <br /> &#8220;You don&#8217;t think there&#8217;s a kind of music in the word, like the wind rustling gently through the tree-tops?&#8221;<br /> <br /> &#8220;No.&#8221;<br /> <br /> He seemed disappointed for a moment; then cheered up.<br /> <br /> &#8220;Of course, you wouldn&#8217;t. You always were a fatheaded worm without any soul, weren&#8217;t you?&#8221;</p></blockquote> <p>Somehow, it both admonishes me in a comforting and amusing manner that my opinion is daft, subjective and irrelevant, (much like the speaker, Bingo Little) but allows me at the same time to dispense with the daft, subjective and irrelevant opinions of others quite breezily. In addition, it summons some of the world&#8217;s most pleasant literary companions to mind, which can&#8217;t fail to buck one up when one has been told that Mozart was a hack or sci-fi can&#8217;t be literature.</P> <p><font size="1"><em>Quotes from &#8220;Jeeves in the Springtime&#8221;.</em></font></p> Recent uses of Book Darts, part III 2007-07-23T16:19:59+00:00 2008-05-23T11:15:51+00:00 <p>&#8220;Fiction begins where human knowledge begins &mdash; with the senses&#8212;and every fiction writer is bound by this fundamental aspect of his medium.&#8221; &#8211; Flannery O&#8217;Connor, <em>Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose</em> </p><p>&#8220;There is no excuse for anyone to write fiction for public consumption unless he has been called to do so by the presence of a gift. It is the nature of fiction not to be good for much unless it is good in itself.&#8221; &#8211; Flannery O&#8217;Connor, <em>Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose</em></p> <p>&#8220;It&#8217;s said that when Henry James received a manuscript that he didn&#8217;t like, he would return it with the comment, &#8216;You have chosen a good subject and are treating it in a straightforward manner.&#8217; This usually pleased the person getting the manuscript back, but it was the worst thing that James could think of to say, for he knew, better than anybody else, that the straightforward manner is seldom equal to the complications of the good subject.&#8221; &#8211; Flannery O&#8217;Connor, <em>Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose</em></p> <p>&#8220;To me the fairy tale is like the sea, and the sagas and myths are like the waves upon it; a tale rises to be a myth, and sinks down again into being a fairy tale.&#8221; &#8211; Marie-Louise von Franz, <em>The Interpretation of Fairy Tales</em></p>