Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Monday, December 3, 2012
These last two weeks, thinking about how the daily routine of guest blogger and Pen Parentis member Geoff Kirsch up in Alaska must differ from mine, have humbled me and reminded me that yes, we are all from vastly different backgrounds -- but then I went to a nowhere-but-Manhattan event (I was guested in to a fundraiser for a local orchestra with a live performance by a Broadway star, held in the art-strewn historical Tribeca loft of a couple so well-to-do their kids were having a pillow fight with silk throw pillows and no one even noticed over the loud murmur of cocktail conversation) and I realized in talking to the thin outer skin of the upper crust that all of us: from these unbelievably rich people, down to my ironic and dry Facebook friend from high school whose last status update mentioned the fact that her local food kitchen had given her a sack of donated rice that was full of small bugs, and also served many in the community whose eyesight wasn't as good as hers--all of us who are writer/parents have two things in common: we love our kids and we don't have enough time in the day to do our writing. This is what binds us together despite other differences - we have to get over the guilt that in writing anything other than a shopping list or a note to a teacher, we are stealing time from our kids.
But here's the thing: I truly believe it's worth it. Creative expression is a valuable talent, and those of us who can actually string words together to form images that stay in people's minds have a mandate to use that talent. What we create changes the world. Just look at how passionately people talk about the ideas they got from books. Teaching our kids that art is valuable is probably part of why people like us were meant to have kids in the first place.
So go write. Just make the time. Make it.
Next up, we have another guest blogger: this time a fascinating writer from California who is taking her toddler to South America in order to write. She leaves on Wednesday.
I can't wait.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
- Everyone has a story to tell; it’s just a matter of figuring out how to tell it. That might not be through writing at all. Sometimes, the best way is with music, or painting, or molecular gastronomy. However, since I know nothing about molecular gastronomy…
- When you’re writing, just keep writing and don’t stop writing, ever. I’m not saying wear a diaper, but you know, if you’ve got an hour to write, spend that whole hour adding words to the page. Editing comes later, and that’s a whole other batch of tips.
- Don’t drink and write. There’s a time and place for drinking—when you’re 21 for instance, and even then, not while you’re writing. In fact, be careful of anything you make part of your writing process. It took me 10 years to quit smoking cigarettes and on a heavy writing day, I still drink a good 300 ounces of coffee. Seriously, half my daily calorie intake comes through half n’ half. Don’t even ask what my Splenda habit’s like.
- If you can’t beat it, work around it. There’s always a way around it—creative problem solving goes a long way to establishing “voice.”
- The world has plenty of writers already, but it only has one “you.” Your experiences, Your perceptions of the life you lead and the world you live in—that’s the rest of what goes into “voice.” Also a trademark punctuation mark—mine’s the “dash;” I also like semi-colons.
- Allow yourself the luxury of a crappy first draft. No one will ever see it but you (except maybe your wife, but honestly, it’s nothing she hasn’t seen before—and, she’s seen a lot worse).
- Don’t set out to make your living as a writer. I learned that the hard way. Write because you love it, not because you’re trying to feed your family with it. In order to get good enough to actually earn money, you need to be able to try and fail and try and fail, and that’s frustrating enough from a creative standpoint, let alone if you’re trying to bring home the bacon or, for vegetarians, the tofu-based bacon substitute.
- Show, don’t tell. Except graphic sex scenes. Those are next to impossible to write well, and believe me, I’ve tried.
- Appeal to as many of the five senses as possible. More than any other artistic discipline writing is uniquely able to conjure sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. I wrote a short story once in which a jilted wife takes revenge on her ex-husband by stuffing sushi in all the curtain rods of the house leaving him to search in vain for the source of the worsening stench… Anyway, I’ll never forget what my MFA thesis advisor said: “Geoff, your writing smells.” To this day, that’s nicest compliment anyone’s paid me.
- It’s a lot easier to make people laugh than to make them cry. The trick is doing both. When and if you master it, please teach me.
(note from Pen Parentis - you can read the curtain rod story and several others on Geoff's website at www.geoffkirsch.com - Enjoy and have a happy Thanksgiving! Collect lots of material for your next story and eat yourself silly. Thank you all for being there for us, and especially Geoff for guest-blogging in our time of need. See you on December 11th for our next Salon, provided you can move by then. Be safe and write well!)
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Yeah. We're losing that one.
I suppose you've heard by now that the November 13th Pen Parentis Literary Salon was canceled. Our lovely host, the Andaz Wall Street, is not yet open for business after Sandy. (I keep thinking of Sandy as a Tarantino character who initially looks all wild and cool but then kills without remorse for so many scenes that you ultimately can't like her anymore.)
She killed our November salon. It feels like a personal defeat - In four years, I haven't ever canceled. Not when the restaurant "forgot" to tell the new manager that we existed. Not when Arlaina or I had personal emergencies that took us out of town. Not when there was a January blizzard. Not ever. But this time, the whole neighborhood is suffering and we are just another bit of collateral damage. So okay. We step back and we rebuild. Again.
I know there are those of you out there who have lost more than just an event (my home lost heat but we are bundled up and will be fine) and for you who need them, I have these resources from the Fractured Atlas Blog including very good advice from ArtsReady, a nonprofit that takes care of artists affected by natural disasters.
In the meantime I'm going to work on our December 11th event - you'll recall that our December events are huge and fun and fundraiser-ish...we hope this one with Amy Sohn, Josh Henkin, Robin Black and the author of Triburbia, Karl Taro Greenfeld will blow you out of the water.
So to speak.
While I am off working on this in our unheated offices, I have a huge treat for you. Guest blogging for the next two or three blogs is a really cool member of Pen Parentis - Geoff Kirsch, who is a writer and part-time stay-at-home dad in Juneau, Alaska. He has published one book-length piece of humor, Run For Your Life Doomsday 2012! His work has also appeared in/on Comedy Central, Huffington Post and Adventure Cyclist and other national magazines. I'm really excited that he offered to guest-blog, not only because he's a wonderful writer but also because, well, he's from Alaska and he's a member. That's just...awesome.
I totally can't wait.