"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Hungry Heart

One who works with his hands is a laborer.
One who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
One who works with his hands, his head and his heart, is a master.


Beyond the short drive down I-5 to Tacoma, over the huge toll bridge that crosses the narrows, Highway 16 winds its way through the evergreen trees of the peninsula. There the quaint little towns of Gig Harbor, Silverdale and Port Orchard beg me to come for a visit. They offer sandy beaches bordering Puget Sound, sail boats bobbing near the docks, blue waters glistening in the sun. And here I sit at my computer deleting yet another dreadful sentence.

Writing isn’t easy; you must develop discipline. It’s a labor of love, but a labor just the same. It’s creative in nature, yet no matter how imaginative the author, no matter how talented, you have to sit down at the computer and do the work. You must sit alone for hours writing, crossing out, and rewriting your sentences, your paragraphs, your chapters, until at last your book is complete. You invent heroes and heroines and put them in perilous circumstances. You create romantic encounters that cause your heart to flutter as you plot your story, but the book doesn’t get written until you do the laborer’s work.

Nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and prepositional phrases are tools of the writer. This is the craftsman portion of writing, but that’s not all. There are synonyms and antonyms. There’s the pattern of the scenes; goal, conflict, disaster, and the sequel scene that has reaction, dilemma and decision. There are the opening hook, turning points, midpoint and climax. You have to know how to handle dialogue, narrative, setting, and characterization. You must keep an active voice, avoid passive sentences and always stay within the boundaries the publisher dictates. You need to put all of it together in a way that keeps the readers turning the pages. And just when you think you’ve accomplished all that, you discover you have to write a cover letter, a query and. . . the dreaded synopsis. You persevere. You read, take classes, and study the works of fellow writers because you know you must stay alert to every aspect of the craft.

And of course you study the masters. One who writes with his heart won’t settle for anything but the best turn of the phrase. You describe just how the light slanted into the room, how the scent of roses made the air heavy with perfume, and how the hero’s heart grieved at the loss of his heroine in such a way that no one has described it before. You are ever in search of the perfect word. You strive to become a master. You work with your hands, your head, and your heart.

For example, I may tell you, “I love to travel. When I do, I learn about the people who live in the areas I visit. I won’t stop traveling until I am unable to make the trip.” Instead, Tennyson, the laborer, the craftsman, the master, said it like this:

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink life to the lees. . .
I am become a name; For always roaming with a hungry heart. . .
And this grey spirit yearning in desire to follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bounds of human thought. . .
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

To become a writer, you must have a love for the written word. The hours are long, the rewards are sometimes few. You reach down into the Cracker Jacks box of your soul and hope to come up with the prize. You pour out your precious words onto the paper with the chance that they might be rejected, but you write because you must. You write because something inside you yearns to be said.

--Maxine Metcalf
Maxine is the author of a psychology book, "Reality For Parents of Teens." She has written numerous articles on drug and alcohol rehabilitation, how the brain works, and setting and accomplishing goals. She has authored lesson manuals for teaching classes on cognitive self-change. Maxine attended college at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Idaho State University. She counseled for a women's program, Discovery House and for Road to Recovery, a men's and Women's drug rehabilitation program. She taught prison rider return classes for Probation and Parole in the state of Idaho, taught in the women's prison, and worked with Child Protection Services in Idaho as well. Maxine currently runs a business, Lakeland gifts, @ www.lakelandgifts.com and writes fiction novels.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Meeting Idaho Magazine's Publisher

The Blue Sage Writers had a great meeting yesterday, talking, reading, critiquing and sharing industry tidbits for four hours (as well as a lot of stuff that wasn't industry related). Then six of us met at Plum Loco's–a good place for a bunch of loco writers–and, without coming up for air, carried on another two hours' worth of conversation over some fine Mexican cuisine. From there, four die-hards went to listen to Kitty Fleischman, the publisher of Idaho Magazine, talk about her crazy and interesting life.

Originally a Jr. High school teacher, Kitty turned to journalism and has stayed with it for over thirty years. She came to Idaho from Alaska and started Idaho Magazine to preserve the history of the area and its people. When asked to give advice to aspiring writers, her answer was simple: "Write, write, write, write, write."

Those of us in attendance have all sold stories to Idaho Magazine so it was a treat to meet her. In the picture from left to right are Richard Rice, Bill Corbett, Kitty Fleischman, Linda Sandifer, and Karen Finnigan.

--Linda Sandifer
Linda is the award-winning author of thirteen novels and numerous short stories. She received the Idaho Writer of the Year award for her first novel, and wrote the "Spotlight on Rigby" for Idaho Magazine. You can learn more about her books at her website and her blog.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Why Blue Sage?

Sagebrush Def.: Scrubby aromatic North American plant of daisy family.

For more years than I care to count, I commuted out to the Idaho desert as a technical editor. In the daylight evenings on the bus ride, while I was daydreaming about my creative story ideas, I watched a lot of sagebrush roll by on either side of the company bus, some too tall and deep for comfort, some not so big and forbidding, a friendly, homely sight. I smelled a lot of it after rainstorms, welcomed the sight of it after the spring thaw, went for lunchtime walks in it (mindful to watch for rattlesnakes). I never, however, sprinkled any desert sage on my lunch. That variety I buy at the store in the spice section.

When we first came together as a new group, it seemed like an obvious choice to name us after the plant that's so abundant here. It's also tenacious, like you have to be in writing, and an everyday part of our lives, which writing is to all of us. I'm not sure I'd ever call the sage around here blue, but that's creativity for you. There's plenty of blue sky around here, so think of "Blue Sage" as an optimistic bunch.

In all these ways, sage became a kind of mantra we bring to the library table where each month we meet to read, listen and critique. We also bring a lot of accumulated experience under our Blue Sage Writers banner, a lot of years of accumulated submissions, many successful. We're always wanting to share and deepen what we know about novels, short stories, essays, newspaper columns, memoirs and the like. But we've got newer writers in our group too, beginners to the dream of writing and being published. We're supportive of all writers and types of writing.

So if you've found this Blue Sage Writers blog, we assume you're interested in the thrill of the written word too. Please watch our blog for future posts with writing tips and how-to articles on the business of writing. We'd love to have you comment, share your observations or join us. Like the desert in which I've worked, it's good to have a buddy or two when you venture out in the deep stuff.

--Karen Finnigan
Karen is the recipient of the Idaho Writers League Writer of the Year Award. She is the author of seven novels and several novellas (published by Berkley and Harper under the pen name Karen Lockwood), as well as numerous articles and poems in various publications. Watch for her essay on winter in December's issue of Idaho Magazine. She lives in Idaho Falls.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Our Annual August Picnic - "Smelling the Roses"

Sometimes we need to take time to stop and smell the roses. I had the opportunity to do just that a couple weeks ago. I belong to a small writer’s group made up of writers from Pocatello and Idaho Falls. We usually have a couple of outings a year, a summer picnic and a Christmas party.

This year’s summer picnic was hosted by one of our members at his "Home by the Snake." It’s a beautiful setting reminiscent of what one sees in the most upscale garden magazines. Beds of flowers representing an array of different varieties were tastefully located around the grounds. There were multiple trees to provide shade, a beautiful manicured lawn running down to the bank of the mighty Snake River where a small flat bottom skiff was moored patiently waiting to transport its owner on yet another fishing excursion. A vegetable garden in raised beds flourished in the back yard next to the greenhouse and two compost piles.

Our host’s wife prepared a delicious lunch that not only titillated our palates, but was very pleasing to the eye as well. We partook of our lunch outside on the back patio while our eyes drank in a fabulous view of the Snake River lapping at the grounds just a few yards in the distance. A gentle breeze provided respite from the summer heat, and a Basset Hound puppy of 13 weeks named Lizzie entertained us with her antics.

All in all the day was a glorious respite away from today’s harrowing world. Yes, it was a good day; a day of meeting with friends, enjoying good food, a little wine, and a great deal of camaraderie. Truly a day of smelling the roses.

"Smelling the Roses" by Bill Corbett appeared in its entirety in the Idaho State Journal. Bill lives in Pocatello. He is a two time Associated Press award winning columnist, and writes fiction under the name Will Edwinson. His national award winning book, "Buddy…His Trials and treasures," is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, or by asking for it at your favorite bookstore. Check his web site and blog at www.willedwinson.com. Corbett also writes free-lance for IDAHO magazine.