The Bucks County Writers Workshop
Article Archives #2 2002-03
FROM THE ASHES OF SCANDAL... Foster Winans of the Writers Room of Bucks County quietly climbs back. By Joseph J. Fried in The New York Times. TWO GREAT MEN ARE DEAD. Mister Rogers, a champion of the of dignity of childhood, and Howard Fast, a champion of free speech and political association. Rogers and Fast couldn't have been more different, and yet they were products of America. Listen to Don Swam's interviews with Fred Rogers and Howard Fast at Wired for Books. JOHN P. MARQUAND. Pause a moment to reflect upon how shabbily Marquand is now served, not to mention all those readers who might discover his work to their joy and reward if only they could find it. By Jonathan Yardley in The WashingtonPost. MARK TWAIN ON WAR:
There has never been a just one, never an honorable one -- on the part of the instigator of the war.
Before I had a chance in another war, the desire to kill people to whom I had not been introduced had passed away.
Statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.
An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war.
O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead: help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring three for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask in the spirit of love, of him who is the Source of Love, and who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all who are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.
THE WORST NOVEL EVER PUBLISHED IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE? Gene Weingarten in The Washington Post says his candidate is a new, self-published book by a retired college professor. "BITTER BIERCE" OPENS IN NEW YORK. Two-time Obie Award-winning playwright Mac Wellman's play Bitter Bierce, or The Friction We Call Grief, stars Stephen Mellow as Bierce. For Marc Robinson's review go to the Village Voice. Here's a review in The New York Times. THE DICKENS FELLOWSHIP. A Philadelphia club celebrates Charles Dickens, man and author. By Sandy Bauers in The Inquirer. SHE SAVES OLD BOOKS -- LITERALLY. Nancy Nitzberg of Elkins Park is skilled at preserving rare, even priceless, books. By Reid Kanaley in The Inquirer. POETS REACT TO BUSH EFFORT TO STIFLE DISSENT. Because it feared criticism of its war policies, the Bush White House canceled a scheduled poetry symposium -- but it's not easy to muzzle a poet. By John Lemay in The Bennington Banner. THE WRITING LIFE. How many of us are willing to make sacrifices like Beth Ann Bauman, who has undergone virtual poverty to fulfill her dream? By Joanna Smith Rakoff in The New York Times. VIRGINIA WOOLF FANS ANGERED BY BOOK AND MOVIE. From Nicole Kidman's fake nose to Michael Cummingham's prose, some Virginia Woolf fans are fuming about the novel "The Hours" and its film version. By Patricia Cohen in The New York Times. "ELVIS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING." When I typed that phrase into Google I found out almost immediately its meaning and origin. Google can be a writer's best pal when it comes to research, but there are negatives as shown in a Boston Globe article by Neil Swidey, A NATION OF VOYEURS. Note: You can use Google by going to the Index Side of this page and clicking on the name. THUS SPAKE HENRY. Terry Teachout's new biography of H.L. Mencken prompted this review by Russell Baker in The New York Review of Books. WAR: THE REALITY THAT DEFIES FICTION. The library of war writing is so vast as to be beyond the comprehension of any single reader ... by Jonathan Yardley in The Washington Post. ZORA NEALE HURSTON: A US postage stamp now honors one of the significant writers of the Harlem Renaissance. For more about Hurston go to Voices from the Gaps. ARMED SERVICES EDITIONS: With George W. Bush planning to wage war, his military apparatus is handing out free books to the troops -- but not novels. By Ben Macintyre, Times of London. HOW I WRITE by Garrison Keillor.
I write every day except when I'm sick or my wife insists that we are on vacation. I like to write early in the morning, and if I wake up at 5am or even 4am, it is with a sense of gratitude for the extra hours of pure quiet. I make a pot of coffee, boot up my laptop, sit anywhere in the house that seems promising and launch forth.
A good night's sleep is a great tonic for the brain; a problem that baffled me yesterday afternoon now works itself out quite elegantly. When the baby wakes, I change her and bring her downstairs to play and then I resume work.
By late morning, most of that 5am ebullience has dissipated and one starts to plod. A sensible person would stop there, but I have deadlines and I grind forward. I write on the laptop and print out a draft; then I pencil in corrections and type them into the computer. It is crucial to put the work in typescript, read it word for word and patch it with a pencil: computer writing tends to be flabby and tone-deaf otherwise. I have a little room up in the garret where I can work, and often do, but I enjoy writing in proximity to the household, and if everyone is in the kitchen, I like to perch in the dining room.
Of course, my desk in the garret is a welter of flotsam and jetsam. I can write almost anywhere - in airport terminals and then on the plane, compressed into 14D, hoping the gentleman in 13D doesn't lean back and break my kneecaps. I don't do research, as such. In the comedy field, you only need a few facts to get you started, and sometimes it helps if they're wrong. I've wanted to be a writer since I was a boy, though it seemed an unlikely outcome since I showed no real talent. But I persevered and eventually found my own row to hoe. Ignorance of other writers' work keeps me from discouragement and I am less well-read than the average bus driver.
Listen to Don Swaim's interview with Garrison Keillor at Wired for Books
NO PUREBREDS IN PUBLISHING: Are there literary publishing houses anymore? By Martin Arnold, New York Times. NORMAN MAILER RUMINATES ON LITERATURE & LIFE: To coincide with publication of his new book about writing. By Julie Salamon, New York Times. And listen to Don Swaim's interview with Norman Mailer at Wired for Books. WHO OWNS THE INTERNET? YOU AND i DO: When to drop the capital letter that begins a case-sensitive word. By John Schwartz, New York Times. ROOM AT THE TABLE FOR FRESH FACES: Contrary to common belief, publishers in growing numbers are publishing first novels. By Martin Arnold, New York Times. CONVERSATION WITH ELMORE LEONARD IN NEWSWEEK. Elmore Leonard published his first story, a Western, in Argosy in December 1951. The 77-year-old author's 39th book, When the Women Come Out to Dance, is a collection of stories. Questions by Newsweek's Malcolm Jones:
These new stories are plot-driven, like stories 50 years ago in The Saturday Evening Post.
Exactly. Or pulp-magazine stories.
Is there really a market for such stories?
I don't know. A New Yorker editor used to ask me for stories, and I'd say, "I don't write your kind of stories." My stories have endings.
So why do it? Just because you like to?
Yeah. People ask me, "Why are you still writing books?" Like I'm still only writing to make money and as soon as I have enough I'll quit and go fishing? I like to write books. It's the most satisfying thing I do. And I can write anything I want, although I don't take that too far, because I've always had a commercial bent. I'm not going to write for posterity. I'm going to write to make a buck.
You never think of posterity?
No. But I do think my stuff will last longer than a lot of stuff I read today.
If you could abide any label, what would it be?
I write crime stories. I have no problem with that.
Is there a label that irks you?
Mystery writer. I've never written a mystery. There are no mysteries in my books.
Eighteen of your books were turned into movies. Do you write them with that in the back of your mind?
Back when I was just starting out, they were in the front of my mind, because I wanted to make some money. Now it's just my style: writing in scenes, always from one character's point of view, moving the story with dialogue--like a movie.
Recently you published a short list of rules for writing. (see BCWW's Index Page) Do you ever break your own rules?
Oh yeah. But I hesitate. I won't use an adverb to modify said, I'll tell you that. Absolutely not.
Listen to Don Swaim's interview with Elmore Leonard at Wired for Books
LIBRARIANS RECEIVE ADVICE: Protecting reader privacy from Federal snoopers. By Adam Clymer, New York Times. US WRITERS DO CULTURAL BATTLE AROUND THE GLOBE: Top American writers recruited in Bush propaganda effort. By Michael Z. Wise, New York Times. SOME REASONS FOR OPTIMISM IN BOOK PUBLISHING WORLD: It's all about profits -- and book sales are up. By Dinitia Smith, New York Times. JUDGING A BOOK WITHOUT READING IT: A National Book Award judge admits he never read all the books he was to judge. By Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer. THIS IS A HEADLINE FOR AN ESSAY ABOUT META: Defining "meta" is tough, as in "metafiction." But you'll know it when you read it. By Laura Miller, New York Times Magazine. ANOTHER WRITER IN THE FAMILY: By Martin Arnold, New York Times. WHO MOVED MY CHEESE? a review by Jules C. Winistorfer. GATEKEEPER FOR LITERATURE CHANGES AT THE NEW YORKER: Nation's top literary magazine taps a new fiction editor. SELF-PUBLISHING THROUGH THE INTERNET: The sad truth -- by Eric A. Taub. Here's a list of major E-PUBLISHERS.
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