Read Jessica Goldstein’s engaging interview with Judith Viorst in the Sept 1 issue of The Washington Post. Here are my favorite excerpts:
“‘I am obnoxiously disciplined,’ said Viorst… Viorst gives herself quotas. She polishes the pages. She tells the children whose classrooms she visits that ‘I’m not a writer. I’m a rewriter. I go over and over and over. A million times.’”
“Writing, she said, hasn’t gotten easier with time, and one of the biggest misconceptions about children’s books is that they take little effort or brainpower to produce. … ‘I don’t count on inspiration,’ she said. ‘Inspiration follows pushing yourself, pushing yourself, pushing yourself.’
“…great short stories and great jokes have a lot in common. Both depend on what communication theorists sometimes call exformation, which is a certain quantity of vital information removed from but evoked by a communication in such a way as to cause a kind of explosion of associative connections within the recipient.”
–David Foster Wallace on humor in Kafka.
Yes, I collect beautiful sentences. Here are two from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
One character describing the way another character speaks: “It reminded him of slicing a yam with a newly sharpened knife, the easy perfection in every slice.”
Describing how a boy from a rural village describes his first sight of the larger, affluent town: “…how the bungalows here were painted the color of the sky and sat side by side like polite well-dressed men, how the hedges separating them were trimmed so flat on top that they looked like tables wrapped with leaves.”
from Half of a Yellow Sun
“I never purposely thought I was making a movie that was any more commercial than any of the other ones. I was just accidentally obsessed with something that was appealing to more people.” John Waters on Hairspray in an interview in The Washington Post (1/19/13). My italics.
Love the way he puts this. Reminds me of why it’s better to follow your personal obsessions and passions rather than trying to write the hit.
At the 2013 Golden Globes, Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) thanked a group of friends to whom he reads his scenes aloud. “You don’t tell me what I’m doing wrong…” he said. “Reading it to you helps me to hear it through your ears.” So important! But kind of hard to find friends who have the time to sit and listen to you read an entire novel aloud, eh? Well, whenever I teach a writing class, I always encourage students to read their own work aloud and imagine that the room is filled with an audience. If you are able to put yourself into the mindset of your audience while you’re reading, you will be hearing your work as if for the first time and you’ll discover lots of mistakes–and insights– for revision.
See my guest post about writing wish poems on the Pencil Tips Writing Blog.
Writers who want to cross that threshold from amateur to professional often ask whether they should focus their attention on a project that seems marketable or write whatever they want to write. Look at it this way…whatever you write might not get published, even if you believe it is a marketable idea; so why not spend your time writing what really speaks to you? Write what you need to write.
“Go to your bosom, knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know” (William Shakespeare, Measure For Measure), and remember amateur comes from the Latin lover.
After giving my SCBWI talk, which included a personal story about how I had wished my mother had written me a letter before she died, I came home and took a walk with my husband along the canal. I spotted this piece of graffiti. I have already written my letters. If you’ve been thinking about it, take a moment and write yours. They can be very short. “I love you” goes a long way.