Thursday, January 31, 2008

His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Seattle, April 11-15

His Holiness The Dalai Lama will be in Seattle April 11-15 for Seeds of Compassion.

"A 5–day gathering to engage the hearts and minds of our community by highlighting the vision, science, and programs of early social, emotional, and cognitive learning."

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

James Wood on characters

"How to animate the static portrait? Ford Madox Ford writes wonderfully about getting a character up and running - what he calls "getting a character in". Ford and his friend Joseph Conrad loved a sentence from a Guy de Maupassant story: "He was a gentleman with red whiskers who always went first through a doorway." Ford comments: "that gentleman is so sufficiently got in that you need no more of him to understand how he will act. He has been 'got in' and can get to work at once.""

More of this article from The Guardian here.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Richard Bausch on writing

I don't teach writing. I teach patience. Toughness. Stubbornness. The willingness to fail. I teach the life. The odd thing is most of the things that stop an inexperienced writer are so far from the truth as to be nearly beside the point. When you feel global doubt about your talent, that is your talent. People who have no talent don't have any doubt.
-Richard Bausch

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Jack Gilbert - Failing and Flying

Failing and Flying

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It's the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Idris Anderson wins May Swenson Poetry Award

My pal Idris Anderson has won the May Swenson Poetry Award, judged by Harold Bloom. This is so new, it's not even on the website yet, but I got a phone call today from Idris. Hooray!

Idris's collection will be out in July, 2008.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Michael Byers on narrative necessity

I really like this essay by Michael Byers, which he calls
Nick Carraway's Convenient Dog

Or, The Sure-But-And-So,

a Strategy for Approaching Awkward Necessity.

Here's a sample:

"There are times when you just need certain things to happen in order for a story to work. Sometimes these things are implausible, unlikely, or wouldn't stand up to scrutiny. How do you handle this?
The trick is:

  • acknowledge the difficulty;
  • provide one reason the difficulty isn't quite what it seems;
  • provide another reason; and finally
  • introduce the false, required conclusion.
Sure – but – and – so."


Michael Byers wrote one of my favorite short story collections, The Coast of Good Intentions. Here's a list of his awards:
  • Friends of American Writers Literary Award for Long for this World
  • Academy of Arts & Letters Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction for The Coast of Good Intentions
  • Whiting Prize for The Coast of Good Intentions
  • New York Times Notable Books, 1998 for The Coast of Good Intentions
  • PEN/Hemingway Award (finalist) for The Coast of Good Intentions
  • Stanford University Stegner Fellowship in Fiction, 1996-98



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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Ruth Armitage interview at Salem Monthly

My interview with watercolorist Ruth Armitage in Salem Monthly is now online.

In a painting studio above the Columbia Gorge, nine students, all women, work at tables in a semicircle. Large windows on three sides let in the late summer light and a slice of the river glimmers between the cedars. At first the only sound is the swish of brushes on thick paper, then music comes up, the soft jazzy singing of Norah Jones, chosen by watercolor instructor Ruth Armitage....

SM: What is subjective color? Is this your own term?

RA: Choosing a color based on personal emotion or response to the subject rather than the local color. I don't think it is my own term, I think I got it from a class I took from Skip Lawrence. For instance, I did a painting of a woman I was very angry at and I made her skin green and her eyes red and her hair blue. (Laughs) That would be subjective color....

SM: What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

RA: Make physical room in your home and go there. Make it a place where you would want to be. Study from a broad variety of sources: books, people, different instructors. Ask a lot of questions. Observe. Not just one way, as many different ways as you can before you really settle into your own.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

the semicolon

Here's a short and pithy article by Noah Lukeman on the use of the semicolon.


"The primary function of the semicolon is to connect two complete (thematically similar) sentences, thereby making them one. But when and how to do that is open to interpretation... The semicolon is a powerful tool in the writer’s arsenal. It is probably the most elegant of all forms of punctuation (it has been dubbed “a compliment from the writer to the reader”), and can offer an excellent solution to balancing sentence length and rhythm. Yet, ironically, it is often overlooked and underused by writers today."

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