Take time to read . . . something! No one loves a blabbermouth.

bookshelf1

 

 

It stands to reason that if you’re a writer you’re a reader. Right?

One would think so. On the other hand, I recently saw a quote from a famous writer/person (I think it was Einstein, but that seems unlikely as I write this) who stated: Eventually, a writer needs to quit reading and just write. That’s a paraphrase.

Well.

Maybe.

But.

  • If you’re a fiction writer who hasn’t the foggiest notion of recent Pulitzer prize winning fiction . . .
  • If you’re a children’s writer who has a clue about recent Caldecott books . . .
  • If you’re a biologist who doesn’t read science journals . . .
  • If you’re a politician who doesn’t read white papers . . .

What, exactly, does that say about you?

I suppose if you’re already read everything important that (you think) has ever been written, and all that’s left to do is to churn out an e-book a month . . . . There really is nothing left for you to read.  Go for it.

I’m actually appalled that the perfectly good NaNoWriMo trend has been recast as an obsessive occupation: If you do it in the month of November you should do it every month.

No one loves a blabbermouth.

Mona L S Baisch

Stephen King

Stephen King

PS I prefer the Stephen King quote: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

 

Something new all the time . . . in language as in life . . . .

Found as I browsed among the e-shelves . . .

In the context of computer science, the word ‘ingest’ has taken on a new meaning similar to, but not identical to, input. This one seems like a NSA accommodation. The meaning here is to acquire data which may or may not be used at a later time as input into a system. Input implies use; data ingestion can imply use or storage.

verrrrly intelesting . . .

Data ingestion is the process of obtaining, importing, and processing data for later use or storage in a database. This process often involves altering individual files by editing their content and/or formatting them to fit into a larger document.

Mona L S Baisch

Be a Warrior Writer!

http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/balancing-writing-life-the-world-rewards-finishers-not-perfection/

http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/balancing-writing-life-the-world-rewards-finishers-not-perfection/

Blogging is training for the professional pace. Boy, do I wish I’d said that first–but I didn’t. All the credit goes to Kristen Lamb! You’ll find her at Kristen Lamb’s Blog .

Along with this wonderful graphic. And I can’t take credit for this either!

Mona L S Baisch

Who’s the brain here anyhow?

It isn’t me. It’s the electronics I surround myself with. When something is wrong with the computer, the modem, the security system, even settings in windows FGS, nothing gets done here.

At one time, writers wrote on paper with pen or pencil. No more. At one time, I used to think I would never be able to compose anything sitting at a keyboard–but that day came.

Now, here I am, another computer problem and another day at least partially lost to the electronic brain.

Today is the day I ditch Norton for Kaspersky! My hope is that it won’t take me out of commission all day AND, more important, that I don’t have another down day because of some brain sickness in the electronics (virus).

Here goes. See you later, folks. (If all goes well.)

Mona L S Baisch

A story from long ago . . . ‘Kissing Cousins’

Kissing Cousins

Josh and Jerome on Grandpa's tractor--the Shoofly Ranch

Josh and Jerome on Grandpa’s tractor–the Shoofly Ranch

I came home from a weekend away to several versions of the event.

Andrea told it first: Little Mona and Jerome were caught kissing. Josh told it with umbrage because he was being blamed for it. Gil, my husband, put it in perspective: Butch and Joe–the fathers–had not come to blows, but came close, and it is now established for all time that neither had better ever correct any of the others’ children without clearing it first with the respective father.

I hadn’t been home ten minutes before each of the kids involved made their appearance. Josh said, “Thank you, God! Grandma Mona you’re home!”

Jerome didn’t say anything, which was saying quite a lot.

Little Mona said, “They won’t let me kiss my cousin. Grandma, why?”

By this time, the clan had gathered: All sat within earshot, all ears were tuned. The air, as they say, was electrified, while the family group waited for my response–Joe and Dalia, Andrea and Butch, Gil, Grandma Neve (my mother), and the grandkids–Josh, Jerome, and little Mona. Georgia, Hanna and Madeleine were sitting in laps around the room, but these three were all too young to be carded relative to the consumption of this particular controlled substance.

For the first time, maybe in my life, I felt like a Shaman. I admit, perhaps, to wanting to be thought wizardly, but I never really expected it would happen.

“Mona,” I say looking at her mother, “they won’t let you kiss your brother either, I suppose.”

“Grandma, I don’t have a brother!”

“I mean, if you did. I don’t suppose they’d let you kiss him.” Mona looks at her mother phrasing the question with her eyebrows.

“Yes. Sure. That’s different,” Andrea, answers her daughter.

“That’s dumb!” my granddaughter counters, true to form. “I don’t think it’s different.”

“Don’t be smart-mouthed to your mother,” Dad has the last word in this round, and the match is back in my corner. Little Mona steadies her gaze peremptorily on me again.

“Umm,” I say with all the wisdom I can muster.

Josh is getting excited, bouncing up and down on his side of the loveseat where he sits beside Dalia, who, it should be noted, protectively wraps her arm around his shoulder. “What I want to know is what anything has to do with me!” he says, getting the sense of perceived insult across rather well, I think. Josh’s outburst is challenged by a menacing throat-sound from Butch across the room: It is not a stretch to imagine hair rising on the back of his neck; this offended father knows a culprit when he sees one!

We live in the country, all of us, on a kind-of-ranch, with animals anyway, and when the hair rises on the back of anything’s neck, you know it’s cause for alarm. In this instance, I decide to intervene.

“What exactly happened here?”

“Grandma,” Mona says, “we were just playing Truth or Dare.”

“I didn’t do anything,” Josh–the instigator–restates his case.

Jerome–the undisputed actual kisser, the perpetrator–decides to sit on the other side of his mother, and pretty close, too. He understands this to be an inquisition: There will be a body. These people apparently have never heard about the noise one hand makes clapping.

I look at my daughter Andrea, and ask again about the hypothetical brother; could Mona kiss him?

The answer is something like, “Yes, no because, maybe when, where in the, because sometimes, this isn’t, I don’t think, just wait a minute, what do you, when will you, can’t you, why you don’t, you gotta be, that’s crazy. . . .” This was said about all at once, by about every adult present.

I could see the kids were amazed.

Andrea, though, makes a decision. No, little Mona can’t kiss her brother–if she had one. Not in this sense. Not in Truth or Dare.

The ugly little head of pessimism lurks somewhere rather close in the recesses of my kitchen–that room everybody wants, rhetorically, to be in: friends, guests, family; all basking in sweet, sentimental brotherly love over cookies and milk. You know, Grandma’s quintessential environs.

I wonder when anyone would ever kiss anybody except in truth or dare.

Little Mona goes for the juggler: “But I like him. Jerome is my favorite cousin! So there.”

“Don’t be smart-mouthed to your mother,” Dad has to say it. I sense hairs rising on the neck of fatherhood at both ends of the room. Grandpa Gil chuckles so only I can hear.

“Umm,” I say again, realizing I’ve decided to take sides. “Mona,” I continue, “I have a favorite cousin. Once we were caught together sitting under a hedge. We may have been kissing. I think so. Everyone thought so at the time, and it was probably true because I wanted to grow up and marry him, He was just wonderful.  For one thing he had red hair, not carrot red like his brother’s–just red, red! Bud was so, so smart. He used to read history books this thick,” I hold two fingers four inches apart. Mona wags her head up and down; she understands.

“He still does,” I tell her.

“Is Bud still your favorite?” she asks.

“Oh, yes. And because of all the commotion over the two of us kissing under the hedge, you know what happened?”

“What?”

“He grew up and married someone else!” I let outrage flood my voice.

“That’s terrible!” Mona visibly trembles.

“Well, yes. But cousins, you know, aren’t supposed to be what’s called ‘kissing cousins.’ It gets people upset. They want you to love your cousin but don’t kiss him.”

“That’s pretty silly!” the light was dawning.

“That’s just the way people are–especially parents,” I say. “Everybody’s parents, not just yours. Mine were like that, too.” Mona looks for confirmation toward Grandma Neve, who is enjoying this thoroughly through her encroaching dementia.

Jerome’s chin is rising. His instincts are good; he doesn’t want to miss this next part.

“There’s a word for it, “ I say. “Want to know?”

Mona does.

The word reverberates in every parents ears for the eternity that each pleads silently with me, “Don’t say it! Don’t give it a name!” I scan the room with a glance. My husband Gil looks tentative. Andrea, next to him, is horrified–or something close to it; she reflexively squeezes Madeleine who starts to cry. Butch wears a this-is-getting-interesting sort of look. Joe makes himself inscrutable–Joe Cool, we call him. Josh is beginning to believe he’s off the hook. Hanna and Georgia, the twin terrors, are suspiciously quiet. Jerome is on the edge of the chair; Dalia has relinquished him figuring he’s almost, if not positively, safe. She continues to hover.

“Taboo,” I name it. “It’s an Indian word. Nice, isn’t it? It sort of rolls around in your mouth. Taa-booo.”

“Taa-booo, taa-booo” the kids chant in unison.

“No kissing cousins on this ranch. It’s taa-booo,” I pull little Mona to me. “But it’s okay to kiss your Grandma Mona.” She does, to a collective sigh.

I tell her that now, when I get together with my cousins, someone in the family is sure to remark about the time when I wanted to marry my cousin Bud. They think it is just too cute now.

“That’s pretty funny, isn’t it?” I ask.

Little Mona plays the dramatic moment for all it’s worth: “If people would just mind their own business, this world would be a better place!”

Mona L S  Baisch

puddle-art

It’s all about words . . .

I believe it’s important to write everyday, or very close to it, especially when working on a new project. If much time goes by without thought-to-page = words, it’s easy to lose track and hard, or even impossible, to ever get back to the same place in your mind.

However, I’m not a writer who believes in spitting out words like strafe fire. From the first draft, I like to be a bit choosy about what I write, and I like to do a first edit on what I wrote the day before at the beginning of every writing session for a work in progress.

That said, it’s still all about words: If you don’t get the words down on the page, especially while a new thought is first in your mind, they disappear and are forever lost to you. You may still write something where those lost words would have been, but they are not the same words. Ask anyone who’s ever written a document in a word processor, didn’t save it, and can’t get it back. Words, the second time around, just aren’t the same.

It’s good to have a target in mind–sometimes it’s a daily word count you aim for; sometimes it’s a deadline. I generally like to write 2000 good words a day. It’s like a speed limit through town: If it’s not otherwise posted, drive 25 mph. If I’m not working on a deadline (finish an edit by March 1st), I try to write 2000 words a day.

Hooray! So far, for the month of February, I’ve averaged 2333.3333333 words a day!

I’m happy.

Mona L S Baisch

Writer vs. Artist — The third pass . . .

Truman Capote

Truman Capote

Every diversion is an incursion to somewhere else . . .

Lately, I’ve been reading Truman Capote–what he wrote himself, and what’s been written about him. The man was interesting. Not everything about him was admirable by conventional standards; likely not admirable by any standards–in the end, even his own. But that’s one of the things about Truman Capote–he seemed to make the waves in his own personal sea. He was interesting.

After awhile, reading a man like that becomes tiring. The mind becomes tired when one’s moral compass swings wildly trying to keep up with the little man in the white hat, the bigger-than-life titan– anyone who parts waves in his own personal sea can be called a titan, the lyricist writer-cum-amoralist, the exibitionist-cum-burnt-out genius.

Reading non-stop Capote, for a person like me, is an incursion–a journey to place I didn’t really want to go; to a place I really didn’t really want to consider as I drop off to sleep. But I’m glad I did it–I should say glad I’m doing it, because I’m not done yet. I’m still reading Truman’s short stories. Yes, we’re on a first-name basis.

capote6

Truman in large doses, however, is really a bit too much: too much to think about. For instance, passing through one beau monde after another, albeit vicariously, leaves you feeling like you’ve passed through too many times zones quickly. It simply requires one to take some time off which, actually, is what Truman did himself from time to time.

In my case, I just finished reading the Robert B. Parker novel Resolution: a good story; a quick read; and a wonderful character study workshop.

And there it is again! The dichotomous question and, for the moment, my personal fixation: Artist vs. Writer.

robertbparker2Parker is a writer. A very good writer. A writer to read and keep reading. His books make wonderful screenplays. But artist? No. His words take you to a make-believe world; interesting, but make-believe. From Parker you are entertained for awhile and then returned to yourself exactly as you were before.

Capote is an artist. His words take you to an interior world; not quite make-believe, a scary but recognizable world. From Capote, you become more than you were.

Will there ever be another Truman Capote? There never will. But you  know, I sincerely hope that somewhere, sometime there is another writer about whom it can be said, “he/she parts the waves in his/her own personal sea.” Someone who rides life like a wave, and has a good ride.

Mona L S Baisch

 

 

 

Bye-bye birdies . . .

Red Golden Pheasants

Red Golden Pheasants

I had a moment of clarity today: I’ve always taken care of everyone and everything because no one took care of me; also for that reason, I’ve done it badly.

Well, that’s not true: It’s only true that I’ve not done it as well as I could.

But! And it’s a big BUT! Also for the reason that no one took the care you’d expect to be taken of a child, I have had unique experiences–not the usual childhood experiences. From that strange childhood I developed unusual ways of looking at the world.

It helps to have an interesting way to look at the world if you want to say anything interesting in words.

Now, if I can only stop taking care of everything and everyone long enough . . . LOL

Yes Mam and Yes Sir, I mean I really am going to stop raising ornamental pheasants! This is the year they go down the road: Someone else is going to take care of them. They have been a joy. I love having them. It’s a good thing, healthy, that I have to go outside everyday of the world to feed and water them. But they’ve had their run here. I’m through taking care of birds.

It isn’t that the birds keep me from the keyboard; they really don’t interrupt my writing life. What they do keep me/us from doing is getting in car and going anywhere for more than a day, two at the most. That is about to change.

Mona L S Baisch

Red Golden Pheasant

Red Golden Pheasant

Impeyan Monal Pheasants

Impeyan Monal Pheasants

Silver Pheasant

Silver Pheasant

Swimmers swim and writers write. Right?

There’s a push on now, in a writer’s group I like, to write furiously and do it every day. A ten thousand word a day challenge: just sit down and write! While I appreciate the idea of breaking though resistance and getting words on the page, I have to wonder about the resulting product. To me, to write like that seems not about writing as much as it is about typing.

I’ve been doing the National November writing challenge the past two years — which is to write 50,000 words in the month. That’s about 1650 words/day. I would guess that’s about my usual minimum production rate when I add up all my writing products. The question is: If writing 50,000 words in one month is a good thing, is it a good thing to do it every month? That would be churning out a small book every month. Of course, it’s a personal choice, but when does a writer edit? I can’t believe writing even 1600 words a day results in anything ready for print.

To write 10-12 books a year seems to me to be a mind-set oriented to self-publishing. Even Stephen King doesn’t keep that sort of production schedule. If one were to do it successfully, it would require a support team: editors, researchers . . . and good ones, not just the average Beta reader.

My personal preference (excepting the occasional challenge like NaNoWriMo) is to write well the first time, and to edit the previous day’s work when I begin a new day. At the end of each day, I like to have an idea where I’ll begin the next day. Generally, I only work on a single project once a day. It isn’t a ‘rule,’ just the way things seem to happen. I often work on edits more than once a day. I like to set myself to a prose-ful sort of writing in the morning, and a more poetic sort late at night: I suppose it has to do with an idiosyncratic biorhythm.

It’s true that to be a writer is to write. It’s also true that most successful writers don’t write manically every day. Of course it all depends on the definition of  the word ‘successful.’

Are you successful when you:

  1. find your way into print?
  2. complete a short novel every month?
  3. write every day?
  4. write well?

These points all have their merit but, I think, any writer hopes to write well first; then to find time to write regularly; then to finish a project; then, hopefully, to publish.

It’s interesting to me that many of the writers I most admire were not published in their lifetimes. Commercial success isn’t a universal motivation.

Our commercial society expects instant gratification–instant everything. There is another way of thinking about life, including writing:

  1. Enjoy the process.
  2. Don’t practice failure.

If someone undertakes to write 50,000 words a day, or even 5,000, and do it as a way of a writing life, it may be counter-productive. Very few people write well enough to churn out words at that pace and also string them together in a way anyone would want to read. The edit process for such a voluminous output would be onerous. More important, to write as if on a production line is to write without thought and, perhaps, to reinforce bad writing habits–I mean the kind of bad habits that end up on the page, not the kind of bad habits that keep a person from writing.

Good writing is actually hard. It involves thoughtful choices. Although what makes a writer good is an imprecise question, in the end, good writing feels good to the writer.

So, I’m back to the beginning: Some writers may feel good about spectacular production; then there are people like me who agree that it’s important to write but just as important to write as well as I can. God knows, that’s never good enough.

Mona L S Baisch

 

 

 

 

Writer vs. Artist Revisited

Truman Capote

Truman Capote

It’s been a week since I finished reading Belva Plain’s The Golden Cup. I’m revisiting it in my mind to ask myself what I remember: It was a charming story, entertaining, but it has not left an impression. I’m not rushing out to read more of Ms. Plain’s stories, although I would pick one up if it came my way and I needed a diversion. Nothing related to my life–including my writing life. The writing was good, or I wouldn’t have read it through, but not good enough to want to critique it. There was nothing to emulate. I’m thinking, when it was published, that it might have been avant-guardish to have a gay character in main stream fiction, but I don’t know that for a fact. Gay fiction has been around forever, although more for literary types and not so much for commercial consumption. While Plain wrote about homosexuality, Capote was homosexual–and it isn’t a significant part of his oeuvre: He simply is who he is.

On the other hand, I am still reading, and reading about, Capote. I have a half dozen books on the shelf bought in the last two weeks. Not only is he fascinating as a person and a writer, what has been written about him is also fascinating. His prose is substantial–I don’t mean that in the sense of being voluminous, it isn’t that; but in the sense of being significant; it has something to say to me. His life has something to say to me, as unlikely as that may seem. His writing has something important to say as well.

Capote likely was always a troubled person. At any rate, his life or his life-style caught up with him. I prefer to think it was his life. When one processes more information, and with more nuance, I imagine life could become distressing. One might want to be able to shut it down, turn it off, escape from being bombarded from continual impressions and, especially, from needing to follow them obsessively to some sort of resolution in one’s mind.

I’ve been fond of the notion of structural functionalism since the 1980s when I discovered that sociological theory–Compte, Durkheim and, more recently, Parsons. It stands to reason that structure does reinforce, even predict, function. If you build a fence, you can’t step from one side to the other without going over or around; if you plant a tomato seed, you will not grow a daisy from it; if you buy a one-story house, you won’t be looking out of third-story windows when you go to bed at night . . .

Capote’s writing is literature, Plain’s is entertainment. There it is. It would be hard for me to believe that Capote ever wrote a word thinking to entertain, although what he wrote did entertain–he wrote for theater and screen! He took great care with words, although not arranging them artificially. His prose isn’t about shock value, thought it can be shocking; it isn’t pretentious, though it may be hyperbolic; and it isn’t dodgy: On the contrary, it is reliable and sound even when it is surreal–everything adds up.

His words precisely ‘see’ the world he brings to the page. The words flow from the page to the mind of the reader and stick while Plain’s words flow from the page through the mind of the reader and fade away.

Mona L S Baisch