Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Other People's Wisdom

What with Tyler-Rose's visit and the end of summer, I've been doing a lot of writing.  And, since I'm going into my senior year of college (eep!), I've also been thinking a lot about writing--where I'm trying to go as a writer, and how to get there.

Especially at stages like this, one can get totally bogged down in reading too much writing advice.  The internet is full of it.

I've come across some helpful and encouraging tidbits lately, however.  These aren't all foundational things you need to know in order to be a writer.  They aren't even all the most inspirational things I've read.  But they're what's been helping me lately.  So, without further ado... 

Susan's long, short list of writing advice from the summer of 2014:


1.  "Eyes Up, Writers" -- a truly inspirational and needed piece of advice from Shiver author Maggie Stiefvater.  This is what you need to hear when you start researching agents before you're even done with your manuscript, or when you start freaking out because of someone else's success, or when you get thrown off by someone else's cynicism, etc, etc...  Tyler-Rose and I have said "eyes up" to each other more than a few times since reading this.  And we can tell you, it is helping.

2.  Goals, hopes, and doubts with Brent Weeks --  I recently finished The Black Prism (Loved it!) and was perusing this interview, in which Weeks talks a lot about that series, but also spits out some writing advice along the way:

"I define a goal as something you have control of. Getting published is a hope. Finishing writing your book is a goal. Getting an agent is a hope. Sending your best query out to 30 agents is a goal. I used to confuse the two, and it caused me a lot of heartache."  (He continues in this vein.)

Heartache is not what I aim for, believe it or not.  I'm guessing it's not what you aim for, either.

Weeks also has a large hoard of writing advice on his website, and if the lack of happy-happy-inspirational-time in that last quote made your stomach squirm a little (first, follow the link to the interview and read the context, and second--) try what he has to say about "Overcoming Self-doubt":

"Do the work. That’s the solution. You don’t manage self-doubt. You ignore it. You don’t look at the fifty thousand sentences that are going to make up this book. You look at the one you need to write next.  ...  There’s only one way to address that voice that tells you that you can’t do it. It’s not by arguing with the voice. It’s by doing it."  (Also excerpted from a longer treatment of the subject which is worth reading.)

3.  Not writing advice, but -- Allow me to interrupt the program to introduce you to my favorite funny Twitter account:  Chaucer Doth Tweet.  You're welcome.

4.  In which George R. R. Martin makes a simple but important point -- I cleaned up my room recently, which involved sifting through a large pile of Writer's Digest magazines.  In the November/December 2012 issue, they interviewed Martin, and the theme was clear:  quality over speed.  He talked a lot about writing slowly in order to write well.

Now, you may be thinking, "Duh, Susan.  This is the man who's famous for taking forever to write his books.  This is also someone whose success has earned him the ability to write like a snail.  What's the point?  How is the Ent-like speed of this guy's writing life relevant to you or to me?"

Well, impertinent imaginary reader, I'm glad you asked.

The online writing community I come into contact with is very interested in speed.  Groups and events like @FriNightWrites (which I love!!  Check them out here.) and NaNoWriMo emphasize getting words, any words, down fast.  (Granted, @FriNightWrites is totally open to small word counts.  I'm just saying that it is easy, in any wordcount-mentality situation, to become personally very focused on speed.)

Getting words down is important.  I know it's important. But speed isn't everything.  I've seen CP's send out drafts wayyy before they were ready.  I've almost been that writer myself.  (Thank you Tyler-Rose, for stopping me.)  I've sat next to people in writing workshops who were too impatient to accept the (in this case, exceptional) teaching that was going on right in front of them.

And, before this becomes one huge blog post on why it's okay to take your time, I will just add this:  George R. R. Martin isn't the only one who is able to take his time.  There exists a class of writers who have even more time to hone their writing than he does:  the as-yet-unpublished aspirers.

5.  Finally, everything Donald Maass has written about writing -- He's the best.  And oh--will you look at that?  Huh.  Check out the top of that Twitter feed.  What a coincidence... 



;)
Blogger Tricks

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Travelogue

A stack of vintage trunks waiting at the airport.
I realized the other day while I was thinking about writing a blog post and deciding that doing the dishes was much more important that I never actually told the blog where I was going. I'm pretty sure Twitter was informed a number of times, but I don't think the blog got to share in my excitement.

WELL . . .

First, I went to a wonderful Youth Conference in Chicago that was really amazing. I got to see a lot of old friends that I hadn't seen all together in years and years and I met a lot of great new people and had a number of fabulous adventures that I would tell you about with great flare and hyperbole if we were actually meeting in person, but since I don't actually know who reads the blog I will refrain.

When that was over, I flew farther east to STAY WITH SUSAN for a week and a half. This was the first time in the whole course of our friendship that Susan and I were able to spend time together without papers and other wretched school related things looming over our heads. We were able to talk late into the night about writing, and life, and the universe, and everything without having to check our phones and say silly thing like, "You have exactly three and a half more minutes to unburden your soul to me, and then I have to go write my paper."

It was wonderful.

Blissful luxury.

We did a lot of fun things,* but being what we are we actually spent most of everyday writing. Because that is really what we want to be doing when we are researching obscure areas of academia in our cold northern college.

More on that later.

Meanwhile, I'm finally home from my travels. This is the first day I don't feel droopily jet lagged. So, I've decided today is going to be a wonderfully productive writing day.**

Wish me luck.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Most of which involved eating. One of the especially fun things was the evening Susan and I went and got sushi together and I taught her how to use chopsticks. She is the first friend I have ever taken to sushi who has claimed to enjoy it. I love her.

** Thereby assuring that I get nothing done whatsoever.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Our Definitive Post on the Federalist Papers

As seen in Tyler-Rose's hilarious review of the search terms that bring people to our blog, people sometimes search "the federalist papers" and end up here. 

I have no idea why.  Tyler-Rose and I thought we recalled publishing a post on the Federalist Papers, but this proved to be mere patriotic fancy, as we could find nothing whatsoever in our archives to do with them. 

So, to remedy the situation once and for all, and since I happen to know a bit about the Federalist Papers and since it's still rather close to the 4th of July, I give you: 


The Feather and the Rose's Definitive Post on the Federalist Papers


(Definitive of their place in our search terms, that is.  Not, goodness me, definitive of the Papers themselves.) 


So, what are the Federalist Papers? 

The United States' Constitution had to be approved by at least nine states before it could be ratified.  Debate over whether the Constitution outlined a sound government for the new country was often carried out in newspapers.  The Federalist Papers are a collection of 85 articles which contributed to this public debate. 

In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison argue in support of the new Constitution under the pseudonym "Publius."

Federalist 51 contains what is perhaps the most famous passage in the entire series.  Madison here discusses the need for a structure of government that takes into account the self-interest, and even vice, inherent in its all-too-human officials: 

Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.  The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place.  It may be a reflection on human nature that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government.  But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?  If men were angels, no government would be necessary.  If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.  In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this:  you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. 

The Federalist Papers in their entirety are available online here, from the Library of Congress. 

----


So, now you people have a reason to end up here by searching "the federalist papers."  Enjoy! 


----


Or, in the parlance of book-review-bloggers: 

 
 
 
 
 
5/5 bald eagles.  Highly recommended to anyone interested in political philosophy and/or the founding of the United States.  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Beautiful Standing Desk

***Warning: may contain Tyler-Rose whining about her ailments like an 80-year old***

uh-hem

The Writing Life lends itself very easily to becoming almost completely sedentary if we aren't careful. I'm sure there are some of you who are just bursting full of enthusiasm to go and work out or play the organized and sweaty sport of your choice.

But somehow I feel you might be the minority. As writers tend to also be introverts, we often prefer calm indoor activities that aren't going to drain our Energy Bucket* too quickly. Lovely things like writing some more, brewing tea, reading great books, cooking, watching movies that make us weep, gardening, writing again, maybe some yoga, day dreaming.

A lot of those activities are not only slow moving, but also are easiest to do sitting down for the duration of the activity. If you're writing, you require a surface. Most convenient surfaces occur at about mid-thigh height and have chairs of various cushinesses pulled up in front of them making it very tempting to just sit down in them since that is after all their purpose.

However, I rode horses when I was younger and injured my back by doing several fabulous swan dives out of the saddle.** By the time I got to high school, sitting in the wretched one-size-fits-only-the-exactly-average-sized-male desks with the one armrest that kept my writing arm permanently at boob level*** caused me daily agony.

I've had a lot of doctoring since then, so now I can usually make it through the day without having to lay on the floor with a chunk of pool noodle under my neck.& However, if I spend the amount of time sitting that is required for me to finish my word quota for the day, I will be sore, achy, and probably have weird shoulder pains developing by the end of the day.

And I'm not even twenty-five yet. The idea of what my forties might be like often sends me into paroxysms of pure terror.

I can defeat most of the roaming back pain by putting my laptop on a surface high enough for me to stand up at while I work. Then I get the added bonus of feeling superior and healthy because of everything we've been hearing lately about sitting down all day every day being pretty much one of the worst things you can do to your body.

Even this will cause me problems after a while, though. If the keyboard is at the right height for my hands, then the screen is so low that I have to look down while I work, which really isn't good either.

But never fear, because . . .

TODAY I HAVE FOUND THE SOLUTION!

Tyler-Rose's laptop on a stack of books.
The angels are singing.

Side view of the above with my bookshelves in the background.
Can't you see the light of heaven
shining down on it?

The unfortunate thing is that to create this wonder I had to commandeer both my mother's usual spot at the tall desk and her keyboard, as well as her squishy wrist support strip. Sadly, this means that my beautiful arrangement will evaporate like Cinderella's coach at about 5:30 this evening.

I'm buying myself a keyboard on Amazon right now, though, so I will soon be able to reconstruct this magnificence in a more permanent location.

I also found DIY instructions online for how to construct a standing desk on top of a regular desk for about $22. I will be building this the very instant I set foot back in my frigid, evilly non-ergonomic dorm room at the end of the summer.

My back is so happy right now.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* If you consider yourself an introvert or are an extrovert who is lucky enough to love an introvert, and haven't read the introvert article with the explanation of how Energy Buckets work, you need to. Right now. THEY UNDERSTAND US! *tears of joy*

** One time I fell off right into a pond. That was epic. I think I gave my poor mother a heart attack.

*** That's about nine inches above the level where a writing surface that fits a woman of my size should be.^

^ Generally, I keep my feminism fairly sedate, but good heavens, if you ask me about FURNITURE SIZES I will give you a speech you will never forget.

& Susan knows.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Forgotten Word: Adventures in Turkey

Far, far away--or at least, far from where I type this--

From a hill near Urfa, Turkey, the picture looks off into the misty distance of thre Syrian border.

--there is a small Turkish city called Sanliurfa. 

Sanliurfa, Turkey
 
The old city center was especially gorgeous. 


Sanliurfa, Turkey

The fish pool in Sanliurfa, Turkey.

A brilliantly blue fish pool in Urfa, Turkey, bordered by white columns.
 
Urfa was the farthest east we went during my trip to Turkey.  Most people there spoke very little English, and it felt more like stepping into another world than any place we visited. 
 
Despite this, in the bazaar there, my friends and I found, of all things....
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Wait for it. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Wait for it. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
.......
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
An English major.  We found an English major in the Urfa bazaar. 
 
 
A white sheep looks quizzically at the camera from where it stands on the green lawn.
What???
 
We ended up talking to him because--well, first, we glanced at the soap he was selling--but then he greeted us in perfect English, complete with a crisp British accent.  In a place where we really had to use the rudimentary Turkish we had been scrambling together over the past week, that was rather startling. 
 
The poor man was desperate to practice his English--especially since there was no one in Urfa to speak with him--so we talked for a while as we sniffed our way through the soaps. 
 
As it turns out, he was a Syrian refugee (Urfa is rather close to the border.) who had been studying English literature and teaching English at a university in Syria.  The unrest in his country forced him to flee to Turkey, however, and made his future plans impossible:  He had been planning to move in with his uncle in England and attend a British university as a PhD candidate. 
 
I usually think about the grisly cost exacted by war.  The death, the violence, the disruption of families.  This encounter made me realize that that isn't all.  These people have plans and hopes and dreams just like the rest of us, and war ruins those, too. 
 
None of this had diminished the man's love for literature, however.  We asked him what his favorite books were, and he immediately listed Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Atonement.  He said he loved these books because they had been a comfort to him during the crisis in his country. 
 
And then--to finally circle around to the title of this blog post--he used a word...a glorious, luminous, perfect word, to describe those novels....  It was a word I never would have used, something only a non-native speaker would have selected.  And it was perfect. 
 
And we can't for the life of us remember what it was. 
 
I think it started with a "b."  Katie the Roommate wasn't so sure about that.  We spent probably an hour in our hotel room trying to think of it that night, once we realized it had slipped our minds. 
 
 
 
I don't know what it was.  I don't think we'll ever remember.  But I hope that somehow, someday, Adam the Syrian refugee will get his PhD in English literature and have a chance to use that word again. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

What happened on the Fourth of July

On July 2 of the year 1776, the Continental Congress voted for independence from Great Britain.  On July 4, they unanimously approved their method of making this decision known to the world:  the Declaration of Independence.  (full text here--complete with eagles)




The Declaration is, plain and simple, treason. 

But the signers believed they owed allegiance to something greater than kings.  Thus, the second paragraph of the Declaration: 


We hold these truths to be self-evident,

that all men are created equal,

that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,

that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.---

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,---

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.


The year before, Alexander Hamilton (at the age of nineteen) had written of the claim such truths have upon us in "The Farmer Refuted"

The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records.  They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power


The Declaration of Independence is at once an act of rebellion and an act of obedience.*  The signers rebelled against a man and the laws of men, but before truth and justice and a duty to their own humanity and that of their countrymen, they fell to their knees and offered up their lives. 


Happy Independence Day, and may we ever defend Liberty. 

---

For something a little more light-hearted and downright hilarious, allow me introduce you to Lady History(Be sure to check out "the captioned adventures of George Washington."  Her Yankee Doodle fife solo is also precious.) 

*I cannot take credit for this way of describing it.  I have had some very good teachers. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

How I Wish My Desk Looked . . .

How I wish my desk looked:

It's so beautiful it almost makes me okay with wax melting on books.
 


How my desk actually looks:

Is that last week's popsicle stick?


Reality is such a nasty mundane thing. I much prefer fiction. 

Please continue imagining me in a cave with lots of beautifully dripping candles surrounded by meticulously handwritten work that totally isn't just about to go up in flames.