Friday, January 16, 2015

Funny.... but great food for thought

Is this a British thing, a European thing or an American thing?

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment

Saturday, October 5, 2013

About Tom Clancy

 This article and document appeared this month in the on-line Writer's Digest Magazine

 The writing world lost a legend with the passing of Tom Clancy. From The Hunt for Red October to Clear and Present Danger to Threat Vector, Clancy entertained millions of readers worldwide and redefined the thriller writing genre (and inspired quite a few video games as well). He was dubbed the “father of techno-thrillers,” a term he rejected, saying he “just writes novels.”

To honor the author of the Jack Ryan novels, we dove into our archives and found this wonderful Writer’s Digest Interview with Tom Clancy from 2001 (featured below). My favorite quote from the interview: “I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I just keep it simple: Tell the damn story.” [Click here to Tweet this quote!]

His last novel, Command Authority, is due out in December.
You will be sorely missed, Mr. Clancy. (Brian Klems, Writer/Editor at Writer's Digest Magazine.

 If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Isabel Allende: Story-teller

I was so impressed with the book The House of the Spirits, I had to know more about the author, Isabel Allende. As a novelist and memoirist, Isabel Allende writes of passionate lives, including her own. Born into a Chilean family with political ties, she went into exile in the United States in the 1970s -- an event that, she believes, created her as a writer. Her voice blends sweeping narrative with touches of magical realism; her stories are romantic, in the very best sense of the word. Her novels include The House of the Spirits, Eva Luna and The Stories of Eva Luna, and her latest, Ines of My Soul and La Suma de los Dias (The Sum of Our Days). And don't forget her adventure trilogy for young readers -- City of the Beasts, Kingdom of the Golden Dragon and Forest of the Pygmies.

As a memoirist, she has written about her vision of her lost Chile, in My Invented Country, and movingly tells the story of her life to her own daughter, in Paula. Her book Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses memorably linked two sections of the bookstore that don't see much crossover: Erotica and Cookbooks. Just as vital is her community work: The Isabel Allende Foundation works with nonprofits in the SF Bay Area and Chile to empower and protect women and girls -- understanding that empowering women is the only true route to social and economic justice. (taken from an article on TED.)


If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment

Monday, July 15, 2013

Eat, Pray, Love and our perpetual pursuit of happiness

Guest post by: Sarah Mccarthy
You guys in America are always on the treadmill wondering ‘How can I actualize myself?’ while most of the world is running to dodge bullets.
If you are ever uncertain whether there’s enough hatred in the world, visit the review page for that inescapable book and soon to be movie Eat, Pray, Love. One reviewer calls Elizabeth Gilbert “the most self-important, obtuse, boorish, annoying cretins ever to put pen to paper.” Another says that the book “epitomizes everything wrong with American culture today: worship of the mediocre, travel without seeing anything, polarizing of the Other and fake spirituality.” People who love the book really, really love it, and those who hate would like to enter the world of Farenheit 451 just so they could see it go up in a fiery blaze.
Whether you like or hate the book, it brings up some interesting questions. To what extent do we have the right to pursue happiness? Is pursuing our own happiness inherently selfish? Does being wealthy make your problems less valid? Can rich people truly “suffer?”

The first question, about our right to pursue happiness, is a uniquely American question. Other cultures just aren’t very worried about such a trifling matter. In Russia, it’s considered impolite to answer “good” when asked “how are you?”–to do so is to be bragging about your good fortune and putting the other person down. In South Korea (so says a lovely and talented political blogger for this very blog), it is much more important to be fulfilling your duty and bringing honor to your family than to be gaining any sense of personal fulfillment.

But Elizabeth Gilbert is an American, and thus views it as a given that she has the inalienable right to pursue happiness. As a suburban New Yorker, she is unspeakably depressed, and decides to go on a year-long journey through Italy, India, and Indonesia in search of the personal fulfillment that has eluded her. Right from the get-go, plenty of people hate that this–a year-long and wildly expensive journey — was her solution.

What gives her the right? (Other than our own Declaration of Independence, I presume.)
Other people, who might forgive her for the trip itself, despise her because, as she admits, it was made possible by a massive advance from her publisher to write the book. She was able to travel for a full year without needing to work, a luxury that few people in human history have had. Does that negate her whole experience? It does to many. Others just hate that she didn’t do any volunteer work or share her money and instead chose to spend it on gelato and meditation retreats. It’s not the travel alone that bothers them–it’s that she saw the world but didn’t improve it.

But what would she have been doing for the world without her travels? Can anyone really argue that it would have been better for her to continue to be crying on her bathroom floor? Who was she helping there? As it is, she has written a book that, like it or not, has given many people insights into themselves and their own lives. No, it’s not the same as curing homelessness or cancer, but it’s something.

We all know, in theory, that money doesn’t buy happiness, yet we still seem to believe that if someone has money, their unhappiness can’t be valid. America, the nation with many of the world’s richest people, also has one of the highest rates of depression. Why? Because, after a certain threshold (a salary of about $70,000 a year), money does diddly squat for a person’s level of contentment. The problems facing the rich and the poor are different, but it’s not really possible to quantify some unhappiness as “important” and other unhappiness as “trivial.” From reading the book, I believe that Elizabeth Gilbert really did suffer, and I can’t begrudge her the fulfillment that her year-long journey provided.

The movie is coming out in just a few days (August 13th), and whether or not you hate the book or love it, whether you are feeling wealthy or destitute, it couldn’t hurt to stop and ask yourself, “Am I happy?” You don’t have a right to happiness, but, no matter who you are, you always have a right to pursue it.
Picture from Cinema Blend

Sarah McCarthy is a blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog and a writer on online degrees for Guide to Online Schools.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Women who make America: Two really good videos

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Does Blogging make you a better writer?

Excerpts about blogging from writers who blog
"I'm a writer by profession and it's totally clear to me that since I started blogging, the amount I write has increased exponentially, my daily interactions with the views of others have never been so frequent, the diversity of voices I engage with is far higher than in the pre-Internet age - and all this has helped me become more modest as a thinker, more open to error, less fixated on what I do know, and more respectful of what I don't."  (Andrew Sullivan, writer)

“Writing a blog can be a lot like writing a book; overwhelming at first, in need of structure and flow, and at times very personal. However, a blog is a living, breathing form of writing. Your "story" evolves and changes over days/months/years. You have the ability to connect and interact with your readers. And, the best part, if you missed a grammar error you can go back and correct it!” (Krista Rhea, writer)

A number of editors on staff at Writer's Digest have their own personal blogs and when we started out we were in the exact same place as a lot of you are right now:

 "I am still in the planning stages of my blog. It has been overwhelming to say the least."  (Vicie Moore, writer)

"I'm stuck with my blog. Don't know which direction to go"  (Sharita Gopal, writer)

My take on this
I totally agree with this. Although, I’d been writing most of my life, I actually did not start writing seriously until I began blogging. Blogging forces you to improve your writing skill, work out the kinks in your style of writing, and find your voice. Interacting with comments may help your mode of expression, but seeing your writing in a particular format and reading it back to see if it makes sense is invaluable to a writer.

I probably would not have written my first memoir if it weren't for my blogging. I began writing stories on a writer's site. At the urgency of many many readers on that site, I started organizing them into chapters.  I started having to deal with time lines and transitions (one chapter to the next). Then I found I had to have some sort of story line and plot. to hold them all together. I began studying fictive techniques to enhance the stories. I spent hours learning how to infuse my stories with life. I learned so much about writing during that time.

When I completed the memoir, I let it sit for months. I dug it out one day and was amazed to see how far I had come in my ability to handle large works. I completely re-wrote the manuscript. My writing had improved so much over those years that I started a new memoir using a different, more skilled approach and style. I still intend to publish the first book, but truly believe the second one will be far superior. It's true what successful writers say: "You must write every day and often to improve."

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Tips for attracting readers to your blog

I was recently asked what bloggers can do to attract readers to their blogs. I came up with the following, based mostly on my experience over the past three or four years that I've been blogging. I'm sure there are many more tips that work well. Bloggers need to be creative with the way they market their blog, and keep an eye and ear open to ideas from other successful bloggers.

One of the best things anyone can do is to post frequently and regularly. I'm not good at that, because I have 5 blogs (which might have been a mistake to begin with, especially after emersing myself in a novel length memoir.) But I try to post interesting material, let people know about it, put links on all the social networking sites, and make comments on other blogs (Very Important!).

I also add pictures and videos, use SEO and tags, join groups, events, blog hops, etc., and interact with other bloggers. Having guest bloggers, doing author and book reviews, and interviews is also helpful. You can pick up new followers from those who follow other authors and bloggers.

I have an on-line friend, Brenda, who is very good at attracting attention to her blog. Among other things, she posts intriguing remarks to pique interest, comes up with clever events and questions for feedback, and writes well. Another excellent blogger is Kelly who spends valuable time on line interacting on a personal level within the social community and supporting other writers and bloggers. This will help to build her  platform.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment