Stuck? Walk Away. #amwriting

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/Beth Wareham

I have heard and read so many discussions about writer’s block, it feels like the commercial about “Going and Going” that air on all three network news broadcasts each night.

Creativity, being a function of your brain, is mysterious. Maybe it’s best to have the same respect (or nearly) for it as you do for love.  I’ve read so many books about creativity that I’ve come to the conclusion that no one else understands it either.  Without it, life is grim.

Science, however, has an explanation. In Dr. Herbert Benson’s The Breakout Principle, he talks about how creativity can be triggered by repetitive movement such as jogging, knitting, yoga, sewing, meditation, golf.  The repetitive motion releases chemicals in the brain.  These are the chemicals that allow different parts of the brain to communicate and make creative leaps and comparisons. It’s on.

The worst thing you can do, in other words, is to sit at the computer watching cat videos or go to dinner parties and bray at your friends that you have writer’s block.

Go fold laundry, run, sit in the bathtub, read to a kid. Release your mind from the struggle at the machine and let it solve the creative problem in its own mysterious way. It just might fall into you brain fully-formed and seemingly from nowhere.

Feed your creativity. It goes with you everywhere. Like a blue stool.

 

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MARILYN MONROE READING

images-1                                      By Beth Wareham

(With thanks to feminist biographer Oline Ealon for the title.)

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I have a thing for Arthur Miller. Yup, “Attention must be paid!” Arthur Miller, Mr. Death of a Salesman himself. I can’t explain this crush; his glasses were too large. He was from Harlem, seemed like he knew gangsters, talked like a tough guy, WAS a tough guy and wrote great plays. His creative leap between Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee and the Salem Witch trials in The Crucible was breathtaking. His appearance in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee more so.

His wife, Marilyn Monroe, was by his side as he testified. I never really did see what he saw in her. Not really. All pouty wet lips and whispers. Seemed to me that Arthur would like somebody who pushed back, somebody hyper-real.

Marilyn was all pink bubbles to me, impossible to visualize as the wife of a man like Miller, until, that is, I read about the 430 books catalogued in her library at her death. (Thanks, Booktryst.com)

Holy moly.

I’M IN LOVE WITH THE NERDY MARILYN MONROE.

The list is long and strange and exciting. Zola, Proust and Moliere lived with Harold Robbins (The Carpetbaggers, one of my favorites.) The poetry section was huge, as were books of prayer and spirituality. Goodness Has Nothing to Do with It by Mae West sat by Minister of Death: The Adolf Eichmann Story by Quentin Reynolds. She read many plays as well as the ancients: Lucretius, Plato, Aristotle. I list below the books that Marilyn owned and read that I owned and read and loved. And if you don’t love her for her taste in literature, you’ll love her for another title in her library: Pet Turtles by Julien Bronson.

That Marilyn, she had it all.

(Click on title to buy book.)

1. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Lady Brett Ashley, love triangles, and the running of the bulls in between the great wars in Europe.

2. The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell
Four books, written between 1957 and 1960, exploring modern love in the ancient city of Alexandria, Egypt.

3. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
You know of this beautifully written book about the sad man with all the money: it’s America.

4. From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming
There was good reason James Bond went to film. You’ll find out why here.

5. The Fall by Albert Camus
Jean Paul Sartre’s great frenemy leaves us guessing with The Fall, his most challenging, mysterious work. Camus was in the Resistance against the Nazis, Sartre was not. Rancor ruled.

6. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
Here are the joys, secrets and strangeness of a small American town in the hands of a master.

7. The Little Engine That Could by Platt and Monk
Who couldn’t use a little “I think I can” everyday of their life. Her copy had a childlike MM scrawled on it and no doubt took the 36-year journey through life with her.

8. My Antonia by Willa Cather
Willa Cather’s cornflower blue eyes saw it all, including this story of one kind of love turning into another.

9. The Collected Short Stories of Dorothy Parker
From the woman who said, “what fresh hell is this?” Dorothy Parker’s sharp tongue and command of language never cease to amaze.

10. The New Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer*
A huge all-purpose cookbook, this is America at the supper table with Irma at the head, issuing orders in her no-nonsense voice. Marilyn used the 1952 edition, no doubt.

*This was long before I edited an edition of this book. Marilyn clipped recipes, wrote notes in the margins of cookbooks and cooked. I wish she’d marked her favorites.

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Raising 21st Century Writers

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When you first see your baby across the room, you’ll know instantly if he or she is a writer. This one is. Pick the right writer name for your baby: Thomas King, Bob Dickens, Jill Grisham, Margaret anything. Lofty, yet accessible. Short for tweets, yet holds some gravitas.

Next, your writer baby will need some deprivation, some hardship that makes good story. This kid won’t soon forget his empty shoe box of pacifiers, a recurring thread in his fiction 25 years later. img_0021-1

Let your baby begin programming their own publishing platform IMMEDIATELY upon birth. They will be born just knowing how to do this. Provide tools and support. Unknown-2

Get your baby used to the tools of a writer. Public readings,images-4 filming book trailers, the works.
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Your baby should be encouraged to stay up writing all night until the book is done. images-6 They can grow and play on their own time.

A baby writer also needs a writer “look.” This one is taken.images-7

Now your baby has a book and is ready to cut a deal. Find the right agent for your baby, one that listens and believes in the art form. Make sure the chemistry is right.
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Meet with as many publishing companies as you, your baby and your baby’s agent can stand. People will look at you blankly. But a baby is marketing gold and don’t you let anyone tell you otherwise. Let them know you’ve been building your baby’s twitter followers since birth. Cite Facebook numbers. Say Reddit and StumbledUpon just to keep your hand in the big game. Unknown-3

The publishing companies turn your baby down.

Then, just when all believe that your baby’s career as a great writer is lost, here comes AT, AMAZON TERRESTRIAL, who, for a few Skittles, will publish your child’s book. images-9

Money is made. It’s dumped directly into the family account. The 21st Century famous writer buys his family a car and they drive off, a happy writing 21st Century family. images-10

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Cut Through The Bullshit and Go Hear a Writer: The Magnificent Marilynne Robinson Quietly Enters Manhattan

FROM QUIET ANNOUNCEMENT FROM NEW YORK CITY’S BRICK CHURCH

Marilynne Robinson to Visit The Brick Church Oct. 17 and 18

Please mark your calendars for this singular event: On Friday evening, Oct. 17, at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday morning, Oct. 18, at 9:30 a.m. Pulitzer Prize-wining novelist and essayist, Marilynne Robinson will speak at The Brick Church. Both the evening and morning events are open to the general public. Robinson has authored three acclaimed novels. Housekeeping was a finalist for the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Gilead was awarded the 2005 Pulitzer. Home received the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction in the United Kingdom. She is also the author of numerous non-fiction works, most recently When I Was a Child I read Books: Essays (2012). She has also written articles, reviews and essays for Harper’s, The Paris Review and The New York Times Book Review. She was recently awarded the 2012 National Humanities Medal by the President of the United States, for her “grace and intelligence in writing.”

In the introduction to a recent interview published in the Paris Review, interviewer Sarah Fay noted that “Robinson is a Christian whose faith is not easily reduced to generalities. Calvin’s thought has had a strong influence on her, and she depicts him in her essays as a misunderstood humanist, likening his ‘secularizing tendencies’ to the ‘celebrations of the human one finds in Emerson and Whitman.’ Her novels,” Fay continues, “could also be described as celebrations of the human – the characters that inhabit them are indelible creations.”

The Brick Church is most fortunate to have this exceptional opportunity to welcome Marilynne Robinson and to hear her speak on Oct. 17 and 18, 2014. The evening event on Friday will begin with a brief reception at 6:30 p.m. Saturday morning’s will commence with coffee and a light breakfast at 9:30 a.m. Marilynne Robinson’s visit to the church is underwritten by a generous contribution from a Brick Church member.

Contact the church: Phone: (212) 289-4400, Email

Sanctuary street location: The Brick Presbyterian Church is located on the corner of 91st Street and Park Avenue in New York City.

Street location for the Parish House and Business Office:
62 East 92nd Street (between Park and Madison Avenues)
New York, NY 10128
Tel: 212.289.4400

Chat #BookVersusMovie with Us on 10/3!

This week, Shadow Teams is putting #ebookchat on hold temporarily to have a lively discussion with @BookVersusMovie, a team of two women, both named Margo, who have a great podcast that will help you give the real smackdown to adaptations. Which is better? Now you’ll know! Come chat with The Margos about their favorite books, movies, and digital tools. Friday, October 3, 12-1 Eastern time, with the hashtag #bookversusmovie. We can’t wait to see your smiling avatar there!

Here’s how to participate:

– Make sure you have a Twitter account. Don’t know how to set one up? Here are some simple instructions.
— If you don’t plan on using an application like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, remember that you can put the hashtag #ebookchat into Twitter to search for messages. Even easier: Use TweetChat.com (there are other sites like this), as it allows you to open a window with just the #ebookchat tweets, nothing else.
— Share tweets, with or without your own comments, but try to include the hashtag so everyone knows where to turn for more information, or to join.
— Almost anything goes in a Twitter chat, but one thing that doesn’t: Self promotion. Please don’t make this about you; it’s about a community.
— Speaking of community, let your own Twitter followers know that you’ll be participating in a chat. People then know to skim your hashtagged tweets, or can “mute” you for a while. There’s a Chrome extension that can do this, too.

#Ebookchat will return on October 10th at noon. Are you interested in being a guest for #ebookchat? Email beth@shadowteams.com.

ANTI-INDENTITES: Traditional Publishing and UFO Believers

You hear it all the time: I like a book. I like to feel that paper in my hands. Great, I always say. There is no other answer. It’s what they say they like and I believe them.

Then there are people in and around the trade publishing world that say weird things about content all the time: like there isn’t a bear eating their drapes. They say things like “I’m writing the flap copy in my head now!” or “I’m writing a book about Silicon Valley but they don’t want to talk to me until I say I have a deal with a traditional publisher.” Whaaaa……? Did you just climb out of the crater in Roswell? Some of the coolest publishing on Earth comes out of Silicon Valley, the great disrupters of the Universe.

Within 2 -3 years, most reading will be done on a cellphone. It’s coming, it’s happening, it’s the next logical step. Everything will be on the cell or the home computer. People won’t carry an iPad and iPhone or Galaxy and Kindle or whatever combo they cary. They will want just one thing to carry and just one thing that is possible to lose. And if you don’t believe me, WHY DO YOU THINK AMAZON PUT OUT A CELLPHONE?

I’d like to read on the Glass, but I can’t afford it. A wristwatch might be fun if someone gave me special wizard glasses with long thick lenses. Hmmmmm… business idea? I just don’t know. But all of it is blowing wide open and to think otherwise is to see UFOs in the skies over Cleveland.

For the love of God, it’s ALL DIGITAL PUBLISHING

Hachette and Amazon made great theater. Mergers and oustings are our present form of castle sieges and beheadings (the Game of Thrones kind, not the Isis kind) and in all this noise there is something called a story.

As Amazon began leaving the pack behind, Kindle was the word, product, catalyst, stick with fire on the end, that drove all things “book” forward. The established order needed words for the scruffy wanna-bes climbing their walls, hoping for an advance and a place at the banquet table.

So up bubbled that word, SELF-PUBLISHED. That word has connotations of type-os, run-on sentences, dangling modifiers and strange page breaks. Well, have you checked out a “real” book lately? A colleague reported a typo on the DEDICATION page recently. I don’t know about you, but I’d get my husband’s name right in a book. Especially if it was the 5th page. This writer didn’t. I suspect it wasn’t her fault.

Now, here come children’s books on amazon’s new digital platform. SELF-PUBLISHED was a term of the range wars, the battle for dollars within an industry losing its market share. It was derogatory. It suggested these books did not have the “expertise” of other books. Those children’s book authors are gonna explode with creativity in this new world. They are the most resourceful, driven people I’ve ever met.

And, with the beginnings of publishing services companies appearing – like mine – we edit, copyedit, design, cover design, and market -a “self-published” book is a complete misnomer. It’s a DIGITAL story. It’s highly produced. And as more and more writers hire companies to prepare their ebooks with rigorous editing, position and cover design, what precisely IS the difference?

I say there is none. I say we need a new word.

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THIS IS WHY: Wild Mad Love for Ebooks

I believe ebooks to be the coolest thing I’ve touched since Bono in the 90s. I wanted in on an idea that allowed anyone anywhere to be faster smarter higher than they could ever dream of being. Books in the hand. Ebooks. Millions, if you want and they fit. 

There is a time as an older girl, adolescent and young woman where I ate books. Nobody was talking about much of anything – though there was some drunken polka dancing I remember feeling great shame over – I became aware of this huge, now dead, march of voices behind me. They talked to me and I ate their stories whole, trying to shape in my own mind a life I wanted to live. West with the Night by Beryl Markum is the story that haunts; I volunteer on a project in Zambia. 

This is the child I see now. This is what I have stayed to see: I am so excited about ebooks.

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MAN BOOKER PRIZE ENTERS THE WORLD OF AMERICAN IDOL

http://http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booker-prize/10986394/Man-Booker-Prize-2014-crowdfunded-novel-on-longlist.html

So, the Man Booker Prize has a crowd-funded, crowd-chosen finalist in this year’s prize. The setting is the UK in 1041. But oh, did it rock the house. Even Jennifer Lopez voted for it.

What happens when rarefied, highly educated, highly prejudiced, highly self-involved gatekeepers give way to the maddening crowd? We are about to see. But I do know this: the Man Booker Prize is helping, along with amazon and other institutions that use electricity to make and distribute books, in making the world a more interesting place.

No, I’m not going to read about muddy England in the 2nd Century. But damn, I’m glad that I CAN if I WANT to. IF I WANT TO, I can put on a deeply cut jumpsuit – just like J Lo – and spend days lost in the world of 1041 England.

Thanks to the crowd, our histories live.