Archive for the ‘Guest Blogs’ Category
Signing in late today… it’s been a long day of time spent at DMV and driving, driving and more driving. Oh, and more driving…
But I could not let the day close out without welcoming author Barbara Chepaitis to the Garden of Delights as my guest blogger for the week. Writer, reader, English professor, and interpretive artist among so many other things, Barbara Chepaitis also is a creative cook who blogs about life and pets and recipes on her blog: A Literary Lunch. She just recently finished a virtual book tour and graciously took some time out to leave the clay soil of her own garden to spend time in ours. And oddly, both have clay, clay, shale and more clay….
Please welcome, Ms. Barbara Chepaitis.
INSPIRATION HAS NO EXPIRATION DATE
When I’m asked about the source of inspiration for my writing, I don’t want to just say inspiration is everywhere, it’s all material, and so on. That’s true, but not very helpful. Maybe the better question is how do I access it? How do I get just the thought I need, just when I need it?
That’s simple. I get it by keeping myself in a state of open awareness, ready to filter any events, flitting images and thoughts, swirls of song or bits of conversation, into the needs of my work. I think that’s true of most artists. We’re always ready for inspiration, because we know that if we’re ready, it always shows up.
Here’s an example. When Jaguar Addams, my protagonist in the ‘Fear’ series of novels, first appeared, I was on my way to visit a friend who’d just had a baby, and my thoughts roamed as they do when you’re driving. I was asking myself what I might write next. I was also asking myself if I wanted to have another child. I was wondering rather than worrying, open to guidance rather than needing answers. In my tape player the Eurythmics song “No Fear, No Hate, No Broken Hearts,” was playing the opening lines – well, in the morning when our day begins/ and it feels like cold, dark steel.
Immediately, a woman with oceanic green eyes rose up, fixed me with her intent and told me quite clearly, “What you’ll do next is write me.”
She was Jaguar Addams, and I did exactly as she asked.
So you could say the source of inspiration was the song, but it had to combine with specific personal questions, and a state of open wondering.
In short, I was listening, both internally and externally.
Our culture gives more kudos to smooth talkers than good listeners, but for writers – perhaps all artists – that skill is the underpinning of inspiration. In fact, in the graduate writing classes I teach, one of the first things I make students do is spend ten minutes silently observing their environment. I tell them to listen with their eyes, their skin, and their heart as well as their ears. They’re always amazed at how much material they come away with.
Once they catch on, they can put themselves in that state more readily, and so inspiration falls into their waiting, open, hands.
Simple, right? Yes, but in our busy, frantic, noisy and cluttered world, it takes practice. Consummate artists practice it, literally, to the end of their lives. The great Irish harpist and composer, Carolan, composed his last piece on his deathbed – Carolan’s Farewell. Alan Ginsberg’s obituary said he spent his last hours with family and friends, and wrote six poems. They’d become so good at it, even the spectre of death didn’t chase their inspiration away.
So if you’re a writer seeking inspiration, or a reader wondering where it comes from, go sit on your front stoop or in your yard. Relax, and give all your attention to what’s around you. Then listen to your own heart. Reflect on what you’ve observed, and write about it.
And keep writing. Keep listening.
Barbara Chepaitis is author of eight published novels and two nonfiction books. Her most recent novel is The Green Memory of Fear, fifth book in the ‘fear’ series featuring Jaguar Addams. She is also director of the fiction writing program at Western College of Colorado’s Master’s program in creative writing.
Her Jaguar Addams novels can be found at Wildside Books, http://www.wildsidebooks.com/CHEPAITIS-B-A_c_315.html
- Guest Post by Barbara Chepaitis author of The Green Memory of Fear (alchemyofscrawl.wordpress.com)
- Your Inspirations Welcomes Martine Svanevik (edenmabee.wordpress.com)
I had the pleasure of making Laird’s acquaintance almost two years ago now through our local Atheist and Agnostics Group. At that time, I just knew he was an amazingly friendly guy, that his wife was amazingly patient with my son (who wanted to regale her with story upon story from books he loved), and that the conversation (which was very hard to follow in the crowd) often touched on ancient civilizations and science, both topics that enthrall me.
I asked Laird if he would write a piece on the sort of things that inspire him. As you can imagine by his diverse interests, he savors the world, but I’ll let him explain how in his own words. Without further ado, please welcome Laird Scranton to Your Inspirations:
For me, inspiration – the spark that breathes life into an idea – is something that comes much more easily when I surround myself with interesting people, situations, activities, and ideas. As with most things, the more immersed I am in an active exchange of interesting ideas, the easier it seems to be for me to come up with an interesting one of my own.
I often feel that inspiration can be triggered by little things, like some incidental thought that may cross my mind during the day, a simple phrase that I casually overhear, or the unexpected answer someone gives to a question I have asked.
Situations that offer changes in perspective also seem to help promote the processes of inspiration, and so I like brain teasers, optical illusions, mysteries, puns, and a funny new joke. I really appreciate being around children, in part because they are often not as practiced at seeing the world in the same old predefined ways.
Sometimes I even think to do things to change my own perspective. For example, try saying the same word over and over again so many times that you effectively disconnect the sound from the meaning.
At times I find inspiration in simple everyday mistakes. I have a friend who once briefly failed to recognize the word “fruit” because his mind somehow interpreted the letters as “fru –it”. My wife Risa recalls a time when her brother couldn’t remember whether the word “of” should be spelled OV or UV.
When I was in middle school, I became aware that I often found humor in things that almost no one else around me thought were funny. That still happens – just ask my wife.
I make an effort to pay close attention to my dreams, since I’ve often seen important thoughts play out in them. My dreams are sometimes set in unusual locales that can reappear again and again, and which I have learned to navigate with complete familiarity. I recently discovered one of these locales to be a neighborhood I actually lived in when I was only two years old, even though I had no conscious recollection of it.
Finally, as the word implies, I know that inspiration really should be as easy and natural as breathing in and out. The trick may be to simply pay close attention while you’re busy breathing.
A software designer by trade, Laird Scranton enjoys exploring the intersection of history, mythology, and science. His curiosity has inspired to write four books to date on topics that range from the analysis of the oral and symbolic teachings of the Dogan people in Mali to a reassessment of the Young Venus theory proposed by Immanuel Velikovsky . He has published articles through various universities, including Colgate and Temple. He has a degree in English from Vassar College. He lives in Albany, NY.
For further information on Laird’s writing, please check these links:
We’re back on schedule here at the Garden of Delights, and that means Your Inspirations. Today I have the honor of welcoming a wonderful writer (and an incredibly helpful and outgoing person), Martine Svanevik, the self-named nascent novelist. When you have a chance, please step over to her blog and read her most recent piece on Stories That Stick or any of a number of others
Writing in Public
There are two types of writers: reclusive and social. The reclusive writers hide away in corners, go on solitary retreats and lock themselves away so they can write. The social writers join groups and collectives, and like to go to parks or cafes to get their writing done.
Often, non-social writers and readers have the preconception that social writers are hipsters or posers or both. That their Macbook airs are open on blank pages because they have nothing of depth to offer, that they sit at cafes to be seen, while real writers hide away, shaping their words in private. But really, it’s all about the kind of environment you draw inspiration from.
The cafe writer enjoys the buzz of human interaction, she thrives on catching snippets of other people’s conversations, she needs a space where the tap-tap-tapping of fingers on keyboards won’t thunder through an empty room.
She knows that her words are written so they can be shared, and that it’s only in the reading of them that they serve a purpose, so she writes them in public. Or maybe she feels like the only place she can truly be in her own space, is in a crowd. That her muse hides in that special silence you get when you’re surrounded by noise and movement. Sure the laptop sets her apart, but it doesn’t define her.
Now, I’m not saying there’s a right way to write, or that everyone would gain a circumstance bonus from sitting in a noisy crowd. I am in awe of writers who are so comfortable in their own head that they can spend most of their time alone in there. What I am saying is that the search for inspiration might take us weird places, but as long as we’re willing to chase our muse, who cares where she leads us? I’m sure it’s going to be somewhere good.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to steal a snippet of conversation from the girls next to me, and then figure out the definition of a “Toronto bro.”
About Martine Helene Svanevik
Martine Helene Svanevik is a fiction writer from Montreal. She spends her days editing text for computer games, her evenings powerlifting and crossfitting, and her nights writing twisted stories set in a darker world than our own.
With many apologies to our guest, Janet Parfitt, for being a week late with posting this piece, I wish to offer her a warm welcome to the Garden of Delights as she shares one of her writing inspirations with us. I especially enjoy reading things that Janet posts, because (barring becoming a rock star), we share so many common interests. It always fascinates me to see the differences that occur even among common threads.
So, without further ado, please welcome, Janet Parfitt:
You only have to look in your local bookshop or go to Amazon to see that there are thousands, if not millions, of books about creative writing. An amazing amount of people have written on the subject with a lot of conflicting advice. There are those who tell you basically to just sit down and start writing and then there are those who say you should plan out every scene, character, setting and plot twist before you start.
You might wonder who all these people are and what makes them qualified to give you advice on writing. But there is one guy who I don’t think anyone in their right mind would question because he is the best-selling writer in the entire universe and his name is Steven King.
King’s book entitled “On Writing” is the best book ever written about the process of creative writing. I mean, what he doesn’t know can’t be worth knowing, right? And, as you would expect, it’s very well written; part biography and part writing manual, it’s all good. My favourite bit is the first sentence of the second foreword which goes “This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit.” You got to love the man for writing that!
He goes on to say that “If you want to be a writer, then you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” This is not a book padded out with lists or the same writing tips given out over and over, just phrased slightly differently. And it doesn’t have that school-marm slightly superior tone that says ‘I know better than you do.’ What he does is tell it to you straight; here’s another excerpt to show you what I mean. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.”
Thank you Steven!
Now in her late 40’s, Janet Parfitt has filled her creative reservoirs with the labors of many crafts. Diverse jobs such as filing clerk in a tax office, chamber maid in a hotel, vending machine maintenance in the (now closed) Kodak factory in Harrow and Wealdstone (UK) and sous chef in a restaurant supplemented her reading to inspire stories, poems, songs and dreams of becoming a rock star. Led Zeppelin, animal welfare, words of beauty, the mysteries of the occult stir her passions almost as much as her family and lovely husband. Raised in North London, she has a degree in history. She runs a writing related magazine Writing With Fire, a blog Mrs. Bongle, and can be found on Twitter at @MrsBongle. She is a practising witch.
Today I am ushering in what, I hope, will be a bi-monthly feature here at the Garden of Delights: Your Inspirations where I will feature a guest writer or painter or … Well, you’ll have to show up to see who I might have appear.
My first guest, Elaine Stock, writes fiction emphasizing Christian themes and faith-based resolutions.
What Inspires My Story Worlds by Elaine Stock
Is creativity taught, inspired, inherited, or a mixture of all three? For me, I believe it is a case of all three, plus throw in a form of escape and a method of surviving an otherwise different childhood that comes with a mentally ill parent. I want to emphasize that although I try not to dwell upon my past, and certainly do not expect or want people to take out their proverbial violins and play pity music, my childhood, like everyone else’s has certainly shaped my life and has shaped what I write. In a way for someone who is trying to publish book-length fiction—and only in hindsight can I say this now—at an early age I was provided opportunities to create stories because of my circumstances.
A Crayola Crayon 4-pack wasn’t a means to add color to drawings (although I did color) but instead became a classroom. Bright colors were girls. Darker colors were boys. But I didn’t stop there. I fixed them up as couples, and each had their own special backgrounds and futures.
A shoebox became an operating table for my poor Dawn doll when she “broke” her knee.
A bathtub a seaside vacation for dolls.
And oh, that enormous Noah Ark collection of paired animals that little pretend-boy had in the Brooklyn Museum still, to this day, inspires me to wonder what kind of lives all of God’s creatures have. And why?
See, I just wasn’t playing, creating, but trying to figure out the whys in life and the whys behind others’ life stories. To say that a story fascinates me is truly the whale of all understatements.
I’m also a 1960s child. I’d like to think that I’m naturally concerned about others’ welfare and rights, but I know the tumultuous times of the 1960s and early 1970s have shaped me and my stories. I might have been too young to march in protests or run off to join some hippie commune—actually, Divine Providence was looking out for me!—but social causes like discrimination, fighting for civil rights, freedom for all, and women’s roles, have affected me. And, I’m sure living in New York City, surrounded by many diverse cultures and religious groups, also helped to fuel my writing interests. One story I’m working passionately on is a Romeo and Juliet themed tale about what happens when a woman and man, from extreme opposite backgrounds, falls in love.
Then, there is music. I’m one of those writers that must write in silence. In silence I can slip into my story worlds. I can hear my heroine soothe her tense husband. I can feel my hero’s anger as it rings in his biting words. My stomach can buckle when my antagonist schemes a chase. Hearing any thing but my own story world pulls me right out of the place I need to create and sucks the air I need to breathe into my characters.
However, music inspires me. Give me a Kander and Ebb tune (All That Jazz) or fiddle music (can we say Eileen Ivers?) or Mozart and I can break out into dance or, like this morning after listening to my newest discovery of Jamie Grace (One Song At A Time), become inspired to write.
This is the short of what inspires me to write. I think, though, it’s more of a need, a burning desire. I really don’t know what it’s like not to write.
And I don’t want to find out.
On schizophrenic mothers:
Watch John Kander and Fred Ebbs perform All That Jazz—a true treat:
Elaine Stock never expected that a college major in psychology and sociology would walk her through the see-saw industries of food service and the weight-loss business; co-ownership with her husband in piano restoration; and ten years in community leadership. All great fodder for creating fiction.
Elaine’s blog, Everyone’s Story (http://elainestock.blogspot.com), has been graced by an awesome international viewership of 11,000 to date. Everyone’s Story hosts weekly interviews and reflections from published authors, unpublished writers, and readers who share inspirational stories. She has also been the guest on several other blogs, helping to further grow her presence on-line.
A former RWA member, she has presented writing workshops. Presently involved in ACFW, she was a 2011 semi-finalist in the prestigious Genesis Contest in the contemporary fiction division. She is also active on Twitter (Twitter@ElaineStock).
Her first short story was published on Christian Fiction Online Magazine and can be read at: http://www.christianfictiononlinemagazine.com/HisTime.htm
She and her husband make their home in an 1851 Rutland Railroad Station they painfully but lovingly restored in upstate New York, the gateway to the Berkshires.
Another Mini Mash-Up today… Really, it’s difficult to do anything but mash-ups when so many interesting things are going on all over the web lately. It feels really wonderful to be part of such a creative global community.
The news first:
As I noted on Tuesday, I will be hosting my very first guest blogger, Elaine Stock, who will be sharing with us those things that inspired her to write and tell stories. A writer of faith-based fiction, Elaine’s curiosity and love of people has led her to welcome writers and readers from all over the world to tell their stories. If you have the time, pop over to her page and check out some her guests. You won’t be disappointed.
Now for the fun stuff:
Flash fiction! Yep, as I posted for my recent ROW80 update, I’ve finally gotten myself back into the Swing of Things, and that means some Friday Flash Fiction. It’s not as if I’ve kept up with my flash fiction of late. No Five Minute Getaways… No random prompts… I am even behind on my Three Word Wednesday posts over at Many Worlds From Many Minds.
Well, to make up for some lost time, here is a piece of quasi-inspired writing to (hopefully) amuse you.
Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog gets a lot of traffic on Fridays because of the flash fiction challenges he posts, and normally I wouldn’t have bothered with an expired contest, but I felt a need to write a piece (albeit a week late) for Chuck’s The 10K Contest where people were supposed to write a full story of less than 100 words in five sentences.
Her footsteps creaked on the stairs as she came down slower than normal. He knew she’d heard about the shooting as soon as he saw her tear-stained face. Steeling himself, “Honey, there was a–,” he started to say. He reached out to wipe away a tear, wrapping his other arm around her, but she stiffened against the bulk of the P225 under his coat.
Refusing to give up faced with going to their son’s funeral alone, he clung to her, sobbing in her hair, “I didn’t know it was Bobby–I honestly didn’t know….”
That’s it. Not much to it, I’m afraid. There was supposed to be more, but due to technical issues I regret to inform you that those pieces have been canceled. I am endeavoring to reschedule them for a later date. 😉
“Knowledge is learning something every day. Wisdom is letting go of something every day.”
–Zen Proverb (unattrib)
A bit of an information dump for the day.. So many things have happened, and so much new is occurring, it seems wise to put some of it out there. And to force my hand, since I do seem to be a Mistress of the 8 Cups (in this sense, for an even better interpretation, imho) and sometimes need to have something engraved in stone before I get it done.
…on the short list, is announcing my very first guest blogger will be featured on my page next Monday (March 5). Back at the beginning of this month, I was invited to do a guest piece on Elaine Stock’s blog “Everyone’s Story” and now Elaine has graciously returned the favor, writing a lovely piece on inspiration and the young writer. I hope you will come and meet this very sweet lady and share some of your own thoughts with her (and myself).
And if you are interested in doing a guest piece, please feel free to contact me via email at mouse(at)sff(dot)net or @Kymele on Twitter
When Borders closed all of its retail outlets last summer, I did what any sane bibliophile would do with a fistful of gift cards that were about to become useless plastic and filled out the stacks of “to read later” books that set around my house to capacity and beyond. And with encouragement from my poor, suffering husband and a few reading challenges, slowly, I’ve worked my way through them. Recently I have finished two books on my Bookmarks list and am preparing reviews of them for posting here.
So keep watch…
Just a mood thing… Next time you go out to dinner, give your waiter or waitress some “Happy Customer Luv”. They really are amazing people. Whenever I get the chance to chat with my servers, I do. It’s always a great conversation. So here’s a bit of a “Thank You” to all those very nice people who’ve brought me yummy (and often bad for me) food, smiled even when tired and had a lot of things to stress about, and in general made my world a bit broader and more interesting!