What is "Doom Eager"?

Lorrie Moore, from "Better and Sicker"
"Martha Graham speaks of the Icelandic term "doom eager" to denote that ordeal of isolation, restlessness, caughtness and artistic experiences when he or she is sick with an idea. When a writer is doom eager, the writing won't be sludge on the page; it will give readers -- and the writer, of course, is the very first reader -- an experience they've never had before, or perhaps a little and at last the words for an experience they have."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

William Saroyan answers the question How do you write?

American author William Saroyan answers the question How do you write? in his essay "Starting with a Tree and Finally Getting to the Death of a Brother." I think this is perhaps the number one question young and beginning writers want the answer to: How do you write?, meaning how can I write, how can I get good at writing. Here are a few passages from Saroyan's essay:
"My answer is that I start with the trees and keep right on straight ahead. . . . How do you die, write, live, sicken, heal, despair, rejoice? You are lucky if you don't start at the end, at abstraction. If you start at the beginning, at the specific, the seen, the real . . . There is no how to it, no how do you write, no how do you live, how do you die. If there were, nothing would live in the deep and very delicate chain of life. It is the doing that makes for continuance. It is not the knowing of how the doing is done. . . . A writer writes, and if he begins by remembering a tree in the backyard, that is solely to permit him gradually to reach the piano in the parlor room upon which rests the photograph of the kid brother killed in the war. . . . How do you write? You write, man, you write, that's how, and you do it the way the old English walnut tree puts forth leaf and fruit every year by the thousands. . . . If you practice an art faithfully, it will make you wise, and most writers can use a little wising up."

I don't think Saroyan's answer is quite what the insecure young writer is looking for . . . but I think it's the one he or she needs to hear.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

asking authors questions

Interviewer: How many drafts of a story do you do?

S.J. Perelman: Thirty-seven. I once tried doing thirty-three, but something was lacking, a certain--how shall I say?--je ne sais quoi. On another occasion, I tried forty-two versions, but the final effect was too lapidary--you know what I mean, Jack? What the hell are you trying to extort--my trade secrets?

"Why do people always expect authors to answer questions? I am an author because I want to ask questions. If I had answers I'd be a politician."
- Eugene Ionesco

Just an offering of humor from someone that lives for a good author interview. My favorite series is Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from The New York Times.

transmedia, the analytics of social media, and paradigm shifts in "traditional publishing": PW reports on the SXSW Interactive Festival

Rachel Deahl and Calvin Reed report for Publishers Weekly on another cool event I didn't get to attend, this year' South by Southwest Interactive Festival. Topics included paradigm shifts in "traditional publishing," analyzing the effectiveness of social media, and the dangers and delights of transmedia. Reading their article made me so jealous I don't get paid to cover neat stuff like this.

Read about it.
SXSWI: All We Got Was a Bunch of New Paradigms

By the way, anyone know a programmer who knows the Android platform and/or other ebook reader platform systems? Got a special project in the works for an animated children's ebook.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

novel finished . . . now the hard part starts

So, I haven't posted anything since Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Am I the worst blogger ever? I have been working hard, though. I finished the novel and have been steadily working on freelance writing and editing gigs, which is great because I have a thing about keeping the power on and the pantry stocked.

Finishing the novel was a glorious feeling. I felt high for days--that great writing euphoria you get when you're in the zone and the words come together seemingly on their own. John Gardner writes about this mental state when the consciousness opens up and you lose yourself in the piece, when you're no longer in the reader's way, in On Becoming a Novelist:
"In some apparently inexplicable way the mind opens up; one steps out of the world. One knows one was away because of the words one finds on the page when one comes back, a scene or a few lines more vivid and curious than anything one is capable of writing--though there they stand."

I was blessed to go there (or to leave here) a few times while writing Gems in the Rough. Those few moments alone were reason enough for writing the novel.

Now the hard part starts . . . revisions! My reading tonight is from Gardner again, this time from The Art of Fiction. Before I begin a full revision cycle (even though I've been revising and editing all along), I plan to read the second half of The Art of Fiction, "Notes on the Fictional Process," as well as his chapter "Publication and Survival" from On Becoming a Novelist, keeping in mind that Gardner had a rough go of it himself when it came to getting published. I have faith, though, and hope. And, a plus in my favor, I love the editing process. Let's see if I still love it after numerous passes through the novel.