April Events with me!

I’m giving several readings and talks this month–details below. If you’re local I’d love to see you!  April 8th 6:00 – 8:00pm – URBAN ARTS PLATFORM, Parking Garage Roof at The Northern Join us on Saturday, April 8th for a night of international and local talent featuring a stunning view of downtown billings atop the Northern … Continue reading April Events with me!

My Tools for Writing: Reprise

A while ago I wrote about my favorite programs/implements for writing efficiently, but I neglected to mention my most important tool: my laptop.

It didn’t seem worth mentioning because it’s an obvious tool. Most writers have some sort of computer or tablet  for writing. My own laptop faded into mundanity because I used it for everything; it wasn’t special anymore.

Until one day, thinking my computer was moving slow (I had taken to calling it “the dinosaur”), I watched the clock in the top right hand corner of my screen while waiting for Microsoft Word to open. Four minutes passed.

"Dinosaur Jr." by Stéfan via Flickr
“Dinosaur Jr.” by Stéfan via Flickr

I realized then that without much awareness, I had been building mini-accomplishments into my day to make those four minutes pass. Open a document/make a cup of tea. Send a file to print/take the laundry out of the dryer. Download an update/take the dog for a walk. I felt productive because I was multitasking but really, I was wasting a lot (3 minutes and 52 seconds) of time. I needed a new laptop. Continue reading “My Tools for Writing: Reprise”

How Being a Writer is Like Being a Gardner

photo 1I’ve reached an age where, because I don’t have any children, I’m picking up “adult hobbies.” I blame this too on the fact that I own a house now* and feel like, you know, I should probably take care of it. So, I’ve started gardening.

Last weekend I stepped into my yard to assess my hard work. The black-eyed Susans are blooming, so is the lavender, and the mint is out of control. The bee balm is bowing out of the mint’s way. The valerian root is trying to stand out amongst the weeds. The lilac bushes are holding their own, though one branch has given up. The pansies are fickle and wilt at a minute’s worth of too much sun, yet the second I flood them, they’ll perk up as if nothing was wrong. The pansies are acting like, well, pansies.

I realized there are probably a hundred metaphors or lessons on life in my garden. As I stepped close to examine leaves then stepped back to take in the whole plant or bush, I saw that the process of taking care of plants is much like the process of being a writer. Continue reading “How Being a Writer is Like Being a Gardner”

The Last Word

"The End” by  Bob Marzewski via Flickr used under a creative commons license.
“The End” by Bob Marzewski via Flickr used under a creative commons license.

On a recent episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour the crew discussed first impressions in movies, books, films and TV. Panelist Glen Weldon gave some of his favorite opening lines in books then went on to create this comprehensive list of opening lines.

Coming to the end of the rewrite on my own novel, I find myself contemplating endings rather than beginnings, and I have another writerly confession to make: I judge a book by its last word, which I read first.

Before you lay judgement, things that I know:

A) This is a ludicrous habit.

B) The likelihood that an entire book could be encapsulated by only the last word, when considering the numerous books in existence, is outrageously and implausibly small.

And you might wonder how I can peek at the last word without spoiling the ending.  My ability to flip to the last page and peek, only taking in that last word, maybe two, has been fostered by years of looking at scary movies through fingers, ready to close the gap in a nanosecond lest I see a wayward severed head. Continue reading “The Last Word”

What’s in a Name?

“Nameless here for evermore.” – The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe Recently I got married, and in the moments when I wasn’t deciding where my grandmother would sit during the ceremony, or trying to remember if I ate lunch that day, a quandary of many female writers weighed on my mind–once married, should I publish using … Continue reading What’s in a Name?

When Artists Retire

image courtesy of The Philip Roth Society

Last week, several American news outlets reported that novelist Philip Roth had written his last book.

Here is an excerpt from an article posted on Salon.com:

Roth said that at 74, realizing he was running out of years, he reread all his favorite novels, and then reread all his books in reverse chronological order. “I wanted to see if I had wasted my time writing,” he said. “And I thought it was rather successful. At the end of his life, the boxer Joe Louis said: ‘I did the best I could with what I had.’ This is exactly what I would say of my work: I did the best I could with what I had.

“And after that, I decided that I was done with fiction. I do not want to read, to write more,” he said. “I have dedicated my life to the novel: I studied, I taught, I wrote and I read. With the exclusion of almost everything else. Enough is enough! I no longer feel this fanaticism to write that I have experienced in my life.”

As an artist at the beginning of my career, Roth’s statements seem hard to believe. With more books to read than I can count, and story ideas that keep me awake at night, how could a lifetime be possibly long enough to read everything I want to read and write everything I want to write?

Roth’s statements bring to light a great debate or paradox for many artists: is being an artist a job or a calling?

Continue reading “When Artists Retire”