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Monthly Archives: May 2009

Allow Me to Introduce Howard Pyle (and a new blog category while I’m at it)

Back in my early/ier years, I read me a fair bit of Howard Pyle. I liked him. He knew how to make his historical fiction resonate (with me), and when he spun fantasy, he was always able to create scenes that absolutely demanded N.C. Wyeth illustrations. He did his own illustrations, and I liked them, but Wyeth would have been better. Which is no knock to Pyle. He was (after all) directly responsible for training Wyeth’s narrative and illustrative sensibilities, so it makes sense that the boyhood me always wanted to see Wyeth incarnate Pyle’s words.

But I’ve wandered. Back to the point. I liked Pyle. He was a friend. So when Random House asked me to write the introduction for Pyle’s collection of short fantasies Read the rest of this entry »

So You Wanna Be a Writer, Pt. 4 (An Exercise)

As is the case with most things that I say, this is stolen. But this isn’t stolen from another writer, this is stolen (and adapted) from a music video/film guy friend.

If you want to be a writer (professionally and not just as a hobbyist), here’s a litmus test for your dedication. Can you get up early and write a short creative sketch of the sunrise (oh, say, 250 wds)? Then can you do it again tomorrow? And the next day? Can you write 30 descriptive sketches of 30 consecutive sunrises? The simple exercise in discipline is hard enough, and it will tell you just how much you actually want to write. But on top of that, the writing component is quite difficult as well. How do you see the sunrise in a new way every morning? How do you express it in a new way? Can you get through the verbal cliche-flailing, and actually create 30 distinct scenes?

Adapt the exercise if you want. Stand in the same place every night and try to sketch 30 consecutive midnights. I have one student doing daily sketches of the same glass of wine. If you do try to do this (no matter how good you might already be), you will learn a lot about yourself as a writer, and you’ll have to move in new ways through the English language. Get off the worn footpaths of description. Kick through walls. Climb fences. Trespass.

I like the Festival of Books (belated debrief complete with pictures)

So (as it turns out), the L.A. Times puts on a mean not-so-little Festival of Books. The sun was shining, the palm trees were lovely and stereotypically sun-rustled, the UCLA campus was slammed with tens of thousands of bookish types, and the Target Children’s area was doing its best impression of an ant-farm. This was my first time participating, and I could have easily spent both days browsing and buying instead of what I actually did (work on my laptop and eat peanut M&Ms backstage).

A few remarks for the sake remarking . . . Read the rest of this entry »