Stephen King’s “On Writing” (part two)

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I hate to admit that I’m still working on Stephen King’s “On Writing.” This speaks nothing of the quality of the memoir. It has something to do with the fact I have been slacking when it comes to reading.

I’m only 100 pages beyond where I was the first time I wrote about the book, but I stand by what I said the first time – it really is full of wisdom/good advice.

Here are some additional pieces of advice that have stuck out as I’ve (slowly) continued reading the memoir:

4.) Life is not a support system for art

King talks a lot about the struggle of writing. He says that a writer should put their desk in the corner of the room and not the middle of the room. He says this should be a reminder that “life isn’t a support system for art – it’s the other way around.”

5.) Take writing seriously

King says that you can approach writing with the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind.He goes further to say that no matter the reason you come to writing “come to it anyway but lightly.”

King says if people are willing to take it seriously, there is room for them to improve the craft.

6.) Use the vocabulary you have

Writers over time have said this in many different ways, but King tells us that a person’s vocabulary should sit on the top shelf of our “toolbox.” In other words writers shouldn’t try to make their writing fancier or longer just because the short words might make you feel ashamed. Use the vocabulary you have and don’t make a conscious effort to improve it, he said.

7.) Writing = magic

King points out that writing is a learned skill, but that skill can “create things far beyond our expectations.”

“We are talking about tools and carpentry, about words and style…but as we move along, you’d do well to remember that we are also talking about magic.”

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Stephen King’s On Writing

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This weekend I started reading Stephen King’s memoir, “On Writing.” I’m only 50 some pages in and the book is already full of wisdom/good advice.

Three pieces of advice that stick out in my mind are (I’m sure I’ll be adding more as I continue to read the memoir):

1.) Write your own story

King recalls showing a story to his mother. He had copied most of it from something else and when his mother read it, she told him to write one of his own.

“I remember an immense feeling of possibility at the idea, as if I had been ushered into a vast building filled with closed doors and had been given leave to open any I liked,” he said. “There were more doors than one person could ever open in a lifetime, I thought (and still think.)”

2.) There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central no Island of the Buried Best Sellers

King notes that good story ideas seem to come from nowhere.

“Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

3.) rejection letters are a sort of rite of passage

As King received rejection letters he put them all on a single nail in his room. When the nail wouldn’t support the weight of the rejection letters, he replace the nail with a spike and kept writing.

A story he wrote was rejected from a magazine and in red ink were the words “not fur us, but good. You have talent. Submit again.” Years later he found it and resubmitted it to the same magazine and it was purchased.

“One thing I’ve notice is that when you’ve had a little success, magazines are a lot less apt to use the phrase, ‘Not for us.”

Monday ramblings

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1.) I really, really enjoy Avicii’s new(ish) song, Wake Me Up. It’s on repeat.

“I tried carrying the weight of the world, but I only have two hands…I wish I could stay forever this young; not afraid to close my eyes. Life’s a game made for everyone and love is the prize.”

2.) Talking about dieting is annoying. I’m on weight watchers and think in points daily. I hear myself discussing points with other people and know how annoying it sounds. I’m just going to go ahead and apologize.

“I really want ice cream, but I don’t want to use the points.”

“God, I’m so hungry, but I used too many points for breakfast.”

3.) Dating is confusing. Not only is dating confusing, but there are several ways to miscommunicate. A text, phone call, email, Facebook chat, Tweet and Gmail chat could produce six separate comments/conversations. Therefore there are six ways something could be misinterpreted. Confused? My point, exactly.

4.) Reading a book allows you to try out thousands of careers, date hundreds of people and live in several different places without beginning a new job, breaking up with your boyfriend/girlfriend or packing up your apartment.

5.) My favorite part of Monday is midnight (Yes, I know that’s technically Tuesday) when I can check out iTunes and see what new songs, albums have been released.

A conversation with a teacher

Next in the series, collecting conversations,  I spoke with a teacher who not only has advice for twenty-something prospective teachers, but also isn’t afraid to participate in a 30-second Adele dance party.

Joan (pronounced Jo-Anne) is a science teacher who has the patience to work with seventh and eighth grade students daily. I would say that in itself is an accomplishment.

Joan has been teaching for 20 years. She spent the first nine years as a fifth grade teacher and next 11 in middle school science. She decided to go in to teaching when she was 26 years old and finished her degree when she was 31 years old.

“I was working in a dead end job as a secretary for a psychiatrist,” she said. “The therapists were loonier than the patients and I knew I wanted a degree and thought teaching would be interesting.”

Fast forward, Joan is in her early 50s and has experienced several ups and downs in the classroom. She has witnessed the change that comes with teaching.

“Even in just 20 years of teaching I have witnessed how much requirements are changing,” she said. “The system is standardized, rigid and students are now required to do so much testing.”

She said the best part of her job is the atmosphere of a school and the people she works with. The worst part of her job is dealing with parents who doesn’t believe their children can do wrong.

And as for her classroom, she said middle school students will always be middle school students.

“I’m  haunted by a child who has been eating boogers in my classroom this year,” she said.

Joan clarified seventh and eighth graders do, in fact, still exchange notes. She said she confiscates a lot but one that stuck out last year was a series of 80 questions between two individuals and one of the questions was “who invented masturbation?”

“I can’t make this stuff up,” she said.

Joan said advice she would give to twenty-something  teachers is to investigate requirements such as continuing education that will be required in the coming years and make sure it’s what he/she wants to do. She said she would also tell prospective teachers to be accountable and document curriculum covered in the classroom.

When asked if she thought new teachers knew what they were getting in to, she replied, “probably not, but I think that’s true of any job when you’re first starting out.”

The coolest lab (laboratory experiment) Joan has ever had in her class is an annual hot air balloon lab where students are required to make 6-feet tall hot air balloons out of tissue paper and launch them, with the help of faculty, using a gas grill.

Joan said the once piece of advice she says throughout each school years to students is that life is all about the choices you make.

In the future, Joan sees teaching becoming strictly computer, technology based. She said she wonders if teachers will become more like facilitators and students will do more online.

A look at a few of the questions
If someone asked you to participate in a thirty-second Adele dance party would you do it? Absolutely. (We then had a 30 second dance party to Rolling in the Deep)
What is something people don’t know about teaching?
I don’t think people truly know how much time we put in or how much of our own money we spend, especially grade-school teachers
How do you decide what age to focus on as a teacher?
Age is personal preference because some people can work better with younger kids more than older kids or vice versa. I did elementary education with a junior high endorsement in science. I have been happy with the age. I don’t like teaching high school students because they think they know everything.
Proudest moment?
Giving birth to my kids (She has two children in their twenties)
Scariest thing you’ve ever done?
Giving birth to my kids
Favorite genre, author, and book? Favorite movie you’ve seen lately?
Mystery/thriller, Harlan Coben and To Kill a Mocking Bird. Silver Linings Playbook.

Writers write, right?

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The first time I wrote a short story outside of school was when I was 10 years old. It was about a magic key that led to a secret forest by the creek in my backyard (hey, I was an imaginative kid). My love of blending words together on paper grew from there.

The first time I wrote a book I was 18 years old, a senior in high school. Looking back through it years later has made me cringe at some sections because I could see mistakes and unfinished thoughts.

The first time I received direction on my creative writing was in college through workshops. Professors took my writing shook it for a little bit and handed it back to me telling me to delve deeper. After my freshman year of college I decided to make creative writing my minor. Poetry, fiction and non-fiction workshops; I took them all.

I learned the most from an unpopular fiction professor. I say unpopular because he was harsh. I’ve seen people cry because of his class. However, every piece of information I’ve ever heard him give made the writer and story better.

The best advice he ever gave me was “The longer I teach the more I realize that it’s very human to want to get something done right, but that making good art takes time, practice and patience. Workshops can often be discouraging to young writers and sometimes because of workshop they give up. I hope you know that if you really want to continue to write all good things will come to you in time.”

I let my writing slack in the past 11 months and I’m going to try to be better. I’ve realized even though writing was easier in school when I had an allotted time to do it, it will never just be handed to me. I’ll have to work on it.

The first time I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I said a princess. The second time I was asked I said an Olympic swimmer. The third time I said I wanted to be an author. Since I haven’t yet turned into a princess or Olympic swimmer I think I’ll stick to writing. I might even start one of those annoying 7- or 30- day writing challenges and keep track of it on my blog. Forgive me, friends.

Kindle Fire: the one-night stand of ‘books’

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During my senior year of college I decided I wanted/needed a Kindle Fire. It is a cool device, but I’ve found the only time I use it is to connect to the Internet or play Fruit Ninja. I’ve even downloaded books, but haven’t read them using my Kindle yet.

I prefer reading an actual book. Since I bought the Kindle, I’ve purchased at least five physical books. It’s a preference thing; just like some people prefer to write by hand and some prefer to type. Therefore I’ve decided the Kindle Fire is the one-night stand of books.

No, but really. If a Kindle Fire and similar e-readers were people, they would be the boy with the aviators, smiling displaying dimples and white teeth or the girl with flowing hair and rose lips strolling with a coffee cup in one hand and a yoga mat in the other.

Both would be attractive, inviting you in.

They would be the people you text at 2 a.m. claiming you simply want to watch a movie and hang out. They would be the person you meet at a dim-lit bar and spend the evening with before you wake up, slip your clothes on and sneak out the door; only washing the night away with a hot shower, work out and coffee.

A book would be the person who surprises you with witty humor and quick responses; attractive but not arrogant and intelligent but not patronizing.

You would find you want to go on dates with them and spend more time hanging out during the day, instead of the after-midnight hours. You would listen when they spoke without staring at their lips, thinking you would like to rip their clothes off (okay, you would still think about that).

A book would be the one you take to meet your parents. The Kindle Fire would stay hidden away in a different area, and might as well be a different world.

The Kindle Fire is great to get on to Facebook for the 208th time and play Angry Birds, but, turning the pages of a book and getting to know the characters until you shut the book with a sigh, is more satisfying than any Kindle quickie.*

*In no way is this post an exaggeration or this footnote sarcastic. 😉

Safe Haven

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I went to see Safe Haven, another Nicholas Sparks’ book that has been adapted as a film, last night. Okay, okay, okay I know what you might be thinking…there’s another one?

I am not a die-hard Sparks fan. I love reading, but I don’t usually pick up his emotional-tragedy centered novels. (I’m currently reading Armageddon in Retrospect, a collections of short stories by Kurt Vonnegut).

I don’t like how the films inevitably use disease or death as a plot device, but I have enjoyed them for what they are – entertainment. And yes I have watched a few of the film adaptions – A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, The Last Song and Nights in Rodanthe – but they all have tragedy.

Safe Haven is no exception. My first thought from seeing the movie trailer was main characters, Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough, were an odd, romantic fit. As I watched it, however, I found the two had chemistry.

Hough’s character, a young woman named Katie, arrives in a small North Carolina town with a mysterious past. She tries to avoid personal relationships but reluctantly befriends, Alex (Duhamel), a widow store-owner with two small children.

The two develop a relationship when her dangerous past, she has been running from, catches up with her. She has to decide if she wants to spend her life running, never feeling safe, or face what happened and try to live.

The movie was suspenseful and had a surprise twist at the end, I did not anticipate.

I will admit I was pleasantly surprised with the movie and no, I didn’t resent the fact I spent the money to watch it in theater. I won’t say this often, but I would suggest the movie to those considering it and, hey, you’ll get points for sitting through a chick-flick if you’re on a date).

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