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The Writing Bug

  • October 09, 2019 9:20 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

    By Eleanor Shelton

    Do you remember a year or more ago when a dress that some said was blue and black others said was white and gold? Or how about those tennis shoes that looked pink to some and grey to others? It’s kind of freaky if you think about how we can see one thing and assume that we are right and others are wrong.

    But those others are our friends, colleagues, family. How can we share the same political beliefs, worldview, and sense of social justice, and yet when a pair of sneakers is clearly pink, how can they see them as silver? It’s frankly disturbing!


    I remember arguing in a car full of people who saw the sneakers as silver. I was the only hold out for pink. I felt righteous indignation until I wondered if it was a good thing that we didn’t see things in the same light (admittedly, it was a thought that took a while to mature). I could change my point of view about those sneakers and that darned dress.

    Not that I see the colors wrong, but that if we see things differently, our world is full of opportunity for a different dialogue.

    It’s the same with literature. What I love to read or write isn’t what my friend enjoys. My closest friend gobbles up sci-fi and especially vampire stories. Dystopian delights can put her on the couch reading all day. For me, mysteries and thrillers with exciting characters are what keeps me from participating in life.

    While I don’t understand the lure of new and different worlds, I can appreciate that something grips her so hard that the rest of the everyday life falls away into annoying background noise.


    As 2019 is about to become 2020, I saw a list of the decade’s most influential books. One of those books on the list is The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obrecht. I had just checked it out of the library by coincidence and was thinking hard about not finishing it.

    It wasn’t gripping me. But then I saw it on that list. Damn! Was I giving up on a book that was one of the best of the decade? Others saw it as excellent, I felt the story was too slow to develop.

    But as writers and readers, we grow and change. Life gives us new perspectives that are reflected in the way we look at art, literature, our own writing, even the world around us. Thank god we grow and change, and thank Godder (a new word I just made up) that we see things differently! In the lists of “must-read” books are several Japanese authors, and American authors of color.

    That change is a significant step toward opening us to different perspectives. What I read and enjoyed as a child (Little Black Sambo) is cringe-worthy to me. I’ve changed, my readings tastes have changed, and my perspectives have evolved.

    And those things should change. It's how we navigate the world and build understanding for those people who don't necessarily look like, sound like, or live like we do.  

    Just for the record, the sneakers are grey, and the dress is white and gold.

    Why You Should Read Books You Hate

    25 Most Hated Books

    Book You Hated in High School

  • October 03, 2019 11:12 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

       By Laura Mahal

    The 2019 NCW anthology—Rise!—was recently released. Within its covers, readers will find pieces of incredible depth and beauty, with themes of resilience, adaptation, and the relationships that bring us grief, joy, and wisdom.

    Change is an ever-present force in our lives. Whether we rage against it or embrace it, change impacts all of us.

    I spoke with several writers, who generously weighed in on how they cope with change:

    1.) When one door closes, another one opens.

    Patricia Stoltey, the author of Wishing Caswell Dead, offers this example:

    What I’ve learned in my many years is that change is going to come whether we want it or not. My best writing-related example is the announcement Five Star made after publishing my first three books. They dropped their whole mystery line . . . I had to look for another publisher or haul out an old unpublished piece of historical fiction (Wishing Caswell Dead) to rewrite for Five Star’s remaining line—Frontier Fiction/Western. I did the latter, surprising myself with a new love for historical research. In this case, adapting made my life easier and helped me discover a different writing direction.

    Lesson learned: When life insists, you step onto a new path, adjust in such a way as to thrive.

    2.) Look to the stars. 

    Jason Arment, the author of Musalaheen, said this about adaption and moving in a new direction:

    [I] read/studied those who have come before.

    He added:

    It’s good to analyze one’s methods and especially concerning efficacy. Not just how they are useful, but how they are ineffective.

    Ronda Simmons, a blogger for The Writing Bug, suggested visualization.

    Imagine what you want instead. For example, if the problem were my job, I would ask myself, ‘What would be my perfect job?’ and then ‘see’ it.

    Lesson learned: Be open to looking within. Seek inspiration from others who have made the types of changes you may also be required to take. Attitude is key. Try reframing the transition into a positive outlook.

    3.) What advice would you offer others who are facing unasked-for changes?

    Ronda Simmons:

    First, be kind to yourself. Do the self-care things that work for you. For me, I ramp up the time I spend in prayer and meditation. Also, for me individually, in times like this, I clean my house. Having an organized, clean environment settles my nerves and helps me stay on track.

    Pat Stoltey:

    For those facing enormous challenges, it’s essential to seek help and get good advice, take care of yourself, choose a new approach to significant obstacles, and allow yourself to move on when it’s time. Change is inevitable. We must adapt.

    Sheala Henke, author of Painting Half the Sky:

    If we’re not moving, we’re not growing, and in that way, maybe looking at change through the life cycle of the butterfly can help us move ON, OUT, and elevate us UP . . . Epicurus said of the pupa, ‘All tucked up in there is a little fist of opportunity. It waits, deep and dark inside, and when the time is ripe and ready, it can transform the entire world with one flutter of new wings.’

    Lesson learned: Take care of yourself. Change isn’t easy. But be open to it. Because it might lead to the exact transformation, you require in your life.

    Ten Ways to Cope With Big Changes

    Five Ways to Embrace Change

    How to Embrace Change Forced on You

    Thanks to our Northern Colorado Authors:

    Pat Stoltey:

    Jason Arment:

    Sheala Henke:

  • September 26, 2019 9:37 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

    By David E. Sharp

    Writers have an endless list of strategies for jogging their creativity and stretching their imaginations. Writing prompts, character development exercises, free-flow sessions, and the like are all great. But I also like to step away from the desk and sharpen my creative skills in another way.

    Also, let's face it, we could probably use a little face time with actual people. 

    Group Game Night!

    I love to gather fellow creatives around a table and match our wits in an arena of cards, dice, or gameboard tokens. Will it get your novel written? No! Will it get you over the latest bout of writer’s block? How would I know? But is it a fun way to make yourself a better writer? Yes, with an emphasis on the fun!

    I’m not talking Monopoly, though. Unless your book is about a shoe seeking to become a real estate tycoon, this isn’t going to do much for you as a writer. Instead, here are a few of my favorite games that utilize those creative writing skills.


    Abstract Communication Games

    Writers must continuously strive to find innovative ways to communicate ideas to their readers. Metaphor, personification, and symbolism are all crucial, but they only work if your reader can make the connection. These games challenge you to find unusual ways of communicating with your fellow players.

    Mysterium: One player is a ghost who must communicate with the other players, not through words, but through abstract images to help them discover a murderer. It’s like clue but with a spooky twist. Perfect for October.

    Good for All Ages.

    Dixit: Another game that uses abstract art. Here you want to describe your art in a single word that will help players pick your piece out of a lineup. Don’t be too obvious, though. You only get points if you also mislead some of the players at the same time.


    Storytelling Games

    The benefit here is obvious. These games utilize cards to make communal storytelling more challenging and keep you thinking on your feet.

    Gloom: Each player takes control of a family upon whose members you must cast trouble and misfortune. Play cards to inflict tragic life events, or happy circumstances upon your opponents. However, your plays don’t count if you don’t narrate how each event comes to pass with lots of dramatic emphases.

    Once Upon a Time: Similar to a campfire story-in-the-round. However, in this version, you have a hand of story element cards – characters, settings, events, etc. As you include these elements in your story, you may discard the accompanying cards. However, your opponents can steal the narrative if you name a feature that corresponds to one of their cards. The first player to drop everything wins.

    Creative Combinations Games

    You’ve written yourself into a corner. How will you get your characters out of this fine mess? Here are some games to help you come up with unusual solutions.

    Wing It: Each player has a hand of cards describing a complex assembly of “survival” gear. You will have to combine them in creative ways to overcome random problematic events that are sure to come your way. Find the best solution to take the victory.

    A Lighter Version of CAH.

    Snake Oil: Similar to Apples to Apples. Here you must create an invention from a limited list of combinable words to create the most coveted product for the customer. Incidentally, the customer might be a surfer, a vampire, a pirate, or any other odd person from round to round.


    Put the Role in Role Playing 

    If role-playing games are in your wheelhouse, here are a few that can help you cast characters in vivid detail.

    Fiasco: This game isn’t so much about winning or losing as it is about watching a narrative unravel into a total disaster. If you’ve ever wanted to play a part in a Cohen Brothers movie, this may be the game for you. Create characters, connections, and aspirations through randomized means, then hold on tight as you watch your fictional world come tumbling down.

    Murder Mystery Party: Go all out with costumes, invitations, and cheesy character voices. These games come with notebooks containing clues each character must divulge in consecutive rounds, and some secrets they don’t have to reveal unless directly asked. Can you find out whodunnit? You can sure have fun trying.

    Most of these games are available through Amazon or at your local games store. Link up with some of your fellow writers and get to work. These games aren’t going to play themselves!

    Check Out Game Reviewers For More Suggestions.

  • September 19, 2019 6:35 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

        By Ronda Simmons

    Professional football players warm-up before every game or practice. So do rock climbers, Little Leaguers, dancers and anyone else whose work or art is physical. Increasing heart rates improves your circulation. Stronger blood flow delivers more oxygen to the brain and body and gets the fluids moving to lubricate joints. It readies them for physical activity and prevents injuries.

    She's thinking about her WIP.

    A proper pre-session warm-up can be as valuable to an author as it is to an Olympic athlete. It is challenging to sit down at a keyboard or desk and begin writing really excellent prose all at once. Gently getting the synapses to fire can prepare the writer to produce his or her best work and can prevent the dreaded writer’s block.

    Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down The Bones, quotes Katagiri Roshi's term: "fighting the tofu." You know tofu, it's viscous and unwieldy. Wrestling in the muck is ineffectual. Writing warm-up can clear out your brain and get to the good stuff. Sorry, tofu lovers.

    One way to warm up is to re-write a passage from an author you admire. Copy their prose word for word. Here’s one I often use, the opening paragraph of A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway:

    In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.

    I write it and then delete the whole thing. Once I’ve warmed up with a little Hemingway, I find my mind limber and ready to go. My own words flow more easily. I get into the zone more quickly.

    I chose this particular passage because it’s haunting and beautiful, and I admire Hemingway’s concise, unadorned style. You might want to try something by Faulkner if you are more of a fan of his long sentences and subordinate clauses.

    Or pick anyone else, from Neil Gaiman to Shel Silverstein, Stephen King to Maya Angelou, Diana Gabaldon to Andy Weir to rework. Maybe memoir is your thing. Find an excellent autobiography and copy a couple of beautiful sentences as an exercise. 

    My favorite? I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron.

    You may find this technique works for you. Find an excerpt that you consider perfect. Copy it and fall in love all over again.

    There are other warm-up techniques, including automatic writing, personification, letter writing, and many others. 

    The Ten Best Writing Warm Ups

    7 Fun and Easy Warm Ups to Start Your Writing Day

    Teaching: Creative Writing Warm-Ups

  • September 12, 2019 10:09 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)


    By Brian Kaufman

    Perhaps you just finished work on a successful project and wonder what sort of book can match the emotional impact of the one you just finished. Or maybe you are amid fielding rejections and wonder if you’re writing in the wrong genre.

    There are variations of the questions you face, but they all boil down to two words—what next?


    The question assumes you don’t have a contractual or strategic answer, like a book deal or an ongoing series. If so, you may come to envy the freedom that my central question implies.


    I have two answers for you. The first answer is, do something different.


    This might not be good advice from a marketing perspective. Projects are best staged to build and support previous work so that the release of a new book is a marketing tool for your backlist. But doing something different is great for your writing.


    My poet wife once announced her attention to write a villanelle—a nineteen-line poem with two recurring rhymes. (The one you know is Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.) I asked her why on earth, anyone would ever do such a thing. Her answer was simple. “It’s new, and I need to stretch.” Enough said.


    My second answer to the question of your next project has to do with your calling as a writer.

    If you have more than one book in you, then you may have a project that you’ve been keeping on a back shelf, waiting for the skills to pull it off. Or perhaps you have a vague idea of writing the perfect book. Or the Great American Novel. Or maybe just a book that matters.


    I had three such books in mind. One was a multi-chapter, multi-character novel that I couldn’t wrap my head around in any structural way. The second was an epic historical. The research and plotting seemed beyond my abilities. The third book had a touchy theme that might prove too contentious.


    Then my folks passed, one after the other. That kind of loss will give you pause.


    I started writing when I was twelve. More than five decades had gone by, and I still hadn’t written the books I was meant to write. So, I got busy.


    If you have bucket list projects that have been on the back shelf, let me encourage you to get busy yourself.


    If, on the other hand, you have a desire to write an important book but don’t know exactly what that looks like, here are a few ideas to help your thought process:

    • Poke a wound. If a subject makes you uncomfortable, touches a raw nerve, or leaves you conflicted, then that subject is worth exploring.

    • Remember what made you want to write. Was it a certain kind of story? A theme that resonates with you on a cellular level? That’s an excellent place to start your project search.

    • Change the world. Is there a cause you believe in more than any other? (I’m not suggesting you write a polemic. In fact, you might even start with the other side of your issue, knowing that by fully understanding counter-arguments, you can avoid a superficial story.)

    • Reveal the meaning of life. Aristotle said, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” Literature gives us both good and bad truths. Tell us yours.

    • Write something beautiful. The world is full of ugly things. Balance the scales a little.


    The search for your next project can improve your skills, put a checkmark on your bucket list, or change the world. Don’t let the search frighten or frustrate. A world of possibilities awaits!

  • September 05, 2019 1:32 PM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

     By Eleanor Shelton    

    When I was a kid, I jumped at the chance to accompany my younger sister into the library in the small town where our grandparents own a summer cottage.

    To her, libraries were a place where the next adventure waited, another era came to life, or more facts could be added to her ever-expanding brain. To me, the books were colorful, stout or thin strips lined up alongside each other like soldiers at a military parade.

    New Library in China.

    I hated to read or write, and libraries were quiet places that became boring about ten minutes after I entered them. I was dyslexic and I no more thought reading was fun than I did going to the dentist.

    So why did I go each time with my sister? Because there was a Dairy Queen right next door and I knew that my patience would be rewarded with an ice cream cone.

    My grandmother was a librarian with a master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Michigan. Her passion for reading seemed to hold a higher place than her love for her grandchildren. Libraries were placed where I had to behave or risk a stern grandmotherly look from over a pair of thin spectacles.

    Fast forward 15 years and libraries are among my favorite places in the world. I’m still dyslexic, although thanks to tutoring and learning tricks, I no longer hate to read and write. As a matter of fact, I love doing both of those things. A couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled to read an article in The New York Times about new libraries all over the world, becoming tourist attractions

    A few of the new stunning and interactive libraries that have opened recently around the world are serving as tourist attractions. No longer are libraries stodgy places where the nerdy introverts go to find excitement. Now libraries are destinations where the community can make a movie, 3D print artwork, attend a concert, use as an office, or even catch a train. And, oh yeah, you can still check out a book.

    Delft University of Technology Library in the Netherlands.

    The University of Michigan still offers a degree but no longer is it called Library Sciences. Now a student can earn a Master of Information Science. Librarians are dealing with information in all its meanings and interconnectedness in this shrinking world. Courses such as Programs, Information and People; Data Manipulation; and Opportunity have replaced the Dewey Decimal System in the Age of Intelligent Machines. Librarians are now data management experts. We're a long way from the librarians and research assistants from my grandmother's day.

    I wondered about the libraries in my area. About 80 percent of the 200,000 people who call the Fort Collins area home have library cards.

    Each day,

    • more than 2,800 people visit one of the three libraries
    • over 8,000 items, including 3,500 children’s material are checked out,
    • Library staff answers more than 300 information-seeking questions
    • Over 170 community members attend one of the many library programs, including five daily children’s programs.

    “Still and always libraries are a gateway to knowledge and culture—that gateway just looks different than it did 25 years ago. No longer are books the stand-alone purpose of a library. Today we’re all about partnerships, networking, reinforcing cultural movements, making sure technology is freely available to everyone, (though we still check out books--they just might be in digital form),” says Anne Macdonald, Adult Services Librarian at the Harmony Library Branch of the Poudre River Public Library District.

    Today, visions of ice cream no longer fill my head when I think about a trip to the library. Now I wonder at our luck at being able to freely walk into a library and walk out a slightly different person. Within those walls are housed hundreds of thousands of stories, the intellectual and passionate pursuits of millions of people, and the key to unlocking our imaginations.

  • August 29, 2019 10:25 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

    By David E. Sharp  


    Yes, you should.

    I've worked in libraries and bookstores for about two decades. I have seen that, from a reader perspective, we are a novel-centric culture. I'm not sure if people feel that short stories are beneath them or simply forget about them as a literary medium. For aspiring writers, it may seem wise to move straight into the longform opus. Why waste time on short stories if there's not much readership for them?

    Short stories are worth your time and creativity:

    1. For one thing, they're short.

    We may as well start with the obvious. My first novel took five years from its first draft to final publication. There were a lot of rewrites in that process. And feedback, rejection letters, periods of creative simmering, etc. That's not an efficient way to build up a writing portfolio.

    In that same window of time, I had opportunity to publish four smaller pieces of fiction and several articles. The number of short pieces I had written that remain unpublished is more than I can recall. While writing a long work is an exciting endeavor, short stories are a great way to get your foot into that publishing door.

    You can go through an initial draft, love it, hate it, threaten to end your writing career and become a banker, re-evaluate everything, draft five to ten rewrites, fall in love with it all over again and decide that you're a genius all within the space of a week! What's not to love about that?

    2. Short stories function as a literary laboratory.

    Just A Few Drops of Metaphor And A Dash of Hyperbole. Let's See If It Explodes.

    Short fiction offers opportunity for experimentation. You can tell a story from the perspective of a wine glass. You can rewrite an old fable through a series of newspaper and magazine headlines. You can infect your prose with bizarre and innovative techniques that won't destroy months or years of work if they don't work out. Or perhaps they will work out, and you've got something you can implement in your longer narratives.

    3. Short stories also function as an idea warehouse.

    Numerous are the authors who grew a novel out of a short story. In the case of Ray Bradbury, several short stories set to a fictional timeline became a "novel" in The Martian Chronicles. Not every literary seed will germinate, but you may be surprised which ones take root.

    A file of your own short stories is a great tool for overcoming writer's block. Maybe you have some that will never see publication. Disassemble them for parts. Take the best ideas out of them and utilize them somewhere else. You can reuse your own creativity to give your novel some momentum in a slow chapter.  

    Short stories can serve you well even if you never plan to publish them.

    4.     They're more relevant than you may realize.

    We've Heard You're Fancy Novel Making All Of The Talk. Well, We're A Collection And We Don't Appreciate Your Tone.

    This is an age of brevity. While our novels may be comparable to movies, a short story is like a Youtube video. You can read them in a single sitting, share them with friends, and lose an afternoon to a good collection.

    There are several avenues by which you can deliver your short fiction to its readership. For one, literary journals often feature brilliant short fiction to a wide readership.

    Here's a list of fifty you may consider:

    Or, here are another thirty digital journals:

    If you're into competitive brackets, there are some excellent short story contests including those sponsored by NYC Midnight (a great source of feedback, by the way).

    And there are some high-quality compilations as well. Such as this lovely edition recently curated by the Northern Colorado Writers:

    Bradbury challenged writers to write a new short story every week. Could you hold yourself to that for a year? Imagine the ideas you'd have!

    What's a short story you'd like to write? Let us know in the comments. And then go write it! (What's it going to take you, a few hours?)

  • August 21, 2019 8:45 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

      By Ronda Simmons     

    A trope, according to Miriam-Webster, is “a common or overused theme or device.” In movies and literature, examples include:

    · the ugly duckling turns into a beauty queen

    · the commoner inherits the crown

    · the dead bad guy isn’t dead after all

    · the race to the airport

    · the hooker with a heart of gold

    Not all tropes are bad. In fact, some are required. For example, in a romantic comedy, you better have a “happily ever after” ending. In a classic buddy movie, the friends must part, but eventually reunite with a stronger bond. A superhero must always have a nemesis.

    Here are some examples of tropes used well:

    · The Unlikely Hero of Humble Origins: Frodo in The Lord of the Rings; Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games; Harry Potter in the Harry Potter books.

    · The Love Triangle: Katniss again, having to choose between Peeta and Gale; Scarlett in love with both Rhett and Ashley in Gone with the Wind; Claire is in love with both her husband Frank and the kilt-wearing Jamie in Outlander.

    Poking Fun at The Power Walk.

    · The Power Walk: When a group of misfits becomes a team, and they walk toward the camera in a line, often in slow motion. Guardians of the Galaxy or The Avengers.

    The challenge with tropes is that they can be a crutch or, admit it, lazy writing. Is your bad guy purely evil? No one is. Give your villain three dimensions. Make them interesting! Are the high school cheerleaders in your story sort of brainless? Why not give them good grades? Is the football player mean to the skinny nerd? Why not make them best friends instead?


    Tropes are tools, so good ahead and use them in your writing. Just be aware that if you decide to use one, use it well.

    For more on tropes, see these websites:

    12 Overused Story Tropes in Modern Literature

    6 Absurd Action Tropes You Never Noticed and Can’t Unsee

    The Good, the Bad & the Overdone: Tropes in Fiction

    The trope I loathe the most is the homely-person-transformed-into-a-beauty-by-taking-off-their-glasses one. Do you have any trope pet peeves? Add them in the comments!

  • August 07, 2019 12:30 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)


     By Eleanor Shelton 

    June of 2016 I was accepted into a novel editing workshop in the Aspen Summer Words Conference. The faculty member for my workshop was George Hodgman, a former editor at Houghton Mifflin, Simon & Schuster, and Vanity Fair. He had recently published his award-winning memoir Bettyville.

    When I walked into the condo where the workshop was being held, there was a pudgy man with a large face, wrapped in a leopard blanket. He didn’t talk to the six of us right away, but looked at us, even through us. A wave of discomfort fell on the room. What had we gotten into.

    “Well, here we are, aren’t we?” he said in a Missouri-drawl that held both irony and sarcasm.

    That week George was grumpy, sweet, hilarious, and erudite. Once we got used to his unique look and thought process, we began to relax and really listen to him.

    Perfectly timed, dry humor was his schtick.

    “Well, here we are, aren’t we?” he said in a Missouri-drawl that held both irony and sarcasm.

    When I walked into the condo where the workshop was being held, there was a pudgy man with a broad face, wrapped in a leopard blanket. He didn’t talk to the six of us right away, but looked at us, even through us. A wave of discomfort fell on the room. What had we gotten into?

    That week George Hodgman was grumpy, sweet, hilarious, and erudite. Once we got used to his unique look and thought process, we began to relax and really listen to him. His humor was dry with perfect timing.

    When my assigned critique partner suggested that I should delete a death scene from my novel, George leaned over and whispered in my ear loud enough for the entire table to hear, “Ignore him, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, this is one of the best death scenes I’ve ever read. You delete it, and I’ll be very irritated with you.” Then he wagged his finger at me like my mother might.

    He met with me for half an hour before breakfast so he and I could talk, just the two of us. He gave me thoughts on my novel, suggested a list of agents to query, and wrote me a letter of introduction to an editor at St. Martin’s Press he thought would connect with my work.

    When he got a text from his airline that his flight might be delayed or canceled out of Aspen, he leaped up from the table and paced back and forth, throwing his hands in the air panic-stricken that his dog would be alone. Who would take care of his dog for this extra day? His agitation paused our workshop that last day and as he called friend after friend to find someone to dog sit. His voice grew louder and louder as person after person turned him down. In his leopard blanket, he ran his hand through his hair as he marched back and forth.

    We just stopped and watched the drama.

    After the workshop, he would call me from time to time to check in and see how my writing was coming and offer advice and talk about challenges that he faced in his work, such as Hollywood’s on-again, off-again flirtation with developing Bettyville into a movie starring Shirley MacLaine. We also became Facebook friends. George posted often raging about politics in the nation and his beloved Missouri. There were copious pictures of dogs who had been abandoned and needed homes.

    Lately, his posts were one of two things: beautiful villages from around the world or stately homes or historic buildings now dilapidated and forgotten to time. George Hodgman collected images of vulnerable animals he couldn’t adopt, abandoned, and forgotten structures he begged people to save, and breath-taking scenes of places he would never visit.

    Saturday, July 20, George Hodgman took his own life. I found out Sunday morning, and the breath left me. I knew that he lived with depression, and I could tell when he was struggling because the images of sad-eyed dogs, Victorian homes with broken windows and peeling paint, and picturesque Italian seaside villages stopped. But the photos would always resume, and I knew he was back to himself. They won’t appear anymore.

    The images he shared with his hundreds of followers were a reflection of him: sad, broken, yet with hope.

    As a writing faculty, he took a little getting used to. But that effort was paid back a hundred-fold. His memoir was open, raw, humorous, just as he was. He will never know what his time and attention meant to me as an insecure writer, hoping that I had some work with merit.

    Meeting other writers at conferences and retreats is a precious commodity and I am fortunate to have experienced his expertise and mentorship. 

  • July 30, 2019 9:48 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

    By David E. Sharp

    An Interview with Charles Dickens

    DS: It's time for another fake interview with a deceased author. Today, from his grave in Poet's Corner, we have the inimitable Charles Dickens. Mr. Dickens, you are known for painting the modern picture of Victorian England, creating larger than life characters that still capture our imagination today, and publishing your stories a chapter at a time in serialized formats. Thank you for being here today.

    CD: We are so very 'umble.

    To profit from good advice requires more wisdom than to give it.

    --Wilson Mizner

    DS: Charles, you had a difficult start in life. Your father went to Debtor's prison, and you had to stop school and work in a factory at the age of twelve.

    CD: I know I do not exaggerate, unconsciously, and unintentionally, the scantiness of my resources and the difficulty of my life... I know that, but for the mercy of God, I might easily have been, for any care that was taken of me, a little robber or a vagabond.

    DS: Is it fair to say you were a reader at a young age?

    CD: Little Red Riding Hood was my first love. It is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected. Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, Humphrey Clinker, Tom Jones, the Vicar of Wakefield, Don Quixote, Gil Blas, and Robinson Crusoe, came out, a glorious host, to keep me company. They kept alive my fancy, and my hope of something beyond that place and time.

    DS: Agreed. A love of writing naturally follows a love of reading. In spite of your limited education, you went on to write multiple novels, short stories, and kept a journal for twenty years.

    CD: I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.

    DS: You were diligent. I must admit, I struggle to focus on one idea at a time.

    CD: An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself. Curiosity is and has been from the creation of the world, a master-passion. To awaken it, to gratify it by slight degrees, and yet leave something always in suspense, is to establish the surest hold that can be had.

    DS: So, perhaps carving out some time to muse on our ideas and let our stories have a chance to tell themselves to us is the best first step.

    CD: The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.

    DS: But you also mentioned punctuality and diligence. Can you speak more to that in the life of a writer?

    CD: Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him. Rattle me out of bed early, set me going, give me as short a time as you like to bolt my meals in, and keep me at it.

    DS: And I'm sure your chapter by chapter deadlines didn't hurt either. Well, you were prolific! But it's one thing to write a lot. It's another to create captivating stories and memorable characters.

    CD: There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.

    DS: Yes, there are. You are known for your characters. How do you set about inventing a human being?

    CD: A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. The mysteries of this machine called man! Oh, the little that unhinges it, poor creatures that we are!

    DS: Some of your characters are imperfect creatures, indeed. How would you describe their emotional journeys?

    CD: Life is made of ever so many partings welded together. The broken heart. You think you will die, but you just keep living, day after day after terrible day. But there is prodigious strength in sorrow and despair. The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.

    DS: And you were quite an advocate of children in your day. Due in no small part to your time working in a factory.

    CD: In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice. It may be only small injustice that the child can be exposed to, but the child is small, and its world is small, and its rocking-horse stands as many hands high.

    DS: You were also known for your dastardly villains. Shall we talk about those?

    CD: If there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.

    DS: How do you make a good villain?

    CD: Vices are sometimes only virtues carried to excess!

    DS: I believe Shakespeare said something similar. So villains may not be villains in their own eyes. How do they become villains?

    CD: We forge the chains we wear in life. Pause you who read this and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day. When a man bleeds inwardly, it is a dangerous thing for himself; but when he laughs inwardly, it bodes no good to other people.

    DS: As for your heroic characters, they are often ordinary people with the power to form strong bonds with one another.

    CD: A loving heart is the truest wisdom. Family not only need to consist of merely those whom we share blood, but also for those whom we'd give blood.

    DS: Excellent. Do you have any other words of wisdom to share with our community of writers?

    CD: Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes, and prism, are all very good words for the lips.

    DS: Uh… Yeah, I guess they are. Well, thank you so much for being here.

    CD: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.


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