Spokane’s Get Lit! 2016

Spokane’s Get Lit! 2016 – Garth Stein and Corinna Nicolaou.

This year’s edition of Get Lit once again featured a roll call of literary talent. Garth Stein headlined, but Shawn Vestal, Samuel Ligon, Jess Walter and numerous other local writers added to the mix.. Our favorite event this week involved Corinna Nicolaou.

On Wednesday, we attended an enlightening event with Corinna Nicolaou, author of A None’s Story. The session, held at Auntie’s Bookstore (one of our favorite venues), was followed by a sign and greet.

Thursday night brought the now famous Pie and Whiskey readings. This event’s unique blend of Dry Fly whiskey, homemade pie, slamming poetry and flash fiction never ages.

We look forward to seeing what surprises are in store for Get Lit! 2017. As you might have noticed, the countdown has already begun.

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Sometimes a rock is just a rock.

Writing 101’s assignment number 5 conjures Hemingway.

“The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway

Papa famously reacted to explanations about symbolism in his writing as evidence of someone who did not understand  his writing.

In the end, only the writer knows what their symbolism truly represents. But what others guess it to represent is also part of the effect of any written piece, intended or not. I often introduce weather in my stories. It’s generally not symbolic, but I could understand if someone inferred such intent because weather often effects the mood of a scene. It’s not a huge leap from mood to meaning. At the least, they intertwine in context and change each other. If a thread sewn into the pattern of a blossom is pulled from a quilt, is it still a flower, or just a thread without guidance?

Only Hemingway knew if his sharks represented anything more than sharks, and he took that secret to the grave, but “The Old Man and the Sea” wouldn’t have been a classic without them.

The Tease – A New Feature

Blogging 101 inspires a new monthly feature on Mjollnir.

One of the assignments outlined in my recent plunge into Blogging 101 was to develop and add a regular feature to my blog. I had considered this in the past, but never put the idea to code. Hearing the concept suggested by “experts” rekindled my thoughts on the matter. Since one of the central themes of EBM is writing, I have decided to create a feature that focuses on that subject.

The 26th of each month I will post an excerpt from one of my pieces. Fiction, non-fiction, published, work in progress, rough draft, polished copy, or any other passage that fits my mood. There will be no rules, other than choosing pieces I hope intrigue, inspire and edify readers, by whatever connection arises.

Why the 26th? Simple. It represents the number of letters in the alphabet, all the letters I need to write every bit of prose I’ll ever churn up.

Because this entire concept reawakened so suddenly, I haven’t had time to select an appropriate opening salvo. Instead, I will offer a guideline I have followed for years. I’m sure I wrote it down somewhere, so technically, it qualifies.

“I want my heroes to have a good heart and bad habits.”

Look for next month’s excerpt on the 26th.

The University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library – A Cathedral for Books

Scenes from the reading room at the Suzzallo Library on Seattle’s historic campus.

The Suzzallo has been called a “cathedral for books”. There are only a select few places I might wish my ashes to be spread, the Preikestolen in Norway, Slide Rapid on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, the west face of Mt. Reynolds in Glacier National Park.. The Suzzallo Library is one of those places, provided the act could be performed quietly. Shhhhh.

The DNA of Prose

Are there enough words?

The unique form of every human and every living thing we know of is derived from the sequencing of four basic nucleobases: adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. Just four. All the diversity on this planet is manufactured by varying patterns of these same four building blocks.

And what does that have to do with writing?

Everything.

I doubt myself at times. All writers do. Will I run out of ideas? Will I run out of words? And then I think about that double helix, DNA, that has existed in every human and every animal that has ever walked this Earth. No two have ever been exactly alike. Over eons, no two the same. And yet they all formed from a foundation built with these four nucleobases.

My alphabet has twenty-six nucleobases. ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ. My words are made from six-fold as many differing pieces as the number required to build every living creature on the planet. All I have to do is order them in unique, intriguing, meaningful combinations. It sounds simple. It should be simple, and yet, it is often a challenge.

But when the ugly cloud of writer’s block breaks thunder over my creative landscape, I need only think of the DNA of prose. Those twenty-six blocks that promise endless possibilities. Could I run out of words? Can the universe run out of stars?

Happy writing.

Spokane’s Get Lit! 2015

Spokane’s Get Lit! 2015 – The Jess and Sherman Show.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This year’s edition of Get Lit once again featured a roll call of literary talent, from Shawn Vestal and Sharma Shields to Kris Dinnison and Walter Kirn. Our personal festival experience seemed to revolve around Jess Walter and Sherman Alexie.

On Wednesday night, we attended the live podcast “A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment”, hosted by award-winning authors Sherman Alexie and Jess Walter. It was a raucous show that included audience participation, host readings and a bluesy, soulful performance from musical guest, Boss of Me. All told, a thoroughly entertaining evening.

Thursday morning, the fun continued with a visit to the Hagan Foundation Center for the Humanities, which hosted a Q&A with author Alexie. The session was followed by a sign and greet.

Thursday night ,we attended the now famous Pie and Whiskey readings. This event’s unique blend of Dry Fly whiskey, homemade pie, slamming poetry and flash fiction continues to make it a festival favorite. Jess Walter was among the thirteen enthusiastic writers to take the Spokane Woman’s Center podium throughout the evening.

Lost Horse Press produced a chapbook from the P&W readings.

During the week, we visited a young writers group and caught up with some older author friends as well.

I would like to extend a personal thank you to Sam Ligon, Jess Walter, Sherman Alexie, Christine Holbert and Bruce Holbert, along with everyone else that helped make this year’s event a great success.

We look forward to seeing what surprises are in store for Get Lit! 2016.

Text Book vs. Cook Book – Writing Guides

Books on writing can be utilized in different ways.

 

To be honest, I would rather read a well written novel than a book explaining how to write a well written novel. But all writers read books on writing sooner or later. How you view the material can make all the difference.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou just purchased a new book on the craft of writing. You can approach it with traditional trajectory, scribbling notes in the margins, highlighting, completing the exercises, uh… I mean, prompts. But before grinding through its pages like required reading in a text-book, consider viewing your new guide as if it were a cook book. Skim through it until something catches your eye. Something fresh, nourishing, creative.

And, like a cook book, you can either follow the author’s recipe in exact fashion, striving for a dish that appears just like the picture on the cover, or you can experiment. Add your own ingredients or toss the ones you don’t like. Change the cooking time and the temperature. If their prompt is a hairbrush, write about a plunger. If their target is a thousand words, cut to five hundred. If their muse is a sunlit glade, make yours a dumpster, pelted by acid rain.

Expand your library. Like switching from American cuisine to Italian, try writers’ commentary over step by step processes. A Moveable Feast is no “how to” book, but it is edifying, as well as entertaining. There are lessons to be learned in Hemingway’s exchanges with Scribner and Fitzgerald.

Reading good writing, fiction or otherwise, can be as helpful as any book on execution of the craft. Immersing yourself in Smiley or Steinbeck is like bathing in ink. No matter how vigorously you scrub afterwards, some of what you read is going to stain your next manuscript, whether it seeps in consciously or not. And yes, I must admit, I read that last piece of advice in a book on writing.

Now get cooking.