Thursday, January 31, 2013

photo stories - elena kalis

Elena started experimenting with underwater photography upon
moving to the Bahamas.  She enjoys working in this medium
because of the amount of surprise and unpredictability it offers.
Shapes change, colors shift in the cast of the water mixed with
sunlight.  Even the models offer unpredictability, giving happy
accidents of pose and expression.  Kalis listens to the
environment and doesn't push her models or the situation...  As
a writer doesn't push his or her Muse, or it will scurry away.

There are people all over the world who carry the mermaid
inside them, that otherworldly beauty and longing and desire
that made her reach for heaven when she lived in the darkness
of the sea.  - Carolyn Turgeon, Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

on writing - short fiction

Tips/wisdom from Apex Magazine slush readers on submitting and
writing short fiction:

Hooks are the primary reason many stories fail.  You've got to
hook a reader at the beginning, not forget to keep the momentum
building throughout the middle, and offer a sense of closure by the
end.  The end should conclude the journey, but leave a reader
wanting more.  And be wary of surprise endings.

Utilize point of view and narrative style to convey a great deal of
background  information without actually having to talk about it

As you build your world, don't get caught in providing detail.  Add
just enough salt for readers to get the flavor - a springboard for
their imaginations to take over.

By Liis Klammer

Sunday, January 27, 2013

the well written - nnedi okorafor

"If you spend enough time in the desert, you will hear it speak."

"Of course," I said.  "It speaks loudest in wind."

"Right," Mwita said.  "Butterflies understand the desert well.
That's why they move this way and that.  They're always
Holding Conversation with the land.  They talk as much as
they listen."

- Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Death

By Hadley Hutton

Saturday, January 26, 2013

illustration - hsiao-ron cheng

Cheng has only been in freelance illustration for a year, but her
work seems far beyond that.  She is inspired by childhood
memories mixed with dreams mixed with things she sees each
day.  Many of her pieces come from a conversation she had
with a little girl who drew big heads and scars and said, "They
all get hurt because their heads are too big so they bump
together...  Tiny people live here, the big head is their room."
Those few phrases turned into great stories in digital paint.

She starts a project with a sketch, then layers on mood, and
details one at a time.  She starts with small things, small
stories and connects them together to create a work of art.
She says she spends lots of work time just staring, removing
little flaws...   Sounds a lot like writing.

Friday, January 25, 2013

a dreamer's wisdom - henry david thoreau

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find
your eternity in each moment.  Fools stand on their island of
opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land;
there is no other life but this.

- Henry David Thoreau

By Keegan Gibbs

Thursday, January 24, 2013

on reading - on writing - jodi picoult

Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no
more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when
they fall.

- Jodi Picoult, Salem Falls

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

on writing - zadie smith

Very wise, big-picture words from author Zadie Smith:

1.  When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books.
Spend more time doing this than anything else.

2.  When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger
would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.

3.  Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation’. You can either write
good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’.
All that matters is what you leave on the page.

4.  Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling
yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing.
Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

photo stories - christian anwander

It's great when disciplines borrow from each other.  Here, taking
inspiration from H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man.  Photographed
by Christian Anwander for M Le Monde.

...the voice was indisputable. It continued to swear with that
breadth and variety that distinguishes the swearing of a
cultivated man.  - H.G. Wells, The Invisible Man

Monday, January 21, 2013

the well written - flannery o'connor

The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked
like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of
stars that all seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were
about some vast construction work that involved the whole universe
and would take all time to complete. No one was paying attention to
the sky.

- Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood / The Violent Bear It Away / The Complete Stories

Saturday, January 19, 2013

illustration - liz wikstrom

Liz doesn't have too large a body of work yet, but what she
has produced, I love.  I immediately jump to wondering on
the stories to match these images...  Will the bear harm that
man?  What makes the cat's eyes sparkle with mad glee?
What kind of sorceress is she and what will she ask for?
I look forward to see what else she comes up with.

The light was coming from two bears at the edge of the trees,
holding torches.  They were big, three-hundred-pounders,
standing about five feet tall.  Wallace Jr. and his father had
seen them and were standing perfectly still.  It's best not to
alarm bears.  - Terry Bisson, "Bears Discover Fire"

Friday, January 18, 2013

a dreamer's wisdom - on writing - persistence

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript
do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work
out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you
have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only
if you persist.  - Isaac Asimov

Dig until you hit rock. Then take out that jackhammer and go a
little deeper.  - Allison Brennan

Thursday, January 17, 2013

from unexpected places - kate fichard

I've mentioned this before, and I'm doing it again because I
think it's a fun exercise....  If your character had to be
represented through a series of objects, what would they be?
These photos by Fichard are fun examples of the exercise -
a person represented by things.

This is my record player.  It works with batteries.  Actually,
it belongs to my little brother Lionel.  I left him a note.  Do
you like music?..  This is my favorite record album.  My
godmother gave it to me for my birthday.  She lives in France.
These are my books.  I like stories with magic powers in them.
either in kingdoms on earth or on foreign planets.  Also, time
travel, if they make it realistic.  Usually, I prefer a girl hero,
but not always.  I couldn't bring all of them because it got too
heavy.  You can borrow any you want.  I also brought my
lefty scissors because I'm left-handed, my toothbrush, some
rubber bands, extra batteries, and my binoculars, as you know.
I forgot my comb.

That's it?  No mess kit?  no flashlight?  No canteen?
- Moonrise Kingdom, Screenplay by Wes Anderson

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

on reading - on writing - barbara kingsolver

I learned to write by reading the kind of books I wished
I'd written.

- Barbara Kingsolver

By Dan McCaw

Monday, January 14, 2013

on writing... difficulty

I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear
is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound
he hears within.  - Gustave Flaubert

Writing is not a genteel profession. It's quite nasty and tough and
kind of dirty.  - Rosemary Mahoney

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is
for other people.  - Thomas Mann

From Becoming Jane

Saturday, January 12, 2013

the well written - ray bradbury

I went to bed and woke in the middle of the night thinking I heard
someone cry, thinking I myself was weeping, and I felt my face
and it was dry.

Then I looked at the window and thought: Why, yes, it's just the
rain, the rain, always the rain, and turned over, sadder still, and
fumbled about for my dripping sleep and tried to slip it back on.

- Ray Bradbury, Green Shadows, White Whale: A Novel of Ray Bradbury's 
Adventures Making Moby Dick with John Huston in Ireland

By Chris Buzelli

Friday, January 11, 2013

illustration - sarah mcneil

Sarah McNeil describes her work as delicate and soft secrets.
She likes how people can walk past one of her pieces and not
notice it, only to come back later and realize the wonder of
what's there.  Sarah works best in isolation (write with the door
closed, rewrite with the door open, as Stephen King says),
though outside of work time she gets outdoors to feel the wind
in her hair.  Things she needs to keep creating: tasty snacks,
tea, coffee, white paint, natural materials, and lots of sketches. 

What I love is that Sarah gives the face and initial mood of a
character, and we're left to dream the rest.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

a dreamer's wisdom - gaiman's 2013 new year's wish

In the world to come, let us be brave – let us walk into the dark
without fear, and step into the unknown with smiles on our faces,
even if we're faking them.  And whatever happens to us,
whatever we make, whatever we learn, let us take joy in it. We
can find joy in the world if it's joy we're looking for, we can take
joy in the act of creation.  So that is my wish for you, and for me.
Bravery and joy.

- Neil Gaiman

By Henry Justice Ford

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

photo stories - joanna pallaris

Joanna gives glimpses.  She gives glimpses of sorrows and
moods and magics.  Then characters and wishes and the moments 
where things shift into something new or dangerous.  She enjoys 
creating stories in photos that ask more questions than they 
answer.  She seeks to add unreality to reality, and her photos 
refuse the anchors of time and era.  She is an artist; mystery and 
melancholy are her tools. 

The answer is never the answer. What's really interesting is the 
mystery. If you seek the mystery instead of the answer, you'll 
always be seeking. I've never seen anybody really find the answer. 
They think they have, so they stop thinking. But the job is to seek 
mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants 
grow and mysteries bloom. The need for mystery is greater than 
the need for an answer.
- Ken Kesey

Monday, January 7, 2013

on writing - austin kleon

If you ever find that you're the most talented person in the room,
you need to find another room.

The artist is a collector. Not a hoarder, mind you, there's a
difference: Hoarders collect indiscriminately, artists collect
selectively. They only collect things that they really love.

Creative people need time to just sit around and do nothing.

If you’re worried about giving your secrets away, you can share
your dots without connecting them.

By Francine Van Hove

from the screen (tv screen) - the west wing

The world can move, or not, by changing some words.

-Toby Ziegler, written by Aaron Sorkin


Sunday, January 6, 2013

the well written - hilary mantel

Anne's lovers are phantom gentlemen, flitting by night with
adulterous intent. They come and go by night, unchallenged.
They skim over the river like midges, flicker against the dark,
their doublets sewn with diamonds. The moon sees them,
peering from her hood of bone, and Thames water reflects
them, glimmering like fish, like pearls.

- Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies

By Charles Warren Eaton

Friday, January 4, 2013

from unexpected places - vintage stamps

What stories can be found in the opening of a letter, the sealing
of one, the placing of the stamp, ink on fingers, pen and paper
left on desk, the walk to the mailbox... These are from the
stamp club pool on flickr.  How many different tales can you
brainstorm from these miniature pieces of art?

The contents of this letter threw Elizabeth into a flutter of
spirits in which it was difficult to determine whether pleasure
or pain bore the greatest share.
- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Thursday, January 3, 2013

on writing - the synopsis

A. Howitt recently posted advice on Mythic Scribes about how to
write a great synopsis to go with your stellar query and sample pages.
She gives examples from her own work too.  A synopsis, she says, is
painful to write because it gives away the secrets of our stories, but it
is often necessary, so we must make it as compelling as possible.

1. Make the first sentence count:

Write one long sentence describing your novel.  Perhaps take
something from your query letter that you loved, and ramp it up a bit.
Here’s mine:

From a life of comfort, on the arm of one of Brazelton’s most
powerful men, Raven is cast into a world of shape-shifters and dragons,
when an unexpected letter changes her life forever.

I chose to write about the first plot twist, and set the tone for the rest of
the journey.

2. The tone of the synopsis should convey the tone of the book:

The last thing you want is a synopsis that reads like, “This happened,
then these people went here, and then this happened…” You need to let
the agent know what she’ll be reading, and the best way to do that is to
demonstrate your tone.

By Nicole Sharp

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

illustration - stephen mackey

Mackey describes his own work as densely painted and highly 
mannered.  He seeks perfection in each of his pieces and wants 
them to seem stumbled upon, organic, natural.  I think he's
achieved his goal.  Most of his work does look like a snapshot
of a story, like you turned the corner and found this strange
thing waiting.  His work also makes me think of a perpetual
Wonderland, only for adults.  It's beautiful, melancholy, a bit
off pitch in a haunting way(Via the Extra Finger)

On another note, I've posted before about how Ray Bradbury
advises writers to make word lists of the things that make you
drunk on life - nouns coupled with verbs or adjectives that give 
you this special feeling, a feeling that you can then 
communicate to readers in a story.  Mackey's list of precious  
feelings is as follows:
1. Scotch and water
2. The seashore and glockenspiels (like xylophones)
3. Sunlight on rough seas
4. Rose-flavored things and coffee
5. Around-the-house clothes  

 Hopefully you've been keeping your list up too. 

on reading - jessamyn west

Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.

- Jessamyn West

By Lorenzo Mattotti

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

photo stories - vintage spirits

These are from the vintage spirit photography group on Flickr.
They depict purported phenomena that took place during
seances and interactions with mediums.  Many have proven
that effects like these can be hoaxed, but still, these may offer
interesting source material for your next great story.

The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do
something extraordinary. Now you're looking for the secret...
but you wont find it, because of course you're not really
looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled.
- Christopher Priest, The Prestige


Happy new year, everyone!  May 2013 be full of
achievements, steps in the right direction, ideas,
dreams, busy hands and fingers, well written words,
and wonderfully told stories for all of us.

By Sith Zam