Though there is a chill in the air and snow in the forecast, a sense of spring still vibrates through the ground beneath our feet. All around us we can see the signs of green things growing things and feathered and whiskered creatures returning and awakening. There is an expectancy in the air that cannot be denied.
On our walks this weekend, my beau and I heard peepers and larger frogs singing in chorus from the edges of vernal pools nestled in the hollows of the forest. Rising in counterpoint, the voices of summer birds flew back and forth amidst the still-naked boughs of budding swamp maples and beech trees. Streams bubbled along at our feet, pushing their familiar way through the grass and debris that had collected in their springtime paths over the winter. Ever a herald of the changing season, the skunk cabbage emerged at the roadside, exploding through the spongy, brook-side earth like alien pods.
And just like the denizens of wood and stream, pond and sky, I find that spring sets my heart beating a little faster. Though, living in our fabricated world, I do not have the luxury of syncing my existence to the natural rhythms of nature, I still feel a kind of quickening in my mind. Ideas and inspiration bubble up like those vernal pools and springtime brooks. Everything I see and experience holds the potential of some creative work; the world fairly bursts at the seams with possibilities.
Like the seasons, we writers are always changing. Ours is a ceaseless cycle of creative birth and growth and death. Our inspiration and passion ebbs and flows, waxes and wanes. We are one moment caught up in the throes of creation, and the next lying still and fallow, catching our breath for the next burst of energy. Both extremes have their challenges, but we can take comfort in knowing that neither will ever take us over completely. Always we will spiral through the process, crossing over the same path in new lands again and again.
Happy spring equinox. May this season bring you creative joy and adventure!
Books I’m Reading:
This week, I chose a book that is the perfect antidote to last week’s read, Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood. Well, “antidote” is perhaps not the right word. After all, I enjoyed Stone Mattress and admire Atwood greatly, both for her writing and for the woman she is. But, as excellent as Atwood’s stories are, they are somewhat dark and even a little bit depressing. They are thought-provoking, and the thoughts they inspire often have to do with the less appealing side of human nature. So, let’s not call Bailey White’s work an “antidote.” Let’s call it the perfect complement to Atwood’s oft-dystopian tales – the ray of hope to Atwood’s shadows.
I first read White back in 2013 when I finally read the copy of her short story collection, Mama Makes Up Her Mind. About a year later, I read her novel, Quite a Year for Plums, a book which is now taking up space on my mom’s hutch bookcase since I’ve made her promise that she’ll read it. This time around, I chose White’s other short story collection, Sleeping at the Starlite Motel: And Other Adventures on the Way Back Home.
Once again, Bailey’s skillful storytelling and simple but magical prose transported me to the southern towns that she so loves. Each piece in the collection is very short, some only a two or three pages long, but each is whole in its own right. White has a wonderful ability to sketch out each quirky character with only a few sentences. Though we meet them only in passing, we feel that we might recognize them if we passed them on the street. And the charm of the anecdotes she shares always gives me a pleasant case of the warm & fuzzies. There is comfort there, but it never feels contrived or turns its back on the difficult realities of life. The quote from Isabel Allende that appears on the inside flap says it best,
“Bailey White has the kind of intelligence that allows her to see things from behind and from beyond. She has a rare combination of wisdom, infinite tolerance, an eye for the absurd, and a sort of tenderness that is never sentimental.”
I couldn’t agree more, and I highly recommend all of White’s works. I know that I will return to them often – both as an inspiration for a story well told, and for the solace that they bring in times of strife and stress.
And if you’d like to listen to White read some of her work, you may want to explore some of the NPR archives featuring her stories, like this one – “The Second Hand or the Roach.”
My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:
- Really Going There by @AnnieNeygebauer
- Help! I Can’t Find My Theme! by @SPressfield
- Learn to Write Deep, Rich Story Conflict by @KMWeiland
PUBLISHING & MARKETING
- Connecting With Readers by @elizabethscraig
- 7 Steps to Writing Killer Blog Posts That Actually Get Noticed – and Read! by @LarryAlton3
- 192 Publications That Actually Pay Freelance Writers by @marisoldahl
- 4 Lessons for Authors About the Current State of Publishing by @JaneFriedman
- Beyond Your Blog: Freelancing, Getting Paid to Write, and Writing for Free featuring our own Deborah Lee Luskin
- How I’ve Iterated & Optimized My Author Business In The Last Year by @thecreativepenn
- Stay on the Bus: The Proven Path to Doing Unique and Meaningful Work by @james_clear
- An Absorbing Errand: The Psychology of Mastery in Creative Work via @brainpicker
- Ursula K. Le Guin on How You Make Something Good in Creative Work via @brainpicker
- “Where do you find good ideas? Pay attention to your attention.” by @jccabel
- The best science fiction and fantasy novels – reviews roundup by Eric Brown
- Keep Yourself Writing By Starting a Blog Series by Jenna Hatfield
THE WRITING LIFE
- Multitasking: Giving the World an Advantage it Shouldn’t Have via @farnamstreet
- “Don’t Wait. Just Make the Thing”: Ira Glass on Creative Work, the Podcast Bubble, & More by Jason Bailey
- How To Develop The Discipline Of A Professional Writer by Brian DeLeonard
- The Quivering Pen: 14 Notes to Myself Prior to Entering the Cave of Rewrite by @ImDavidAbrams
- On Terrible Writing Advice From Famous Writers by Danielle Dutton
- The Patronizing Questions We Ask Women Who Write by @meaghano
Sundry Links and Articles:
This week, I’d like to share another podcast resource with you. I think I may be on my way to becoming a podcast junkie. I listen while I make dinner, while I shower, while I run the vacuum, and pretty much any time I find myself in the car alone. I could have worse vices, and at least with Out on the Wire with Jessica Abel, I’m gaining tons of insight into the craft of storytelling.
In Out on the Wire, Abel walks listeners through creating a story step by step. The process she shares is based on what she’s learned interviewing “the masters of new radio” including the people behind iconic shows like This American Life, Radiolab, and Planet Money. Abel’s podcast was born from the research she did for her graphic nonfiction book of the same name.
The format of the show is bi-weekly episodes in which Abel covers an element of storytelling interspersed with bi-weekly “workshop” episodes in which she and her two team members discuss some of the interesting work that listeners have posted in the Google working group. Oh! Did I not mention the Google working group? There’s a private group on Google in which listeners can share their ideas, get and give feedback, and generally enjoy the collaborative part of storytelling. Very cool. (You get an invite to join the group when you sign up for Abel’s newsletter.)
Though the kinds of stories that Abel focuses on for Out on the Wire may not be exactly the kinds of stories you’re telling in your fiction, trust me when I tell you that there is a LOT you can learn from these podcasts. I’ll be sharing bits and pieces in future posts here at Live to Write – Write to Live, but I recommend you listen to the full podcasts to get the total experience.
Finally, a quote for the week:
Enjoy this first day of spring. I hope you get outside, and I hope what you experience outside inspires the stories you hold inside. Happy writing & happy reading!
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.