Top 5 Writer’s Weekend Edition Posts of 2016

As I mentioned in a recent post, I’m having a little trouble getting back in gear after the holidays. It’s the start of a shiny New Year, but I’m not quite all the way into the swing of it yet. Though part of my malaise may yet be due to holiday hangover, I think I must admit at this point – nearly two weeks into 2017 – that it’s also partly due to my continuing struggle to process and deal with all the crazy things happening in the news … in my country. The results of last year’s election have awakened my inner activist, and I find that I am frequently distracted by the latest developments on the political scene. (Those are words I never thought I’d write.)

That said, I am a writer, and I must write. So, while it may take me some time to adjust to being consistently productive in this new environment, that is what I will do.

For today, however, I would like to share the top five Writer’s Weekend Edition posts from last year. I’ve selected them based on the number of comments they received, because I figure if someone likes something enough to take the time to comment, that is the truest measurement of how much that piece of writing has done its job.

Looking forward to another great year of sharing my random (and not-so-random) thoughts with you, and hopefully once again having the privilege of engaging in dialog with you about those ramblings.

_jamie sig

 

 


Number 5: Stillness, Solitude, and the Practice of Writing

Retreat HesseWriting is a solitary act, but being a writer is not.  We live in the Real World with everyone else, and our lives are just as full and noisy and chaotic as the next person’s. We have friends and family to care for and enjoy. We have day jobs (with meetings and emails and conference calls) and households to manage (via negotiation and sometimes bribery). We are subjected to the same onslaught of news, social media, and sundry other local and global communications as every other non-luddite member of this hyper-connected human race.  [Read more …]

Number 4: 3 Steps to Your Perfect Writing Life

Image from megankatenelson.com

Image from megankatenelson.com

Do you remember the first time you wrote? I don’t mean the first time you formed the letters of the alphabet or wrote your name. I mean the first time you sat down alone and wrote something all your own. Do you remember what  you wrote, why you wrote it, or what it felt like to put words – your words – down on the page? Did you have any idea then that you would keep writing – day after day, year after year?

Today marks thirty-nine years, one month, and thirteen days since I wrote my first journal entry. I was seven years-old at the time, and the words I chose for the first page of my first notebook were not my own. They were Shakespeare’s.  [Read more …]


Number 3: Why Writing Matters (How to Justify Your Passion)

free diverSometimes, the gravity of real life threatens to pull me out of my creative orbit. The inescapable responsibility of being human weighs heavily – the “Real World” of work, relationships, and surviving on this fragile planet crushing in on me like pressure on an ascending deep sea diver. The closer I get to daylight, the further I am from the intimate, interior depths of my creative endeavors. That inner life disappears into the darkness below as I’m drawn toward the surface, my tenuous connection lost until I dive again.

Above the waves, my belief in the importance of the world below fades.  Submerged in the process, my work felt real and worthwhile. [Read more …]


Number 2: A Writer’s New Year

Like the years, the days are each part of a continuum.

Like the years, the days are each part of a continuum.

The New Year is a time to reflect and plan. It’s a time to reevaluate our priorities and our progress toward our goals. Midnight on December 31st marks the seam between the old and the new; it is the boundary between the past and the future – the threshold over which we must step in order to enter the next phase of our lives.

Damn. That’s a lot of pressure.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of a fresh start. I also relish poring over the old year’s journal entries looking for thematic patterns in my thoughts and dreams. I love the creative process of finding the perfect word to embody my intentions for the year ahead, and the more arduous work of drilling down to discover exactly what those intentions might be. I love the myth and magic of the many New Year’s traditions that help us whisk away the old and ring in the new. [Read more …]


And the Number 1 Writer’s Weekend Edition Post of 2016 (based on number of comments): What’s Holding You Back from Your Writer’s Life?

Don't be scared of paper tigers.

Don’t be scared of paper tigers.

I’m in need of a writer-to-writer pep talk today, so I’ve decided to give myself one.

This isn’t going to be easy. I’m realizing, to my chagrin, that being optimistic and upbeat comes much more naturally when things are going well. Who’d have thought? Maintaining a good attitude is a bit more challenging when you’re stuck at the bottom of the proverbial well with no rope and no ladder (and a creeping suspicion that something malicious may be lurking down there with you, just waiting to jump out from the shadows and give you a nasty bite, or worse). [Read more …]


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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Getting Back in Gear After the Holidays

snowflake

It’s snowing today – many, many, MANY of these falling from the sky and making me feel SO cozy. Love it!

How long does it take you to get back into the swing of things after the holidays? How much time do you need to find your usual groove and get all the gears turning smoothly again? We are seven days into the New Year, and I’m only just starting to ease fully back in to my usual routines.

I was fortunate enough to be able to take the week between Christmas and New Year’s off. I didn’t turn my computer on once. I spent time with my family, especially my daughter and my beau. We watched a LOT of movies (mostly chosen by  my daughter, so there were many superhero movies in the mix). On the Thursday after Christmas, I had the loveliest day, all to myself. I had a great riding lesson, wrote in my journal in the morning, read a beautiful illustrated book about faeries by Charles Vess and then a novel called A Wolf in the Attic, which was the perfect magical, gothic tale for a day of solitude in the lull between holidays. Later that night, still alone, I watched the not-so-great-but-still-lovely movie adaptation of one of my favorite books, Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale. Did I mention it was a lovely day?

I had the best intentions to use the week’s “down” time productively. I meant to do some organizing and administrative work. I was going to get a head start on some proposals and follow up on some existing leads. I was going to (finally) deal with the massive to-be-filed pile of paperwork that I had shunted into a drawer while cleaning for the holidays. But, I did none of those things, and – honestly – I should have known better than to believe for a moment that I would.

You see, I’ve known for a long time that I have two speeds: 100mph and standing still. I’m usually going at 100mph, juggling multiple client projects, personal projects, running the household, raising my daughter, and trying my damnedest to also put some effort in to taking better care of myself (journaling, yoga, meditation, etc.), while still finding time for pleasurable pursuits (mainly reading). But, when I manage to carve out some time to relax, I really relax. The first two days after Christmas were spent sprawled on the couch with my daughter, binge watching movies and series on Netflix. I already described my blissful Thursday, and the rest of the days in that week were subtle variations on those two themes. Translation: I did next to nothing. If it weren’t for my beau coaxing me out for walks in the woods, I might not have left my house at all.

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I did feel a little guilty about my complete lack of activity. Mostly, I felt guilty for not using this precious free time to do some writing. I am, after all, forever lamenting my lack of available writing time. And here I was with the better part of a week at my disposal. But, sometimes, you just need a break. Sometimes, before you can do any creative work, you need to give your mind and your muse time to unwind and unfurl.

I know it kind of sounds like an excuse, but it’s true.

You’ve probably heard the expression about “replenishing your creative well.” That’s what last week was all about for me, and it’s a valid (I’d even go so far as to say “non-negotiable”) part of the creative process.

After months of being mostly away from my morning pages and feeling uninspired when I did sit down to write, I was thrilled to feel the hum and whir of my creative machine coming to life as my pen raced across the page, scrawling lines that felt like poetry after a long period of mostly dull accounts of daily activities. It made my heart race a little to know that I still had this kind of emotion inside me, looking for a way out. I was relieved to discover that I hadn’t been sucked completely dry by the challenges of 2016.

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While I am not one for New Year’s resolutions, I do tend to be more open to change in the month of January. So far, the changes I’m making are small, but that doesn’t mean they are insignificant.

For instance, earlier this week (as part of my effort to get back into the groove) I took my own advice about using Trello to organize my writing projects, and am very pleased with the results. I’ve even created a couple shared boards to use with clients and am finding them to be super helpful on the collaboration and communication front.

I also deleted a couple self-improvement apps off my phone. One was meant to encourage and track my efforts to form positive habits, and the other was a collection of games meant to improve brain elasticity and speed. In my week of enjoying the unstructured nature of down time, I realized that these apps, though designed with the best intentions, were really just creating more stress in my life and taking up time that could be better spent reading or writing or simply staring off into space and letting my mind wander. Seriously.

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The point of all this is that it’s okay to cut yourself some slack. Take a break. Ratchet things down to zero miles per hour. Do nothing. It’s a necessary part of the creative life, and if you deprive yourself of these times of rest you will feel depleted and uninspired.

You will get back into your usual groove soon enough. I promise. I can already feel myself sliding back into the familiar routine. It’s taking a little extra time, but I’m not worried about it. I’ll get there. Right now, I’m actually more focused on making sure I remember how to give myself the gift of unstructured time off so that I stay tapped into my own creative energy. The routines will always be there. I need to practice a little free falling.

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Edition – Grounding and Connecting

Michael Meade of mosaicvoices.org

Michael Meade of mosaicvoices.org

Other than a year-in-review post that I’m putting together for the 31st, this will be my final post of 2016. I can’t say I’m sorry to see this particular year come to an end, but – despite being a chronic optimist – I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to see what 2017 holds.

This year has been dramatic, to say the least, and the repercussions of recent political events here in the states and abroad will have far-reaching social, economic, and environmental consequences for years to come. They will change the stories we tell.

It’s a lot to take in.

We also suffered some especially painful losses in the world of arts and entertainment. Each year brings its own sorrows, but we lost so many amazing artists in 2016, among them David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, Leonard Cohen, and Gene Wilder.  And we lost writers, too, including Harper Lee and Umberto Eco.

It’s no wonder that most people I know are looking forward to putting 2016 in the rearview mirror.

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Despite its many challenges, 2016 has also offered us opportunities for deep learning, which translates into a chance to grow. Like many other people I know, I am currently engaged in a self-taught crash course on the mechanics of politics. For the first time in my life, I am actively engaged in monitoring and discussing the kinds of news stories I’ve always avoided and ignored because they “weren’t my thing.” I was proud of not watching the news, of keeping my distance from such matters. Now I feel the sting of shame and regret for having been so irresponsible and for the unearned privilege that allowed me to say such things without even a twinge of remorse.

As a result of this new awareness, my eyes are now much more open to the true depth and breadth of the many injustices in the world. It’s not a pretty sight, and bearing witness even in the most benign way – via news stories and videos shared on social media – has wrought irrevocable changes in my perspective and my priorities. My inner champion for justice rails against the unceasing and often unspeakable wrongs perpetrated against not only the many persecuted peoples of the world, but also against the planet herself.

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All of this makes me want to cry. The massive scope and scale of the challenges we face is crushing. The weight of the responsibility we now must bear for ourselves and our children and the natural world is almost too much. And yet, we must shoulder it and move forward.

I understand the urge to flee. Earlier this week I posted a link on Facebook about a tiny, self-sufficient Scottish island that’s for sale. I captioned the link, “In certain moments this is so, SO tempting. #runaway” … and sometimes it is tempting. But, running away is not the answer, and neither is turning away.

The change we’re going through is hard. It’s painful and scary and we have no  idea how things are going to turn out. That is, perhaps, the worst part – the deep-seated uncertainty that haunts us … the not knowing. But, we can’t allow our fear of the unknown to keep us from looking our problems in the eye. This is not the time to allow ourselves the false luxury of pretending that everything is okay or that someone else will fix these broken things.

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Now, more than ever before in my lifetime, it’s so important for everyone, but especially for writers, to be plugged in to what’s happening all around us. It’s so important for us to find our footing in this new and changing world, find the stories that need telling, and tell them. The storytellers of the world have a lot of work to do.

We – you, dear reader,  and me and all the other writers and artists out there – must ground ourselves in our creative work. We must dig deep and hold on. We must remember why we started creating in the first place and stoke the fires of that passion so that the light never, ever goes out.

Some of us will choose to create in a way that addresses the global, societal, and cultural situations of the day head on. Others will choose to take a more subtle and oblique approach. But, each in his or her way, we will speak; and each story, each piece of art will make a difference. Our work is our voice, and our voices matter.

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As the year draws to a close, the way forward may be unclear. You may, like me, be hesitating, unsure of which path you should take. Don’t worry. Find your center and move from there.

I came across an interesting quote by someone named Michael Meade:

“We live in initiatory times when each soul can feel more isolated amidst the dying breath of one world and the uncertainty that attends the forming of life’s next design. It is not the lack of time that we modern people suffer from, but a lack of connection to things timeless, mythic and eternal.”

I believe there is much wisdom in this sentiment. We do need to connect more deeply and openly to “things timeless, mythic and eternal.” And that’s what story does. That’s what writers help us do when they share their stories. That’s what you do.

So, keep writing. Keep shining your light in the dark. It does matter, even when it feels like it doesn’t. And remember – you are never, ever alone.

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Wrap-up of Best Books of 2016 Lists

This collection won’t be anything close to complete, but I hope it will at least offer up a few selections that pique your interest. So, peruse and enjoy. And, if you find other lists that should be added to the wrap-up, please feel free to leave links in the comments. (My list is skewed to my own preference for speculative fiction, so I have definitely overlooked other popular genres like thriller, mystery, and romance; so – please! – let me know your favorite picks!)

Here’s to making your To-read List even longer!!

Kirkus 2016 Best Fiction Books

Kirkus 2016 Best Fiction Books

Tor.com Reviewers' Choice: The Best Books of 2016

Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2016

Guardian: Best SciFi and Fantasy Books of 2016

Guardian: Best SciFi and Fantasy Books of 2016

The Guardian: Best Fiction of 2016

The Guardian: Best Fiction of 2016

Washington Post: Best science fiction and fantasy of 2016

Washington Post: Best science fiction and fantasy of 2016

NPR: The 10 Best Books Of 2016 Faced Tough Topics Head On

NPR: The 10 Best Books Of 2016 Faced Tough Topics Head On

NPR's Book Concierge - Best Books of 2016

NPR’s Book Concierge – Best Books of 2016

 

New York Times: 10 Best Books of 2016

New York Times: 10 Best Books of 2016

Boston Public Library: Top Ten Books Borrowed in 2016

Boston Public Library: Top Ten Books Borrowed in 2016

Goodreads Choice Awards 2016

Goodreads Choice Awards 2016

Happy reading!!

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Resources – Calm in the Chaos

I'm dreaming of a quiet day-after-Christmas ...

I’m dreaming of a quiet day-after-Christmas …

At this time of the year, I always feel as if the days are passing in a kaleidoscope-like frenzy that leaves me wondering which way is  up. No matter how prepared I intend to be, I am always running late. On everything. Shopping, writing deadlines, cleaning, visiting, card writing … you name it, and I’m behind on it.

I do my best to manufacture small havens of quiet amidst the chaos, but lately those moments of respite have been few and far between. It’s  okay. Over the years, I have grown used to this routine and I know that the wildness of these days will eventually spend itself and I will be left to happily curl up on the sofa with a soft blanket, a mug of tea, a satisfyingly thick book, and my journal.

That day can’t come fast enough. 😉

How goes your journey through the last few weeks of the year? Are your celebrations shaping up to your liking? Are you feeling ready for the holidays? What kind of goodbye will you wish 2016? What are your favorite guilty pleasures at this time of year?

_jamie sig


As promised, I will continue to highlight one or two “deep” posts in these Sunday missives – posts by writers who are exploring and addressing the role of art and specifically writing in the world today.

In the New York Times article, Now Is the Time to Talk About What We’re Really Talking Aboutnovelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes, among other things, about the importance of accuracy in the words we choose and the stories we tell:

Yet, a day after the election, I heard a journalist on the radio speak of the vitriolbetween Obama and Trump. No, the vitriol was Trump’s. Now is the time to burn false equivalencies forever. Pretending that both sides of an issue are equal when they are not is not “balanced” journalism; it is a fairy tale—and, unlike most fairy tales, a disingenuous one.

Now is the time to refuse the blurring of memory. Each mention of “gridlock” under Obama must be wrought in truth: that “gridlock” was a deliberate and systematic refusal of the Republican Congress to work with him. Now is the time to call things what they actually are, because language can illuminate truth as much as it can obfuscate it. Now is the time to forge new words. “Alt-right” is benign. “White-supremacist right” is more accurate.


And from Lisa Cron, author of many excellent books on the writing craft, comes the post, The Power of Story, Now More Than Ever via Writer Unboxed. In this piece, Cron

Stories aren’t merely for entertainment – no matter what the writer intends. Stories are entertaining so we’ll pay attention to them – it’s biological. Stories press the pause button, allowing us to slip out of our own lives the better to experience the protagonist’s inner struggle. Stories thus tacitly change our perception of what’s right and wrong. What is sacred and what is profane. What is fair and what is not.

Stories are simulations that put facts (real and imagined) into a human context that gives them meaning and makes them actionable.

And so your novel will change how your readers see the world. It will also – in ways large and small — change what they do in the world.


Last but not least, in his post Putting Your Purpose on the Page (also for Writer Unboxed), Don Maass writes about the power of fiction to change the world and offers inspiration and tactical tips for writers who want to do just that:

If your intention in writing is to “illuminate” or “explore”, or simply to entertain, why are you aiming so low?  Make a statement.  Declare yourself.  Teach us what we don’t know.  Show us how to accomplish that which we are afraid to do.  Don’t just challenge our thinking, change it.  Don’t just create conflict, shine a light on injustice, stir our timid hearts, make us want to leap up and act, show us the better world in which we could live.  Don’t just warn us, inspire us to change.

The novels that will change the remainder of the 21st Century have yet to be written.  You have a keyboard.  You have the craft.  You have the eyes, mind and heart of a great storyteller.  What are you waiting for?  As I commented the other day, we are all writers.  The worst thing we could do, especially now, is to keep quiet.

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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE

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Sundry Links and Articles:

The Oatmeal is mostly known for it’s snarky style, but “Plane” is both poignant and inspiring. It’s a story I didn’t know about one of the most prolific and successful storytellers of our time, and a story that reminds us that even though we may feel helpless, we should still try to help people.

oatmeal-roddenberry

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Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-share-experiences

Here’s to pockets of calm in whatever storm you’re navigating, holiday cheer that lights up your days and nights, and the courage and passion to tell your stories.
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Edition – Illuminate the Beautiful

On the multiple roles of The Artist …

My Instagram feed @suddenlyjamieI have made no secret of the fact that my worldview has been irreparably changed by bearing witness to the recent U.S. election and the ensuing fallout. As someone who has spent most of her life avoiding political discussions because it “wasn’t my thing,” I am now engaged in a self-guided crash course in civics so that I may speak and act responsibly and proactively in the days ahead.

That said, I am and always will be a writer – an artist – at heart. While I feel an urgent responsibility to actively engage in standing up against tyranny in all its forms, I do not want that battle to consume my every thought, or indeed, my ability to appreciate all the beauty and magic the world has to offer.

Earlier today, a friend of mine posted on Facebook inviting friends to find and share the “beauty in the madness.” Peter Beach is a designer/illustrator/photographer who, among other things, has created a startling and piercing collection of black and white photographs documenting the lives of the homeless of Miami Beach. Here is what he said in his Facebook post:

… let this image begin a new series: “Beauty in the Madness” – random observations of beauty in everyday life.

The goal: to create an awareness… acknowledgment… a conscious effort to notice, embrace and celebrate the smallest and most insignificant things that life presents each day — ultimately and most importantly, to counterbalance the daily negative onslaught we’re experiencing.

>>> feel free to extend the series – your own observations and personal interpretations of beauty throughout your daily travels – can’t wait to see them – the creative soul awaits!

This is an invitation I have accepted and would now like to extend to you.

Whether you are capturing your observations of beauty with a camera, a paintbrush, a pen, or a keyboard, I invite you to share them far and wide. Link to them in the comments. Tweet them. Instagram them. Snapchat, Facebook, and YouTube them. (Sorry for the grammatically incorrect use of nouns as verbs. My inner editor is cringing, but I’ve asked her to count to ten and move past it.) Send them in letters. Leave them on café tables. Tuck them into library books.

Seek and cherish images, words, and stories of beauty, and let your definition of beauty encompass all the world in all its astonishing mystery and diversity.

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Resources – Working Together Plus Links and Tips

pin-one-personOne of the things I like best about being a writer is sharing the company of other writers. Whether it’s hanging out here or elsewhere online with fellow writers like you, sharing real-world coffee with a local scribe, or enjoying the camaraderie of storytellers at conferences or via an event like NaNoWriMo, I love being part of the worldwide community of writers. As I’ve written before, it’s almost like we’re members of a secret society, which is kind of a cool thing.

And I’ve always found writers to be a very inclusive crowd. I mean, I know there are certain individuals who lose their way when they let their egos get the better of them, but for the most part my experience with writers has always been pleasant, instructional, and inspiring. Though I cannot count them among my personal friends, I still consider even the most renowned of writers to be part of my writer’s circle.

After all, are we not all chasing after the same thing? Does it really matter if we are working side-by-side or in worlds that are centuries apart? Does it really make a difference if some of us are still struggling to complete our first manuscripts while others have a reserved seat at the top of the New York Times Book Review? As diverse a group as we are, we share the universal writer’s compulsion to ask questions, to get people thinking, to entertain and delight, to create something out of nothing, to find meaning.

As this incredibly crazy year draws to a close, I am more grateful than ever for all the writers – renowned and obscure – who are raising their voices in a refrain of awakening, courage, hope, and optimism. I thank each and every writer who has shared  story of pain in order to teach and to increase empathy. And I am especially thankful for those most talented of writers, in my humble opinion, who are able to illuminate truth through humor and find ways to engage people’s hearts and minds while making them laugh. Though I will likely never meet most of these fellow writers, I thank them from the bottom of my heart for every word that they write, every story they share, and every moment that they are part of the writing community that supports all of our efforts.

_jamie sig

 

 


Big Idea Posts of the Week:

In the aftermath of the election, many writers are reevaluating or reconfirming the role of their craft in the world.

Porter Anderson opens his piece on Writer Unboxed, Escapism is for Readers; Writers Stay, as follows:

Nobody blames you if recently you’ve felt like getting the hell out of Dodge.

To be really clear about this, I’m not going to tell you whether you should love or hate the results of the US general election. That’s for you to decide.

But everyone is feeling the pressure.

What follows is gentle but firm guidance for writers who may be, in this moment, inclined to “escape into their writing” (aka sticking their heads in the sand). Porter isn’t at all recommending that writers take up a propagandist style, but he is strongly suggesting that writers have an opportunity (one might even say a responsibility) to keep our eyes open, learn, and stay engaged.

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In her recent post, Our Job as WritersKate Johnston, a writer and writing coach, admits that she’s pretty cynical when it comes to politics, but that she was deeply affected by the outcome of the recent election. Though she began her writing journey with the fairly simple goal of writing the kind of stories she liked to read, that has begun to shift for her.

Over the past few years, that goal has reshaped, partly organically, partly through my own vision and awareness and growth. I came to see a writer’s job as something more than creating nether worlds. That calling that used to be all about words that entertain, had morphed into something a bit deeper, a bit daunting. Something that asked more of me.

And then, last week happened. The calling is no longer a calling. A mission, perhaps. A deal with the devil, even, or maybe just a really bad-ass angel. A chance to speak up. A dare to put myself to the test.

Johnston’s post is kind of a call to arms for writers. She closes her post with these words, “As writers, holding back, staying down—not an option. As writers, writing nothing—not an option. As writers, it is our job to help keep this world flourishing. As writers, we must write. And write like we mean it.”

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And then there is the revered and inimitable Ursula K. Le Guin. In her post, 119. The Election, Lao Tzu, a Cup of Water,  she shares her thoughts on the dangers of using the metaphor of war and how a different approach –the way of water – is needed in these changing times.

I know what I want. I want to live with courage, with compassion, in patience, in peace.

The way of the warrior fully admits only the first of these, and wholly denies the last.

The way of the water admits them all.

The flow of a river is a model for me of courage that can keep me going — carry me through the bad places, the bad times. A courage that is compliant by choice and uses force only when compelled, always seeking the best way, the easiest way, but if not finding any easy way still, always, going on.

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“Ever since the election, people have been telling me to shut up and go back to Fairyland. Be silent. Be good. Accept. Submit. Stop talking about politics. Stick to fairy tales. (As if fairy tales have ever not been about politics.) Go back to Fairyland,” says author Catherynne M. Valente in her post, Go Back to Fairyland. Like many other artists – writers, actors, musicians – she has been criticized for speaking her mind on politics. But, the disapproval of certain people only served as inspiration for her as she turned her pen to the creation of a short story featuring characters from her popular Fairyland series. In The Beasts Who Fought for Fairyland Until the Very End and Further Still, she tells a not-so-subtle tale about battles and happy endings and defiance.

“Perhaps this is not the end of the story, then,” the Green Wind said kindly, though he wasn’t sure he believed it. It was important to say it to the brokenhearted, to the young, to everyone, even if he didn’t believe his own words. Especially if he didn’t believe it. If no one said it, it couldn’t even start being true.

“It feels like the end,” said A-Through-L with a strangled cry.

“It always does, when you lose.” The Green Wind took off his green helmet and laid it on the grass between two arrows. “But haven’t we had tyrants and fools and hobgoblins on the throne before? Haven’t we had rather a lot of hobgoblins? Aren’t hobgoblins rather more the rule than the exception?”

“Yes…”

“And haven’t we always patched up their mischief and gotten back to more or less living how we want to live and loving who we want love and making what we want to make and being who we want to be?”

“Yes…”

“Perhaps Fairyland is stronger than her goblins, my ravishing reptile. Perhaps, if you take a long enough view, we are all stronger than our goblins.”

 


Books I’m Reading:

In addition to reading blog posts and news articles, I’ve also just finished listening to two audio books:

book-born-a-crimeThe first was Trevor Noah’s memoir, Born a Crime. For those of you who don’t know him, Noah is a comedian who recently took over at Comedy Central’s The Daily Show after long-time host Jon Stewart retired from the position. I didn’t know much about Noah and, though I was a loyal Stewart fan, hadn’t even paid him much attention on The Daily Show. Reading this book gave me a whole new perspective.

The book’s subtitle is “Stories from a South African Childhood.” Noah grew up in South Africa as apartheid was coming to an end. The collection of stories he shares from his childhood are intimate, and yet manage to capture a great deal of the larger and more complex picture of a very tumultuous time. From the Audible book description:

In his first book, Noah tells his coming-of-age story with his larger-than-life mother during the last gasps of apartheid-era South Africa and the turbulent years that followed. Noah was born illegal – the son of a white Dutch father and a black Xhosa mother, who had to pretend to be his nanny or his father’s servant in the brief moments when the family came together. His brilliantly eccentric mother loomed over his life – a comically zealous Christian (they went to church six days a week and three times on Sunday), a savvy hustler who kept food on their table during rough times, and an aggressively involved, if often seriously misguided, parent who set Noah on his bumpy path to stardom.

I very much recommend this book.

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book-bob-honeyI honestly don’t even know where to begin with this second book. Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff is purportedly written by someone named Pappy Pariah and narrated by actor and activist, Sean Penn.

I suppose I’ll offer up the official description as featured on the Audible site:

By turns tender and terrifying, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff captures America on the verge of political upheaval in 2016 and introduces us to a man who just might be able to save us from the oncoming horror. Yes, Bob Honey – carnival carny, sewage specialist, and government operative, among other occupations – has spent years in preparation, crisscrossing the world in the employ of a mysterious government program that pays in small bills. He stopped in New Orleans to help Katrina victims; traveled to Baghdad, Beirut, South Sudan, and elsewhere on sewage emergencies; and submerged himself in the Pacific Ocean in search of sea life – all while living out of a quiet house on a residential street in Woodview, California, where he sometimes disturbs the neighbors with the sound of his lawn mower.

Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff marks the debut of a dazzling literary talent. With comic bravado and an urgent agenda, Pappy Pariah has created a haunting, hilarious vision of an American middle-aged man with a mission – a loner struggling to find truth amid the chaos of a political campaign that threatens to destroy the values of the country he loves.

This book is free on Audible and has been, I believe, since it was released last year. It’s a short book (only two-and-a-half hours). It’s kind of trippy. It’s poetic. It’s certainly political. There are moments of beauty, and plenty of horror. I also found it interesting that the reviews were completely polarized – people either loved it or hated it. Say what you will about any artwork, it’s generally true that when something manages to stir up such strong emotions on either or both ends of a spectrum, it’s something worth checking out.


My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE


Sundry Links and Articles:

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Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-afraid-to-write

Quote by poet Nayyirah Waheed

Here’s to being a member of the global writer’s circle, filling your creative bank account, and writing even when you’re afraid … especially when you’re afraid. xo
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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