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Weekly Shhhout-Out

Roaming librarians file dispatches from the world of information.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Routines of Writers

I recently ran across this article The Daily Routines of Famous Writers by Maria Popova. Just about everyone who enjoys reading thinks about writing at some point. Many of us make resolutions, we are going to write so much every day, or every week, or set aside regularly scheduled time, or similar. Many of us don't get around to establishing or keeping the routines that will keep us writing.

It is worth contemplating how accomplished writers accomplish writing. Popova calls our attention to E. B. White who made the critical observation:

A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.
Eventually a writer …
… must sit down and get the words on paper, and against great odds. This takes stamina and resolution. Having got them on paper, he must still have the discipline to discard them if they fail to measure up; he must view them with a jaundiced eye and do the whole thing over as many times as is necessary to achieve excellence, or as close to excellence as he can get. This varies from one time to maybe twenty.
Many of the writers Popova quotes have a daily routine that involves physical exercise as well as time spent writing. I got a kick out of Kerouac:
I try to do nine touchdowns a day, that is, I stand on my head in the bathroom, on a slipper, and touch the floor nine times with my toe tips, while balanced. This is incidentally more than yoga, it’s an athletic feat, I mean imagine calling me ‘unbalanced’ after that.
Maya Angelou seems to have found a balance between the solitary work of writing and being more social among other people:

I have kept a hotel room in every town I’ve ever lived in. I rent a hotel room for a few months, leave my home at six, and try to be at work by six-thirty.

I write in the morning and then go home about midday and take a shower, because writing, as you know, is very hard work, so you have to do a double ablution. Then I go out and shop — I’m a serious cook — and pretend to be normal. I play sane — Good morning! Fine, thank you. And you? And I go home. I prepare dinner for myself and if I have houseguests, I do the candles and the pretty music and all that. Then after all the dishes are moved away I read what I wrote that morning. And more often than not if I’ve done nine pages I may be able to save two and a half or three. That’s the cruelest time you know, to really admit that it doesn’t work. And to blue pencil it.

We have a number of books in the library on how to write. One recent classic is Steven King's On Writing. I'm no great fan of King, but On Writing demonstrates how well Stephen King understands his craft.  It makes enjoyable reading, and useful reading for would be writers.


Janet Evanovich has written an excellent and entertaining description of how she puts a story together and gets it written. It is good on lateral thinking and how to put together what you see and hear around you. It is fun to read and specific to her stories, but it could also be used almost as a primer: How I Write.


For poets, and would be poets, I highly recommend The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry, a man of many accomplishments. It is a lilting and passionate guide to poetry and the varieties of poetry. Near the end of the book Fry says a few words about the process of writing under the heading:
Ten Habits of Successful Poets that They Don't Teach You at Harvard Poetry School, or Chicken Verse for the Soul Is from Mars but You Are What You Read in Just Seven Days or Your Money Back
Of poetic vices Fry says:
Laziness is the worst vice a poet can have.

For more on the craft and process of writing see the earlier post on this blog by Annette K. Tools of the Trade.

Nell M.

CATEGORIES: Nell M. , Poetry , Writers , Writing
POSTED: 5:24:00 PM |

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Gaithersburg Book Festival

GazeboIt is time for the Gaithersburg Book Festival! On Saturday May 19, booklovers and authors will gather on the grounds of the Gaithersburg City Hall to to celebrate books, writers and literary excellence. In its third year, the Festival features talks and book signings by authors, writing workshops, a coffee house with singers and poets/songwriters, a Children's Village and several panel discussions. One discussion, Separating Fact from Fiction, will include audience participation. Another will tackle the future of bookstores and books. Take a look at the festival program to decide how you want to spend your Festival Day. It's a perfect time for kids, 'teens and grown-ups to make a summer reading plan or to gather suggestions for a new or ongoing book group.

Emily Alone -covver

Friday Night Lights- coverUnder the Dog Star --cover

To prepare for the Festival, look at the photos and videos from last year or read an entry from this year's short story contest for high school students.  MCPL can help booklovers prepare for the Festival, too.  Let the Reader's Cafe guide your author presentation selection. Read or listen to a book by one of the featured authors. MCPL offers many of these works as downloadable audio books or  ebooks, too. This year's featured authors include novelists and mystery writers, Sandra Parshall, Christopher Tilghman, and Tim Wendel. Non-fiction writers include Buzz Bissinger, John Feinstein, Marvin and Deborah Kalb, and Jim Lehrer.

Hahn bookcoverbook cover Frindle

Get the kids ready, too. Share a book or audio book.  Children's and young adult authors appearing in the Jim Henson and Willa Cather Pavillions include Fred Bowen, Andrew Clements, Mary Downing Hahn, Laura McNeal and Matthew Quick (aka Q). Free craft and other hands-on sessions are offered for children, too.

Grab your sunscreen, a pen for autographs and get ready to collect ideas for summer reading!!

Barbara M. Avatar    Barbara M.


CATEGORIES: Barbara M. , Children's Books , Books , Local Events , Reading , Summer Reading , Writing
POSTED: 10:32:00 AM |

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ready, Set, GO! To the Festival...

May is jam-packed with festivals and outdoor events for the whole family.
The first full weekend in May is the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival in nearby Howard County.

My husband calls this “The best free show in the state of Maryland”, and he doesn’t even particularly like sheep! Their web page gives you an idea of what's going on, but you may want to read
Wool by Annabelle Dixon to the children before setting out. Or Judith MacKenzie's Intentional Spinner for an adult's eye view of the process.

Why don't you check out the Bethesda Fine Arts Festival  on the following weekend?
All kinds of art and fine crafts will be on display and for sale, as well as free entertainment. Does it make you want to try your hand at making art? Read David Sammiguel's Complete Guide...or try ArtStarts with your children.

For the third weekend, you don't need to go far. Gaithersburg is hosting its second annual Book Festival http://www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org/ with authors and activities for all.
How about making a book of your own?

If you are an author in search of a publisher, the 808 location in our reference collections hold lots of ‘Writer’s Market’ –type guides. They will tell you how and where to find a publisher, editor or agent.
But what about actually making your own book? Shades of Inkheart! Try McCarthy's Making Books by Hand .

Or, for a look into the actual mind (or brain) of a writer, examine Alice Flaherty’s The Midnight Disease  for a look at the process of writing (or not) as viewed by a neurologist.

You can make books with the kids, too. Susan Kapuchinski Gaylord teaches book arts for children and shares her wealth of knowledge through text, pictures and video. http://www.makingbooks.com/freeprojects.shtml

Or read together:
The young author’s do-it-yourself book by Guthrie, Bentley & Arnsteen Or Making Books that fly, fold, wrap, hide, pop up, twist and turn by Gwen Diehn; two great viewpoints on what it takes to 'make a book'.

The last weekend in May is Memorial Day, of course. Since we have three days, why not go a bit farther afield? Chestertown, just across the Bay, commemorates and re-enacts a great moment in Maryland’s Colonial era – The Chester Town Tea Party. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chestertown_Tea_Party

  Every year on this weekend Chestertown hosts thousands of visitors to   stroll, eat, drink and cheer. There are races to view or enter (including a raft race!) crafts to buy and a re-enactment of a famous ‘tea party’ that may or may not have happened in 1774.


 For more great astonishing information about America in its infancy, check out the Library of Congress.

Phew! Festivals can be exhausting! Gotta rest up before I start my Summer Reading!

Jan D.

CATEGORIES: Books , History , Hobbies , Local Events , Holidays , Travel , Writing , Art , Writers
POSTED: 10:00:00 AM |
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Last edited: 11/6/2007