Text Version      
Montgomery County Seal Montgomery County Seal
Home | Translate   Montgomery County Seal
Citizens ButtonGovernment ButtonBusinesses ButtonCulture & Leisure Button
Montgomery County Public Libraries

Contact Us | Home

catalog   MCPL webpages  

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, March 14, 2012

Maryland, My Maryland

Every month has a holiday or two some well-known and some obscure. In March, for instance, we have: National Pig Day and Peanut Butter Lover’s Day, simultaneously! And who could forget the Ides of March? Not Julius Caesar! (There is an Ides in every month, you know; right in the middle of each one.)

March also contains Dentist’s Day and Panic Day – but not at the same time.

National Pi day is 3.14, of course (think about it), but since 1918 March twenty-fifth has been Maryland Day – commemorating the settlement of the proprietary colony of Mary Land in 1634.

State House dome with flag in foreground Click on the flag to hear our State Song from Music Online.

How about a terrific wallow in all things Maryland, in honor of the occasion? Books and audio books about Maryland, Maryland people, places and history? Books by Maryland authors? Crab cake recipes? The potential is endless!

book cover for Other Wes Moorebook cover Sisters of FortuneFrederick Douglass memoir

Maryland authors such as:  (click on the author photo to see our holdings of their works)

Laura Lippman
Laura Lippman, creator of Tess Monaghan, Baltimore's own Reporter-turned-PI
Nora Roberts
Did you know that Maryland is the lifelong home of New York Time multi-Bestseller and oft-award-winning Romance author Nora Roberts?
Tom Clancey Southern Maryland is the home of the originator of the techno-thriller genre -  Tom Clancy
Stephen Hunter Along with Pulitzer Prize-winner Stephen Hunter
Mary Downing Hahn

And for the kids and 'tweens, two authors who not only live in Maryland, but who do not hesitate to set their stories here, too.

Mary Downing Hahn  

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Why don't you check one of these out at your nearest branch, pour a glass of milk and settle in for a great read with a Berger's (made in Maryland) cookie or two. What a great place we live in!

Chocolate over shortbread decadence

CATEGORIES: Maryland , Holidays , Literature , Jan D. , writers
POSTED: 10:00:00 AM |

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Physician Writers: Writer Turns Doctor Turns Writer

We don't always choose the right occupation the first time around, or for some of us, a second or third time.  Have you noticed people often say, "I should have been a (insert an occupation)"? 

I know a lawyer who yearns to be an actor and an investment banker who yearns to be (gasp!) a librarian. We have heard businessman turned farmer, lawyer turned baker,etc.

What about medical doctors? Many of them want to be writers, it seems. Maybe that's what they would have become in the first place if they had had a chance. Anton Chekhov was one, and so was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Somerset Maugham, William Carlos Williams, Robin Cook, Michael Crichton, Khaled Hosseini, Perri Klass, Chris Adrian to list some. Some of my favorites are...

book cover image of Better by Atul Gawande Book cover image for My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor book cover image of My Own Country by Abraham Verghese Musicophilia book cover





Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande, 2007 nonfiction.
This is more than his notes. It is his eyewitness account and analysis on medical failures and triumphs

My Own Country: A Doctor's Story of A Town and Its People in the Age of AIDS by Abraham Verghese, 1994 nonfiction
Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone,  was a young doctor in Johnson City, Tennessee, when he saw his first AIDS patient. He wrote about how this conservative community tried to cope with the medical and spiritual emergency.

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor, 2006 nonfiction.
Taylor, a thirty-seven-year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist, experienced a massive stroke when a blood vessel exploded in the left side of her brain. In this book she shares her unique perspective on the brain and its capacity for recovery.

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks, 2007 nonfiction
Author of many books on medicine and human behavior, Sacks wrote Musicophilia about incidents affecting the musical ability of some patients, sometimes in a very surprising way.

BONUS: Talking about prolific writer-doctors, if I may include another type of doctor,  Alexander McCall Smith taught Medical Ethics at the University of Edinburgh before he became a well-known writer.  MCPL has a wonderful recorded lecture series by him entitled Creating Humans: Ethical Questions Where Reproduction and Science Collide.

plum blossom in rain by Joy 


CATEGORIES: Medicine , Writers , Megumi L.
POSTED: 1:48:00 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 |
Montgomery County Public Libraries
Montgomery County Public Libraries

Library Policies | Friends of the Library | Library Board | Library Jobs | Contact Us

Last edited: 11/6/2007