What is good writing? Let’s ask John Cheever…

John Cheever said: “For me a page of good prose is where one hears the rain. A page of good prose is when one hears the noise of battle …. A page of good prose seems to me the most serious dialogue that well-informed and intelligent men and women carry on today in their endeavor to make sure that the fires of this planet burn peaceably.”

And: “Fiction is art and art is the triumph over chaos … to celebrate a world that lies spread out around us like a bewildering and stupendous dream.”

So… good writing is good description then? So much more…. Good observing, good attention to awakening language, good being and living expressed in the word itself.

Inspires me to write… how about you?

Poetry about Traveling — playing with high and low language for power

Check out this poem by Charlie Smith, about a journey through Rome. Notice the way he tells a down-to-earth story with smart (and smart-ass) language, earning a punchline that’s both ironic and humanizing….

Crostatas

in rome I got down among the weeds and tiny perfumed
flowers like eyeballs dabbed in blood and the big ruins
said do it my way pal while starlings
kept offering show biz solutions and well the vatican
pursued its interests the palm trees like singular affidavits
the wind succinct and the mountains painted blue
just before dawn accelerated at the last point
of departure before the big illuminated structures
dug up from the basement got going and I ate crostatas
for breakfast and on the terrace chatted
with the clay-faced old man next door and said I was
after a woman who’d left me years ago and he said lord aren’t we all.

Affirm your independence with W.S. Merwin — simplicity, complexity, perfection!

I hope you enjoy this poem as much as I did. Today, I feel like one of the happy few — and maybe that’s one of the benefits of being a writer, moving beyond labels, finding a voice “outside the box!”

To the Happy Few
by W. S. Merwin

Do you know who you are

O you forever listed
under some other heading
when you are listed at all

you whose addresses
when you have them
are never sold except
for another reason
something else that is
supposed to identify you

who carry no card
stating that you are—
what would it say you were
to someone turning it over
looking perhaps for
a date or for
anything to go by

you with no secret handshake
no proof of membership
no way to prove such a thing
even to yourselves

you without a word
of explanation
and only yourselves
as evidence

“To the Happy Few” by W.S. Merwin, from Collected Poems: 1996-2011. © Library of America, 2013.

October Meeting Next Week!!

Get your pumpkin lattes and orange pens ready, it’s the AWWG October meeting. The Library is open on Columbus Day, so head on in for our usual good time.

It’s also my time to get on my NaNoWriMo soapbox and challenge all of you to write 50,000 words in November.  Yes, National Novel Writing Month is upon us! In just 24 days it will be time to write like your hair is on fire, to break through all those hesitations that keep telling you the LIES that you ‘can’t do it.’  LIES I tell you ! All lies. I am living proof.

I cannot (today) RUN a marathon, my friends, but I can WRITE one.

So, if you are even the tiniest bit tempted, even just curious for a ‘friend’ of yours, take a peek at these NaNoWriMo get-started resources:

Of course, you can ignore my shenanigans and just go about your normal writing business, but you’ve been warned, I’m a NaNo Evangelist. emojiKiss

Book Bazaar, Mini Writer’s Con, & Story Challenge!

UPDATE: Patrise will be taking part in a writer’s panel at Book Lovers Bazaar!

A message from N. Virginia member Tamela J Ritter, author of From These Ashes

Hello! Tamela J Ritter here. I’ve been a member for a long time, but haven’t before come here to share anything. Bad Member, bad! (EDITOR: stop that, TJ!)

But, there are two things I’d like to share with you :

1. Story Challenge

ONE:  I am hosting a Give Me a Story Challenge. It is open to anyone, so please do feel free to participate and spread the word.

2. Book Lover’s Bazaar

TWO: I’d really, really love all of you to check out is Book Lover’s Bazaar!
It’s hosted by the Northern Virginia chapter of both First Book and National Novel Writing Month. There will be local authors there selling and signing their wares along with local crafters and vendors.

Saturday, September 20th
Tackett Mills’ in Lake Ridge Va.

PLUS: this is so cool, a mini writer’s conference! All for 10 dollars, how cool is that?!?!

I hope you will check this out, and if you want to go to the Book Bazaar, let me know! I’ll be there, and we could carpool.

Science Measures Health Benefits of Writing

AWWG member Joan Pierotti sent along this good news about the many benefits of the writing life.

From this article at mic.com:

The benefits of writing go far beyond building up your vocabulary.

No matter the quality of your prose, the act of writing itself leads to strong physical and mental health benefits, like long-term improvements in mood, stress levels and depressive symptoms. In a 2005 study on the emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing, researchers found that just 15 to 20 minutes of writing three to five times over the course of the four-month study was enough to make a difference.

Writing Can Heal Injuries Faster.
Click pic for article from Scientific American

Not only is writing cathartic and a good tonic for mental health, there is significant evidence that writing improves physical healing as well.

Studies have shown that people with asthma who write have fewer attacks than those who don’t; AIDS patients who write have higher T-cell counts. Cancer patients who write have more optimistic perspectives and improved quality of life.

These results weren’t dependent on hours of work nor publishing a great work. The simple, yet profound, act of allowing our thoughts to flow through our fingers appears to engage our bodies as well as our spirits.

Which of course, can’t really be separated.
emojiKiss

ONE GOOD THING: Edwin Romond, inspiration for the dog days of writing…

Writers, when you feel like you have nothing to say, because you’ve done nothing extraordinary, or your day job has you running in place, or your language revolves around phrases and ideas you’ve visited so often it feels like you’ve worn down the stairs to discovery, write about that moment in the day when everything feels right, even if it doesn’t make sense, even if it’s a seemingly ordinary moment.

Alternatively, just read Edwin Romond’s poem to be reminded that every day really does have “One Good Thing.” (Thanks, ER and Writer’s Almanac! You made my morning.)

One Good Thing
by Edwin Romond

It’s been a dead parade
of hours since 5 AM
a march of the bland
with the meaningless and
I can think of nothing
I have done to merit
mentioning or
remembering.

But now, at 8 pm,
I am bathing my son
in a tub filled with bubbles
and blue battleships,
the soapy water over
his Irish white skin
makes him glisten
like a glazed doughnut

and I should tell him
to stop splashing
but this is the first time
all day I have felt like living
so how can I scold
my boy who’s found joy
in something ordinary
as water? And when

I wash his hair
with Buzz Lightyear
shampoo, Liam
closes his eyes and
smiles like a puppy
being petted as I massage
the sweet lotion into
his red curls and I know

this is one good thing
I have done with my life
this day that has waited
for this moment
of water on my sleeve
and soap on my nose
to turn emptiness
into ecstasy.

“One Good Thing” by Edwin Romond. © Edwin Romond.

Some of our Writers are Artists, too….

…including yours truly, Webmaster Patrise Henkel.   I will have a painting in the Charles County Arts Alliance Fall Art Show, a multi-media public exhibit.

When: October 2 to December 30, 2014
Where: Waldorf West Library
10405 O’Donnell Place, Waldorf, MD

The Library consists of four separate gallery spaces on two floors, so it should be a large and varied exhibit. My painting student Neil (featured on my blog) will have 2 works in the show.

“Meet the Artists” Public Reception

Come and honor all the artists, check out the gallery, the library and enjoy refreshments.

Saturday, October 4
2:00 to 4:00 pm
Waldorf West Library’s Main Gallery 

The Challenge of Description: Robert Hass on “The Problem of Describing Trees”

Check out this remarkable poem by Robert Hass about writing, about poetry — and about trees, of course. Simple language, beautiful message, touching — but not berating — the ineffable.

The Problem of Describing Trees

 

The aspen glitters in the wind
And that delights us.

The leaf flutters, turning,
Because that motion in the heat of August
Protects its cells from drying out. Likewise the leaf
Of the cottonwood.

The gene pool threw up a wobbly stem
And the tree danced. No.
The tree capitalized.
No. There are limits to saying,
In language, what the tree did.

It is good sometimes for poetry to disenchant us.

Dance with me, dancer. Oh, I will.

Mountains, sky,
The aspen doing something in the wind.

 

“The Problem of Describing Trees” by Robert Hass, from Time and Materials. © Ecco, 2008.