In the face of a crisis, this is what lifts humanity. Enjoy…
In the face of a crisis, this is what lifts humanity. Enjoy…
March 8, 2019 marks the 108th anniversary of International Women’s Day (IWD). Per the official IWD site:
The first International Women’s Day occurred in 1911, supported by over one million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organization specific.
The future is exciting. Let’s build a gender-balanced world.
Everyone has a part to play – all the time, everywhere.
From grassroots activism to worldwide action, we are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. We notice its absence and celebrate its presence.
Balance drives a better working world. Let’s all help create a #BalanceforBetter.
I’d like to take this opportunity to pay homage to the most influential woman I know, a civic advocacy leader, affordable housing champion, unrivaled proponent of older women’s rights through the Older Women’s Network, and (duh!) best mother in the world: my mom.
She was also the reason I had my first library as a young punk, and taught me that reading was not just cool; it was necessary, like food and water. For that, and so many other reasons, I hope that a day like IWD can inspire us all to push for greater changes in gender equality rights, and to reach out to the women in our lives who have impacted us in such meaningful, positive, and long-lasting ways.
(Hmm…cagey misdirection or evangelistic confidence?
Maybe a good ol’ pipe is all I need)
Emily Temple has an interesting piece in Literary Hub called “20 Pieces of Writing Advice from William Faulkner: “Don’t be ‘a writer’ but instead be writing.”
What I love about this is that it can be applied (mostly) to everyday life and the challenges we face as partners, parents, employees…human beings. Here’s a snapshot of some of Mr. Faulkner’s choice thoughts:
On how to approach writing:
Keep it amateur. You’re not writing for money but for pleasure. It should be fun. And it should be exciting.
Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error.
On what makes a good novelist
He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done. . . . Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written.
The real truths come from human hearts.
I think anyone that spends too much of his time about his style, developing a style, or following a style, probably hasn’t got much to say and knows it and is afraid of it, and so he writes a style, a marvelous trove.
On writing towards the truth:
Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.
All of us failed to match our dream of perfection. So I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible.
On what a writer needs:
[T]he only environment the artist needs is whatever peace, whatever solitude, and whatever pleasure he can get at not too high a cost.
On the writer’s essential toolkit:
A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination—any two of which, at times any one of which—can supply the lack of the others.
On the best training for writing:
Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad; see how they do it.
And maybe the best piece of advice of all.
On also getting a job:
Don’t make writing your work. Get another job so you’ll have money to buy the things you want in life. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you don’t count on money and a deadline for your writing.
If you like reading, you’ll probably like this book. If you love reading, you will love this book. And if you adore reading like it’s a source of oxygen, then you will go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs when you start this book.
In 1997, Argentine-Canadian Alberto Manguel published an immensely engrossing book called A History of Reading, a love letter, as it were, to readers everywhere throughout the ages. As his publisher puts it:
“At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a book—that string of confused, alien ciphers—shivered into meaning. Words spoke to you, gave up their secrets; at that moment, whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader. Alberto Manguel moves from this essential moment to explore the 6000-year-old conversation between words and that magician without whom the book would be a lifeless object: the reader. Manguel lingers over reading as seduction, as rebellion, as obsession, and goes on to trace the never-before-told story of the reader’s progress from clay tablet to scroll, codex to CD-ROM.”
For those bibliophiles and word nerds out there who can’t get enough book-related stuff, Mr. Manguel also has another interesting nonfiction book called The Library at Night. It’s sexy. It’s mild. It’s a sexy mild read.
In a similarly related piece, Nicholas Cannariato penned a thought-provoking piece for @The_Millions called “Why We Read and Why We Write.” As Mr. Cannariato says:
“Reading then is a moral and subversive act in its own right. It’s a disengagement from the commercial and competitive in pursuit of heightened moral sense coupled with aesthetic and intellectual engagement. Reading doesn’t produce ‘work’ itself as ‘producerist’ ideology would have it, but rather it cultivates the intangibles that go into that work. What we gain by reading is what we often strive for in life when we’re actually thinking about what we want.”
But perhaps the most hilarious quote from this piece (and something which would likely make Stephen King hunt down and “Misery” the male colleague in question here) is the following: “Sheila Liming, in her recent essay “In Praise of Not Not Reading,” recounts a male colleague pursuing an MFA in fiction tell her he literally didn’t believe in reading. ‘I’m a writer, I make things,’ he said, ‘whereas you’re a reader, you consume things.'”
Anyone have a candlestick, knife, rope, dumbbell, trophy, poison, lead pipe, revolver, or wrench handy for Professor Douchebag?
Someone asked me recently what I do for a living. I explained that I work across a broad range of areas connected to the craft of writing, from translation, blogging, and social media involvement to writing (fiction & nonfiction), editing and proofreading.
“You must be pretty busy,” the gentleman remarked. “And making good money!”
I thought about this for a moment, then responded, “Think of my line of work as similar to that of a professional athlete or a farmer: I sow in some seasons, reap in others, and then “take five,” though not usually by choice.
My low season is roughly December to March, making me, I suppose, closest in work schedule to a baseball player (except as a freelancer I don’t get paid in my time off, no insurance, no benefits, etc.).
That’s why I’ve been thinking a lot about harsh times, poverty, and the like these days. Of course it doesn’t help that I live in the Great White North. As Sarah McLachlan so poetically sings in “Full of Grace“:
The winter here’s cold, and bitter.
It’s chilled us to the bone.
We haven’t seen the sun for weeks,
Too long, too far from home.
I feel just like I’m sinking,
and I claw for solid ground.
I’m pulled down by the undertow.
I never thought I could feel so low.
Oh, darkness, I feel like letting go.
Even in a country like Canada, which has a very generous social safety net, nearly five million of us live in poverty, or one in seven individuals, according to Canada Without Poverty. Another alarming statistic by the same group says that “over the past 25 years, Canada’s population has increased by 30% and yet annual national investment in housing has decreased by 46%.”
This necessarily begs the question, which Kim Redigan has addressed, “Why Do We Hate the Poor?”
On that sunshiny note! This got me thinking about poverty as it’s portrayed in fiction and nonfiction. After an extensive search through Goodreads’ “shelved as poverty” pages, I came up with the following list of must-reads. Again, just my opinion…
MUST-READS (FICTION): All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr), A Streetcar Named Desire (Tennessee Williams), A Suitable Boy (Vikram Seth), The White Tiger (Aravind Adiga), The Good Earth (Pearl Buck), The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver), Of Human Bondage (Somerset Maugham), The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Díaz), The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison)
MUST-READS (NONFICTION): The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls), I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou), No Logo (Naomi Klein), Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt), Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, (Jared Diamond), Infidel (Ayaan Hirsi Ali)
(A shot of downtown T.O., just up the street from my pad)
How’s that title for a tourism slogan! Come to Toronto, where you can live as a human being AND use kindly things in a way that will make them seem like they’re a friend.
Writer and translator Manjushree Thapa over at The Millions has penned what is labelled a “quasi-love letter to Toronto,” the city I was born in, grew up in, and now live in (making me as rare a species as the Manhattanite who was born, raised, and still lives on the 59 km2 island), titled “I Don’t Love You, Toronto: On Books and Cities.”
It’s an interesting look at Toronto from the point of view of someone arriving here as an adult. Not only does she look into the city’s Native Canadian roots (something most of us Torontonians, sadly, know little about), but she also links some well-know CanLit (Canadian literature) books to the city.
Although Ms. Thapa is from Nepal, she nailed something soooooo Toronto when talking about housing: “…we’d slip into that most Torontonian of conversations, about buying or renting or moving away entirely.” The only thing missing from that statement is …or put our names down on the provincial 160,000 person waiting list for affordable housing (almost half of that list being in Toronto alone).
For what it’s worth, my favourite novel about Toronto remains Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion, which earned him a Toronto Book Award in 1988.
Imagine, if you will, receiving the following message:
wasn’t that, like, so so so clever how i, um, ya know, changed you’re, like, name like that?!?!? anyways, i, was, ah, ya know, just wonderin’ if you’d, like, wanna hook up this, um, weekend and, like, shoot some stick at bobs burgers?! everyone’ll be there, eh.
k, talk soon
If you have not self-immolated or torn out all your hair after reading that doozie, then congratulations. I am currently smoldering, my scarlet gown and long wig reduced to ashes.
As Willy S. would have written if he were alive today:
Shall I compare that missive to an 18-car trainwreck?
Thou art more lovelier and more temperature:
Rough winds do shake ‘n bake the buds of grammar, punctuation & filler words,
And language’s lease hath all too short a hot date.
Ah, yes, filler words. What would the world come to if we wrote the same way many of us speak English? At the top of my Seek & Destroy List are filler words in spoken English, notably the use of “like.”
Filler words, otherwise known as pause fillers or the hesitation form, are essentially meaningless words, phrases, or sounds that fill in a gap in speech. I suppose my question is this: Do native English speakers (i.e. those most guilty of committing said verbal infractions) not realize how dumbass they look when constantly using the word “like” as a filler word?
Surely you can’t be serious, the reader says. I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.
I, like many before me, have spent a considerable amount of time trying to clean up my writing, but how many of us are conscious about the way we speak? They say first impressions leave the most lasting impression. And while it’s true that how you look and present yourself are critical in making a great first impression, how you speak is also important. (I was going to write very important or quite important, but then remembered the challenge I threw out yesterday about eliminating mocking adverbs for the next seven days.)
So, the next time you catch yourself using one of the most common filler words (like, um, ah, you know, okay, er, right), reach for a bar of soap and give your mouth a good ol’ cleaning. The person with whom you’re speaking to will be eternally grateful.
Benjamin Dreyer has some advice for both aspiring and established writers (and something Stephen King — who once wrote “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs” — would wholeheartedly embrace): “Go a week without writing ‘very,’ ‘rather,’ ‘really,’ ‘quite,’ and ‘in fact.’ ” (“Feel free to go the rest of your life without another ‘actually,’ [too.]”)
In his book Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, Mr. Dreyer has penned what his publisher calls “A witty, informative guide to writing “good English” from Random House’s longtime copy chief and one of Twitter’s leading enforcers of proper grammar — a twenty-first-century Elements of Style.”
I think Messrs. King and Dreyer would agree that instead of going into overkill mode with your adverbs when writing, stretch your noodle to think of more appropriate/creative adjectives, metaphors or similes.