The Saturday Writing Quote

“And that is what the best writing is—a witness to the human experience, a companion that lets readers know you’re not in this alone. You’re not the only one. Love, hate, rage, failure, success, disappointment, despair, elation, fear—we’ve all been there. And sometimes, for me at least, the way forward through writing is to let all that unfold without worrying about beats and steps and aha moments, but through recording—as a witness, as a companion—the story I need to tell.

I’m not saying that writers can write and rules and advice be damned; of course not. All great books are based on a solid foundation of structure and craft even when they appear seamless. But I am saying that sometimes relying too much on advice and how-tos can distract from the main purpose of writing fiction: To tell a story that says something about human experience.”

– novelist Kathleen McCleary, Writer Unboxed, 8/16/17

Mixed media by Leslie

The Saturday Writing Quote

“A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.”

— Jorge Luis Borges, Argentinean writer (1899-1986)

(hat-tip to PJ Coldren)

The Saturday Writing Quote — the power of story

“Q: How does writing help an individual cope with life’s setbacks?
A. I’s been my experience that as writers we tend to process life events (positive and negative) through story. It’s often on a subconscious level, hovering below the surface of our thoughts and then woven into the fabric of our stories. And it helps This is how our brains are wired to process life. By creating story we can deal with the unexpected curve balls life hurls our way.”
– Debbie Macomber, The Writer, June 2014

The Last Best Book — Top Reads of 2017

The Last Best Book — an occasional series highlighting books I’ve loved. 

It’s a bit disheartening to see how many books on my 2017 reading list were published in 2015 or 2016 — I’m always playing catch-up! But I suspect you are, too, so my list of top reads in 2017 isn’t confined to those actually published in 2017.

Best Mysteries (in no particular order):

Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz (2017) Horowitz created two much-loved mystery series for British TV, Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War, and his knowledge of the genre helps make this mystery-within-a-mystery smart, clever, and fun. I read it over the holiday break, and the cat was thrilled because it actually kept me in my chair for hours at a time.

Fogged Inn, Barbara Ross (2016) One of the best contemporary cozy series. In this installment, Ross sets herself a well-met challenge and flips a convention of the genre in a surprising but utterly satisfying way.

Wicked Girls, Alex Marwood (2012) I went searching for books that wove together past and present story lines, and this was one of the best. The ending still chills me — not for physical horror but for its internal impact on the protagonist.

Sunburn, Laura Lippman (2018) Watch for this book, a bit of a departure for Lippman, in February.

Best First Mystery: Hollywood Homicide, Kellye Garrett (2017) Not your typical cozy — more caperish, with a fun premise and an appealing protagonist.

Best Other Fiction: Not surprisingly, all three weave together past and present story lines, although the lapse of time varies from several hundred years to just a few months.

Truly, Madly, Guilty, Liane Moriarty (2016) If you enjoy audio books, this performance will knock your socks off.

The Savage Garden, Mark Mills (2008) Travel by armchair from 1958 England to Italy in 1958, at the end of WW II, and during the Renaissance. Pop the cork on a nice Italian wine and be doubly happy.

Love and Other Consolation Prizes, Jamie Ford (2017) Did you know Seattle hosted two worlds fairs, in 1909 and 1962? Ernest, an accidental immigrant at four who becomes houseboy to an infamous madam, then loyal husband and father, attended both. Ford, author of The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, really shines in the voice of a young boy.

Here’s to another happy year of reading! What were your favorites of 2017?

The Saturday Writing Quote — on revision #5

“I love revision. To me that feels like art[,] pulling the thread of your ending all the way back to the beginning, to work on the grace and fluidity and architecture of a story, that is your real art. Slogging through a first draft is like hoeing a row of corn. You’re just happy when you get to the end.”

– Barbara Kingsolver, quoted in the Missoulian 11/22/09, in an article reprinted from the Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Saturday Writing Quote — on revision

In writing world, November is known as NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Participants pledge to write 50,000 words in a month — that’s about 2/3 of a typical cozy mystery, maybe half of a typical thriller. It takes determination, a comfy chair, and 1,667 words a day. I didn’t participate, but for those of you who did, I offer a month of quotes on revision!

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything good.”

– William Faulkner

The Saturday Writing Quote — on reading

“Studies have shown that reading novels increases our ability to empathize, but not by choice, but by rewiring our brain. … Story isn’t something we humans created for “entertainment” nor is story about something as ephemeral, vague and – honestly unhelpful – as the concept of “art.” In fact, we didn’t create story at all; story created us. Or at least our perception of the world we live in. Story is built into the architecture of the brain, it’s the framework that allows us to process all the raw info that life throws at us 24/7.”
– Lisa Cron, Writer Unboxed blog, 10/8/15