Saturday Writing quote

The Wheeling Year: A Poet's Field Book

Speaking of April:

“Month of my birth. What record do we poets leave? Not on stone tablets, but in books like leaves that have matted together under the snows of indifference. That we were fretful, mostly, but that now and then we looked up and glimpsed something wonderful passing away.”

– Ted Kooser, in The Wheeling Year: A Poet’s Field Book (2014; Univ of Nebraska Press)

The Saturday Writing Quote — the spark

Spark: How Creativity Works by [Andersen, Kurt, Julie Burstein]I’m wrapping up two months of quotes from Spark: How Creativity Works (2011) by Julie Burstein, based on interviews conducted with artists of all media for Studio 360, which she produced.

Painter Chuck Close on how he creates his portraits: “I know where I’m going to end up but I don’t know the route I”m going to take. So much is embedded in the process of following that path wherever it leads, and the things you bump into, the ideas that occur to you through the act of painting, through the process of building a painting, are so different from the ones that you sit around and dream up. I don’t wait for inspiration. If you wait for the clouds to part and be struck in the head with a bolt of lightning, you’re likely to be waiting the rest of your life. But if you simply get going something will occur to you.”

So much like writing a story or a novel. I often find that I’m “sparked” by interaction with other arts — going to a concert or a gallery opening, taking a painting class, sitting nearby when my singer-songwriter husband and his friends take turns around the circle with their song. I hope these quotes have done something similar for you.

The Saturday Writing Quote — the spark

Spark: How Creativity Works by [Andersen, Kurt, Julie Burstein]The meat of Spark is, of course, the perspective and experiences of the artists themselves, but Julie Burstein, who produced the radio show and compiled the interview excerpts, offers a few insights into the creative process from her own experience. Here, she’s recounting part of a conversation with her mother, a college professor and author.

“My mother often reminds me that beginning a new project doesn’t start when you sit down at your desk to write, or stand in front of a canvas with a palette full of paint, or figure out a new tune on a piano. For most creative work, there’s a period that she likes to call ‘pawing the earth,’ when we must create the environment in which we can begin.”
– Julie Burstein, radio producer and author

The Saturday Writing Quote — the spark

Spark: How Creativity WorksI’m continuing to quote from Spark this month.

Architect Robert Venturi was interviewed with his wife, architect and urban planner Denise Scott Brown

“Quoting T.S. Eliot, [Ventura] pointed out that the creative process consists enormously of criticism. You don’t invent all the time. When you get an idea, you try it out, then you critique it. You work much of the time as a critic of your own ideas.” And he and his wife are critics of each other’s ideas.

Being seen as creative because he’s male, the lone genius, with his wife less creative is a problem. “Both views are stereotypes, and neither acknowledges the complexity in our tasks that pushes us to work creatively together. It’s relevant that we’re not performing artists. If we were, the nature of the collaboration—who is doing what work, how the creative work is shared—might be more obvious.”

The Saturday Writing Quote — the spark

Spark: How Creativity WorksI so enjoyed sharing with you quotes from Spark: How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein (2011), a book of excerpts from interviews by Kurt Andersen for Public Radio’s Studio 360 show, which Burstein produced, during February that I’m going to continue that this month.

Poet Donald Hall (1928-2018), on writing about the land he was born on, long held by his family, and the life he lived as a child:
“If we could bring [that world] back, I’m not sure I’d want to live there. I want to keep that world in the world by writing about it. … [ellipses original] This is a motive to literature—preserving what is gone or what is going. And it is, of course, an important part of preservation to try to preserve the dead whom you loved and admired.”

The Saturday Writing Post — the spark

Spark: How Creativity WorksThis month, I’m sharing a few of my favorite observations from Spark: How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein (Harper Collins, 2011), based on interviews conducted for Public Radio’s Studio 360, by Kurt Andersen and produced by Burstein.

When asked what artists can do in the face of destruction like the 9/11 attacks, which occurred a week before her interview:

“I think it’s a very sharp moment for people in the arts, those who love the arts, those who make them. I think it asks particularly of people who make art a very poignant question: If you think that art is not worth doing in a time like this, it probably isn’t worth doing at any time. If you think that art is indeed part of what I call the world’s work, then to be loyal to it and to look to it for strength, for its strength now, seems right.”
– poet Marie Ponsot

Indie Bookseller Spotlight: The Bookstore, Dillon, Montana

I heart indie booksellers. I was a Teenage Bookseller, my second-favorite job ever. (Top job? Mystery writer, of course!)

So I’m starting something new here. Every so often – how often, I don’t know – I’m going to shine a little spotlight on an indie bookseller I’ve met and particularly enjoy.

First up: Debbie Lame Sporich, owner of The Bookstore in Dillon, Montana. How can you not adore a bookstore with a Bovine Bibliophile welded from cast-off metal outside? (Piscture below.) Inside are new books, used books, cards, art supplies, and a big, beautiful woman with a fabulous smile and infectious laugh. We met when The Bookstore and the Dillon Public Library, an original Carnegie, co-sponsored a writing workshop last fall and invited me to teach, along with Barb BJ Daniels and Allen Morris Jones. (That’s us below, me in the middle and Barb on the right, in front of a display of our books in the UM-Western Library.) We had a blast. Read on – I think you’ll be as charmed as I.

About Debbie, in her own words: A lover of words, a student of life, a collector of dictionaries, the wife of Bill, I love to laugh and I take a book to the movie theater. I ride a pink Honda Scooter. A sometime artist who plays with watercolor and creates personal meditation boxes. Lives with a goldendoodle named Tonka. Eldest of 4 sisters, born and bred Montanan, raised in Augusta on a ranch. After college at UM, moved to Dillon, an area full of history and local authors. I love to help others find that perfect book. I wake each day (grumpy) but eventually find my groove and I love what I do. Life just doesn’t get any better than this.

I finish about 5 books a week – I may wake up grumpy because I stay up too late reading! I’m working on a review of March by Geraldine Brooks for the local Shakespeare Book Club, which has been active for over 120 years. Also reading right: Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard, Less than a Treason by Dana Stabenow, Churchill: Walking with Destiny, by Anthony Roberts, Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner, Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan, The Work is Murder by Anthony Horowitz, and 1000 Books to Read Before You Die – I am making lists!

Tell us about The Bookstore: Established in 1984; I bought it in 1992, knowing nothing about running a business – I just knew that I loved reading and books. We are an independent bookstore with a little bit of everything, and a great collection of local and regional authors. I love working with kids of all ages and I get excited when they discover an author who speaks to them.

What do you love most about being a bookseller? Almost everything. What I get to do that online stores don’t is be involved with my customers. I get to pick out books for baby showers, help the harried parent find something new to read because if they have to read (fill in the blank) one more time they may lose their mind — I get to hold that child on my lap and read to them during story time, I get to help them spend that money from Grandma on a new book, I get to celebrate that move from easy reader to chapter book and I get to talk to them about all the books along the way. I am now seeing children of kids who hung out here when they were kids. I get to see the look in their eyes when they find that book. I still get goosebumps when I walk through the door, every day. I love that I get to be surrounded by books all day and talk to people who love books all day. I am better at reading books than doing books, so I have an accountant!

What’s flying off your shelves this winter? Becoming by Michelle Obama, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Beneath a Scarlet Sky, Royal Wulff Murders, The Meateater Cookbook, Educated, and anything by Mary Oliver. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Maid, by Stephanie Lund of Missoula.

Debbie will happily ship new books and see if something you’re looking for is in her used book collection. Check her website, email debbie at dillonbooks dot net or call the shop at 406-683-6807

Plus, how can you not adore a bookstore with a Bovine Bibliophile out front?

The Saturday Writing Post — the spark

Spark: How Creativity WorksI’m continuing to share a few of my favorite observations from Spark: How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein (Harper Collins, 2011), based on interviews conducted for Public Radio’s Studio 360, by Kurt Andersen and produced by Burstein.

Trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard on working on a soundtrack for a documentary about Katrina: “You can’t avoid your daily experiences. You have to write about those. From an artistic point of view, I had to do it. [Surviving and recovering from Hurricane Katrina] became a very emotional thing. … I didn’t want to be a part of that whole movement of folks where when something happens, everybody tried to jump on the bandwagon. But at the same time, I started realizing that I am a part of the story. Being an artist, you can’t avoid your social setting. …  The trumpet represents, in my mind, people on the rooftops crying for help and not being heard.”

The Agatha Award nominations are out — celebrate with me!

cat sleeping with tea potsThe Agatha Awards are given every May at Malice Domestic, the convention celebrating the traditional mystery. It’s always fun to see the list of nominees — and to try to read as many as I can before “the con,” so I can cast my vote.

It’s even more fun to see the list when I’m on it! “All God’s Sparrows,” my first historical short story, is nominated for Best Short Story. It was originally published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, May-June 2018; it’s now available, free, on my website. The authors of the other nominated shorts have also posted their stories — it’s a tradition, because so many stories would not otherwise be available — see the links below.

In 1885 Montana Territory, “Stagecoach Mary” Fields and Sister Louisine encounter a young mother and her daughter whose plight requires an inspired intervention. Mary is a historic figure who was born in slavery in Tennessee in 1832 and moved to Montana Territory to care for the ailing Mother Superior at St. Peter’s Mission near Cascade.

I’ve got a pair of Agatha teapots, for Best Nonfiction (2011) and Best First Novel (2013) — that’s Ruff, our late kitty, lounging with them in the library window sill. But honestly, that makes me even more excited, because I know what an honor a nomination is. And I’m sure you’ll agree that the other stories are terrific — I feel like we’re all winners already.

Here’s the full list, courtesy of Malice Domestic:

Announcing the 2018 Agatha Award Nominees

Best Contemporary Novel

Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane Books)
Beyond the Truth by Bruce Robert Coffin (Witness Impulse)
Cry Wolf by Annette Dashofy (Henery Press)
Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge)

Best Historical Novel 

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen (Berkley)
The Gold Pawn by LA Chandlar (Kensington)
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (Soho Crime)
Turning the Tide by Edith Maxwell (Midnight Ink)
Murder on Union Square by Victoria Thompson (Berkley)

Best First Novel

A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman (Kensington)
Little Comfort by Edwin Hill (Kensington)
What Doesn’t Kill You by Aimee Hix (Midnight Ink)
Deadly Solution by Keenan Powell (Level Best Books)
Curses Boiled Again by Shari Randall (St. Martin’s)

Best Short Story

“All God’s Sparrows” by Leslie Budewitz (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
“A Postcard for the Dead” by Susanna Calkins in Florida Happens (Three Rooms Press)
“Bug Appetit” by Barb Goffman (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
“The Case of the Vanishing Professor” by Tara Laskowski (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)
“English 398: Fiction Workshop” by Art Taylor (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)

Best Children’s/YA Mystery

Potion Problems (Just Add Magic) by Cindy Callaghan (Aladdin)
Winterhouse by Ben Guterson (Henry Holt)
A Side of Sabotage by C.M. Surrisi (Carolrhoda Books)

Best Nonfiction

Mastering Plot Twists by Jane Cleland (Writer’s Digest Books)
Writing the Cozy Mystery by Nancy J Cohen (Orange Grove Press)
Conan Doyle for the Defense by Margalit Fox (Random House)
Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life by Laura Thompson (Pegasus Books)
Wicked Women of Ohio by Jane Ann Turzillo (History Press)


The Agatha Awards will be presented on May 4, 2019 
during Malice Domestic 31.  

(Picture of “Stagecoach Mary” Fields courtesy of the Montana Historical Society.)