Saturday Writing Quote — JFK on the arts

“We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth… In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the spheres of polemic and ideology. Artists are not engineers of the soul. It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society — in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation.”

— President John F. Kennedy, in a speech at Amherst honoring poet Robert Frost (whose daughter was married to the mayor of my childhood town!)

Order in the Court — online RWA class

Writer friends, I’ll be teaching an online class on using the law in your fiction beginning October 1, through the Romance Writers of America “Kiss of Death” chapter. The class is called “Order in the Court & in Your Work.”
 

We’ll be covering the following:
1. Introduction
2. Overview of the judicial system
3. State prosecutorial systems
4. Crimes
5. Miranda warnings
6. Probable cause
7. Evidence
8. Trial process
9. Sentencing
10. Civil litigation
11. Appeals process
12. Legal ethics and discipline
13: The Law on TV Today: Three Guest Authors Rant and Rave

The class will include some assignments and regular Q&A opportunities. Register for Order in the court & in your work here. RWA membership is required.

See you there!

 

Love the book, hate the movie?

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel by [Shaffer, Mary Ann, Barrows, Annie]We’ve all been there, right? Loved the book, hated the movie, wondered why we bothered. And yet, we know they’re different media and the stories have to change.

Mr. Right and I watched The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society  a few weeks ago. I’d read the book — by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows — shortly after it came out in 2008. The authors created such vivid images of London during the bombing that I felt I was there, even though I’ve never been to London, let alone seen my flat and everything in it, including my precious books, well, flattened. The epistolary — letter — format was a delight, allowing us to meet other characters and see the world, whether in London, Scotland, or Guernsey — as they saw it. Mr. Right doesn’t read much fiction and the story was new to him. The movie spends more time on Guernsey than in London, and we loved the scenery. A few characters disappeared or were combined, and the occupation of Juliet’s suitor changed, but on the whole, I felt the movie quite faithful to the book. Above all, it gave me the same feel as the book — a glimpse at strength and resilience in times of great turmoil, and the healing power of story. (And yes, it was fun to spot actors we’d seen in Downton Abbey.)

And it got me thinking about books made into movies. They’re different experiences, for sure. Some succeed better than others. A few I’ve loved:

Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak — Perhaps the best excised story, from a typically elaborate Russian novel, I’ve seen. So good that I can forgive director David Lean deviating from the first line. (“Yuri Zhivago was not a handsome man.”)

The Harry Potter movies — the books are so visual, and yet, the worlds so detailed and involved. Four different directors, and certainly the mood shifted, but that matched the shift in the books. Pretty much every BBC adaptation of a Jane Austen novel. Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout on HBO — only a handful of the stories were filmed, and 2-3 combined, but oh, gosh, it worked. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin — Ellis is so interior, I couldn’t imagine how that could translate, but Soirse Ronan made me a believer.

What of the failures? I know there are many, but neither of us can think of adaptations we hated at the moment. You can, right? What book-to-movie adaptations have you loved or hated?

 

 

The Saturday Writing Quote — Joseph Campbell

The weekly quote is back, after a summer vacation and some technical glitches. Alas, the glitches continue, but we shall persevere, right? Because above all, that’s what artists do.

Fall, as much as January, is the time for new projects, or new approaches to our work. And so I give you this quote from the master of insight.

“You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

—Joseph Campbell

Stupid Criminal Tricks — texting edition

Cyberbullying Doesn’t Pay – Escapee Returned to Jail After Taunting Detective Via Text

I haven’t posted a Stupid Criminal Trick in a while but this one is worth the wait. Short version: If you escape from jail, don’t text the detective handling your case with a homophobic slur and an anatomical suggestion. A search warrant for your cell phone data is a sure bet, and it’s an equally sure bet that said detective will use said data to track you down and haul you back to the hoosegow. (How did the man escape in the first place? Turns out that while being processed after his arrest, he somehow managed to join a line of inmates being processed for release. Oops.)

The Saturday Writing Post — on perseverance

“Successful professional writers are not withholding mysterious secrets from eager beginners. The only way anybody ever learns to write well is by trying to write well. This usually begins by reading good writing by other people, and writing very badly by yourself, for a long time. You find out how to make the thing work by working at it – coming back to it, testing it, seeing where it sticks or wobbles or cheats, and figuring out how to make it go where it has to go.”

– Ursula K. LeGuin

The Saturday Writing Quote – on the whodunnit

“It’s one thing reading about detectives, quite another trying to be one. I’ve always loved whodunnits. I’ve not just edited them. I’ve read them for pleasure throughout my life, gorging on them actually. You must know that feeling when it’s raining outside and the heating’s on and you lose yourself, utterly, in a book. You read and you read and you feel the pages slipping through your fingers until suddenly there are fewer in your right hand than there are in your left and you want to slow down but you still hurtle on towards a conclusion you can hardly bear to discover. That is the particular power of the whodunnit which has, I think, a special place within the general panoply of literary fiction because, of all characters, the detective enjoys a particular, indeed a unique relationship with the reader.

Whodunnits are all about truth: nothing more, nothing less. In a world full of uncertainties, is it not inherently satisfying to come to the last page with every I dotted and every t crossed? The stories mimic our experience in the world. We are surrounded by tensions and ambiguities, which we spend half our life trying to resolve, and we’ll probably be on our own deathbed when we reach that moment when everything makes sense. Just about every whodunnit provides that pleasure. It is the reason for their existence. It’s why Magpie Murders was so bloody irritating.”

— from Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz (2017)