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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Irving's Deliberate Echoes

According to novelist John Irving, a little bit of repetition in your writing can be a good thing.

"Deliberate echoes appear in my books," he explains.

The day that I met him at the National Book Festival in Washington DC, he talked about the craft of writing. He'll be the first to admit that not only is he an over-writer, a trait he's proud to share with Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne, two of his favorite writers. And he also admits that many of the same themes appear and reappear from one novel to the next -- and within the same novel.

What sort of echoes? "Repeating sentences, paragraphs, ideas," he elaborated. He uses his most recent novel, Until I Find You, as an example.

"Not having an adult tell me who my father was, that's me. Having sex as a child with an adult in a damaging way -- that happened. It pops up over and over again. In my eleventh book, there it is again looking at you one more time."

Irving takes some comfort in knowing he's not alone. "Writers repeat themselves. It's evidence that you have something important to say."

Learn more about the author at the link below.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Marty, Meet Oscar

Last night, the academy finally gave Martin Scorsese an Oscar. But he couldn't have made The Departed without a script -- and that takes writers.

The Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay went to none other than the screenwriter of The Departed, William Monahan. Monahan said that the film that inspired him to become a screenwriter was Lawrence of Arabia and made reference to Peter O'Toole who sat in the theater.

The Best Original Screenplay Academy Award went to Michael Arndt for Little Miss Sunshine.

But back to Scorsese. The event was almost a given when the three presenters walked out on stage: the "New Hollywood" directors Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas.

Spielberg and Coppola joked that the three of them all knew what it was like to win an Oscar and Lucas had to admit that he hadn’t. Who better than these three to present their old buddy with his first Oscar?

Friday, February 23, 2007

First Fiction of 2007 Published

Although several of my stories are lined up for release in journals and anthologies this spring, and my non-fiction has already seen publication this year, here is my first fiction published in 2007: the ninth installment of "Freedom."

"Freedom," a story from TRACKS, my novel in stories, continues to be serialized in Coliquio, an online periodical that boasts seven million hits a year. In this episode, Joe and McMurphey get a bit of action in Afghanistan. But not the type they'd prefer.

Enjoy this installment at the link below; follow the links back all the way to the beginning of the story.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

There's a New Writing Chapter in Town

The Maryland Writer's Association (MWA), in cooperation with the CityLit Project and the Write Here, Write Now workshop series at the Creative Alliance, has announced the new Baltimore Chapter.

The goals of the Baltimore Chapter are to provide opportunities for local writers to connect and collaborate through regular meetings and events such as workshops, writing classes, readings and presentations, and critique groups.

At the kickoff meeting, in addition to introductions and the swapping of writerly tall tales, we will address the development of a mission statement and objectives for the chapter, election of officers, and the selection of regular meeting dates.

Join us for our inaugural meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 26 at The Waterfront Hotel, second floor, 1710 Thames Street in Fells Point. RSVP to Paul Lagasse at paul@seeingthroughclouds.com by Monday, March 12.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Train as a Character

As many fiction writers -- and readers -- will tell you, the setting of a story can sometimes be the most essential part. In fact, the time, place, tone, and feel of a work is often crucial. A good example of this is my own novel in stories, Tracks.

Tracks takes place on the Amtrak’s Cardinal line, traveling from Baltimore to Chicago. In some ways, the train itself is the most important character of the novel, linking the stories like passenger cars. Each stand-alone story in the novel is that of a passenger on the train. Without the train, the stories would fall apart and there would be no engine to haul them along.

It’s true that the train plays a more vital role in some stories than others. In some stories featured in Tracks, one could even forget for pages at a time that the main character is on a train, a majority of the action taking place in flashbacks and future visions. Many regular train travelers will tell you, after all, that sometimes a train ride can conjure up memories or dreams that take you out of the present moment.

For other stories in Tracks, the action and climax actually take place on the moving train.

The cities linked by this train ride -- Baltimore and Chicago -- are also important to some of the characters. Some stories could not exist without being anchored in Baltimore’s inner harbor or without the lure of the windy city’s Millennium Park.

Even the cadence of the writing in Tracks matches that of a train, a steady rhythm intended to pull the reader along. In fact, I imagine that Tracks would make great train reading. If you take the train, perhaps this is the book to bring along.

To learn more about Tracks, visit the novel’s station at http://www.train-tracks.blogspot.com.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Author Alice McDermott Appearance

Bestselling Author Alice McDermott will appear at Loyola College's McManus Theater at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, February 12. She will read from and discuss her work at the event and will also take questions from the audience.

Alice McDermott is winner of the National Book Award and a Pulitzer finalist. Her novels include The Bigamist’s Daughter, That Night, Charming Billy, At Weddings and Wakes, and most recently, After This.

For more information, visit the announcement at Loyola College’s website.


NOTE: This event has been rescheduled due to weather.

Friday, February 09, 2007

TRACKS Website Launched

I've established a website for TRACKS, my novel in stories!

TRACKS takes place on an Amtrak train traveling from Baltimore to Chicago. Each chapter is the story of a passenger on the train. The stories stand alone, but they fit together to form a more compelling novel. A minor character in one story becomes the central character of another, and some stories cast others in a different light.

I created the TRACKS site as an information station for literary agents, publishers, fellow writers, readers, and anyone interested in learning more about the novel.

The TRACKS site follows the progress of the novel and features news on author appearances, publications, and literary events. There's even a short excerpt -- a welcome from the train's conductor -- as well as contact information for the author. The site will continue to be updated as news happens.

So come aboard and read all about TRACKS as the novel steams ahead toward publication.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What's it Like to be a Superstar Author?

Last week I received a personal email from bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith. I was fortunate enough to meet him last year at the Baltimore Book Festival and found him to be a most entertaining and charming person.

In his email -- just as polite and charming as he was in person -- he described the National Book Festival in Washington DC as one of the most enjoyable book fairs he’s attended. He shared that he had been at the end of a two-week, 12-city book tour in the United States and then was on his way to another book tour in Canada.

As he typed his email, he said he was leaving in half an hour for another book tour -- in Italy -- followed by one in the United Kingdom. "And so it goes on!"

Sounds like his book tours are demanding. But for many writers -- myself included -- such a demanding book tour would be a dream come true!

The same weekend he spoke at the National Book Festival in DC, I read from my novel, TRACKS, at the Baltimore Book Festival.

"Perhaps our paths will cross at one of these events," Alexander McCall Smith said in his email.

That, too, would be a dream come true.

Visit Alexander McCall Smith his website.


Monday, February 05, 2007

Author's Cat Hits 50

Fifty years ago, two young children sat staring out the window. Suddenly, they looked, and they saw him step in on the mat. They looked at they saw him, the cat in the hat. And he said to them, "Why do you sit there like that?"

During the days of Dick and Jane, that's exactly what teachers were asking. Children were bored with their standard reading primers. Ted Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, took up the challenge to write a primer that could actually entertain children while sticking to the vocabulary word list devised by Houghton Mifflin. Instantly, Seuss became a rock star and childrens' books have never been the same.

A 50th Anniversary edition of The Cat in The Hat has been published. Every book sold between now and May 1 comes with a postcard; for each postcard mailed in, the publisher will donate a copy to First Book, a charity that donates books to children in low-income families. Thing One and Thing Two, meet Book One and Book Two.

Can't find that old copy from your childhood? You know you'd enjoy reading it again. Now's the time to buy a new copy -- and help a needy child at the same time.

Friday, February 02, 2007

TRACKS Excerpt Published by WHWN

My novel in stories, TRACKS, continues to steam ahead. A short excerpt from the novel has been published on the Write Here Write Now website.

The Write Here Write Now site showcases the writing of emerging voices on the Baltimore literary scene. All contributors to the site are alumni of the popular workshop.

The TRACKS excerpt comes from the story "Chemistry," a chapter toward the end of the novel in stories. Each story in TRACKS stands alone, but the stories intertwine to form a complete novel.

Don't miss the train -- visit the Write Here Write Now website and enjoy the best new voices in Baltimore.