a weblog for readers and writers

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

This Book May Make You Forget To Laugh

Regarded by the world as one of the greatest Czech writers, Milan Kundera now lives in Paris but still writes about his homeland.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is probably his most known work. Told in seven parts, it interweaves the stories of several characters and, more importantly, themes, ideas, and philosophies.

In Slowness, his first novel originally written in French, Kundera examines the lives of two sets of lovers in the same chateaux, separated by eras but not all that different.

But my favorite of the Kundera novels I’ve read so far is the one that put him on the map of literary success in the 1970’s: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.

In Laughter and Forgetting, Kundera uses his unique style to examine the ideas of memory and forgetting, of routine and newness. Although he claims within the novel that the book is the story of one main character—Tamina—the novel is made up of seven separate sections, each one delving into another person’s story, although all of the stories mirror or accentuate Tamina’s. The book opens and closes with the stories of different characters, with different themes, and yet they belong to Tamina. Kundera smoothly weaves his own narrative, stories from his own life and experience, his own opinions and even his writing of this book, and it works seamlessly. His short chapters of a few pages each make it easy to enter and exit the minds of the characters, and yet they fit together like pieces of a puzzle. One gets the impression that you could throw the chapters up like a deck of cards, stack them in any order, and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting would still work.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting offered a number of “aha moments,” eye-openers that got me to thinking about new things, or considering old ideas in a new way. It is a book I won’t soon forget.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Alice McDermott's Writing Process

Ever wonder how a master novelist like Alice McDermott approaches her writing? She explained her process in Bethesda Maryland as she shared her novel-writing with me and a group of local writers.

Alice McDermott treats fiction writing like a full time job — because it is one.

Alice writes four days a week and treats writing like a real job on those four days. She’s never been exclusively a full-time fiction writer. She teaches, does workshops, and fills her time with other activities as well. Few writers actually write full time … or rather, few of them make it an exclusive job.

“As literary fiction writers, we’re trying to get to something true of us all. So write about common humanity, communal experience, not about a place, plot. Show universal truth to the reader in an interesting way.”

That sounds like a full-time job to me.

Do you treat your writing like a job or a hobby?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Readings, Readings

If you’re in the Baltimore area this weekend, you’re in luck. It’s a great weekend for readings!

On Saturday, February 16 at 5:00, visit Minas Gallery for the 5ive: ten reading series. The 5ive: ten series is the only reading series in Baltimore dedicated exclusively to fiction. This Saturday’s readers are Rachel Bradley, Luca Dipierro, and David R. Matthews. The event is hosted by authors Michael Kimball and Jen Michalski.

Speaking of Jen Michalski … you can catch her reading from her own fiction the following day, Sunday, February 17 at BaltimoreChop Books, Music & Coffee House. The reading begins at 2 p.m. and also features local authors Jessica Anya Blau and Geoffrey Becker.

Itching for some Fiction? Here are two events to scratch down on your to do list.

5ive: ten Reading, Saturday, February 16, 5 p.m., Minas Gallery.


BaltimoreChop Books Music & Coffee House Reading, 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 17.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Bracken Moves Writers from Ideas to Action

Ann Bracken will show Maryland Writers some fresh ways to use the power and magic of writing and apply them to everyday life at the February meeting of the Maryland Writers Association.

Write for Your Life is a multi-faceted presentation that combines tried-and true journaling activities with some improv and poetry to help you uncover and rewrite trouble-spots of your story.

As an expressive arts coach and writer, Ann will guide you through a few exercises using specific journaling tools. Some of the benefits people experience from journaling include breaking through recurring blocks, accessing deeper layers of meaning, analyzing troubling situation from multiple perspectives, and achieving goals more quickly and effortlessly.

Ann owns The Possibility Project, a coaching practice that uses expressive arts (journaling, poetry, visual art, and improv) for helping people move from ideas to action and achieve positive results.

Write for Your Life takes place this Wednesday, February 13 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the annex building of the Chesapeake Arts Center, 194 Hammonds Lane, Brooklyn Park, Maryland 21225.

The event is free for members and first-time visitors, or $5 for returning guests.

For more information about Ann and The Possibility Project, visit her website.

For more information about this event, visit the Maryland Writers Association.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Silence on a Slow Train

A perfect fit: one of my stories from TRACKS, a novel in stories that takes place on a train traveling from Baltimore to Chicago, has been published in the latest edition of Slow Trains, an online literary journal. You can find “The Silences” in Volume 7, Issue 3, Winter 2007-2008.

And perhaps there’s no better time than now, as Valentine’s Day approaches, for the publication of this story, an innocent, romantic tale of a young couple in love that balances some of the book’s harsher stories.

The Silences” was featured earlier this year at the Baltimore Book Festival. Now, it finds its way to readers across the nation via Slow Trains.

Slow Trains is read by a large and diverse audience each day, including editors and agents. Fiction from the journal has been selected for "E2Ink - Best of the Online Journals," and in anthology award series, including one guest-edited by Pam Houston.

The editors of Slow Trains also forward appropriate writing to various awards, including the "Best American" series, Pushcart, and O’Henry.

You can read “The Silences” in the current edition of Slow Trains at the link below. Look for me in the fiction column, seated on the left side of the page.

And enjoy the ride!