• Music While You Read, Music While You Write

    By on July 14, 2018 Posted in ABCs of Writing     Comments 27 comments

    In this quick Yak Babies bonus episode, my personal pals and I discuss whether or not we listen to music while we read or while we write.

    I do not. At least, not if I’m reading or writing at home; I won’t put music on.

    But if I’m doing those activities in public, at a bar or coffee shop or what have you, I don’t mind the music. It doesn’t distract me. In fact, I think it adds to the experience; I imagine I’d struggle to write or read in a quiet, musicless bar. (Musicless. What a weird-lookin’ word.)

    I’ve tried listening to music at home, and it just doesn’t work. Why, then, does it help me when I’m in public? I dunno. It’s just woven into the experience, I suppose. It’s part of the ambiance.

    Your turn: Music while you read or while you write, yes or no? If no, why not? If yes, what kind? Headphones or not? And what purpose does it serve for you? Let us know in the comments. read more

    “Purr” Gold: The Hardy Boys & Childhood Pride in Reading

    By on July 7, 2018 Posted in ABCs of Writing     Comments 57 comments

    It’s no mystery why Hardy Boys books are almost unreadable: lame plots, terribly stilted dialogue, flat characters who remain wholly undeveloped, even after nearly sixty books. Not to mention the lack of verisimilitude of two characters who are eternally eighteen and seventeen and seemingly never attend school.

    But boy did I love those books as a kid. I don’t think I read all fifty-eight of the original series, but I gave it the ol’ Frank and Joe Hardy high school try.

    I read plenty of ABC and Dr. Seuss-level books, but the Hardys are what first grabbed me and made me curious about the world. Those guys went everywhere, man, and I read at a fever pace just to keep up with them.

    But not only were these books fun and adventure-filled, they also gave me my first feelings of pride as a reader. read more

    Whatever You’re Most Scared Of

    By on June 23, 2018 Posted in ABCs of Writing     Comments 8 comments

    In Beatlebone, a novel I wrote about in last week’s post, “Books I Return to Again and Again (and Again),” Kevin Barry includes an entire chapter, ostensibly nonfiction, about his process researching and then writing the book. It’s such an odd and fascinating decision; somehow it works, and is among my favorite parts of the book.

    There’s a line in that chapter that I find particularly interesting: “Whatever it is that you’re most scared of surfacing in your work, you can be sure that it’s nearby.”

    Barry proceeds to write about the thing he’s most scared of. For him it’s sentimentality, something that permeates Beatlebone and, apparently, his own life, even though he doesn’t want it to.

    I just finished reading this book for the fourth time, and this time around, I forced myself to think about what I’m “most scared of surfacing” in my writing.

    What are you most scared of surfacing in your writing? Let us know in the comments below. Use a pseudonym if you’re shy. read more

    Books I Return to Again and Again (and Again)

    By on June 16, 2018 Posted in ABCs of Writing     Comments 10 comments

    A few weeks ago I wrote a post where I talked about how I’ve never read Philip Roth and then listed a whole heap of others writers and books I’ve never read.

    This week, I want to list for you every book and writer I have read.

    Nah, just kidding. Although, as I’ve written about before, a few years ago I did start keeping track of every book I read.

    I had cause to scan those lists recently, and I took note of some titles that pop up often, not every year, but with a frequency that makes them stand out.

    Rereading is interesting. I think there are three reasons I reread: read more

    What Is Your Strangest Writing Experience?

    By on June 9, 2018 Posted in ABCs of Writing     Comments 17 comments

    This week we’re pleased to introduce our newest writing coach and consultant, Caro Clark. Caro comes to us from New Orleans, where she moved to pursue an MSW from Tulane after earning an MFA from the University of New Hampshire.

    To learn more about Caro, read this Q&A, and if you’re interested in working with her, let’s discuss during your free writing consult.

    My favorite question from these staff Q&As is “What is your strangest writing experience?” Caro’s response is a particularly good one:

    “One time I wrote a piece of fiction about a man from a remote seaside town who I gave the occupation of being a fisherman. Five years later, I met and dated that very person with that very name, first and last. In the story he died at sea. In real life, we broke up.”

    What is your strangest writing experience? Let us know in the comments below. read more

    Jugglers & One-Track Writers

    By on June 2, 2018 Posted in Strategies     Comments 17 comments

    There’s a guy I hang out with who’s a writer. He’s working on a memoir, and has been for a couple of years. Right now, he’s setting that book aside.

    To write a white paper.

    On auto tires.

    For money, of course! It’s a day job. Auto tires are not a passion of his. (Did you ever notice that we never say “car tires,” only “auto tires”? Or am I making this up? But we say “car battery” rather than “auto battery”; “car horn” rather than “auto horn.”)

    But he said something interesting: “Whenever I have to do a big white paper, I need to stop working on the memoir. I only have enough headspace for one [writing project] at a time.”

    I’ve known many writers who operate the same way. One-track writers, let’s call ’em. read more

    I’ve Never Read Philip Roth

    By on May 26, 2018 Posted in WBN News & Events     Comments 19 comments

    The big lit news this week was the death of Philip Roth. His Great American Novel has been on my list forever, due to the baseball and despite its reputation as not great. I also have friends who swear by his long story or novella “Goodbye, Columbus.” I’ve never read a single word of Roth’s. Not defiantly or anything–it just has never happened.

    I’ve also never read any fiction from a writer often mentioned in the same breath, John Updike.

    While we’re at it, I’ve never read Moby-Dick or any James Joyce novel or To the Lighthouse. I’ve never read The Sound and the Fury, Frankenstein, or Middlemarch.

    1984, Brave New World, War & Peace, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. read more

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