Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Best Gift for Any Writer - Even Yourself

Need an exceptional idea for a Christmas gift for yourself or a writer on your gift list?  Consider a subscription to Writer's Digest Magazine.  Each issue is packed with valuable tips and solid advice for writers of every genre.  Whether you are a published author or a beginner ... whether you write poetry, nonfiction or screenplays ... you will find articles to help you polish your writing and guide you toward success.


Writer's Digest Magazine

Every issue of Writer’s Digest magazine is devoted to helping writers develop their craft and hone their publishing acumen. Since 1920, Writer’s Digest has chronicled the culture of the modern writer and we continue this great tradition through relevant first-person essays, interviews with bestselling authors and profiles with emerging talent.

Writer’s Digest also features practical technique articles, and tips and exercises on fiction, nonfiction, poetry and the business-side of writing and publishing.

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That's not all!  The magazine sponsors many writing contests and competitions and offers dozens of workshops throughout the year. They offer tutorials, blogs, a yearly conference, and a free monthly newsletter.

Current Workshops

Fitting Writing into Your Life
Writing the Personal Essay 101: Fundamentals
Writing the Science Fiction & Fantasy Novel
The Art of Storytelling 102: Showing vs. Telling
Business Writing
Writing the Young Adult Novel.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

The Joy of Prosody: The Joy of Pastoral Poetry

By Liz Mastin

Pastoral poetry is a huge genre and one can only touch on it in a column. “Pastoral poetry,” according to poet Edward Hirsch, “comes from the Latin word pastor, meaning Shepherd.” He continues, “the Greek poet Theocritus originated the pastoral in his ten poems (“idylls”) representing the life of Sicilian shepherds.”

According to Wikipedia, the ideology of pastoral, is that of “shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to the seasons and the changing availability of water and pasturage. It lends its name to a genre of literature, art and music that depicts such life in an idealized manner, and is geared typically for an urban audience.” Pastoral poetry stemmed from a yearning for perceived earlier times, when man lived more closely to nature. It sometimes seems to be a flashback to the Garden of Eden. “Pastoral is a mode in which the poet employs various techniques to place the complex life into a simpler one.”

Previous to Theocritus, the ancient Greek poet Hesiod, in his exposition “Works and Days” presented what he termed a golden age when people lived together in close harmony with nature; the golden age being the best age. The setting for the pastoral poem is usually a “Locus Amoenus,” or beautiful place in nature. Pastoral shepherds and maidens usually have Greek names, reflecting the origin of the pastoral genre, one famous Locus Amoenus (being) Arcadia, a rural region of Greece and the mythological home of the god, Pan. According to Wikipedia “the tasks of these shepherds with their sheep and other rustic chores is held in fantasy to be an almost wholly undemanding lifestyle which abandons the shepherdesses and their swains in a state of almost perfect leisure. This makes them available for embodying perpetual erotic fantasies!”

Some famous writers of pastoral poetry are the Roman poet Virgil, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Walter Raleigh, Edmund Spenser, Michel Drayton, Christopher Marlowe, William Browne, Alexander Pope, (and) Alexander Barclay, Katherine Philips and Ben Jonson with their Country house pastorals. But many famous poets, besides, have written the pastoral poem. I enjoyed Katherine Phillip’s opinion that “the joys of the countryside and the lifestyle accompanying it (being the first and happiest life when man enjoyed himself) may be maintained by living detached from material things, and not over-concerning oneself with the world around us.

Virgil believed that a “young poet should learn his craft by writing pastorals before proceeding on to the grander form of the epic.”

Example of a pastoral poem:

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
By Christopher Marlowe

Come live with me and be my love
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hill, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.

The shepherds’ swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Come live with me and be my love.

Friday, December 12, 2014

All the World's a Stage

All the World's a Stage

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sleep Tips for Writers

                                                              Dr. Hugh Smythe

Where do you rest your weary head? An unsettled mind will wake you up in the middle of the night. What do you do then? Get up? Stare at the ceiling? Go to another room? Read? Turn on the computer and abandon hope of any decent rest? I know, you are thinking, all of the above.

Have any significant contributions been made to the science of sleep? Yes. My uncle, the late Dr. Hugh Smythe and his friend, Robert F. Clark, created the shaped pillow. Dr. Smythe used his knowledge of medicine to study how mankind has dealt with sleep through the ages. With his electric carving knife and some foam padding he went to work to invent a better pillow.

Do you toss and turn and punch your pillow? Do yourself a favor and get a new one that supports your head and neck. As writers we cannot afford to block any ideas that may flow in the night. You will not be sorry, I promise you.

When writing My American Eden, I took a trip to Plymouth to see what how colonials lived in the mid 1600's. Floored by the short beds, I asked the guide, sitting at her spinning wheel, to explain why people did not lie flat. Pneumonia, the old man's friend, was the answer. Fearing death in the night had weary farmers sitting up. Noting the pillow, as was my training from my uncle, I saw that they used round and quite firm bolsters. The sheets were made of linen, hence where we get the term bed-linens, and it looked altogether Spartan to my jaundiced eye.

The expression, sleep on it, has always made good sense to me. Our brains are over-stimulated, and that condition gets worse by the minute. Sleep specialists always advise not to watch television as an aide to insomnia, as it only makes the condition worse. A long walk, in the fresh air, followed by a healthy diet, during the day, restricting processed foods and refined sugar, dining early, and other good habits really do help. Yet so many nights I am wide awake at an ungodly hour. Warm milk with turmeric and cinnamon, a tip I learned from watching Dr. Oz works wonders. Years ago, I used to refrain from getting up and would lie in bed driving myself crazy running through a litany or worries. Now I get up and read until my eyes are tired, or I listen to sleep tapes I found on YouTube. If I find that I am at a loss for words during the day, and thus am awake and trying to sort out whether a chapter in my novel should stay or get the ax, I often find the answer in the morning. Stephen King was on a vacation in London when he he awoke in the morning with a story in his head. He told his wife he had to write, asked the hotel manager to set him up with a desk and wrote Carrie. The rest is history.

Nothing changed my sleep problem as significantly as a visit to this
Having purchased memory foam shaped pillows in department stores I have long been sold on this concept, but the real deal is much much better.

“Through human history, people would sit on soft pillows during the day but set them aside at night in favour of neck support pillows. Ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Japanese, Polynesians and Africans all used neck supports made from a variety of relatively unyielding materials, including: wood, ceramics, leather, alabaster and ivory. The bolster used widely in Europe is mechanically similar.” from www.shapeof

Good health to ye.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pull and Bloody Pull

Boys in the Boat

Many great accounts filtered down to me regarding Daniel James Brown's account of Boys in the Boat. When a book is recommended that highly, it rarely disappoints. That goes double for this amazing re-telling of the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the lads from Washington.

One of the members of the Best Food Ever Book Cub, posed this interesting question: “What made the boat speed through the water faster than any other boat? Coaching? Pocock's design and cedar cut from the B.C. coast? Determination, competitiveness, and will? The Fates?” These are all great questions, and I know the discussion will be very lively as we look for answers.

It is my personal belief that champions are born, and champions are also made. What kept me turning the pages of this book that topped the New York Times bestseller list, is the recreation of a time and a place. A quest plot drives the action as we are literally pulling for every member of the crew. From hard working circumstances and the depths of the depression, these young men prepare to make themselves champions. The coaching is superb. There are words of inspiration for us to read and tuck away in our minds, on our blackboards, and in our diaries.

“One of the first admonitions of a good rowing coach, after the fundamentals are over, is “pull your own weight,” and the young oarsmen does just that when he finds out that the boat goes better when he does. There is certainly a social implication here.” George Yeoman Pocock P. 149

Reading of all the various obstacles overcome by the crew members, the grueling conditions in which they trained, the brute strength they were able to call upon when needed, makes this book an inspiring read. How I wished I had a rowing machine in my basement, or that I could get out on those glassy early mornings in my kayak or my canoe once again. I longed to feel my back muscles stinging, and I wanted to watch whirlpools in the water. I longed to glide along driven by my own steam. There is something so satisfying and immediate about the whole mode of travel that I wanted to feel all that beauty again.

Certainly the boys from Washington had an inner toughness that we long to see again. I can remember that in my youth the hockey players who worked in gravel pits and on farms in Ontario, gaining strength while putting food on the table for their families. Can true grit be found in a gym? I am sure it can, but I have always wondered if overcoming adversity as a child adds to what goes into the  making of a champion.

“Harmony, balance, and rhythm. They're the three things that stay with you your whole life. Without them, civilization is out of whack. And that's why an oarsman, when he goes out in life, he can fight it. That's what he gets from rowing.” George Yeoman Pocock P.357

If you have a reader on your Christmas list, or like me, you give books to everyone, Boys in the Boat will be a highly valued addition to any library.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Evolution of Writing North Idaho

Morph, evolve, develop, progress, advance, mature, grow, expand, spread, alter, change, and adapt are part of the history of Writing North Idaho.

WNI started four years ago with four writers who live in northern Idaho in the United States. We met through the Idaho Writers League, Coeur d’Alene chapter. The brainstorm of Nancy Barnes was to build a web site that would act as a catalyst and provide support for writers in northern Idaho, western Montana and eastern Washington. It would be a place to share ideas, get help, offer opinions and share the ups and downs of being writers.

What the website is today is an intriguing, morphed dichotomy. The site has grown in readership from a few friends and relatives to more than 10,000 hits per month from around the world. It has appealed to a global fraternity of writers, not to just a slice of the northwestern part of the United States. The bulk of our readers are from the United States but, in descending order of frequency, readers access us from: Russia, France, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, China, Turkey and Poland and many more countries. Thank you!

There have been six contributing writers but not all at one time.  I do not know how many guest scribes we have enjoyed….maybe a dozen or so…and we appreciate their input. A total of 1,658 articles were posted in eight years. The pay is lousy (there is none) but the rewards are many. Numerous aspects of writing you wish to learn about are available in these your book, developing characters, writing dialog, technical points, grammar, speciality writing, developing plots and subplots, and choosing POV. We have reviewed many interesting books and have discussed how we as writers gain knowledge from reading and studying them. 

It is enlightening, amazing and humorous to see what search words people used to find WNI: American Civil War, figure skating, good-bye and mud sender tree bender. I am sure those people were stunned to find they were at a site for writers!

We are truly grateful to each for your support. We hope you are gaining knowledge and ideas about writing and literature. We hope you continue to enjoy this site. WNI is always looking for ways to efficiently meet the needs of our readers. Are there things you would like added or removed from the site? What do you want from the site? Please leave a comment. We are always striving to make this web site informative for writers and literature lovers. Our tag line is The Craft of Writing, the Business of Writing, and the Literary Life. We want it to apply to YOU.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Books on Your Holiday Gift List?

She’s 12; she reads voraciously; she has eclectic taste in genres; she reads above her grade level; she’s ready for Gone with The WindThe “she” in this case is my oldest grandchild. She is receiving this book for Christmas because (A) it is one of my all time favorites,  (B) she is ready for the subject matter and (C) she is old enough to do research on her own about the Civil War to better understand the setting and meaning of the book. I am excited for her to receive it but more excited to talk to her after she has finished reading it. I am also giving her another book, a blank one, A Private Reading Journal. I wish I had kept a journal or log of all the books I read starting when I was twelve. It would be fun to look back ands what I thought a book when I was fifteen, 25 or 65 years old. 

Do you give books as holiday gifts? I have friends who devote their gifts exclusively to books and have done so for years. One buys the book she decides is her favorite from the past 12 months of reading and gives it to the adults on her list. This is tricky finding a book that will appeal to all. Another loves searching, contemplating and then buying the right book for each person on her list. Both these friends read many books and belong to several book clubs so they have a wide variety of books from which to choose. Sometimes it is a classic that makes the list, other times, a new hardback book. Another idea is a gift card to a bookstore and the receiver can choose his own selection.

Here are some web sites for you to peruse to find the right book you would like give. books on writing tips for writers notable children’s books 2014 by American Association of Library Services for Children   children’s lists of best books 2014 chosen by children for ages 5 to 12.

Here are some other gift suggestions for the book lovers on your list. All are available by clicking on this link: 
Selection of soothing music

Book or e-reader holder

Woman's tee shirt

Lighted magnifier
Gift basket with book related goodies