I know, most of America drives around in their own cars, but those city dwellers who find themselves in the back seat of a taxi or other hired conveyance may sympathize with the situation. Many people that drive for a living have the radio on: talk radio, music, endless news, NPR. I have to confess, I am a big advocate for silence, and feel there should be a bi-partisan movement for the right to not have to listen to stuff (on airplanes, in elevators, in malls, etc.).
Sure, I could get (and indeed have) earphones. But I don’t want to block out the world, I want to hear it, just not endless marketing jabber or musak or whatever. But I am particularly unhappy with having to listen to endless news or much of talk radio. There are a few talk radio stations whose goal is to be entertaining or informative. But most lure their listeners in with conflict, outrage, fear, danger, scary information, etc. like a fish with a dangler lure….
These kinds of shows—TV, radio, whatever—wind listener’s clocks, pull their chain, and give them some frisson of energy, hate, fear, anger, which seems to be far more addictive and universal (clearly part of one’s “lizard brain“) than a feeling of peace, happiness, learning or engagement. It exhausts me to listen to the streams of exhaust! And I don’t have adequate shields to effectively block out noise. Yes, I freely confess, I can’t pack with the TV on. It’s just too distracting.
Propaganda works if you hear information over and over again, it wears away at your critical faculty (if you have one). It’s convincing, even it it’s patently untrue and utterly ridiculous. If you see it, hear it, read it, talk about it it gets truthified through endless repetition. So I now not only ask the drivers to turn off the radio, but tell them to stop listening to this endless, depressing stream of fairly useless information. It isn’t good for their outlook on life.
It’s all a creepy, voluntary self-brainwashing.
I now feel much more charitable towards endless sports! But really, they should be reading romances….
So who established word counts? And when did words become so expensive to print that they require massive cuts, like the U.S. budget? Does that mean that in today’s market James Joyce’s, Ulysses wouldn’t make it to publication? Or past the word police? Would an agent even get through the first five pages?
I can imagine an editor skimming through Chapter One of Charles Dickens’, A Tale of Two Cities. “… it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of unbelief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness,…we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way….Yada, yada, yada.” His critique might be, “A rambling paragraph with enough commas to fill an entire chapter. Excessive word count, repetitive and burdensome. Guy probably sent it to me by mistake. I’ll have to let him know that we don’t publish psychiatric diaries.”
The editor would most likely want to limit the count of ‘to be’ verbs. By those standards, I guess Shakespeare wouldn’t make the cut it either, “To be or not to be.”
When did we get so busy and pressed for time that we gulp down a book so we can get on to the next one? When did our palate become so insipid that we can no longer relish and savor the taste of words making us miss the whole joy of the language journey?
I recall the film, The Agony and the Ecstasy. No, it’s not a sexy romance. Sorry. It depicts the story of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. Several scenes show Pope Sixtus IV impatiently interrupting the artist at work to ask, “When will it be finished?” to which Michelangelo would always reply, “When it is finished.”
Like Michelangelo’s paintbrush, I bristle at the agent mantra to keep it short, be concise. Yes, I know words cost money and time is money. But so did paint back then. What might the Sistine Chapel look like today if Michelangelo had raced to finish it, or had been limited by how many paint colors he could use? “Tone it down. Don’t apply the paint too thickly. Stay on budget.”
Logically, I understand that rules and formats, and word counts must apply. But when I was a teacher I didn’t teach to the test because that’s not good pedagogy. For me, a creative work is finished when it is finished. And as a writer, I don’t want to write to the word count, but I do always want to make every word count.
See you next time on July 22nd.
Manager, Educator, and former High School Social Studies teacher, Veronica credits her love of history to the potpourri of cultures that make up her own life and to her upbringing in diverse Brooklyn, New York. Her genres of choice are Historical Fiction where she always makes new discoveries and Children’s Picture Books because there are so many wonderful worlds yet to be imagined and visited. She currently resides in Macungie, PA.
The other day my husband suggested that we go on an adventure together and a million intriguing possibilities raced through my head, until he added… to search for old wood. Not the kind of adventure I had longed for, I offered several good reasons why one of our sons might make a better travel partner before finally agreeing to go. My husband has been renovating his office and looking for some wood for shelves or flooring or something else to “funkify” the space.
Little did I know that this trip would not only net him the wood he was looking for, but also fill my head with dozens of potential future story lines and provide our son with a treasured gift.
Off we went to Vernon, California to discover what turned out to be one of the most fascinating places I’ve been in quite a while – Silverado Salvage & Design. This 16,000 square foot warehouse is just incredible and as I meandered throughout the cavernous structure, I was immediately sucked back in time. Surely this is a rich playground for the inventive mind of any storyteller.
Engulfed in tons of well-organized used wood, sewing machines from the early 1900’s and every kind of old farm tool you can imagine, I soon found a few rusted out machines that I never even knew existed. The farmers of those days must have been incredibly strong or had one sturdy horse at their disposal to be able to actually use this weighty equipment.
Old pieces of furniture, wine presses, doorknobs, windows and more were tucked into every corner of the building. A well-preserved, cloth-covered baby buggy rolled into the entrance and made me wonder what had ever happened to the infant it once lovingly carried. I envisioned a housewife of years gone by painstakingly stitching her children’s clothing on that old treadle driven sewing machine. Where did those aged and intricate iron gates once lead to? Was it a garden, a mansion, a government building? Whose fireplace had the intricately cut wooden corbels once graced and what juicy secrets had they been privy to? Were the children who had long ago played with rusty fire trucks and cars still alive or had their toys outlived them? There was so much to see, so much to feel, and a ton of things to capture the imagination.
Sometime during our walk about I came upon a collection of old wooden shipping crates and was overjoyed. Our youngest sons’ birthday was coming up and he had wanted one of these to use as a coffee table. Reinvigorating this chest would be a great project for father and son. I selected the wooden crate I wanted and asked the knowledgeable shop keeper where it was from originally.
“The metal tab on the front is written in Hungarian, I believe,” was his response.
What? I’m Hungarian. My grandfather immigrated here from Budapest, Hungary as a child. And inside I found an ancient packing slip written totally in Hungarian. This was meant to be – a connection to my family’s past. I would later take the packing slip home, translate it into English and laminate it to remain within the trunk forever. I discovered that the trunk had once carried gas masks which left me a little unsettled and wondering how I really felt about taking it home. Either way, the trunk would soon grace my son’s living room after its lengthy travel here; minus, of course, any gas masks.
This store hosts some of the most creative and imaginative employees ever. I overheard designers talking about how one might revitalize an old sink, a chunk of brass, a stained glass window. Creativity flows within this shop with knowledgeable staff I’d like to take home and just listen to. And a few had rather quirky names that I quickly added to my Little Book O’ Names I carry with me for future insertion into a story or two. I found it inspiring that the owner is such an affable, intelligent man who demonstrates a real passion for revitalizing what others might just throw away.
My husband found some very old wood which, I must confess, looked just like old wood to me. However, after talking with the trained craftsman it was clear that this wood had a lot more living to do. The two men put their heads together and a plan was quickly launched. This wood would soon be reincarnated into shelves and a desktop and my husband could not have been happier.
I now have three problems to confront. Where will I use the unusual names I collected, what story shall I write first and how are we ever going to get the heavy shelving and desktop upstairs and into my husband’s office. Three good problems to have!
If you get a chance, I encourage you to stop by Silverado Salvage & Design and be sure to bring your imagination with you! (4625 East 50th Street in Vernon, California)
The one thing I know, after all my years as an elementary school principal, is that there is magic everywhere and in everyone. While I miss those enchanting moments with kids, I have always wanted to let my imagination run wild as I seek out my own magic and write about it. When I retired, I started to write my first books, a series called The Witches of New Moon Beach and inspiration wasn’t hard to find.
I have lived in Redondo Beach all my life, and New Moon might have more than a passing resemblance to my hometown. Every day I walk on the path that runs along the beach, sometimes with my sisters, but most often with my thoughts as I plot my next book.
I am long married and mom to three great grown kids. When I’m not writing or walking on the beach, you’ll find me sewing, reading or traveling and taking pictures.
Have you read about the witches of New Moon Beach?
I force myself up out of this client’s really juicy manuscript. I’m deep into getting at the content problems and showing them clearly. That will provide the author with the ammunition to tackle her revisions and make this story sing the way it should – and I really want to hear it sing. Right now my head is in her world but yikes, I have a blog due in 24 hours and I’m lost in the fog. You know that fog; not quite writer’s block – I’m not paralyzed, I’m not frozen (been there, hated that). It’s writer’s block lite. I have a vague notion of what I want to convey but it’s all so foggy. I can’t see my way clear to set a single sensible word down.
I try my old standby – the ‘let ‘er rip’ technique. It’s always worked for me. Just open a document and go. It doesn’t matter what comes out: The sky is the most amazing chartreuse. It’s a great idea to re-roof the house with egg salad… You know, prime the pump. The brain starts to work after a while and the words start to flow and the ideas begin to coalesce. But this time my heart isn’t in it. After a sentence or two I’m back in the world of that manuscript and pondering the rose bush I really should trim. Let ‘er rip isn’t working. The clock is ticking. I’m starting to feel that rasty edge of panic. And then I find it! http://www.themostdangerouswritingapp.com/
“Don’t stop. If you stop typing for more than five seconds all progress will be lost.”
Those are the directions. I open it and there’s a pristine blank screen. Not only is the clock ticking, there’s a gun to my head. I’m typing like a crazed Barbara Cartland. Then my fingers freeze for 6 seconds. The screen fades to red. “You Failed” it tells me (well I had to see what happens). I go again and now my head is working and I know what I can share with you this month and I am so pleased that it is something of value. If that fog descends on you, if you find yourself scrambling before the keyboard, try The Most Dangerous Writing App. It will help you find your way out of the fog. Thank you Manuel Ebert for this sadistically beautiful free app.
With a BA in Anthropology and English I pursued a career in advertising and writing and segued into developmental editing. It was a great choice for me. I love the process of creating and am privileged to be part of that process for so many great voices — voices both seasoned and new.
I’ve worked on nearly 400 books over 20 years, books by noted authors published by New York houses including Penguin, Kensington, Pentacle and Zebra as well as with Indie bestsellers and Amazon dynamos. From Air Force manuals and marketing materials to memoirs, thrillers, sci fi and romance, my services range from copyediting to developmental coaching.
Having worked in advertising and marketing, I am always cognizant of the marketplace in which the author’s work will be seen. I coach for content and style with that knowledge in mind in order to maximize sales and/or educational potential. My objective is to help the author’s material stand out from an ever more crowded and competitive field.