We’re in the midst of the celebration season: Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, Cuanza, Wilkie Thumbnoggin. (Okay, that last one is just me but he’s a dear old friend and I only hear from him at this time of year; he leads such an interesting life. Can’t wait to hear what’s happened since that kerfuffle last year on the Isle of Jersey with the sea lions and Prince Charles.) It’s also the season of giving – or if giving isn’t practical, then sharing.
I’d like to share with you some wonderful books – the fiction kind – about writing. We’re all readers and writers and we all read and write for different reasons. I read to learn something, to escape, to relax, to be entertained and, of course, to edit. But sometimes I read for therapy (as a 21st century American, I need a lot of therapy). My favorite therapy books are the fictional tales about writers. These stories deal so satisfyingly with the fears, annoyances and obstacles I run up against in my work in the same way you experience them in yours.
There’s nothing like a good writer examining the perils and pains of their craft through the lens of fiction. It’s not only enjoyable but also comforting to read an author’s take on the hazards we all face when we sit down to write. They address the dreaded writer’s block, the struggle for discipline, the angst of working with publishers and dealing with fans (think King’s Misery). The concept of a writer writing about writing is rich with a million possible premises because this business is – and always will be – about limitless possibilities.
Here are five of my picks. Some you may already have read but if not, I hope you’ll enjoy them.
Foul Matter, Martha Grimes (2004)
Ms. Grimes gives a grand romp through the egos, posturing and Machiavellian plotting of the industry of writing.
Blind Submission: A Novel, Debra Ginsberg (2006)
A wonderful indie look at delicate author sensibilities, the struggle for those next 1,000 words and the uses of an editor.
Piranha to Scurfy and Other Stories, Ruth Rendell (2001)
The title story offers the most satisfying rebuttal (or is it revenge?) to those obsessive readers who cannot let go of what they perceive to be a misplaced comma or an ‘incorrectly’ used word.
Plot It Yourself, Rex Stout (1959)
Every writer fears a charge of plagiarism. This tale is about a sort of reverse plagiarism and makes me ponder the infinite possibilities one can spin off an original premise.
Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Truman Capote (1958)
We never learn much about the narrator except that he’s a struggling writer. It’s through this writer’s eye that a rather tawdry story becomes magical. It’s the narrator’s portrayal of Holly Golightly, the way he invests her with an almost mystical quality that reaffirms for me the power of a writer’s vision.
If you can add to this list, I hope you will share. I’d love to read those tales about writing that have given you, if not therapy, at least a little wry solace. So happy reading and celebrate well this season!
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.
I’ll be missing another OCC meeting this month. This holiday season, I’ve unfortunately had a lot of conflicts between events I want to attend. Last weekend, I managed to stop in at a lunchtime party given by a dog club I belong to, then head to a joint party given by the local chapters of both Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.
Next weekend, when OCC meets, I will be at the Glendale Author Signing Festival. Unfortunately, there’s no way I can work out being in both Brea and Glendale at the same time. Wish I could–especially since this month’s program sounds great!
I’m just hoping that next year is more flexible. I have belonged to OCC for quite a while and love it and its members. Getting to more meetings is definitely a goal of mine, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.
So, hopefully, see you in January! And I’ll have lots of news next year…
During the 1950s holiday parties happened all month long. They included everything from Company dinners and dancing, Club/organization award dinners, to neighborhood parties. If the evening wasn’t a Black tie affair, dress was “Cocktail” or “After Five”. A great deal of time was spent by both men and women in preparing their holiday outfit. Many women made their outfits for the occasion or re-designed old dresses. Suburbanites who had jobs in the city but lived in the “burbs” realized they didn’t need to travel to the city in order to enjoy the holiday season. Simple to lavish affairs were planned in neighborhoods and by organizations in their local area. Still, fashion was important, regardless of where they live
Men of the ’50s were polished head to toe with stylish hats, suits, handkerchiefs, coordinated ties, socks and Wingtip shoes. Suits were slim fitting and skinny ties were the1950s fashion. Men pulled out the jewelry: collar bars, lapel pins, cufflinks, tie clips and most important…a watch. Many wore some of it or all depending on the event.
Women also followed the trend of the day with dresses that were cinched at the waist and dramatic necklines. In an effort to look coordinated, parures (matching sets of jewelry) were popular. These pieces were designed to be worn as a set. The women wore matching earrings, necklaces, bracelets, pins and rings. They strived for the “coordinating” look.
(Note: My mother-in-law, who lived overseas, was a “fashionista” of her time, 40s, 50s, 60s. Her strategy was to make or buy an evening dress that was full and long. Each year (with the help of fashion magazines) she would re-shape the dress by making the skirt less full, changing the sleeve and the neckline. The original dress was reshaped up to five times and they were beautiful each time.
As a youth, I lived in Long Island, New York in the 1950s, and my mother and several neighbor women did the same thing with store-bought evening dresses to keep within the yearly budget. This is how important fashion was in the 1950s.)
Everyone paid a great deal of attention to the coats they wore when they arrived at parties. After all, that was the first thing people saw when you stepped through the door. Full swing coats were popular for women, depending on where you lived and the temperature. Men wore full length coats. And again, the coats, for both sexes, were accessorized, i.e., pins, corsages or boutonnieres of artificial flowers, gloves, hat, etc.
After all, the holidays were the time to pull out all the stops.
Janet Elizabeth Lynn
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Veterans Day is for healing…let’s not forget our wounded warriors who suffer not only the physical pains of war, but the mental as well.
PTSD was first talked about during the Civil War by physicians who described it as nostalgia, while others believed it was a disturbance of a soldier’s mental capabilities caused by severe trauma to the brain.
After World War II, John Huston directed a documentary called Let There Be Light, about the care of soldiers with mental disturbances suffered during wartime.
These are wounds you don’t see.
But they are very real to the soldier with PTSD.
In my holiday romance, “The Christmas Piano Tree,” the hero, Sgt. Jared Milano, is a wounded warrior suffering from PTSD from his last mission in Afghanistan:
“His brain went into freefall and he couldn’t stop it. No matter how hard he tried, how much he squeezed his mind, the memory stayed lost in a thick, suffocating fog swirling around in his head.
Dead and forgotten.
Angry, frustrated, he tried to reach out and grab it, but whatever his buddy said to him before he died remained silent and still in his mind.
When would he remember? When?”
“The Christmas Piano Tree” is the story of a pretty young war widow who re-discovers the magic of the holiday season with the help of a homeless vet and an old piano.
I’ll never forget the Christmas I spent stationed overseas in a small town in Italy. The hot chocolate and cookies I baked and gave to the soldiers who signed up for my Christmas Eve Midnight Mass tour. Off we went on that wintry night in an old military school bus…
We were a motley group of military and Special Services personnel attending the service in a medieval cathedral that was cold and damp, but filled with song and hope for a better future.
Many of those men had seen the horrors of combat and suffered from PTSD (what we called DSS–delayed-stress syndrome–back then). Their stories as they told them to me have stayed with me always…
Thank you for spending part of your Veterans Day here with me. We thank all those who have served for their courage and bravery in keeping us and our families safe. God bless you.