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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Reading and Writing - IWSG November 2018




It's IWSG Day. The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader. Co-hosts for November are:




To find a list of other contributors with links to their posts, click here.


Recently, I read a writer/blogger who said she never reads when she writes because she doesn’t want to feel daunted by another writer's talent. Truth be told, if the world was coming to an end I’d take a book along with me to the next stop, but the insecure me heard her message.

I’ve just finished reading Fredrik Backman’s My Grandmother asked me to Tell you I’m Sorry. It’s one of the most creative books I’ve read in a while, filled with fantasy, world-building, reality-based intrigue and yearning—all flowing seamlessly from the protagonist, a precocious seven-year-old. It’s one of those books for which I skipped chores so I could read before and after work. I read it while eating breakfast and even in front of the TV while our beloved Red Sox competed in the World Series. That said, at one point while reading My Grandmother, I put the book down as I experienced a crisis of faith. His book was so darn clever. Nothing I write is remotely close. 

Amidst that ugly little moment of “give-up-itis” I had to stop the negativity train and remind myself of something important. Writing is not a competition. We’ll always discover stories we wish we had the talent and creativity to write. As long as we mine our own imaginations, passions and patience to come up with the best stories we can, as long as we aspire to become better, what more we can ask of ourselves?

Still, I needed help getting over my self-doubt. Stephen King’s On Writing, always helps me when I feel low, so I Googled and found two appropriate quotes to pull me out of my funk.

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.

The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor. 

The moral of the story is that books like Backman’s can entertain AND teach. I won’t give up on them, and I won’t give up on me. After all, how bad can it be if the “homework” necessary to become a good writer involves good reading, too? 

What are your thoughts on reading while writing?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Salvation: IWSG October 2018



It's IWSG Day. The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader.  Co-Hosts for October Dolorah @ Book Lover, Christopher D. Votey, Tanya Miranda, and Chemist Ken!

This month’s optional question: How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?


Well, duh!

Any writing I accomplished prior was a lead-up to the place I landed one day in 2009, when after 23 years at the same organization my position was eliminated in a large-scale expense reduction. In at 8:00 as usual, out at 4:00, forever—with no notice and certainly no plan. The next day I woke up and the only way I could handle the shock of having been dumped on my proverbial keister was to write. The resulting essay became my first post here on Middle Passages and almost ten years later it’s one of the pieces of which I remain the most proud. Sure I’d edit it now, tighten it up.  But it was real, from the gut, gritty…and, it had voice. 

So, Middle Passages was born and through this medium, I took my first steps on the journey toward what I am today—settled, comfortable and proud of what I’ve accomplished. The early day-to-day writing—along with subsequent articles, essays, and yes, those pesky unpublished novels, well, they're my joy, and I suppose my legacy. You'll find the real me, the person I always wanted to be here and in the other pieces I produce. No matter what the topic, writing comes from as deep as I can go, and all of it, every word I've written since, stems from that first day of unemployment.

There I sat at my kitchen counter, weighed down by a white-space-vacuum-lack-of-purpose, but as soon as I began to write, my panic slipped away. I became focused on finding the exact word, imbuing the piece with the flavor of my crisis and my hope. Hours later, I pressed publish for the first time knowing I'd started something good, something that mattered, and aware in the gut-honest-heart of me that no matter what the future introduced, writing had to be a part of it.

I've carried forth in that regard ever since, because one thing that remains crystal clear. Writing doesn't just help. It's salvation.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Open Canon: IWSG September 2018



It's IWSG Day. The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader. Co-Hosts this month: Toi Thomas, T. Powell Coltrin, M.J. Fifield, and Tara Tyler.  To read posts from other members, click here.


Writers learn to write by writing. We also learn to write by reading which has never been a problem for me. Libraries and bookstores are among my favorite places, as well as the corner of the couch where I plunk myself down to start a new book. I’ve never belonged to a physical book group, but after learning the objectives for the Open Canon Book Club, I joined. Open Canon is an online group moderated by PhD professor Wiley Cash, author of A Land More Kind than Home, This Dark Road to Mercy, and The Last Ballad. 


We live in a time when appealing to and listening to the diversity of America's voices are more important than ever. The goal of the Open Canon Book Club is to introduce readers to voices and portrayals of the American experience they may not have otherwise encountered in their day-to-day lives, their education, or their book club meetings. Literary diversity plays a vital role in making us understood to one another, and this hope of understanding is the hinge upon which our democracy swings.

Regardless of our beliefs, most of us will agree we’re becoming more divided as a country. It has become acceptable for online communications with those with whom we disagree to become hostile. This, I think, has led to a general disrespect in how we treat folks in person. In the virtual world, interactions are layered with accusation and discord. We’ve lost our manners simply because the means to disagree in a public way is easy, immediate, and if we choose, anonymous. And once we act poorly online, doesn't it become easier to do so in person? Who cares if we talk on the phone rather than addressing the clerk while checking out at the grocery store? What's the big deal if we endanger others by texting while driving? Does it matter that we walk down city streets so immersed in our smart phones we miss the woman stumbling off the curb, the homeless veteran seeking spare change, or the lost stranger in need of directions?

Similar to IWSG, which focuses on kindness, caring and empathy, Open Canon proposes to use technology to promote a shared humanity. And in joining, there's an added benefit. Author Cash offers discussion points and companion readings for each month's selection as well as his own reflections on the writing in a section he calls Reading like a Writer: A Note from Wiley. So there you have it, a free learning venue composed of diverse perspectives, combined with educational observations on writing. What's not to like?

The online discussion of the first book, The Birds of Opulence by Crystal Wilkinson takes place on September 26.