never be lonely again

June 9, 2018

So many uses

From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood. There was poetry for quiet companionship. There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours. There would be love stories when she came into adolescence and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography. On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived.

Betty Smith
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

read a lot

May 28, 2018

girl

When I was about 11 or 12 I think I must have said something about how I wanted to be a writer; I don’t remember having any such aspiration until much, much later. But I must have said something, because Lucy [my governess] wrote to Somerset Maugham and said that she was governess to a little girl who wanted to be a writer and what would Mr Maugham suggest? Heaven knows how she managed to write to him – I suppose care of the publishers. He wrote a very nice letter back saying absolutely the right thing: “If your little girl is interested in writing then the best thing she can do is read a lot.” Perfect answer; exactly what I’d say myself.

Penelope Lively
On writing: authors reveal the secrets of their craft
The Guardian, 26th March 2011

Writing

May 26, 2018

Writing to touch with letters, with lips, with breath, to caress with the tongue, to lick with the soul, to taste the blood of the beloved body, of life in its remoteness; to saturate the distance with desire; in order to keep it from reading you.

Hélène Cixous
Coming to Writing

Reading out loud

May 26, 2018

Keep writing, and read every poem you write, out loud each time you work on it, and through every draft. Reading out loud exposes the weaknesses in poetry – and prose – that our eyes and minds gloss over when we skim through it otherwise. Letters and emails should also be read out loud!

Frieda Hughes
An Interview with Frieda Hughes
The London Magazine 3rd July 2017

in a strange way

May 21, 2018

words2

Usually the idea for a novel comes to me, in a strange way, from reading rather than from living or observation. It’s often what I can only call an intellectual concern – some sort of large issue I’ve got very interested in. The operation of memory is an obvious one because several novels have been prompted by that. Or again the nature of evidence – that’s another important theme to me. Then the problem is to find the vehicle, to find the story and the characters and the backdrop, because they’re going to be the vehicle for this idea. Because then I don’t want the idea to show very much; I want the idea to be a sort of seven-eighths of the iceberg, a kind of ballast, but without which the whole novel would flounder.

Penelope Lively
On writing: authors reveal the secrets of their craft
The Guardian, 26th March 2011

face writing

Reading novels seems to me such a normal activity, while writing them is such an odd thing to do. . . . At least so I think until I remind myself how firmly the two are related. (No armoured generalities here. Just a few remarks.)

First, because to write is to practice, with particular intensity and attentiveness, the art of reading. You write in order to read what you’ve written and see if it’s O.K. and, since of course it never is, to rewrite it – once, twice, as many times as it takes to get it to be something you can bear to reread. You are your own first, maybe severest, reader. ”To write is to sit in judgment on oneself,” Ibsen inscribed on the flyleaf of one of his books. Hard to imagine writing without rereading.

But is what you’ve written straight off never all right? Yes, sometimes even better than all right. And that only suggests, to this novelist at any rate, that with a closer look, or voicing aloud – that is, another reading – it might be better still. I’m not saying that the writer has to fret and sweat to produce something good.

”What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure,” said Dr. Johnson, and the maxim seems as remote from contemporary taste as its author. Surely, much that is written without effort gives a great deal of pleasure.

No, the question is not the judgment of readers – who may well prefer a writer’s more spontaneous, less elaborated work – but a sentiment of writers, those professionals of dissatisfaction. You think, ”If I can get it to this point the first go around, without too much struggle, couldn’t it be better still?”

And though the rewriting – and the rereading – sound like effort, they are actually the most pleasurable parts of writing. Sometimes the only pleasurable parts. Setting out to write, if you have the idea of ”literature” in your head, is formidable, intimidating. A plunge in an icy lake. Then comes the warm part: when you already have something to work with, upgrade, edit.

Susan Sontag
Directions: Write, Read, Rewrite. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 as Needed.
New York Times, 18th December 2000

wave

When I first started writing, I was very traditional. Much of what I wrote was autobiographical. Failed relationships, Missouri, and the suburbs were almost always my chosen subjects. Reading other poets was what helped me incorporate more variety in my writing. I read everything I could get my hands on, which ranged from Gary Snyder to Joshua Clover and even The Maximus Poems. I started to understand that the poet isn’t always the speaker of the poem, but rather, poets can experiment with the techniques of fiction writing. I’d have to say that reading, and being exposed to many ideas outside of my own comfort zone, taught me the importance of innovation, experimentation, and risk-taking in poetry. It’s fine to write from one’s lived experience, but one shouldn’t be afraid to take liberties with both form and content when writing from autobiography.

Kristina Marie Darling
An Interview with J. Scott Bugher
Split lip magazine

these are traps

March 20, 2018

If you must write, you must do it in the face of all opposition… Do not spend too much more time on culture & reading, these are traps. When everything conspires to make the thing impossible, when you are tired, worried, with no time, or money, it is then that things get done.

Samuel Beckett
Letter to Claude Raimbourg, 3 May 1954

When I read a book, I put in all the imagination I can, so that it is almost like writing the book as well as reading it – or rather, it is like living it. It makes reading so much more exciting, but I don’t suppose many people try to do it.

Dodie Smith
I Capture the Castle

the echo of words

January 2, 2018

Once, in my father’s bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later – no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget – we will return.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Shadow of the Wind
Trans. Lucia Graves