Friday Morning Burlington Writers Workshop News

Each year, The New Yorker magazine publishes a hundred or so poems that appear both in print and on the Web. In 2018, they brought forth something new, an online-only, multimedia poetry archive: Our Year in Poems by Hannah Aizenman.

I am not sure how I originally found this, but here’s a link to a free, online, full PDF version of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, Fourth Edition, ready to download and keep handy.

I also had to search out the proper way to write numbers this week and found another downloadable PDF: Numbers in academic writing.

And, I researched the details on quoting lyrics from popular or even unknown songs in… How to legally quote song lyrics in your book. Lesson learned, just don’t do it. And if you still have unanswered questions, read Lyrics In Books: Your Questions Answered.

Last night, I finished reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. More than just a book for writers about the art of writing, Anne Lamott entertains and informs her readers about a whole philosophy of life that underlies a goal of speaking your own individual truth. The book is broken into five sections that include: Writing, Frame of Mind, Help Along the Way, Publication, and the Last Class. I treasure this book and feel like I have come to know the author in a very personal way – obviously due to her own truthful rendering of the emotional states encountered by anyone creating art from the experiences of a lifetime. 

Here’s an excerpt that illustrates her truth seeking:

I know this makes me sound a little angry. I had a student whose mother, as punishment, used to bum him on the stove in the kitchen when he was little. “Use it,” I told him. “She’s old, though,” he said. “Her life has not been a happy one.” 

My heart bleeds, I told him. Change her looks, age, where you lived. If you were an only child, make up five other kids. If there were three kids in your family, have the narrator be an only child. Make her a single mother. Use the bad dad somewhere else, in another story. If there was no dad, make one up.

This guy has written some beautiful stories about his childhood, with a mother who physically bears absolutely no resemblance to his own. She now has blond hair and big warm brown eyes, worked at the A & P-and held her son’s hand to the flame when he was naughty. One time when he finished reading, the class burst into spontaneous applause. 

A friend of mine recently fell for this non-Catholic priest who seemed very learned and spiritual and tender in the beginning, and then turned out to be a mean little Napoleonic shit; not to put too fine a point on it. She wondered if she could use him as a character. Oh, I said, I insist. “Do I have to make him tall, so he won’t sue me?” 

“No, no, no,” I said. Make him an uneducated writer, instead of a priest. Give him a past, two wives, and a number of kids he hasn’t seen in years. Make him homely, make him a smoker, make him an atheist. Give him a penis that looks like a tiny little egg in a bird’s nest. He isn’t going to come forward. 

Maybe this is not only vengeance; maybe it is just wanting to tell the truth as it really happened. Maybe it is also about trying to find some meaning in the suffering. Well. Whatever. 

From Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott

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