Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Novelists in Novels

Stephen King does it often.

Apparently, Wodehouse does it too: "He envied fellows like Gertrude's cousin, Ambrose Tennyson. Ambrose was a novelist, and a letter like this would probably have been pie to him." ~P.G.W. The Luck of the Bodkins

Novelists as characters.

I've never done written a novelist character myself, partly because I think that other fantabulous authors have done this meta-move with great distinction. King, definitely. Who can touch Misery or The Dark Half for writer-torture? Michael Chabon with Wonder Boys is the literary equivalent. (Read: workshops! Augh!) 

There are hundreds of examples that I could point to with writers writing about writers. I think the reason for the existance of such a line-up is obvious: Write What You Know. Writers understand the struggles of sitting down at the computer/typewriter/page. Plus there is that extra bit of getting to talk about writing in writing--which, aside from writing, is what writers do.

We're kind of boring in that sense.

There's the additional bonus in that there's very little research. If your main character is a chef, you might have to go out and research the lingo. Not so when a novelist makes a novelist character. We already know "WIP" "galley" "ARC" and "How Advances Work." We understand what a ridiculous word count is. The jokes are inside and we get them.

Then there's the audience. You know who reads the most books? Give you one guess.

Writers.

So of course I'll pick up a novel called How I Became A Famous Novelist (by Steve Hely). Or An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England (by Brock Clarke). It's like par for the course. The audience is built in.

How about you guys? Written about writers recently? Read a good book about writerly characters?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Attention Colorado Springs Writers!

My writers' group has just put together a new website (still a tiny bit under construction) that you can visit here--

The Under Ground Writing Project

--and there's a Community section that we're looking to fill. So if you're part of another writers' group in the Colorado Springs area, or if you're a local author and you want your website included in our Community section, or you're going to give a presentation in the area, or whatever then shoot me an email (jenny@undergroundwritingproject.com). We'll include events and whatnot on our calendar of events and link to you on the Community page.

And, ya know, if you want to come hang out with us, our meeting place and dates are posted too. =)

Monday, March 28, 2011

To Begin at the Beginning, Or Not to Begin at the Beginning? Question of the Day

"Left alone, Monty lost no time in spreading paper on the table, taking up the pen and dipping it in the ink. So far, so good. But now, as so often happened when he started to write to the girl he loved, there occurred a stage wait. He paused, wondering how to begin." P.G.W describing the character Monty's difficulty in starting a letter to his one true love in The Luck of the Bodkins

Isn't it always the way? You've pulled up your paper and pen (or, thankfully nowadays, your trusty laptop) and you long to start whatever it is that you're going to write: an email, a novel, a short story, play, whatever. And then...nothing. Just a second ago you had the perfect opening line. You knew the images you wanted to invoke in the reader's mind.

About a paragraph later in Luck of the Bodkins, Monty starts, but he starts badly. I mean, should you start a letter to your One True Love: "My Darling Old Egg"? (Here's a hint boys: No.)

Maybe you've just started a novel or short story. Maybe you're just writing an email to a pal. Either way, if you want to get to the good stuff in the middle, you've got to write the beginning, right? Some writers skip to the middle and write the images in their head.

I am not one of those writers, I have to know what happens beforehand or something in the scene I'm writing doesn't feel right. Recently, I've decided to mix that up.

I've been working (very slowly) on what I like to call my Top Secret Project. But I've run into a problem. And that problem is the beginning. The first chapter has to do some pretty extraordinary things, and I'm feeling the pressure. For the past couple weeks I've told myself to suck it up, appreciate that the beginning is bad, and move on to the other stuff. Days and days and days of working on this. Writing words only to delete them, only to put them back again.

My reaction? Fuck it. I'm skipping to the middle. And then I'm going to skip around again. And again and again. Then I'll assemble it all like a jigsaw.

My co-reaction is to work on another project that I have clearer in my head: a project I'm calling The Line (Codename: tL). I will fiddle with the Top Secret Project while I work with more focus on tL. Fiddling always gets good results. I think Top Secret Project needs percolating time--so, to the back burner it goes!

Do you guys fiddle while working on other things? Do you have codenames for your WIPs? How much percolating is necessary for you to get the right depth of flavor for your piece?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ode to the Bathroom Floor


Some of you may or may not know that Wodehouse also dabbled in poetry. In that enterprising spirit, I shall regale you with my own poetic presentation on what I've been doing this week. With photos!

Ahem.

O, carpeted bathroom destroyed by bad cat spray!
(Who carpets bathrooms? Ah, well. It just came that way...)
We've gutted you, pulling your threadworn cover out.
Won't say sorry because, damn!, the odor was stout!


Time for some new style, new fun, new pizzazz, new looks:
So, on to Home Depot, Lowes, and big how-to books -- 
Which we did not read, because we're bad, bold wingers 
Who guess at tile wet saw use--makes for some zingers!

After much knee-breaking bending and heavy lifting,
after much finger-risking and tile-color sifting,
and, of course, a lot of energy expenditure... 
we arrived at the end of our big adventure!

Et VOILA! The results of our hard work and dedication:
A splendid, angled, pretty-looking presentation!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Curses! Foiled Again!: Another Note on Foils

Another thing to think about when developing good foils is creating a goal that is compatible for both parties. This is harder than it looks. How do you create two characters with different backgrounds who want the same thing, but don't want to beat each other up in order to attain the same thing?

Jeeves and Wooster are all about helping out Wooster's mish-mesh of friends -- Wooster because he has a sort-of sympathy for those like himself. And Jeeves, well, I think Jeeves does it because soap operas haven't been invented yet. No -- Really, Jeeves has found the perfect position: he rules the roost, influences men of power, and has enough money left to gamble. Deep down, I think Jeeves and Wooster are very similar. Helpful. Bossy. Just separated by Opportunity.

Mike and Psmith are all about adjusting to the surrounding circumstances. Mike's been booted out of his old school for bad marks. Thus losing the heart to play cricket, his passion. Psmith has been booted out of Eton and is also adjusting to a new school. His answer is to dominate the new school. He finds a willing accomplice in Mike because their goal is the same: make the best of this school year and hope to heaven that the next year will be better.

See? Two different pairs of foils and both are balanced nicely. Wodehouse does this throughout his work. I'm working through some of his short stories right now and it's a pattern Wodehouse seems to have mastered. If only all of us could hit on character balance and goals that easily!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Foiled and Balanced

Jeeves and Wooster.

Mike and Psmith.

Wodehouse knew how to use foils in his work to get the maximum humorous results.

On the surface it seems like it's all about buffoonery placed against the wise-and-tolerant. After all, Wooster gets into one social scrape after another, right there along with his troublesome friends. Mike also stumbles through the world without a real direction until he meets up with Psmith.

But what makes Wodehouse's pairings so interesting is that the wise foils are just as messed up as the main buffoons. Sure, Jeeves is brilliant. He's also a gambler, obsessive about social standing, and doesn't always hit on the right scheme immediately. Plus, he stays with Wooster throughout all the problems that W and his buddies get into--even coming back from some hard-earned vacations in some cases!

Psmith? When Mike has a tough time adjusting to the new boarding school, Psmith is there to help. Having been likewise shoved into a new school, Psmith takes over the place. On the surface it seems like this kid has it way more together than Mike. Not so much. He's struggling just as much, and that's what makes the turn in Mike and Psmith so nice and still hilarious.

The best thing is that the foils are equal matches. Wooster is determined not to get it, but his intentions are always for the good. His sweetness makes up for his obtuseness. Jeeves balances the flaws in the main character by being a trifle shady (with the gambling) and by paying attention to the situation. Mike is openly not adjusting to the new school; Psmith is faking-it-til-he-makes-it. 

That's how good foils work. One character doesn't really work without the other. Like peanut butter and jelly. In order to use foils you have to think about your main character: where are the weaknesses, strengths, foibles? How does the foil fill the gaps or create gaps of his own?  They should balance each other and then tear through the story together.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Influence and How It, Well, Influences

My writers group, The Underground Writing Project, wrote what we call a 'round' story. Basically, we each took turns writing a chapter and so on and so on until we reached the end. Lather, rinse, repeat.

In a seemingly unrelated topic: literature classes bring up the question of influence and it  is always brought up in relation to a writer's work. Who influenced the piece? What traditions influenced the creation? What relationships did the writer have with other writers?

Well, the round story writing was a wonderful experience-- and our heaviest influence was P.G. Wodehouse (with some Oscar Wilde in there for good measure). The resulting book (yes, we actually finished it) is what I like to think of as What Happens When Americans Get Hold Of British Parlor Comedy. There are polo matches and guillotines and love hexagons. We outright borrowed Wodehouse's voice -- or tried to. I mean, he is Wodehouse and we're just us, right?

That experience is the first time in my writing practice that I actively thought about another writer's influence on my work.  It's the only time I pondered the way a voice should specifically sound on the page. (And interestingly enough, it's also the only time I've been called out on a critique regarding voice: apparently I used 'kind of' instead of 'sort of' in one spot. Who knew, right?)

Now that I'm working on a new writing project, the idea of influence has popped into my head again. I know a certain writer influences the structure of the new piece, another influences the subject matter, and another influences the voice when I feel myself dragging. And I'm not going to tell you these writers' names because they're all genius, award winning writers and I'm not about to present the idea that what I'm working on matches up. At all. Forgive me.

The cool thing about the situation is that I feel myself stretching and trying things that I wouldn't have without these other writers. The structure is a little funky. The subject matter is close to my heart. The voice is, oddly enough, more authentically me too, I think; more inspired than influenced maybe. I'm hoping that it winds up like the UGWP round story: the influence is present but it's all original. I'm pretty excited.

Now, I really really really want to know from you guys whether you've actively let another writer influence your work? How did the experience go for you? What'd you learn?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Taking the Trouble

"with each new book of mine I have, as I say, always that feeling that this time I have picked a lemon in the garden of literature. A good thing really, I suppose. Keeps one up on one's toes and makes one write every sentence ten times. Or in many cases twenty times...When in due course Charon ferries me across the Styx and everyone is telling everyone else what a rotten writer I was, I hope at least one voice will be heard piping up, 'But he did take trouble.'" ~P.G.W. "From Over Seventy," The Best of Wodehouse: An Anthology

Having just started a new writing project, the above quotation hit a note with me. After all, when you sit down to write (at least for me) there's a little voice in the back of your head that says "THIS is IT." Your best work. The best the world has ever seen. Starting is a hopeful time.

But there's another little voice: "What if this is the lemon in the garden of literature?" What if I suck? What if I can't do what I set out to do? What if I'm not the next Great American Novelist?

Truth?

You've just got to do the best that you can and then do it again. There's work involved. No doubt. Write each sentence ten times? Twenty? Dudes--do you know how many sentences I've written in this blog post alone? Multiply the sentences by twenty? AUGH! Double AUGH!

(Yep, just those two expletives at the end of the previous paragraph could mean forty revisions...do I capitalize just the A: Augh? Or do I delete the whole thing and leave it at: Double AUGH! hoping that the reader inserts the original AUGH/Augh/augh themselves? Double h's at the end to express extended frustration: AUGHH? Or does that sound too relieved, too much like ahhh?)

Well, the answer is to write your story. Work it to the best of your ability. Then write another story.  Your Best will get Better. But you have to take the trouble. You might truly suck at first: "The handicap under which most beginning writers struggle is that they don't know how to write. I was no exception to this rule. Worse bilge than mine may have been submitted to the editors of London in 1901 and 1902, but I should think it very unlikely."~P.G.W. "From Over Seventy," The Best of Wodehouse: An Anthology

But Wodehouse wrote endlessly. He wrote at least a book a year, plus musical lyrics, plus articles, plus poems, etc. So, he learned. He kept at it. Maybe the publishing world was different 100 years ago, but writing hasn't changed at all. As Wodehouse says in Over Seventy: "But if only a writer keeps on writing, something generally breaks eventually."

You've got to keep on writing. Take the trouble. Revise. Write some more. Revise some more. I'll see you on the published side. (That's six sentences = 120 revisions.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Political Commentary Question in Literature

We talked about satire and politics last week, but Wodehouse also makes little comments in his works, like the following from Mike and Psmith:

"'I am with you, Comrade Jackson. You won't mind my calling you Comrade will you? I've just become a socialist. It's a great scheme. You ought to be one. You work for the equal distribution of property, and start by collaring all you can and sitting on it.'"~ Psmith, explaining to Mike why they should hijack another student's study room, P.G.W., Mike and Psmith

I was amused. =)

But, amusement aside, considering the historical impact of literature on policy (Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, which changed both working conditions in general and food processing and safety in particular, being the biggest, brightest, grossest example I can think of), where do political commentaries belong in fiction? Like I said, I was amused by Wodehouse's definition of 'socialism,' so I think he pulled it off without sounding uppity.

However, for this one example, I can think of many others -- generally in unpublished works that I've had a chance to critique through the years, but there've been plenty in published works too -- that have not pulled off this kind of commentary gracefully. It sounded preachy. It reads like THIS IS THE WAY IT SHOULD BE.

I don't know about you guys, but when I'm reading a story, it's primarily for entertainment purposes. I'll read Orwell's Animal Farm more to see a bunch of animals come to terms with each other (or, you know, not) rather than conciously think about how it has anything to do with Communism and the Russian Revolution. I'll read 1984 more to see how the characters get out of rat-cage torture rather than read it as an Evils of Communism dissertation.

Though I do recognize that the motives and intentions behind both of Orwell's works are political and cautionary, which does add levels and depth. But, as a result of the motives, there are long passages in 1984 that make me put the book down every time. I don't want to be preached to, no matter how much I agree with the point being made.

But I think that Orwell, for all the preaching, also pulled off the commentary. In the unpublished pieces that I referred to earlier, the political comments were clunky. Like the narration broke away from the story in order to make a comment on some social injustice. The commentary somehow wasn't integrated into the story itself. (And in a couple cases it seemed like the commentary's purpose was opposite of the story's point -- so it didn't make any sense.)

Another thing I've noticed is that issues and politics can be presented very one-sided. I think in order to explain a political point, the opposite side has to have some kind of legitimate representation--no adding in the opposite side just to take a pummeling.

I recently read a novel where all of the characters started off pro-capital punishment. Then, for one reason or another, all of them were anti-capital punishment by the end. The problem, for me, was that it felt unbalanced. Why not have just  one character have the opposite epiphany? Go from anti-capital punishment to pro-capital punishment. The weight is still heavily placed on the anti-side but at least the argument for the pro-side is there, and since it's a side-switcher, you know that there's been a legit argument made.

In my opinion, fiction's purpose is to raise the questions, not answer them. So when the commentary seeks to answer the questions, I think it comes off lop-sided or preachy. Which makes for boring fiction. It's not raising a discussion, it's drilling in an opinion.

Have you guys ever been thrown out of a story because suddenly there was a Message? How about a movie? What stories/movies have successfully pulled of a political message for you? How did it work?

Friday, March 11, 2011

No Satire Here:

My thoughts and prayers are with Japan and everyone who has been hurt by this disaster! 

Satire III: Wodehouse, WWII Radio Broadcasts, and When Is Satire Okay?

Now we are back to satire and our mentor: P.G. Wodehouse.

During WWII many British citizens were in direct danger -- in the bombings of London like our recent mentor Virginia Woolf, and those abroad in Europe when Germany came a-knockin'. Like our current mentor P.G. Wodehouse, who was in France when the Nazis rolled through. Wodehouse and his wife were rounded up, separated, and put through various prisons (camps).

Right after his release, Wodehouse accepted an invitation to broadcast to his fans that he was okay. He proceeded to make a few broadcasts, on Berlin's airwaves -- and was immediately villified.

Why? Because Wodehouse didn't sit down at the microphone and condemn the Nazis, at least not in a direct way--he was on German broadcasts, after all. In his typical fashion, Wodehouse broadcasted satirically. As we've already seen with our New Yorker example, satire walks a fine line. While an election year may seem a pretty powder-keg moment to today's audience, imagine a time of war. And not only war: World War II. The biggest war the world has ever seen. The most dangerous time for millions.

And here's Wodehouse (you can read the full transcripts here at http://www.pgwodehousebooks.com/):
It has been in many ways quite an agreeable experience. There is a good deal to be said for internment. It keeps you out of the saloons and gives you time to catch up with your reading. You also get a lot of sleep. The chief drawback is that it means your being away from home a good deal. It is not pleasant to think that by the time I see my Pekinese again, she will have completely forgotten me and will bite me to the bone – her invariable practice with strangers. And I feel that when I rejoin my wife, I had better take along a letter of introduction, just to be on the safe side.” ~P.G. Wodehouse, first Berlin broadcast
Now, part of satire is paying attention to your audience. Well, it's not like Wodehouse had much of a chance in that regard. These broadcasts were made almost immediately after his release. So he had no way of knowing the 'feel' of the audience. When the British public heard the broadcasts the word "traitor" was mentioned more than once. There was even an investigation into Wodehouse's motives.  He was trying to make light, to make sure that people didn't worry about him on top of everything else. After all, the assumption underlying Wodehouse's presentation is that Nazis were NOT GOOD, therefore any mention of their hospitality was immediately suspect (ridiculous even...) -- but the public didn't see that. It was only after the broadcasts were finished that he heard about the outcry.
If you read between the lines, and you don't have to read hard either, you can easily see how unpleasant the whole experience was. In the above quoted section it's obvious that the separation from his family wasn't easy. If you read the rest of the broadcasts you see the hints of mistreatment and outright danger he was in. No charges were actually brought to bear, and he was eventually forgiven and even knighted.
Timing was one issue. Subject matter another.
Subject matter is a big consideration. In essay, in fiction, and in satires. Yep, even radio broadcasts.
Wodehouse got knocked even before people really understood the full impact of what a camp was. (From what I've read, his situation was much better than that of other prisoners, though still NOT GOOD.) Nowadays, so many years later, knowing how many suffered and died in these places, the concentration camps and the Holocaust are still very taboo subjects as far as satire goes.

I'm speaking pretty generally here. Anything that might remotely be construed to make fun of such tragedy is questionable, at the very least. Off the top of my head I can think of maybe one other topic that's still super off limits--the exploitation of children. (Earlier this year I thought that rape was off the table too--but the Daily Show went to town on the re-definition of rape and apparently some sensitive subjects can be made funny with the right touch....)
This is not to say that these subjects, as serious and painful as they are, can't be satirized. Satire always has a serious point behind it. It presents the argument in a different way. Wodehouse presented the Nazi regime as it was--with its control and domination and imprisonment--just through a different lens. 
Now, the question of the day: When is satire okay? When is it the best way to present an argument, if ever? 


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Satire II: The Political Sphere of Satire; The Fine Line

Okay, deep breath. Politics will be mentioned today but I want to be very clear that I'm only talking politics insofar as its relationship with satire.

We've established that satire is generally presented as a ludicrous solution to a real social problem. The difficulty lies in the fact that different people consider different things ludicrous. The basis for the satire must be popularly ridiculous--otherwise the arguments presented hit too close to home and there's the potential for really BIG, OFFENDED reactions. This occurs mainly in the realm of politics.

The history of satire and politics is a long one. We've already talked Jonathan Swift's Modest Proposal and that was way back in the 1700s day. Time to bring the satire issue more up to date:

The most popular recent satirical 'event' occured over The New Yorker's controversial cover showing then-presidential-hopeful Obama fist bumping his wife Michelle while wearing a turban, toting guns, and burning the American flag in the Oval Office, by cartoonist Barry Blitt. If this doesn't ring a bell, take a peek at About.com's sum-up-tion here.

This is the best illustration that I can think of to show that there is a super-fine line between a satirical argument and an offensive argument. The reason that the cartoon (and it was a cartoon, people) drew so much fire was that the definition of ridiculous wasn't as clear. Obama had drawn real anti-American accusations, and real distrust as far as religious views were concerned.

The idea was that the cartoon would show people how ill-founded those fears were. The goal was to say "Look! See how ridiculous this idea is? Of course a presidential hopeful, any presidential hopeful would never, never do this." (In fact, here's Blitt's reaction, which includes his intent.) And I think a lot of people understood that. But there were just as many who did not. After all, I remember a woman going off about how Obama was like Hitler because he'd written an autobiography. There was no satire for her. So on one side you've got a group whose worst fears are now given representation.

And, on the other side, you've got the group who is supposedly being defended by the satirical representation. Unfortunately, they didn't get that memo. Obama's people issued statements saying how offended they were. It was viewed as insulting rather than ridiculous.

How to hit on just the right satirical note? Tricky, yes? Mostly, it's about considering your audience. Sometimes it's uber-hard to read your audience or anticipate what will be thought ridiculous. Part of the issue with the New Yorker audience is that it's soooo huge--someone was gonna sound off on it. I think history will be far more gentle with the New Yorker cover than its contemporary audience. After all, everyone was offended with Swift's A Modest Proposal when it came out too. When you talk about real issues, you get real responses, whether the intent is serious or not.

Which brings us to Wodehouse, WWII, concentration camps, and radio broadcasts on Friday.  In the meantime, what satirical presentations have offended? Can you think of any subject that is not okay to make fun of? Or is everything fair game if handled right? Any ideas on how to talk about politics in a humorous way without alienating?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Satire I: Definitions, the Trick of It, and A Modest Proposal

When we're talking about a guy like Wodehouse, humorist extraordinaire, it's impossible not to talk about satire. So we're going to pause our regularly scheduled programming to talk less about our mentor directly (don't worry, it'll come back around) and talk in more general terms about satire itself--which we'll define as a comeuppance to society via witty repartee or sarcastic/exaggerated presentation. I like Wikipedia's definition of satire, found in full here.

The thing with satire, though, especially in literature, is that it's tricky to pull off in just the right manner. The idea is to take something socially important (a problem) and then present a ludicrous solution as a viable option.

For example: proposing cannibalism (ludicrous solution) as an effective method to fight over-population (social problem). It's ridiculous, right? Especially if it's all about eating children. Which is exactly what Jonathan Swift, of Gulliver's Travels fame, did in his essay A Modest Proposal.

Let's hear the full title:

A Modest Proposal: For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being Aburden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public

Sounds like something reasonable, right?

Ireland, 1729: Poor children are a social burden. How can the poor afford to raise these children? Abortions and child mortality rates are on the rise. Here are a bunch of beggar kids ripping around the streets of Dublin, stealing and consuming valuable resources.

Anything to make them beneficial, right? Well, according to this essay, the children are most beneficial in a nutritional capacity: "I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout."~Swift, A Modest Proposal

The goal of satire is pretty much to offend the world in order to wake it up. Swift's essay is meant to draw attention to the fact that it was a pretty bad time in Ireland, but the Irish (suffering badly from prejudices and foul treatment) are human and are therefore due human rights and dignities.

And how does Swift point this out? By pissing be off through sarcasm. In a letter to Alexander Pope Swift said: "the chief end I propose to my self in all my labors is to vex the world rather than divert it."

To vex the world. To make the world think.

We're going to go into the pitfalls of satire on Wednesday, but what do you guys think about this? Can you think of contemporary satires that have been effective?

As an example of the thought process involved in satirical rhetoric, check out this clip on the thought process behind The Daily Show's rally.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Wodehouse and Woolf in High School, an Imaginary Dialogue by Jenny

Wodehouse
Right ho, Virginia! How are you today? Did you finish that one assignment for English?
Woolf
(struggles with piles of papers as she walks down the hallway to her next class)
Does it look like I have finished? I'm still struggling with the type of flower that my main character should be picking at the climatic moment. A rose is too trite. A pansy too trivial. And I don't think that the structure works to uphold the gravitas that I desire to achieve.
Wodehouse
Right. Can't leave that gravitas unsupported.
Woolf
Precisely. I've struggled with every aspect of this assignment. How about you? Have you finished?
Wodehouse
Oh, I banged the thing out last night. Plenty of gravitas in mine. Stretched the old lemon a bit, but I think I pulled it off.
Woolf
Well, bully for you.
Wodehouse
Thanks.
Woolf
I suppose describing cricket tournament play-by-plays is slightly easier than describing the human condition. What do you think of daisies?
Wodehouse
I'm allergic.
Woolf
No, I mean for the telling moment in my piece.
Wodehouse
I'm allergic.
Woolf
I think it would have the gravitas that I need. After all, it's a delicate piece of botany. Soft white petals. And if I use the French maguerite, it would add a grace to the narrative.
Wodehouse
Yes. If I wrap my gray cells around this accurately, you have made a decision.
Woolf
Certainly. A daisy it is.
Wodehouse
Yes, I can see how a daisy would work. A delicate flower always hold more gravitas than scoring in cricket. Possibly even more weight than the wicket itself. I'm certain it will inspire more fans than our national pass-time.
Woolf
Absolutely.
Wodehouse
"How I Spent My Summer Vacation." A truly gravitas-riddled subject. But, surely, you didn't spend all your time picking flowers?
Woolf
Of course not. I was writing.
Wodehouse
Me too.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Random Post of Awesomeness: Braggin on a Buddy!

AWESOME News Everyone!

My good buddy Fleur Bradley has just gotten word of her acceptance at HarperCollins!

Check it out here!

Great big hugs to Fleur. I personally know she's worked her tail off for years and has earned every accolade that's possible. Hard work and perseverance pays off people! Get to work! Though it helps to be talented and beautiful like Fleur too...;)

P.S. Fleur, I'm officially shouting out!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Man Who Needs No Introduction is Getting One Anyway: P.G. Wodehouse!

Before I even knew who Jeeves was, I would yell at my father "Ho, Jeeves!" whenever he drove us anywhere. It took a long time to figure out that Jeeves was a character that had been created somewhere. I thought he'd been a real famous butler.

But no! The giant-brained Jeeves and his less-brained man Bertie, are the crazed, creative creations of Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, P.G. for short. It's a testament to him that a six-year-old (the me that was) who couldn't even tell you what a butler was could still holler to her father "Ho, Jeeves!"

Wodehouse was born in 1881, one year before Virginia Woolf. They could've gone to high school together if, you know, there weren't boy/girl boarding schools. His father was an ambassador-type in Hong Kong, so Wodehouse lived there for a little while before his parents shipped him off to England for learning purposes. (He seems to have gotten in the spirit of dorm living--his stories about school life feel very real in their hilarity and hierarchies.)

After school he struggled with everything because, well, he's a writer like us and we struggle with everything, right? Then he started writing in earnest and never, never, never stopped. Let me illustrate:

The anthology that I have in front of me is the Modern Library Edition The Best of P.G. Wodehouse. His allegedly 'best' work takes up 796 pages. That includes one novel, a bunch of short stories, and an extended essay on his writing life. The electronic edition of his works which I downloaded for my Nook is over four thousand pages. And guess what? That's not a complete collection. (In contrast, the complete works of Jane Austen don't take up 2,000--coming in at a weighty 1,553 pages.) The boy could turn it out.

He worked and lived both in the U.K. and the U.S. During WWII he was held in various internment camps by the Germans, and made some radio broadcasts about his experiences that did not go well with the Allied public. John Mortimer, who writes the introduction to the Modern Library edition, describes the broadcasts: "Their tone was, of course, far from serious. He spoke of his situation as a comic interlude in his busy life." When the war was over the British public was yelling 'traitor', and Wodehouse stayed in the U.S. for the rest of his life. Later, the public became more understanding. He was knighted.

Wodehouse died in 1975. Mortimer describes the scene in his intro: "He was found there one evening, dead in his armchair, with a pipe and tobacco on his lap and piece of manuscript within easy reach. He had never stopped writing."

Between the amount of writing that I get to wade through and the long, full life Wodehouse led...well, there's a lot to talk about.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Came across this blog entry by Ty Nolan--loved it and thought I'd share it.

Go Storytellers!

CoyoteCooks