My Inspiration, the Goose

One would think a goose to be a terribly insufficient role model for a writer, but this goose is a particular inspiration of mine. She is from the novel Whittington, by Alan Armstrong, who has reconstructed the tale of Dick Whittington and his cat in this modern adaptation with farm animals. The best animal among them is the goose, whose name is Lady and who carries herself with such dignity as to command all others’ respect for her.

Here is the excerpt which I found so diverting:

It was a curious thing, the Lady’s authority. The horses obeyed her, along with everyone else except the rats. What gave her power was how steady she was. She never rushed; she was always sure, she took responsibility. When something came up, she said what to do. Presence of mind counts for a lot in this world. The Lady was as confident of her judgment as she was of her beauty. Nothing so improves the appearance as a good opinion of oneself.

It is commanding enough to be a sermon or Sunday school lesson. Whenever there is an inspirational message or motivational piece, there should always be an example of model character. This goose is by no means real, but she is a genuinely wonderful model character.

The curious thing about the Lady is that she’s particularly ugly; though she has clipped wings, a lopsided gait, and an irregular shading of colored feathers, she does command the respect of those around her, and that is the admirable quality which I find so comforting and inspiring.

I think that even the best of preachers would give an example like this to encourage their audience. Thanks to Alan Armstrong for creating such a good character.

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What Would Agamemnon Do?

When writing tragedies, one must ask himself or herself: “What would Agamemnon do?”

More specifically, what would be done to Agamemnon, as when his wife Clytemnestra stabbed him to death in a brink of fury.

I enjoy tragedies very little; most often they catch my eye when they have a faint glimpse of hope at the end, as when BBC’s Sherlock showed the return of Sherlock Holmes in “The Reichenbach Fall,” a perfect summary of emotion, tragedy, and intelligent endings.

Currently I have not written much in the art of tragedy, so my limited experience may prove vain in the discussion of how to torment one’s character. I find tragedies suffocating when they squeeze the victim’s life, yet stimulating when they prove intelligent; if the character learns something from his life, there is bound to be a happy, if not satisfied, reader at the other end.

If anything, I have yet another master of tragedy from which I can glean my mastery of literature: Scott Fitzgerald, who has stolen our hearts with The Great Gatsby, has also wringed our heartstrings with the novel This Side of Paradise, in which the lucky Amory Blaine, an aspiring genius teenager in the university of Princeton, is locked by the conventions of his time and cannot, or does not by his own convenience, escape these boundaries.

It would be my pleasure to imitate Fitzgerald, if not to write a sad ending then at least to imitate a probing sense of human psychology. No one has better claim to tragedy than the Greeks like Aeschylus, who wrote “Agamemnon,” or the American Arthur Miller, who has wrought our hearts with “The Death of the Salesman.” But if I am to imitate these masters, I must first choose whether I enjoy to write these tales or not.

I am prone to read tragedies every now and then, but until then my heart is set on happier things, by which I can glean the good from the bad in all forms of literature, both tragedy and otherwise.

Choosing to Imagine for Novelists

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

When writing our novels or stories, we ought to “replenish our imagination,” says Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, the author of Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. For just as a child has an unbounded imagination to conjure any fairy-tale castle, princess, or ugly monster, so novelists and writers must also carry this imagination if we genuinely yearn to live in our stories.

By living, I do not mean to be caught in a daydream all day, but to feel with our characters and put ourselves in their shoes so that we can most vividly express their plights and delight our readers. I enjoy that McEntyre adds a didactic element to story-writing. She says that stories can teach us “what we can know and what we must do.”

I resonate with stories that can teach me lessons of life, such as choosing a husband for his mettle rather than his beauty. If I were to read the plight of a young maiden choosing a man who seemed gorgeous yet had no character, I would sympathize with her and remember that lesson for when I am about to marry.

The Truth about Fiction and Films–Finding Our Imagination

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

We gaze upon the first sights of a motion picture and are dazzled by the titillating colors or CG-effects. We’re drawn to the screen for having grabbed our imagination and sent it soaring in the air.

When we read novels, we are compelled to have the same reaction. Some find it more difficult to conjure pictures as easily as those on the television screen, while others have little difficulty in exercising their imagination.

The subject of imagination between novels and film is fully explained in Marilyn Chandler McEntyre’s nonfiction book, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies, about the author conveying truth in fiction and recognizing which facets of our culture have been distorted for entertainment.

Here, McEntyre criticizes films for having squelched the imagination that we find more vividly in books. I can agree with her, that with films the imagination of watching a centaur or fairy is already digitized and presented for us, and we do not have to exercise our mental faculties at all.

Yet I also refute her in saying that I glean imagination from those films as readily as I do from novels. When the swell of music or the sight of landscapes sends goosebumps up my arms, I am full of delight and feel the impulse to write. McEntyre’s point that I refute is that the films take away any imagination we would otherwise conjure more clearly on our own when we read novels. I argue, “Can we not also see this imagination in film?”

Journalism: Do We Need to Stay Plugged Into News?

Courtesy of Flickr's Ian Burt; Original art by Roy Litchenstein
Courtesy of Flickr’s Ian Burt; Original art by Roy Litchenstein

Absolutely. But the gossip, the jargon, the pessimism—wouldn’t we rather turn off CNN or Fox News and flip to our favorite book or TV show? Certainly the drama of news may bore us, but in the realm of journalism and writing, keeping track of the news is vital for a writer’s life—actually for anyone’s life.

The fact is this: Our world is becoming more global than ever. People who speak of Ebola or ISIS are already informed on the world’s hottest topics, and those ignorant of these issues are sometimes looked down upon, even though the “ignorance of bliss” seems preferable to the hype of tragedy-driven news.

But I caution you: Don’t worry about the news. Let it inform you of what’s happening. Even if you don’t travel or see people from abroad, let it remind you of your blessings where you live. Sometimes global issues will help you when you meet people. You can relate to their issues and especially if you travel—or if you write journalism—you feel that you are connected with the world.

Perhaps you may pray for the world. Perhaps you are inspired by news for your stories. Perhaps you prefer to stay connected so that you don’t feel isolated. Whatever your reasons, stick to your convictions and never let any gossip filter your thoughts. News and media certainly have habits of sensationalizing topics such as disease, tragedies, murders, and trials, yet these are strategies that newscasters employ to create interaction among readers.

Let no one scare you into thinking that you’ll catch the next epidemic or that a high school’s shooting is going to happen in your hometown. But whatever you do, be informed and know what is going on and why things are happening the way they do.

State of the Blogger: Tired, Eager, & Full

My friend and now author Jackie Lea Sommers has published her debut novel. So proud of and excited for her! Be sure to check her on jackieleasommers.com.

JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

So, it’s basically Friday. Or it will be in one hour. Which means that my book comes out in four days.

I’m better now. Happier. I saw my therapist, and that was just what I needed. She reminded me that there are certain things I said I couldn’t hold right now … but that I’d tried to pick back up anyway. I set them back down.

I’m tired. I can never seem to get enough done. Every night, by the time I’ve gotten everything I need to do out of the way and am ready to write, it’s bedtime. Right now, it’s an hour past bedtime, but I said screw it and stayed up to work on rearranging a few scenes in novel #2 based on thoughts I’ve had all evening. I think it’s going to work.

But every morning I’m exhausted. I just don’t understand how I’m supposed to…

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The Publishing Industry–Depressing Fiction vs. What Readers Really Want

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

In the first few weeks of my editing class, I was introduced to the publishing industry, specifically the genres, markets, and age groups that editors keep in mind when acquiring books. Our first assignment was observing the publishing industry by skimming through Publisher’s Weekly, Christian Retailing, The New York Times, and Bookforum, which covered a range of books and age groups including children’s picture books; middle-grade, young adult, and adult fiction; nonfiction; and Christian and secular books.

I had already been acquainted with the publishing world from observing my own county’s library, and I have discovered that the books marketed for older age groups tend to have content that is more violent, realistic, and depressing than the books marketed for young age groups. This realization makes me sad, for sometimes I find no reason why these age groups should be characterized by these grim topics. In fact, I have even found that some adult readers prefer younger-aged books for pleasure.

However, my own conclusion is that sometimes the grimmer, sadder topics conjure the deepest emotions of the human heart, and sometimes many of the readers relate to these topics because of their own experiences. If the latter is the case, I will not judge these books based on their audience’s reception, yet if I am to continue my career in the publishing world, I will keep being aware of the various topics, subjects, and audience needs that fuel the publishing industry, knowing that I may have to read some of these stories if I go into the publishing world.