Month: February 2011

Listen up, boys and goyls: do we have a treat for you!?!

If you’re Irish, you know that St. Patrick’s Day is next month–and in my book, that’s just around the corner (you may know about St. Paddy’s if you’re not Irish too :D).

Last year a few of us got to talking and we asked ourselves this question:  “What could be better than sitting around on St. Paddy’s Day evening drinking a (possibly green) beer?”  The answer is simple.  Sitting around drinking a (possibly green) beer and reading some great fiction, that’s what!

And we pulled it off in fine style too!  (You can go read the entries here).

Things went so well, that we’re gonna do it again this year: Announcing the SECOND annual “Drunk At First Sight” Blogfest! 

Here’s how it’ll work:

1)  Sign up below.

2)  Write a new scene or short story, or dust off an old one, about a love/relationship/situation that also includes one or more of the following elements:

     —St. Paddy’s Day as important event or setting
     —Use of Ireland or anything Irish as a setting or prop
     —An alcohol related event (party, hangover, cocktails, AA meeting, etc.)

3)  Just prior to March 17th (St. Pat’s Day), post said story to your blog.

4)  On St. Paddy’s Day, cruise around the interwebs, drink in hand, and check out everybody’s amazing fiction.

That’s all there is to it!  Sounds like great fun–and in keeping with the St. Paddy’s Day spirit.  And please please please feel free to re-post the badge up top and get the word out.  As my good friend Bono sez every time I see him: “The more the merrier!!!”

P.S.  A careful reader may note that the Bono reference is simply me getting my fiction started early!

Check out this interesting, if a bit simplistic game modeled on Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.  Though a bit rudimentary, I ended up burning an hour fiddling with it. 

Enjoy!

These days, managing information is a real challenge, especially when the goal is to understand the latest fiction and publishing trends, and also avail oneself of the best how to articles on a veritable cornucopia of writing related topics.

So, I was happy as a clam to read Helen Ginger’s recent post highlighting a new tool that I think every writer should have in their toolbox: The Writer’s Knowledge Base.

The WKB is a search engine for writers, pure and simple.  It was developed by Elizabeth Span Craig and a fellow software engineer to help organize much of the information she’s mined from the interwebs.

And the results are nothing short of stunning.  As a way to test it, I entered a flurry of different search terms.  Each search generated a nice list of related posts.  It wasn’t long before I realized I could be digging around in the tool for days if I wasn’t careful, unearthing tons of great information.

I’ve certainly added it to my toolbox–and to my sidebar!–and will use it in the future.  Go take a look around and tell us what you think.

No furniture so charming as books.
~Sydney Smith

To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul.
~Cicero

Your library is your portrait.
~Holbrook Jackson

I was in Ephesus, Turkey, recently on business.  For those of you who don’t know, Ephesus was for many years the second largest city in the Roman Empire, ranked only behind the capital, Rome.  By the 1st Century B.C., the city’s population had swelled to over 250,000 people, making it the second largest city in the world at the time.

The present day site conveys the size and extensive cultural development that occurred here during ancient times, although an estimated 85% of the original city still remains unexcavated.  From one end to the other, the ruins encompass an area of over four square kilometers, and include the Temple of Hadrian, the Temple of Artemis, and what is thought to be the largest outdoor theater in the world, in addition to many other smaller wonders (I’ll post a few pictures from my trip in a separate post).

The photo above shows what is left of the facade of the Library of Celsus.  According to Wikipedia, “it was built in honor of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus”, the Roman Consul at the time, and was completed around 135 A.D.  In its day, the library housed over 12,000 scrolls and reportedly also served as monumental tomb for Celsus himself.  Burying a man with his books must have been considered a pretty high honor back then.

Standing in front of this huge edifice was a humbling experience.  I wonder whether the architects and builders who constructed buildings like this ever imagined that human beings would still be viewing them with amazement nearly 2,000 years later.

2,000 years from now, will people be touring the ruins of the New York Public Library in a similar manner?  Looking at this picture makes me feel like I could walk through the library doors and go missing for a month.

But I got to thinking about what kind of library I’d build for myself.  I have a collection of books now, stuffed in several book cases, thumbed often, reorganized occasionally, but I can’t with a straight face tell you it’s really a library.  With all the globetrotting and living on Navy ships and in far away locales, I’ve never really put together a reading/writing space that fits the library definition.  Nonetheless, I’ve always felt there’s a proper library somewhere out there in my dreamy future.  Do you feel that way too?

Curious what others have done in this regard, I found this revealing article with pictures of a number of celebrity libraries (incidentally, that’s Jimmy Stewart’s library, not Rod Stewart’s).

Finally, after a lot of soul-searching, which these days is called internet surfing, I found my dream library:

photo by Andrew Moore

(Read more about this amazing library here.)  What about you?  If time and money were no object, what kind of library would you build for yourself?

In addition to being a patent clerk, it’s note widely known that Einstein also was one of the founding members of the rock band Kiss, although he had to quit after two weeks because the music was making him “verklempt,” he said.  He later performed with the Moody Blues, Blink 182 and occasionally, Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson (Willie, reportedly, was a big fan).

His other accomplishments, in addition to positing the theories of General and Special Relativity–essentially founding an entire branch of physics called Quantum Mechanics–include being one of the first people to solve the Rubik’s cube blindfolded, inventing a new skateboarding maneuver called the Quantum Jump (involving bubble gum, sticky tape and some high-end mathematical gymnastics), and being an extra in such well known Hollywood blockbusters as Lethal Weapon 2, Shrek, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (where he performed as one of the oompa loompas in the Mike TeeVee scene).

But it all started in that patent office.  I imagine him as a young man, a knowing glint in his eye, staying at his desk late into the evening, scribbling down formulas, referencing various arcane physics texts, performing thought experiments, projecting his view of the world into the future.

I wonder if he knew during those quiet moments the greatness in his future, the changes his mind would make on the universe and our understanding of it?

As writers, we face a similar prospect when we face the blank page.  Sure, probably not a one of us will rise to the lofty heights occupied by greats such as Einstein, but the process is the same.  We must project our current efforts into the future, have faith that what we are creating, even if it falls short today, will make a difference tomorrow.  If we don’t believe that, then why keep plugging away?

Anne Lamott talks about the need for writers to be reverent, present, to stand in awe of the beauty of the world.  It’s something I struggle with, but when I do find that place where my writing has captured some small piece of the universe, where it begins to talk back to me, it truly is something to behold.

And the more I struggle, the more those moments happen.

One of the keys, I think, is remembered that the greats all started somewhere.  Hemingway, King, Fitzgerald, Dostoyevsky.  They all started as patent clerks.

So maybe I haven’t started any world famous rock bands recently, or discovered some heretofore undiscovered secret of the universe, or published a bestselling novel, or written a classic, but I am in the process of converting my home writing space into something like a patent office.  After all, “starting somewhere” worked for the greats.  Why won’t it work for me?

What about you?  What are the things you tell yourself to keep looking forward, looking up?!