Kay: Altered Books, Altered State of Mind

Most of us who come to this site are readers. We get a lot from books, starting with pleasure and comfort and ranging to education and creative stimulation.

I recently went with an artist friend to a juried exhibit of altered books. The artists had taken books as a starting point and cut them apart! Glued them down! Stitched them up! They created a whole different set of artistic variables with the texts and covers to view the book elements in new ways, and I think, to investigate reading and the value of books.

I loved some of the pieces. One of my favorites was a wholly new creation—a wooden, hinged “book cover” encasing pages showing a series of graphics all done in the same color scheme, of a figure leaping a mountain in joy. There was a tree made with the fanned, sculpted pages of a book. Also a giant bug made of sculpted book pages with human legs. There was a rather unimaginative (in my view) framed sequence of Harlequin covers, one from each decade. There was a way-too-large stack of annotated titles, an homage to banned books, and another about piece about resistance that had thorned rods running through the pages. There were one or two pieces that I thought were a waste of a perfectly good book.

(I apologize for the quality of these images: they’re enlarged screen grabs from YouTube, because I forgot my camera.)

It was fun to see the exhibit with an artist and to get her take on the objects. And it was fun for me to see how an artist had interpreted, and altered, books like Mother Goose and Naked Lunch. (Here’s a link to a one-minute video showcasing the exhibit.)

Did it stimulate my thinking? Absolutely. Did it stimulate my creativity? Well, better ask me later, when I get that WIP finished.

What about you? Have you guys seen any exhibits lately that made you think about your writing life?

Michaeline: Random Writing Advice

Do you ever take a book, and just let it fall open, put your finger on a paragraph, and read it . . . hoping to find advice and guidance? This is a very, very old fortune-telling technique, and while I don’t believe in fate, I do believe that the sudden juxtaposition of random nonsensical elements can make a lot of sense.

Brian Eno did juxtaposition with his cards of Oblique Strategies (today’s advice on Twitter: “What are the sections sections of? Imagine a caterpillar moving”).

David Bowie did juxtaposition with his music and his cut-up technique, which he borrowed from William Burroughs who used it in the 50s and 60s. (Burroughs was well known for his writing about the Bohemian subculture he was involved with; Jack Kerouac was one of his Beat buddies.)

I like just opening up a book of writing advice, and seeing what “the universe” wants to tell me. Of course, it isn’t “the universe”. It’s my own subconscious. If “the universe” tells me nonsense, I ignore it and go on. But if I like the paragraph, or if the paragraph really bothers me and refuses to let go of my imagination, I pay attention to it.

Today, I was looking at Creating Short Fiction by Damon Knight. The book has been in my backpack for the past three weeks, and last Monday I placed it in the bathroom, hoping I’d finally take a minute to start reading it again. I’m still not ready for a re-read, but opening the book and picking a paragraph at random gave me this:

“Notice that it isn’t enough to be interested or informed; it takes both. If you are interested in your subject but know little about it, you can’t satisfy the curiosity you arouse. If you know a great deal about the subject but are not passionately interested in it (like some scientists and teachers), you will put people to sleep.”

Since we were talking about research this week with Jeanne on Tuesday, I thought it was timely advice. I’ve got the third edition of Knight’s book, which was revised in 1985. It’s got a lot of practical advice for any writer, and can be read from start to finish, as well as being used for diving for pearls of wisdom.

So, I’m off to do some guilt-free research! If it interests me that much, surely I can make it interesting for at least some niche audience!

Kay: New Dogs, Old Tricks

Can you read the caption? “Andrina Wood at the console of a BTM computer. Tabacus: The Magazine of the British Tabulating Company, August 1958.” The photo was republished on the Twitter account of Mar Hicks, a professor and historian of technology. Many of the vintage photos I’ve seen show women at computer consoles working with a legal pad or paper notebook.

I’ve started a new book. For lack of any better ideas, I went back to a project I last worked on in about 2006—the adventures of my genius computer hacker and the FBI agent who arrested her.

I wrote two books of these characters before I switched to lighter storylines—there’s just something about your hero sending your heroine to prison that tends to get dark pretty fast. And it’s hard to write genius, too, if you’re not genius yourself. Using Sheldon Cooper as a role model, especially for a female character, has its limitations.

The reception I got for these books after I’d finished them was lukewarm. The first book is about stealing an election, a topic that every agent and editor I talked to said would be stale in months. And we all know how that turned out.

Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Welcome to the our first Writing Sprints of the year.  Hope you are all well rested, refreshed, and ready to put your creativity to good use.

I’ve been reading lots of mysteries lately.  For the investigators in the stories, it’s a case of asking, “and then what happened,” over and over again to reach the truth.  From the writing perspective, the start of a new story is more often a case of, “what would happen if?”

  • What would happen if someone down on their luck suddenly won the lottery?  (I happened to someone in real-life just recently).
  • What would happen if a close-knit community suffered a devastating fire? (This is a real-life what-if, culled from the headlines.)
  • What would happen if “the detective investigating a crime fell in love with the suspect?” (This happens in my current contemporary mystery).

This year, our story prompts are going to focus on “what-if” scenarios, and we’re going to see what happens from there.  I’ve got lots of story ideas floating around in my head – either left there by Santa or fueled by all of the holiday treats I may or may not have consumed.  Regardless of where they came from, I’m going to try to put them to good use by giving today’s story prompt a try as soon as I get home from work.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Story Time and Sprints

Can you believe we’ve made it to the last Friday of the year?  That means we’ve made it through 51 weeks worth of writing sprints and creative short stories based on random themes and even more random words.

That’s a lot!

A big thanks goes out to everyone who has played along this year.   There have been some very fun stories posted with a lot of interesting characters and creative situations.  I hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as I have.

What better way to say goodbye to the current year that with a last burst of random creativity.  I’m going to give today’s words a try as soon as I get home from work.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Michille: Last Minute Gifts for Writers (or Yourself)

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By mpan – Own work, based on File:Czakry.png, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49510274

For those fellow writers out there who celebrate Christmas, or those who give gifts to those who do, there isn’t much time left to buy a gift. The big e-tailers can still ship, some for free for a day or two more, and some at a premium. But what can you get a writer in your life without resorting to those big e-tailers? Many writers like to set the stage, so to speak, in their writing corner. They have certain things around them to help stimulate creativity, or block distractions, maybe add comfort, or improve ergonomics. I use candles, colors, hot tea, and my spirit animal. My choices are often based on universal archetypes, ancient teachings, and modern research. Here are some ideas for you based on the seven Chakras that can be turned into gifts based on color and scent and placement on the body. Continue reading

Kay: Quiz for Y’all—Now What Do I Do?

I finished my last book. I’ve revised it. It’s done.

Usually when that happens, I get a new idea. For a long time now, like clockwork, when the old book ends, the new one appears. It’s like the Girls were thinking about it while I was concentrating on other things, and when I’m ready, they send up the next demand, er, suggestion. The transition is flawless. The second I type “The End,” I can type “Chapter One.”

Not this time.

This time, I the Girls are on vacation, asleep, or, heaven forbid, dead.

I’ve got nothing.

There are ideas I could pursue, extensions of ideas I’ve already worked on. For example: Continue reading