Elizabeth: Notes from a Public Typewritter©

I was perusing the local bookstore the other day (which sounds better than desperately trying to come up with a blog-post idea), and Michael Gustafson’s book Notes from a Public Typewriter caught my interest.

I’m never quite sure what causes a book to jump out and catch my interest (that’s probably a post for another day), but for this book, it was a combination of the cover and the promise the title suggested.  The book was featured in an NPR Books article this past April (which I vaguely remember reading) and you can read the details here.

Basically, Michael set up the typewriter in his bookstore in Ann Arbor and let customers type away.  He initially thought maybe one customer would start a story and others would add to it over time when they passed by.  Instead what he wound up with thousands of pages of:

“Love letters, poems, quotes, sprawling meditations on life. Notes written over the top of others, single words, perfectly spaced paragraphs”

“It’s just been a wonderful sort of diary of a town,” says Michael, “happening in a bookstore.”

It’s always fascinating when something like this grows organically into something totally unexpected.  Last year I talked about  a similar type of unexpected project – the Big Ball of Paint – which was intended to be a 1000-coats-of-paint project  to see what the paint-layer cross sections would look like that evolved into a still-growing 14-foot (circumference) 2.5 ton ball of more than 25,000 layers of paint that is part tourist attraction, part collaborative project.

The ball of paint didn’t turn into a book like the typewriter notes did, but it was equally collaborative and creative.

Going back to the notes on the typewriter, although the experiment didn’t turn into the single long-story that Michael envisioned at the onset, it instead turned into a book full of stories, all told just a few words at a time.

I can’t wait to read them all.

Also, I feel a strange need to go unearth that old typewriter from the garage.  Who knows, maybe there are stories lurking there too.

Kay: Quiz for Y’all—Should I Hurt the Dog?

Here’s Trouble! from mplsmutts.com

Ladies, I need your help. I’m at the end of my book. I have a big fight scene. My villain, Vlad the Assassin, has a tire iron, and he’s swinging it like a madman. He hits my hero with it, a blow that separates his shoulder and requires five stitches.

Then Vlad hits the dog, Trouble, breaking two of Trouble’s ribs. I need Trouble out of commission (that is, off the page), and I think the best way to do that is to have the villain hurt him, because then we’ll hate Vlad even more, right? If he hurts the dog, it’s abundantly clear that he’s No Good.

I did a little research on treatment for this kind of injury. Trouble’s lungs aren’t affected, so he doesn’t need surgery. He’ll recover much like a person would who cracked a couple of ribs. Trouble just has to take it easy, and in a few weeks he’ll be good to go again.

In the final chapter, my hero and heroine jet off for a few days to get married, leaving Trouble with his best friends, the neighbors, who will take excellent care of him and spoil him half to death. He’ll be fine. Better than fine.

But here’s my concern. I just recently read a blog somewhere where a commenter posted that she’d never read another book by a particular author because that writer had injured a dog in her pages. And then a bunch of other people chimed in and said the same.

Argh! Whatcha think? Would you read another book in the series if Trouble gets hurt, if the injury isn’t life-threatening, and if he makes a full recovery? Or is hurting a dog beyond the pale?

 

Michille: A New Approach

HeronI am contemplating taking a new approach to my writing. I have a four-book series that I’ve been working on. I go to conferences and workshops and take online courses and I get excited about the revisions that are needed. And then I sit down to do them, start working through the list of what needs done and I get so overwhelmed that I just quit. In order to do A, I have to stop and hit D, L, Q, and P, and then come back to A. Repeat, repeat, repeat. And I stop.

In order to get my writing mojo back, my new approach is going to be starting a whole new story. The picture is a Great Blue Heron that I see when I hike at a park near my house. It’s my spirit animal so I’m keeping it close for motivation. Part of my motivation for this new approach is that I believe I am a good writer. I read. A lot. And most of what I read is crap, has crappy elements, or has my pet peeves sprinkled throughout. I’m going to write a book that I would like to read. My starting point is a list of what the story will have and a list of what it won’t. Continue reading

Michaeline: Timing and Persistence

snow, leafless trees, dawn a'comin'.

Just before sunrise on the Tokachi Plains. (Photo by E.M. Duskova)

Let’s talk a little bit about the pros and cons of the “butt in the seat” method of writing.

But of course, I want to talk about it in a roundabout way so I don’t scare myself.

Two weeks ago, I went to the beach and got some really nice pictures of the jewelry ice. The light was perfect, the clouds cooperated, and I was there at the right place and the right time.*

I love it when that happens, and sometimes it happens with my writing. Writing is a joy, and it’s easy, and damn, it looks good.

It makes the other days feel like a waste of time.

This morning, I got up early (but not early enough) and went Continue reading

Kay: Hitting a Wall

I’d been progressing well on the WIP, galloping along at what for me is top speed, until this week, when I hit a wall. I’d written through my first act and was heading into the second, otherwise known as the Middle. And in my case, although barely begun, the Sagging Middle.

I queried my critique partners, who are only too familiar with the problems of Phoebe and her errant friends and fiancé. What to do? I asked. Within minutes, I got a reply.

What’s your story question? Patricia asked.

Ah, yes. What was my story question?

It’s not good if you don’t know your story question. A person can go down a lot of rabbit holes if she doesn’t know what she wants to say. Continue reading

Jilly: Travels With Kay

Postage Stamp Depicting the Globe Theatre, 1614

I’m writing this post a little early, because Kay is visiting us here in London. World news is getting scarier at home and abroad, the weather has turned chilly, and our neighbors (on both sides) are engaged in noisy construction work, but we’re making the most.

So far we’ve enjoyed food, drink, a LOT of book talk and a tour around Highgate Cemetery. The sun shone, which was a bonus, even if it didn’t do much for the brooding, gothic atmosphere.

Kay wrote in her Thursday post: I think travel is good for people. It puts you in different and sometimes complex situations that challenge you to see events, places, and people in new ways. It can stimulate your thinking and creativity. And it’s fun.

I think it’s also good to have guests. It prompts you to go to new places and do different things. Plus, you get to experience the familiar through the eyes of a visitor, and it’s surprising how different their perspective can be. All of this is a great way to boost creativity plus, as Kay says, it’s fun.

Last night we went to see Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe. The theatre is in Southwark, on the south bank of the Thames, just a few hundred yards from the site of the original Globe Theatre. The building is a replica of an Elizabethan playhouse, the result of almost fifty years of fundraising, campaigning and research initiated by Sam Wanamaker, the American actor, director and producer. It’s as faithful a reproduction of the original Globe theatre as is possible, built of oak lathes and staves and white lime wash. It was constructed using traditional methods and even has a thatched roof—the only one allowed anywhere in the city of London. The only concessions to modernity are provisions for emergency signage and fire protection.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, opened 1996

It’s an amazing venue, and I’m embarrassed to say last night was my first visit. Kay and I made a few concessions to 21st century living—we did not join the ‘Groundlings’—the intrepid souls who stood for three hours in the rain in the open space in front of the stage. We were seated, under cover, with rented cushions to soften the benches and blankets to keep us warm (Kay says it was 90 degrees when she left California so the blanket was a welcome addition). Still, it was amazing to experience theatre the way people would have done in Shakespeare’s time.

Continue reading

Elizabeth: Story is all Around

Do you ever make up stories about random people you encounter?

I most commonly do so when I’m in traffic. As a driver speeds by me, weaving in and out of traffic, I may imagine him as a secret agent  in a race to diffuse a critical situation, or maybe it’s someone in a rush to get to the hospital to say their final goodbyes to a loved one before it is too late. The stories are both fun and a good way to keep my blood-pressure down.

My favorite movie, Love Actually, states that love is all around; I’d add that story is all around too. This has especially been true for me in recent weeks, where I’ve spent a fair amount of time in airports, on planes, in waiting rooms, and in crowds.

During a recent flight delay, for example, I whiled array the time spinning mental tales about the shaven, beringed, tattooed woman in front of me (grown up on the streets in a rough-and-tumble gang, now running a charitable foundation for at-risk youth); the sulky teenager glued to her cell phone who periodically glared in her parents’ direction (she is being sent off to boarding school number five,after having just been chucked out of number four for running an illegal but very profitable term paper scheme); and the down-on-his luck looking man in an ill-fitting suit with a battered briefcase (a high-powered stock trader who got cocky in his success, bet all on a risk deal, and lost everything; now working as a low-level salesman for a refuse-can company).

Sometimes the people I encounter and the stories they inspire evolve into characters in my writing or at least inspire other ideas, but more often than not they are just an entertaining diversion.

So how about you? Is the world around you populated with people and stories of your own devising, or is it just me?