Jane Eaton Hamilton

"If you want to change your life, you have to change your life." Jane Eaton Hamilton

Big Creature Media: You know you want it

I’m impressed with my friend Rosa Jurjevics’s multimedia company, Big Creature Media, which specializes in all aspects of motion graphics, animation, and video editing. I am too old to know about anything newer than Brownie cameras, but she always pretends I’m not and let’s me get (faux) gear-geeky. She knows her stuff, and you should probably know her stuff, too, especially if you have a hankering for a multimedia genius who can write like spit (and, also, spit pretty far).

 

At Big Creature, we keep our bulging green eyes peeled for those seeking a keen creative force to bring their video visions to life — and yes, this means YOU!
bigcreaturemedia.com

Lambda nomination!

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Nominated for a Lambda:  Outer Voices, Inner Lives, a collection of LGBTQ writers over 50, ed Mark McNease and Stephen Dolainski (my contribution: the short story “Just Be Glad You Have Heels”).  Nominated as well were Canadians Sina Queyras for MxT, Anne Marie Macdonald for “Adult Onset” and Shani Mootoo for “Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab” and many other Canadians.

Read Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian for a full round-up.

 

Where is Their Real Mother?

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painting detail: JEH pastel, 2013

This odd little flash fiction piece appeared in Litro Magazine, UK, yesterday.

Litro Magazine

Xtra, Xtra, read all about it

 

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Daily Xtra, Canada’s gay rag, has a look-see at three current lesbian books:

Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes, poems

100 Days of Rain, by Carellin Brooks, novel

For Your Own Good, by Leah Horlick, poems

Yummy.  I knew about Leah’s book and have been looking forward to it, but I didn’t realize Carellin had a novel.  Can’t wait to read them.

Stephen King, who knows a few things

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from

The Writer’s Handbook 1988 by Sylvia K. (Ed) Burack

“IV. Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully

1. Be talented
This, of course, is the killer. What is talent? I can hear someone shouting, and here we are, ready to get into a discussion right up there with “what is the meaning of life?” for weighty pronouncements and total uselessness. For the purposes of the beginning writer, talent may as well be defined as eventual success – publication and money. If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented. Now some of you are really hollering. Some of you are calling me one crass money-fixated creep. And some of you are calling me bad names. Are you calling Harold Robbins talented? someone in one of the Great English Departments of America is screeching. V.C. Andrews? Theodore Dreiser? Or what about you, you dyslexic moron?

Nonsense. Worse than nonsense, off the subject. We’re not talking about good or bad here. I’m interested in telling you how to get your stuff published, not in critical judgments of who’s good or bad. As a rule the critical judgments come after the check’s been spent, anyway. I have my own opinions, but most times I keep them to myself. People who are published steadily and are paid for what they are writing may be either saints or trollops, but they are clearly reaching a great many someones who want what they have. Ergo, they are communicating. Ergo, they are talented. The biggest part of writing successfully is being talented, and in the context of marketing, the only bad writer is one who doesn’t get paid. If you’re not talented, you won’t succeed. And if you’re not succeeding, you should know when to quit. When is that? I don’t know. It’s different for each writer. Not after six rejection slips, certainly, nor after sixty. But after six hundred? Maybe. After six thousand? My friend, after six thousand pinks, it’s time you tried painting or computer programming. Further, almost every aspiring writer knows when he is getting warmer – you start getting little jotted notes on your rejection slips, or personal letters . . . maybe a commiserating phone call. It’s lonely out there in the cold, but there are encouraging voices … unless there is nothing in your words which warrants encouragement. I think you owe it to yourself to skip as much of the self-illusion as possible. If your eyes are open, you’ll know which way to go … or when to turn back.

2. Be neat
Type. Double-space. Use a nice heavy white paper, never that erasable onion-skin stuff. If you’ve marked up your manuscript a lot, do another draft.

3. Be self-critical
If you haven’t marked up your manuscript a lot, you did a lazy job. Only God gets things right the first time. Don’t be a slob.

4. Remove every extraneous word
You want to get up on a soapbox and preach? Fine. Get one and try your local park. You want to write for money? Get to the point. And if you remove all the excess garbage and discover you can’t find the point, tear up what you wrote and start all over again . . . or try something new.

5. Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft
You want to write a story? Fine. Put away your dictionary, your encyclopedias, your World Almanac, and your thesaurus. Better yet, throw your thesaurus into the wastebasket. The only things creepier than a thesaurus are those little paperbacks college students too lazy to read the assigned novels buy around exam time. Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule. You think you might have misspelled a word? O.K., so here is your choice: either look it up in the dictionary, thereby making sure you have it right – and breaking your train of thought and the writer’s trance in the bargain – or just spell it phonetically and correct it later. Why not? Did you think it was going to go somewhere? And if you need to know the largest city in Brazil and you find you don’t have it in your head, why not write in Miami, or Cleveland? You can check it … but later. When you sit down to write, write. Don’t do anything else except go to the bathroom, and only do that if it absolutely cannot be put off.

6. Know the markets
Only a dimwit would send a story about giant vampire bats surrounding a high school to McCall’s. Only a dimwit would send a tender story about a mother and daughter making up their differences on Christmas Eve to Playboy … but people do it all the time. I’m not exaggerating; I have seen such stories in the slush piles of the actual magazines. If you write a good story, why send it out in an ignorant fashion? Would you send your kid out in a snowstorm dressed in Bermuda shorts and a tank top? If you like science fiction, read the magazines. If you want to write confession stories, read the magazines. And so on. It isn’t just a matter of knowing what’s right for the present story; you can begin to catch on, after awhile, to overall rhythms, editorial likes and dislikes, a magazine’s entire slant. Sometimes your reading can influence the next story, and create a sale.

7. Write to entertain
Does this mean you can’t write “serious fiction”? It does not. Somewhere along the line pernicious critics have invested the American reading and writing public with the idea that entertaining fiction and serious ideas do not overlap. This would have surprised Charles Dickens, not to mention Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Bernard Malamud, and hundreds of others. But your serious ideas must always serve your story, not the other way around. I repeat: if you want to preach, get a soapbox.

8. Ask yourself frequently, “Am I having fun?”
The answer needn’t always be yes. But if it’s always no, it’s time for a new project or a new career.

9. How to evaluate criticism
Show your piece to a number of people – ten, let us say. Listen carefully to what they tell you. Smile and nod a lot. Then review what was said very carefully. If your critics are all telling you the same thing about some facet of your story – a plot twist that doesn’t work, a character who rings false, stilted narrative, or half a dozen other possibles – change that facet. It doesn’t matter if you really liked that twist of that character; if a lot of people are telling you something is wrong with you piece, it is. If seven or eight of them are hitting on that same thing, I’d still suggest changing it. But if everyone – or even most everyone – is criticizing something different, you can safely disregard what all of them say.

10. Observe all rules for proper submission
Return postage, self-addressed envelope, all of that.

11. An agent? Forget it. For now
Agents get 10% of monies earned by their clients. 10% of nothing is nothing. Agents also have to pay the rent. Beginning writers do not contribute to that or any other necessity of life. Flog your stories around yourself. If you’ve done a novel, send around query letters to publishers, one by one, and follow up with sample chapters and/or the manuscript complete. And remember Stephen King’s First Rule of Writers and Agents, learned by bitter personal experience: You don’t need one until you’re making enough for someone to steal … and if you’re making that much, you’ll be able to take your pick of good agents.

12. If it’s bad, kill it
When it comes to people, mercy killing is against the law. When it comes to fiction, it is the law.

That’s everything you need to know. And if you listened, you can write everything and anything you want. Now I believe I will wish you a pleasant day and sign off.

My ten minutes are up.” –Stephen King

For more advice from Stephen King, check out his Reading List for Writers.

Rewilding our language

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“For decades the leading nature writer has been collecting unusual words for landscapes and natural phenomena – from aquabob to zawn. It’s a lexicon we need to cherish in an age when a junior dictionary finds room for ‘broadband’ but has no place for ‘bluebell’”  The Guardian

The Word Hoard

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Ray Carver and Birdman

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Photograph: Jane Eaton Hamilton (plum blossom)

Everyone knows one of our contemporary masters of short fiction was Raymond Carver.  And everyone knows the movie “Birdman” won Best Picture at the Oscars.  The play mounted in the film is editor Gordon Lish’s version of a Ray Carver story called “Beginnings,” a story formerly called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”  Pretty much everyone knows Lish and Carver had a falling out when Carver tired of Lish’s draconian edits; their riff was substantial enough that right before he died, Carver and Tess Gallagher, his partner, republished a volume of his stories in their unedited versions.

I read “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” years before I read Carver’s original, and everything in it seemed perfect to me.  I am quite a big fan of Lish’s edits, all in all.  (Which may mean I am not as big a fan of Carver as I think I am, for surely my opinion reeks of disrespect?)

Here is an article decrying the fact that “Birdman” used Lish’s revised story.

How Birdman Betrays Raymond Carver: An Untold Story by Jonathan Leaf

The wise Richard Bausch

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On Writing by Richard Bausch

“You are not putting life on the page; you’re making fiction, which has more to do with itself than it will ever really have to do with life. You are working with the illusion of life–the same as a painter is working with the illusion of light, and that life he portrays. Life is messy and often terrifyingly random and nuanced beyond our powers of perception–you are creating life shaped, ordered, governed by the demands of story. So you learn your way through it and cut anything that doesn’t contribute to the story and to the concerns of the story. In doing so, if you are faithful enough, and lucky, too, you suggest the fullness of the very life we lead.”

More plum blossoms.

 

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Photos: copyright Jane Eaton Hamilton

I am always seeking ways to display what flowers mean to me, the happiness and hope I feel when spring arrives.  Half of these plum blossoms look like books, don’t you think?  Let’s read spring.  Let’s start on page one and go slowly, so slowly, all the way through the pages of sunshine and light.

Can’t you just imagine these 6 feet by 9 feet on a huge wall?

 

How could life be about anything other than blossoms?

 

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Dizzying beauty in front of my lens today in Victoria, a city burst into an uncanny bloom.  I saw rhodos, camellias, euphorbias, lavender, quince, magnolias, forsythia, tulips, violets, crocuses, irises and cherries and plums all blooming together.  The usual bloom time for tulips is May, which I know because kids used to steal ours for Mother’s Day.  Not sure what will happen for calendar spring.  Do you know?

The Writer’s Studio at SFU reading series

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Come here me read poetry at Cottage Bistro, Vancouver, March 5, 8-10 pm.  I am the featured reader, up last.  If lots of peeps from the community come, I promise I will read sexy bits.

TWS

 

Pharting around.

 

It is a good exercise to make art.  i do it often.  It makes me think in poetics, somehow.  Does this happen to any of you?

Love letters from your writing.

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Electric Literature put these out this morning.  Happy Valentine’s Day, writers, from your text.

Love Letters from your writing

Patti Smith reads Virginia Woolf

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The godmother of punk reads from “The Waves.”

Patti Smith reads Virginia Woolf

Richard Bausch Reprise #19

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Reprise # 19

“You never really learn to write as it is usually conceived; there is no template you are trying to decipher. What you learn, eventually, is how to write this one thing you’re working on. It’s no accident that we feel as if we have to learn everything all over again each time we try to do it. Because that is indeed the situation. You have to learn how to write each one, and each one contains secrets and mysteries that you have to solve, and those secrets and mysteries change as the story changes, and so you have to learn it all over. The thing you can treat like a template is HABIT, the habits of work that you develop, that you can strive consciously to develop. The habit of being shrewd about it all: practicing the habit of working without demanding too much in the way of specific conditions (silence, certain light, certain time of day, certain place), teaching yourself to work in changing conditions and with the noises and distractions of being alive on this very hectic and un-peaceful planet. Just visiting it each day, let it know you’re there. So I am really seldom teaching writing: I’m teaching habits, and revision, and practice, and understanding that confusion is quite normal and even healthy because it leads you into what you don’t know about what you thought you knew.” -Richard Bausch

Richard Bausch

Prize for a first book of fiction by a woman

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A woman from anywhere in the world is eligible to send a work of fiction.  The prize is $1K.

More info here:

Eludia Award

More good essay: Amy Gigi Alexander

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Amy Gigi Alexander, travel writer, explorer, has her own way with words.  She’s been living an adventurer’s life around the world and off the beaten track, and now she’s telling the rest of us what happened in a series of tight essays she puts up on her website.

But she has another talent, too, that of bringing divergent voices together, introducing people one to the other, in a series she calls Conversations, and, somehow, all our lives seem to improve as a result.

This essay is from Lonely Planet.  The intrepid adventurer is bitten by a dog and gives herself stitches.

An Innocent Abroad: El Clavo by Amy Gigi Alexander

Amy’s Site

 

On Art: Tilda Swinton at the Rothko Chapel

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“I believe that all great art holds the power to dissolve things: time, distance, difference, injustice, alienation, despair. I believe that all great art holds the power to mend things: join, comfort, inspire hope in fellowship, reconcile us to our selves.”

Tilda Swinton

Growing Up With Mary Gaitskill

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An astute essay on the short story writer and novelist Mary Gaitskill, who is, Ms Beale notes, linguistically brilliant, with characters who roam across diverse orientations.

On Mary Gaitskill by Victoria Beale

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