Top Ten Tuesday- Ten Signs You Might Be a Writer

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10 -You notice all the things

This means you not only take interest life’s little details, you relish them. You appreciate sunrises, full moons, the smell of coffee percolating and the sound of your feet crunching on gravel. You don’t simply move through life in a happy blur. Rather, you get intoxicated in all the sights and sounds life has to offer:  Watching a bumblebee light on a lily, noticing the sticky yellow on the fuzzy surface of its back as it dips between blooms. Hearing the high notes of a classical prelude or the low notes of a Red Hot Chili Peppers ballad and finding the song reaches depths of your soul that can’t be named.

Bonus points if you not only notice the  details, you assign meaning to them, i.e., the patterns in the shadow of leaves remind you of a lace runner on your Grandmother’s kitchen table. This is obviously a sign, so you drop everything and call her.

9- You create alternate endings for…everything

You know without a doubt what should have actually happened at the end of The Notebook. You’re sure you know the missing answers in all the episodes of Lost. And you dream of what could have happened had Daisy never married Tom in The Great Gatsby…

You find yourself asking “What if” for things outside of movies too. Past relationships. Friends career choices. The road you took to work this morning. Each of those choices might have lead to alternate events, and you can’t deny you’re intrigued by that notion.

8- You regard reading as a near spiritual act

Every dedicated reader knows it’s bliss to get lost in a good book, but to a writer, a good book is a revelation. Pick up any of your favorite novels and you start finding truths on every page, parallels that speak to your life and what you’re navigating through at that very moment.You find signs in the dialogue, answers to all your big questions in the narrative.reading-a-book

You read and feel that life has new meaning. And sometimes, what you’re reading starts to make more sense than reality. Yep, you’re probably a writer.

7- You people-watch with a passion

Linger at a coffee shop or a city park and you instantly find yourself lost in the people around you. Wonder what she’s going to name her daughter, how she met her husband. Wonder why he’s red-eyed and puffy-faced, and yet breaking up with his girlfriend via Skype.

Your watching and wondering quickly heightens to the next level, in which you answer all the questions in your mind about the people you’ve been watching. She’s going to name her daughter Nina, after her sister. He can’t stand to break up in person because deep down he still loves her. Then…you create imagined scenarios for these people you’re watching.

You’re casting characters my friend. Your soul is trying to put them inside a story.

6- You daydream about fictional characters

Speaking of characters…Ever thought it would be titillating to have tea with Mr. Darcy? Yearned to forge that horrible, dark void with Frodo?  Or compared your current love-interest to the main character in the novel you’re reading…once, twice, a dozen times?

Yeah. Us too. You aren’t weird. But it’s a good sign there are probably characters in you waiting for the chance to be written into existence.

5- People say you’re a dreamer

But you’re not the only one… Head in the clouds, scatterbrained, wanderlust, or preoccupied. If any of these names have ever been cast at you, chances are your imagination is working at flittle_dreamer_wallpaper__yvt2ull capacity and creating something beautiful.  You have a literal art factory in there, stories waiting to find their way into the universe.



4- You’ve ever thrown a book across the room

Books are sacred, yes. But when they are bad, you take it personally. Poorly written, overstated, or books that take cheap shots at unsuspecting readers send you reeling, and that book flying.

We feel ya. Bad writing is like an insult you can’t shake. You have to do something physical to the book to feel even slightly satisfied.

3- Blank notebooks excite you

Simply put, something about all those blank pages is intriguing. The open possibilities of what might come to life in those lines…

2- You like big words and you cannot lie

You enjoy language, and sometimes use unusual words, just for thChild reading a dictionary in school uniforme sheer joy of their weight on your tongue. Imbrication. Unencumbered. Labrynthian. Mellifluous. You wonder why your friends don’t understand that words like these are music.

And…if you read the dictionary for fun as a kid, you most certainly belong in a writers circle. It’s the only place you won’t be referred to as a nerd.

1- You write to resolve

You have a fight with your best friend, and instead of calling her up to sort things out, you write her a novella-length email. When considering whether to take a new job, you write down all the reasons you might be in love with it, and all the reasons you might regret leaving your current employer. Yes, part of this is a natural and organized way to discover feelings and weigh options. But not everyone’s mind works this way.writing on notebook

If you can come to major conclusions in your life through a sharpened pencil, your favorite pen, or a keyboard- you probably have a knack for writing. It’s not only the process, it’s what happens between the lines. Insight. Creativity. Epiphany. Written to life.

We hope you decide to join us.

Til next time,

~Cindy

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Reading the Fire

The importance of reading has been brought to my attention several times over the past week. As Cindy mentioned in her post, it is essential for those of us who write to be among people who read and it is a desirable quality in a spouse. But I believe that it is an important aspect for our culture as well as individuals.

There are two things that have stuck in my mind over the past week that underline the reasons we should read.

First, one of my children has been struggling with reading and just made a break through. It was like it finally all made sense to him, and he came to me one morning excited, “Mom! I read it!” He handed me a book which he has been trying to read on his own for a couple of months. “It’s about a cowboy…” He followed me around the house during morning chores and told me about what he had read, how he had felt, why he liked the cowboy and how excited he was to continue reading.

It was all I could do to keep the tears from flowing down my cheeks. This is how I felt about reading and my son had suddenly discovered the perfect contentment contained in a good book. He can now be taken to faraway lands while lying in his bed. He can discover the meaning of love before he even starts dating. He can be introduced to the beauty of the world through the eyes of authors who are aware of it. He can learn what it means to be a man of value. He can discover compassion within his heart for people who are different through the characters found in books.

This is what reading has done for me, my family, and my fellow group members. I couldn’t be happier and more excited to discuss books with him and hear his perspective.

The next thing happened in our writing class last week, our teacher said, “Illiteracy within a culture means that culture lacks imagination.” I find this to be true in the people around me whether it is actual illiteracy or willful illiteracy, where a person chooses to turn their back on the other worlds that books offer, the outcome is the same. Without imagination, we would not have innovation, invention, creativity, or exploration. Imagination drives our soul, the very thing that makes us human.

And so in the spirit of keeping imagination alive, I’ve started a list of books which have changed my life, changed the way I look at things, scared the h— out of me, given me great pleasure, distilled the beauty of life on my heart, or simply made me laugh.

Please comment! Add your books to the list! Let’s keep imagination alive!

Fiction:

  1. You Are Special by Max Lucado
  2. If Only I Had a Green Nose by Max Lucadomy library
  3. You Are Mine by Max Lucado
  4. Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
  5. Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling
  6. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  7. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  8. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  9. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  10. Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery
  11. The Lonesome Gods by Louis L’Amour (I’m not a western type of girl, but I love Johannes Verne. “My name is Johannes Verne and I am not afraid.”)
  12. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  13. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede
  14. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  15. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  16. The Railway Children By Edith Nesbit
  17. The Fairy Books by Andrew Lang (Some purists don’t the like the fairy stories in these books but I love them! My favorite two are the Blue Fairy Book and the Yellow Fairy Book.)
  18. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  19. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  20. Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
  21. Anything by Shel Silverstein especially The Giving Tree (great way to introduce your children to poetry)
  22. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (My favorite is The Last Battle)
  23. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  24. The Legend of
  25. Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
  26. Holes by Louis Sachar
  27. The Great Brain by John Dennis Fitzgerald
  28. Little Britches by Ralph Moody
  29. The Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card
  30. Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  31. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  32. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
  33. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  34. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Lewis Stevenson
  35. Sherlock Holmes Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  36. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  37. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienLord of the Rings
  38. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  39. Anything by Jane Austen (My favorites are Mansfield Park, Northanger Abby, and Pride and Prejudice.)
  40. To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
  41. The Chosen by Chaim Potok (When I read this book in high school it was about friendship, as an adult I think it’s a book about parenting. I love multi-faceted books like that!)
  42. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  43. The Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemingway (I don’t like Hemingway, but loved this book and the short story listed below.)
  44. The Writing Class by Jincy Willet (I love the protagonist in this novel! She reminds me of ME in parts.)
  45. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  46. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  47. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
  48. The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (You’ll be suspicious of everyone’s intentions for a while.)

My Favorite Shakespeare:

  1. The Merchant of Venice
  2. A Midsummer night’s Dream

Non-Fiction:

  1. The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
  2. Backyard Ballistics by William Gurstelle (My husband and son LOVE this book. I mean, who wouldn’t love building a tennis ball mortar out of Pringles cans?)
  3. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  4. The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout (Will confirm everything you believe after reading Heart of Darkness)
  5. Emotional Vampires by Dr. Albert Bernstein
  6. The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis
  7. The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
  8. The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
  9. Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner

Short stories:

  1. The Judges House by Brahms Stoker (Don’t read it in the dark.)
  2. The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell
  3. The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe
  4. The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe
  5. The Gold Bug by Edgar Allen Poe
  6. Hills Like White Elephants by Earnest Hemingway (I hate The American, but I LOVE that this story can be interpreted many ways.)
  7. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (Chilling.)

Poetry: (I enjoy poetry, but I’m not well versed in it. There are, however, a few that I adore.)

  1. The Oxford Book of American Light Verse is a good place to start.
  2. A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  3. If by Rudyard Kipling
  4. Casey at the Bat by Ernest Thayer
  5. The Highway Man by Alfred Noyes
  6. Crossing the Bar by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  7. I love Eugene Field and his poetry for my children.

Upcoming books that I’ll be reading in the next couple of months:

  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  2. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
  3. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
  4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  5. The Color of Water by James McBride

Okay, so there it is. What about you? What books have changed you? What stories do you LOVE?

Love at First Read: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Breakfast at Tiffany's Novel

As part of the “Writing Amidst Life” theme,  today I thought I’d share my thoughts about reading one of my all-time favorite novels.

This review is actually a blog post- dating back to 2010 when I first started this blog. At that time, I was the only writer on Writing the Fire, and I was trying to inspire myself back into writing, after a good 10-year sabbatical, by reading a variety of books.

The first time I read Breakfast at Tiffany’s proved to be one of those unforgettable experiences every reader yearns for the moment she opens the cover.

I hope you enjoy. 🙂

-Cindy

Sunday, January 24, 2010

*Sigh*

(Warning- there are a lot of sighs in this post.)

I  just finished reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I am proud to announce that it’s made it into my “Top-Ten-Favorites-of-All-Time” list. Let me pause here because that is HUGE.

Those of you who know me well understand what an anomaly that is. Some people like to call people like me a “book snob.” But I prefer to think of myself as a “book flake.” Because if I’m not hooked and in love with at least one of the characters by the end of the first chapter, I’ll totally flake out and either procrastinate finishing it or blow it off completely.

But with Tiffany’s, I was hooked in the first paragraph. The writing drew me in, like love at first sight. Truman Capote is one of the few authors I can say that about.

I do have to admit, I haAudreyd already seen the movie. And a few chapters in- I thought the book was a little strange and sometimes even crude, compared to the images of flawless Audrey Hepburn in her stylish dark sunglasses and sleek black dress from the movie. The novel has more of the gritty, nutty, real-life stuff than I expected.

But, overall? Delicious. Captivating, in-depth characters and absolutely divine writing, filled with feeling and wit. Delicious, juicy sentences I want to carve out and savor like chocolate truffles..like:

“It seemed a dance, Berman performing some fancy footwork to prevent his rivals cutting in. He lost her to a quadrile of partners who gobbled up her stammered jokes like popcorn tossed to pigeons.”

Love it…And:

“Leaves floated on the lake; on the shore, a park-man was fanning a bonfire of them, and the smoke, rising like Indian signals, was the only smudge on the quivering air. Aprils have never meant that much to me, autumns seem that season of beginning, spring; which was how I felt sitting with Holly on the railings of the boathouse porch.”

*Sigh* No one writes like this anymore! Can’t you just smell the mustiness of the smoke, feel the coolness of fall, and the heaviness in his heart? This is the kind of wit, feeling, and realness I want in my writing. It’s true what they say, Capote is an absolute master at creating the perfect sentence.

young-truman-x01

Capote in his late 20s.Young…brooding…kissable, no? 

*As a side note. I’ve decided I am most certainly infatuated with Truman Capote. Yeah, I know he was gay and…no way to say it politely: he’s extremely deceased. I don’t care. Part of me is in love with him…or some version of him in my head, anyway.

Point being, whatever his preferences were, the way he describes scenes makes a girl week in the knees.                            (Besides, did you know he was best friends with Harper Lee, who ironically, is another author on my top 10 list. I think at the very least we could have been hang-out-and-complain-about-writers-block buddies.)*

Yeah I know. I digress. It’s my blog, I get to do what I want.

Anyway here’s the thing about Breakfast at Tiffany’s that I’ve never heard anyone say, and maybe why I love it so much…

It makes me SAD. It’s just one of those stories, after you close the book and wonder if it was possible to actually feel your heart sinking. Heart 1

Let me explain with a quick summary:

Holly Golightly is a beautiful, young (very young) woman living in New York city post WWII. She has no job, skills, or family but lives by means of…well, making men happy. No-she isn’t a prostitute, not by the standard definition anyway. Or at least, I didn’t get that out of the story. Maybe the point is that the reader is left wondering whether she is, or…does, or not. She simply finds rich men in need of companionship and charms them into giving her $50 for the powder room, cab fare, and etc…

Holly insists that she won’t be tied down or connected with any one person, place or thing for any real length of time. Her furniture consists of several wooden crates, a few suitcases and a bed. She has a cat that she adores, but refuses to name because:  “He doesn’t belong to me and I don’t belong to him. we just ran into each other.”

She refers to someone loving her as being in “a cage.” It becomes obvious within the first few chapters that Holly lives this way; in fear, because she is terrified of losing herself. Which is ironic, because Heart 2it’s also obvious that she really has no idea who she is.

Enter narrator, known only as “Fred,” which Holly calls him because he reminds her of her brother, currently in the Army and overseas. “Fred” is a struggling writer and moves into the apartment below Holly’s. He is immediately beguiled by her charms.

His descriptions of her, of their time together completely reveal that he loves her, though he never says so in so many words, at least not to her. He gets sort of caught up in the whirlwind that is Holly’s life and helps her out of trouble a time or two.

I really loved that as the story progresses, Fred goes from looking from the outside in at Holly’s chaotic life, to becoming so enchanted and intrigued and infatuated with her that he becomes the chaos. To me, this is a good interpretation/commentary about what happens to people when they fall in love; Having been lost into someone else’s drama without ever realizing it is so.

The fact that Fred could fall for Holly is ironic as well, because Fred is the very antithesis of her, and willing to put himself completely inside the “cage” that is love. : (

There is a moment near the end of the book when Holly must leave town because of some trouble she’s involved in. She and Fred are riding in a taxi to the airport, and she takes her cat to a strange neighborhood and throws him out, telling him to find a new home. Fred is apalled, and tells her so.

Holly suddenly realizes what she has done, simply tossed away the one thing she has ever truly cared for, the one thing she has come close to giving herself to, and rushes back to find her cat. Which is ironic, because she’s always saying that she can’t even give the cat a name- living the way she does, not even considering that her apartment is home to either of them.

broken_heart-t1


Now you’ve done it, Truman.
Why do girls always love boys who break their hearts?

I won’t give away the end, in hopes that you’ll become inspired by this post and go check it out from the library and into the pages. I won’t even tell you if she finds her cat.

But I will tell you, I always say the really good stories end with one great big and contemplative sigh. For me, this one did.

However sad and ironic, this is a unique and compelling story, written with poetic emotion gracing many of the scenes; sweet and well-timed, like a cameo appearance by the likes of Audrey Hepburn. It’s words were woven carefully by the writer to make the reader become as enchanted as all of Holly’s adoring companions.

Some good lessons learned here: The characters were beautifully written, so much so that I felt I knew them at the end of the book. The plot moved quickly and didn’t dwell on small details but still managed to be seamlessly descriptive. Loved that.

Envy that.

Want that.

I could learn a lot from you, Truman Capote. Why don’t you wander over into my imagination tonight, and we’ll discuss our writing methods over coffee and French pastries outside Tiffany’s windows…

See ya next time,

Cindy