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Dave from a city near you is reading constantly October 10, 2012 - 6:06am

Literary Birthday - 10 October

Happy Birthday, Nora Roberts, born 10 October 1950

Nora Roberts’ Top 10 Quotes on Writing

1. Every time I hear writers talk about ‘the muse,’ I just want to bitch-slap them. It’s a job. Do your job.

2. The most important thing in writing is to have written. I can always fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank one.

3. A writer must understand, appreciate, and enjoy whatever genre he or she is trying to write in. It’s a mistake, a really big mistake, to believe that you can write what you wouldn’t read for pleasure.

4. The middles of my books are often the toughest for me to write. If the pacing flags, I deal with the problem by looking around at all my characters and figuring out which one I can kill.

5. A writer never finds the time to write. A writer makes it. If you don’t have the drive, the discipline, and the desire, then you can have all the talent in the world, and you aren’t going to finish a book.

6. And each book has to receive your best effort every single time. No slacking.

7. If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.

7. Good fiction creates its own reality.

8. As a rule of thumb, I’d say one cliché per [Romance]—and then be damn sure you can make it work. But if you’re going to try to write the virginal amnesiac twin disguised as a boy mistaken for the mother (or father depending how well the disguise works) of a secret baby, honey, you better have some serious skills. Or seek therapy.

10. I’m not interested in telling stories about weak women … Or if they’re weak, I want to show how they grow and how they become strong.

Roberts is the best-selling author of more than 209 romance novels. She writes as J.D. Robb for the In Death series, and has also written under the pseudonyms, Jill March and Sarah Hardesty.
Nora Roberts was the first author to be inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. Her novels had spent a combined 861 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, including 176 weeks in the number-one spot. Over 400 million copies of her books are in print.

Compiled by Amanda Patterson

From Writers Write

Original Blog


underpurplemoon's picture
underpurplemoon from PDX October 10, 2012 - 9:09am

Thanks, dude!

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ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books October 10, 2012 - 9:22am

209 novels. Holy hell.

Utah's picture
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry October 10, 2012 - 2:44pm

That's just over one every four months from the time she was zero years old.

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly October 11, 2012 - 9:04am

Literary Birthday - 11 October

Happy Birthday, Anne Enright, born 11 October 1962

Anne Enright’s Top 10 Writing Tips

1. The first 12 years are the worst.

2. The way to write a book is to actually write a book. A pen is useful, typing is also good. Keep putting words on the page.

3. Only bad writers think that their work is really good.

4. Description is hard. Remember that all description is an opinion about the world. Find a place to stand.

5. Write whatever way you like. Fiction is made of words on a page; reality is made of something else. It doesn’t matter how “real” your story is, or how “made up”: what matters is its necessity.

6. Try to be accurate about stuff.

7. Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you ­finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die.

8. You can also do all that with whiskey.

9. Have fun.

10. Remember, if you sit at your desk for 15 or 20 years, every day, not ­counting weekends, it changes you. It just does. It may not improve your temper, but it fixes something else. It makes you more free.

Anne Enright is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her novel The Gathering won the 2007 Man Booker Prize.

by Amanda Patterson

From Writers Write


Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly October 12, 2012 - 7:02am

I can't find one for today (12th), so here you have Oct. 11, round two:


Happy Birthday, Elmore Leonard, born 11 October 1925

Elmore Leonard’s 11 Rules of Writing Fiction

1. Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leap ahead look­ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2. Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is back story, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, but it’s OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks.”

3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But “said” is far less intrusive than “grumbled”, “gasped”, “cautioned”, “lied”. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated” and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs”.

5. Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”. This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos­trophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”, what do the “Ameri­can and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story.

9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things, unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

11. My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Elmore Leonard, is an American novelist and screenwriter. He started writing westerns, but went on to specialize in crime fiction and thrillers, many of which have been adapted for film.
His best-known works are Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and Rum Punch, which was filmed as Jackie Brown.

by Amanda Patterson

From Writers Write


Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly October 16, 2012 - 5:51am

Literary Birthday - 16 October

Happy Birthday, Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, born 16 October 1854, died 30 November 1900
Wilde was an Irish writer and poet who became one of London’s most popular playwrights in the 1890s. He is remembered for his epigrams and plays, and his imprisonment, followed by his early death. Wilde was popular with influential contemporaries including George Bernard Shaw, Walt Whitman, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Wilde married Constance Lloyd, and had two sons. In 1891, he met Lord Alfred Douglas ‘Bosie’. They started a relationship that led to Wilde’s fall from grace. He was imprisoned for two years for ‘gross indecency’ for homosexual acts. After his release from prison, Wilde wrote Ballad of Reading Gaol, which included these words:

Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!
Wilde went to Paris, penniless, and died there of meningitis on 30 November 1900.

Five Oscar Wilde Quotes

1.Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.

2. I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.

3. I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

4. If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.

5. It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.

by Amanda Patterson
From Writers Write

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly October 17, 2012 - 6:31am

I make writing dreams come true. I write, read and run a company. I am a muse, a mother and a memoirist. And I love cupcakes and cappuccino. 

Literary Birthday - 17 October

Happy Birthday, Arthur Miller, born 17 October 1915, died 10 February 2005

Five Arthur Miller Quotes

1. Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.

2. The best work that anybody ever writes is the work that is on the verge of embarrassing him, always.

3. The two most common elements in the world are hydrogen and stupidity.

4. A character is defined by the kinds of challenges he cannot walk away from. And by those he has walked away from that cause him remorse.

5. The very impulse to write springs from an inner chaos crying for order - for meaning.

Arthur Miller was an American playwright and essayist. He wrote All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, and A View from the Bridge.
Miller was often in the public eye for refusing to give evidence against others to the House Un-American Activities Committee, for being the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama among other awards, and for marrying Marilyn Monroe. Miller is considered one of the greatest American playwrights.

by Amanda Patterson
From Writers Write

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly October 23, 2012 - 6:41am

Literary Birthday - 23 October

Happy Birthday, Michael Crichton, born 23 October 1942, died 4 November 2008

Five Michael Crichton Quotes

1. Do you know what we call opinion in the absence of evidence? We call it prejudice.

2. Books aren’t written - they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.

3. I am certain there is too much certainty in the world.

4. In the information society, nobody thinks. We expect to banish paper, but we actually banish thought.

5. Instead of writing thrillers to pay for my train bills, I was actually now going to medical school in order to have something to write about. We would all be standing around a patient with our instructor, and everybody would be making notes about the patient and I would be making notes about the doctors.


Crichton was an American best-selling author, producer, director, and screenwriter. He was known for his work in the science fiction, medical fiction, and thriller genres. His books have sold over 200 million copies worldwide, and many have been adapted into films.
In 1994, Crichton became the only writer to have works simultaneously charting at No. 1 in television, film, and book sales with ER, Jurassic Park, and Disclosure.

by Amanda Patterson

From Writers Write

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jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like October 23, 2012 - 10:35am

Crichton was a smart s.o.b.

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly October 26, 2012 - 11:14am

Literary Birthday - 26 October

Happy Birthday, Pat Conroy, born 26 October 1945

Pat Conroy: On Reading & Writing

1. My mother’s voice and my father’s fists are two bookends of my childhood, and they form the basis of my art.

2. Good writing is the hardest form of thinking. It involves the agony of turning profoundly difficult thoughts into lucid form, then forcing them into the tight-fitting uniform of language, making them visible and clear. If the writing is good, then the result seems effortless and inevitable. But when you want to say something life-changing or ineffable in a single sentence, you face both the limitations of the sentence itself and the extent of your own talent.

3. Books are living things and their task lies in their vows of silence. You touch them as they quiver with a divine pleasure. You read them and they fall asleep to happy dreams for the next 10 years. If you do them the favour of understanding them, of taking in their portions of grief and wisdom, then they settle down in contented residence in your heart.

4. Here is all I ask of a book- give me everything. Everything, and don’t leave out a single word.

5. I can’t pass a bookstore without slipping inside, looking for the next book that will burn my hand when I touch its jacket, or hand me over a promissory note of such immense power that it contains the formula that will change everything about me.

6. Here’s what I love: when a great writer turns me into a Jew from Chicago, a lesbian out of South Carolina, or a black woman moving into a subway entrance in Harlem. Turn me into something else, writers of the world. Make me Muslim, heretic, hermaphrodite. Put me into a crusader’s armour, a cardinal’s vestments. Let me feel the pygmy’s heartbeat, the queen’s breast, the torturer’s pleasure, the Nile’s taste, or the nomad’s thirst. Tell me everything that I must know. Hold nothing back.

7. In our modern age, there are writers who have heaped scorn on the very idea of the primacy of story. I’d rather warm my hands on a sunlit ice floe than try to coax fire from the books they carve from glaciers.

8. I trust the great novelists to teach me how to live, how to feel, how to love and hate. I trust them to show me the dangers I will encounter on the road as I stagger on my own troubled passage through the complicated life of books that try to teach me how to die.

9. My father once told me that if he’d beaten me more as a kid, I’d be a better writer. My mother told me to be a Southern writer with emphasis on the word Southern.

10. I always write first drafts of my books on long yellow legal pads using a pen. Once I’ve finished a new manuscript the pens go into a ceramic cup on my desk.

11. The world of literature has everything in it, and it refuses to leave anything out. I have read like a man on fire my whole life because the genius of English teachers touched me with the dazzling beauty of language. Because of them I rode with Don Quixote and danced with Anna Karenina at a ball in St. Petersburg and lassoed a steer in “Lonesome Dove” and had nightmares about slavery in “Beloved” and walked the streets of Dublin in “Ulysses” and made up a hundred stories in the Arabian nights and saw my mother killed by a baseball in “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” I’ve been in ten thousand cities and have introduced myself to a hundred thousand strangers in my exuberant reading career, all because I listened to my fabulous English teachers and soaked up every single thing those magnificent men and women had to give. I cherish and praise them and thank them for finding me when I was a boy and presenting me with the precious gift of the English language.

12. A story untold could be the one that kills you.

13. What’s important is that a story changes every time you say it out loud. When you put it on paper, it can never change. But the more times you tell it, the more changes will occur. A story is a living thing; it moves and shifts.

14. You do not learn how to write novels in a writing program. You learn how by leading an interesting life. Open yourself up to all experience. Let life pour through you the way light pours through leaves.

15. I was born into the century in which novels lost their stories, poems their rhymes, paintings their form, and music its beauty, but that does not mean I had to like that trend or go along with it. I fight against these movements with every book I write.

Pat Conroy is a New York Times best-selling author. He has written 12 books, including several acclaimed novels and memoirs. Two of his novels, The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, were made into Oscar-nominated films.

Conroy moved 23 times before he was 18 years old. His father was a career military officer from Chicago, his mother a Southern beauty from Alabama. Conroy often credits her for his love of language. His father was a violent, abusive man whose biggest mistake, Conroy once said, was allowing a novelist to grow up in his home. Conroy graduated from the Citadel Military Academy in Charleston, South Carolina.

by Amanda Patterson

From Writers Write

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters October 26, 2012 - 12:20pm

I'm a big Pat Conroy fan. 

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly October 26, 2012 - 12:38pm

I've got several of his books on my Nook, I was looking forward to Lords of Discipline...might have to start that one tonight.

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Covewriter from Nashville, Tennessee is reading & Sons October 26, 2012 - 1:31pm

Pat Conroy is in my top 10 oof authors. Love all his books. Got to meet him a while back. NIcest, most gentle man ever. HAppy birthday Pat.

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly November 1, 2012 - 6:30am

Mostly I like these to see what other writer's have to say on craft. 



Happy Birthday, James Kilpatrick, born 1 November 1920, died 15 August 2010

The Top Six Kilpatrick Quotes on Writing

1. If you would write emotionally, be first unemotional. If you would move your readers to tears, do not let them see you cry.

2. Be clear, be clear, be clear! Your image or idea may be murky but do not write murkily about it. Be murky clearly.

3. Five common traits of good writers:

     (1) They have something to say.

     (2) They read widely and have done so since childhood.

     (3) They possess what Isaac Asimov calls a ‘capacity for clear thought’, able to go from point to point in an orderly sequence, an A to Z approach.

     (4) They’re geniuses at putting their emotions into words.

     (5) They possess an insatiable curiosity, constantly asking Why and How.

4. Some words are like some machines: They wear out sooner than others. Everybody used to have an ‘icebox’. One’s sister once played a ‘uke’. A widow was a ‘relict’. Definitions are like magazine subscriptions. Usually we renew, but look at Look and Ladies’ Home Companion. Sometimes they just expire.

5. Spelling counts. Spelling is not merely a tedious exercise in a fourth-grade classroom. Spelling is one of the outward and visible marks of a disciplined mind.

6. The first secret of good writing: We must look intently, and hear intently, and taste intently.


James Jackson Kilpatrick was an American editorial columnist and grammarian. He was a legal abstractionist, a social conservative, and an economic libertarian. Kilpatrick wrote more than a dozen books, including The Writer’s Art, about his love of language.
From Writers Write

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly November 11, 2012 - 2:53pm

Literary Birthday - 11 November

Happy Birthday, Kurt Vonnegut, born 11 November 1922, died 11 April 2007

15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Said Better Than Anyone Else

1. “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”
The actual advice here is technically a quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘good uncle’ Alex, but Vonnegut was nice enough to pass it on at speeches and in A Man Without A Country. Though he was sometimes derided as too gloomy and cynical, Vonnegut’s most resonant messages have always been hopeful in the face of almost-certain doom. And his best advice seems almost ridiculously simple: Give your own happiness a bit of brain space.

2. “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”
In Cat’s Cradle, the narrator haplessly stumbles across the cynical, cultish figure Bokonon, who populates his religious writings with moronic, twee aphorisms. The great joke of Bokononism is that it forces meaning on what’s essentially chaos, and Bokonon himself admits that his writings are lies. If the protagonist’s trip to the island nation of San Lorenzo has any cosmic purpose, it’s to catalyse a massive tragedy, but the experience makes him a devout Bokononist. It’s a religion for people who believe religions are absurd, and an ideal one for Vonnegut-style humanists.

3. “Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly; Man got to sit and wonder, ‘Why, why, why?’ Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land; Man got to tell himself he understand.”
Another koan of sorts from Cat’s Cradle and the Bokononist religion (which phrases many of its teachings as calypsos, as part of its absurdist bent), this piece of doggerel is simple and catchy, but it unpacks into a resonant, meaningful philosophy that reads as sympathetic to humanity, albeit from a removed, humouring, alien viewpoint. Man’s just another animal, it implies, with his own peculiar instincts, and his own way of shutting them down. This is horrifically cynical when considered closely: If people deciding they understand the world is just another instinct, then enlightenment is little more than a pit-stop between insoluble questions, a necessary but ultimately meaningless way of taking a sanity break. At the same time, there’s a kindness to Bokonon’s belief that this is all inevitable and just part of being a person. Life is frustrating and full of pitfalls and dead ends, but everybody’s gotta do it.

4. “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
This line from God Bless You, Mr Rosewater comes as part of a baptismal speech the protagonist says he’s planning for his neighbours’ twins: ‘Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ It’s an odd speech to make over a couple of infants, but it’s playful, sweet, yet keenly precise in its summation of everything a new addition to the planet should need to know. By narrowing down all his advice for the future down to a few simple words, Vonnegut emphasizes what’s most important in life. At the same time, he lets his frustration with all the people who obviously don’t get it leak through just a little.

5. “She was a fool, and so am I, and so is anyone who thinks he sees what God is doing.”
A couple of pages into Cat’s Cradle, protagonist Jonah/John recalls being hired to design and build a doghouse for a lady in Newport, R.I., who “claimed to understand God and His Ways of Working perfectly.” With such knowledge, “she could not understand why anyone should be puzzled about what had been or about what was going to be.” When Jonah shows her the doghouse’s blueprint, she says she can’t read it. He suggests taking it to her minister to pass along to God, who, when he finds a minute, will explain it “in a way that even you can understand.” She fires him. Jonah recalls her with a bemused fondness, ending the anecdote with this Bokonon quote. It’s a typical Vonnegut zinger that perfectly summarizes the inherent flaw of religious fundamentalism: No one really knows God’s ways.

6. “Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.’”
In this response to his own question—”Why bother?”—in Timequake, his last novel, Vonnegut doesn’t give a tired response about the urge to create; instead, he offers a pointed answer about how writing (and reading) make a lonesome world a little less so. The idea of connectedness—familial and otherwise—ran through much of his work, and it’s nice to see that toward the end of his career, he hadn’t lost the feeling that words can have an intimate, powerful impact.

7. “There are plenty of good reasons for fighting, but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too.”
Though this quote comes from the World War II-centred Mother Night(published in 1961), its wisdom and ugly truth still ring. Vonnegut (who often said “The only difference between Bush and Hitler is that Hitler was elected”) was righteously sceptical about war, having famously survived the only one worth fighting in his lifetime. And it’s never been more true: Left or right, Christian or Muslim, those convinced they’re doing violence in service of a higher power and against an irretrievably inhuman enemy are the most dangerous creatures of all.

8. “Since Alice had never received any religious instruction, and since she had led a blameless life, she never thought of her awful luck as being anything but accidents in a very busy place. Good for her.”
Vonnegut’s excellent-but-underrated Slapstick (he himself graded it a “D”) was inspired by his sister Alice, who died of cancer just days after her husband was killed in an accident. Vonnegut’s assessment of Alice’s character—both in this introduction and in her fictional stand-in, Eliza Mellon Swain—is glowing and remarkable, and in this quote from the book’s introduction, he manages to swipe at a favorite enemy (organized religion) and quietly, humbly embrace someone he clearly still missed a lot.

9.“That is my principal objection to life, I think: It’s too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes.”
The narrator delivering this line at the end of the first chapter of Deadeye Dickis alluding both to his father’s befriending of Hitler and his own accidental murder of his neighbour, but like so many of these quotes, it resonates well beyond its context. The underlying philosophy of Vonnegut’s work was always that existence is capricious and senseless, a difficult sentiment that he captured time and again with a bemused shake of the head. Indeed, the idea that life is just a series of small decisions that culminate into some sort of “destiny” is maddening, because you could easily ruin it all simply by making the wrong one. Ordering the fish, stepping onto a balcony, booking the wrong flight, getting married—a single misstep, and you’re done for. At least when you’re dead, you don’t have to make any more damn choices. Wherever Vonnegut is, he’s no doubt grateful for that.

10. “Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak.”
Vonnegut touchstones like life on Tralfamadore and the absurd Bokononist religion don’t help people escape the world so much as see it with clearer reason, which probably had a lot to do with Vonnegut’s education as a chemist and anthropologist. So it’s unsurprising that in a “self-interview” for The Paris Review, collected in his non-fiction anthology Palm Sunday, he said the literary world should really be looking for talent among scientists and doctors. Even when taking part in such a stultifying, masturbatory exercise for a prestigious journal, Vonnegut was perfectly readable, because he never forgot where his true audience was.

11. “All persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental.”
In Vonnegut’s final novel, 1997’s Timequake, he interacts freely with Kilgore Trout and other fictional characters after the end of a “timequake,” which forces humanity to re-enact an entire decade. (Trout winds up too worn out to exercise free will again.) Vonnegut writes his own fitting epigram for this fatalistic book: “All persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental,” which sounds more funny than grim. Vonnegut surrounds his characters—especially Trout—with meaninglessness and hopelessness, and gives them little reason for existing in the first place, but within that, they find liberty and courage.

12. “Why don’t you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut? Why don’t you take a flying fuck at the mooooooooooooon?”
Even when Vonnegut dared to propose a utopian scheme, it was a happily dysfunctional one. In Slapstick, Wilbur Swain wins the presidency with a scheme to eliminate loneliness by issuing people complicated middle names (he becomes Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain) which make them part of new extended families. He advises people to tell new relatives they hate, or members of other families asking for help: “Why don’t you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut? Why don’t you take a flying fuck at the mooooooooooooon?” Of course, this fails to prevent plagues, the breakdown of his government, and civil wars later in the story.

13. “So it goes.”
Unlike many of these quotes, the repeated refrain from Vonnegut’s classicSlaughterhouse-Five isn’t notable for its unique wording so much as for how much emotion—and dismissal of emotion—it packs into three simple, world-weary words that simultaneously accept and dismiss everything. There’s a reason this quote graced practically every elegy written for Vonnegut over the past two weeks (yes, including ours): It neatly encompasses a whole way of life. More crudely put: “Shit happens, and it’s awful, but it’s also okay. We deal with it because we have to.”

14. “I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labelled ‘science fiction’ ever since, and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal.”
Vonnegut was as trenchant when talking about his life as when talking about life in general, and this quote from an essay in Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons is particularly apt; as he explains it, he wrote Player Piano while working for General Electric, “completely surrounded by machines and ideas for machines,” which led him to put some ideas about machines on paper. Then it was published, “and I learned from the reviewers that I was a science-fiction writer.” The entire essay is wry, hilarious, and biting, but this line stands out in particular as typifying the kind of snappishness that made Vonnegut’s works so memorable.

15.“We must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
In Mother Night, apolitical expatriate American playwright Howard W. Campbell, Jr. refashions himself as a Nazi propagandist in order to pass coded messages on to the U.S. generals and preserve his marriage to a German woman—their “nation of two,” as he calls it. But in serving multiple masters, Campbell ends up ruining his life and becoming an unwitting inspiration to bigots. In his 1966 introduction to the paperback edition, Vonnegut underlines Mother Night’s moral: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” That lesson springs to mind every time a comedian whose shtick relies on hoaxes and audience-baiting—or a political pundit who traffics in shock and hyperbole—gets hauled in front of the court of public opinion for pushing the act too far. Why can’t people just say what they mean? It’s a question Don Imus and Michael Richards—and maybe someday Ann Coulter—must ask themselves on their many sleepless nights.

By Scott Gordon, Josh Modell, Noel Murray, Tasha Robinson, Kyle Ryan

Kurt Vonnegut was an American novelist, satirist, and graphic artist. He was recognized as New York State Author for 2001-2003. The novelist is known for works blending satire, black comedy and science fiction, including Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle, and Breakfast of Champions. Vonnegut was a self-proclaimed humanist and socialist.

From Writers Write

drea's picture
drea from Rural Alberta, Canada is reading between the lines November 12, 2012 - 9:02pm

I just discovered this thread and it's awesome, Dave from Texas! 

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz November 12, 2012 - 11:07pm

I love this thread. So much wisdom packed into such a little place.

Even better that I'm in the midst of reading Slaughterhouse Five - didn't even know it was his birthday today, yet I was plugging away at it on the train. Something seems right about that.

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly November 13, 2012 - 4:46am

Thanks. It's nice to hear others find these interesting. I'll try not to slack so much. 

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly November 13, 2012 - 6:44am

Literary Birthday - 13 November

Happy Birthday, Robert Louis Stevenson, born 13 November 1850, died 3 December 1894

Five Robert Louis Stevenson Quotes

1. Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child; it is there that he changes the atmosphere and tenor of his life.

2. The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish.

3. All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer.

4. It is not likely that posterity will fall in love with us, but not impossible that it may respect or sympathize; so a man would rather leave behind him the portrait of his spirit than a portrait of his face.

5. I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.

Robert Louis Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer. His most famous works are Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

By Amanda Patterson

From Writers Write

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anastasiawasko from Kingston, NY is reading Police Your Planet November 14, 2012 - 10:21am

woot!! i love rls. his short story "the suicide club" falls a bit flat in terms of writing, but i like how he tried to string 3 small pieces into 1 narrative.

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly November 14, 2012 - 10:36am

Hey, thanks! Glad you like my thread...you should totally go post an intro.

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly November 15, 2012 - 8:00am

Literary Birthday - 15 November
Happy Birthday, J. G. Ballard, born 15 November 1930, died 19 April 2009
J.G. Ballard: Nine Quotes On Writing

1. I tend to write about one novel every three years. When I finish one I have a fallow period where I just jot down ideas, write short stories, and think that could take a year.

2. I’ve never suffered from writer’s block. I have plenty of ideas, sometimes too many. I’ve always had a strong imagination. If it dries up I’ll stop and look for another career.

3. But I wouldn’t recommend writing. You can be a successful writer and never meet another soul. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

4. Fiction is a branch of neurology: the scenarios of nerve and blood vessels are the written mythologies of memory and desire.

5. Sooner or later, everything turns into television.

6. Given that external reality is a fiction, the writer’s role is almost superfluous. He does not need to invent the fiction because it is already there.

7. Any fool can write a novel but it takes real genius to sell it.

8. The first drafts of my novels have all been written in longhand and then I type them up on my old electric. I have resisted getting a computer because I distrust the whole PC thing. I don’t think a great book has yet been written on computer.

9. I work for three or four hours a day, in the late morning and early afternoon. Then I go out for a walk and come back in time for a large gin and tonic.


Ballard was an English novelist, short story writer, and prominent member of the New Wave movement in science fiction. His best-known books are Crash and the semi-autobiographical Empire of the Sun, made into a film by Steven Spielberg, based on Ballard’s boyhood during the Second World War.

His work has given rise to the adjective ‘Ballardian’, defined by the Collins English Dictionary as ‘resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in J. G. Ballard’s novels and stories, especially dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments’.

In 2008, The Times included Ballard on its list of ‘The 50 greatest British writers since 1945’.
by Amanda Patterson
From Writers Write

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly December 30, 2012 - 2:00am

Sorry I've had a whole lot of life going on lately and I've slacked.


Literary Birthday - 30 December
Happy Birthday, Rudyard Kipling, born 30 December 1865, died 18 January 1936

Rudyard Kipling: Nine Quotes

1. For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

2. Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.

3. A people always ends by resembling its shadow.

4. We’re all islands shouting lies to each other across seas of misunderstanding.

5. I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble.

6. If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.

7. Take everything you like seriously, except yourselves.

8. All the people like us are we, and everyone else is they.

9. This is a brief life, but in its brevity it offers us some splendid moments, some meaningful adventures.



If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!
Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling was an English short-story writer, poet, and novelist remembered for his tales of India, and his stories for children. He was born in Bombay, and is best known for The Jungle Book, Just So Stories, andKim. One of his most famous poems is If. 
Kipling was one of the most popular writers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1907 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English-language writer to receive the prize, and to date he remains its youngest recipient.
by Amanda Patterson
From Writers Write

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 1, 2013 - 3:38am

New Year's two-fer


Literary Birthday - 1 January
Happy Birthday, J.D. Salinger, born 1 January 1919, died 27 January 2010
Quotes: J.D. Salinger

1. An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s.

2. There’s no more to Holden Caulfield. Read the book again. It’s all there. Holden Caulfield is only a frozen moment in time.

3. I’m sick of just liking people. I wish to God I could meet somebody I could respect.
It’s funny. All you have to do is say something nobody understands and they’ll do practically anything you want them to.

4. All morons hate it when you call them a moron.

5. She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there, leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.

6. Boy, when you’re dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody.

7. The worst thing that being an artist could do to you would be that it would make you slightly unhappy constantly.

8. I am a kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.

9. I love to write and I assure you I write regularly… But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it.

Salinger was an American writer. In 1951 his novel The Catcher in the Rye was an immediate popular success. Holden Caulfield, the protagonist, became an icon of adolescence, alienation, and loss. The novel still sells 250,000 copies a year. Salinger became reclusive, publishing new work less frequently.

by Amanda Patterson From Writers Write

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 1, 2013 - 3:42am


Literary Birthday - 1 January

Happy Birthday, E.M. Forster, born 1 January 1879, died 7 June 1970
E.M. Forster: 11 Quotes

1. It isn’t possible to love and part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.

2. I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little further down our particular path than we have yet gone ourselves.

3. You confuse what’s important with what’s impressive.

4. We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

5. When I think of what life is, and how seldom love is answered by love; it is one of the moments for which the world was made.

6. Works of art, in my opinion, are the only objects in the material universe to possess internal order, and that is why, though I don’t believe that only art matters, I do believe in Art for Art’s sake.

7. One always tends to overpraise a long book, because one has got through it.

8. What is wonderful about great literature is that it transforms the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote.

9. Books have to be read (worse luck it takes so long a time). It is the only way of discovering what they contain. A few savage tribes eat them, but reading is the only method of assimilation revealed to the West.

10. But Jane Austen is so different. She is my favourite author! I read and reread, the mouth open and the mind closed. Shut up in measureless content, I greet her by the name of most kind hostess, while criticism slumbers.

11. I have almost completed a long novel, but it is unpublishable until my death and England’s.

Forster was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society. Forster’s humanistic impulse toward understanding and sympathy may be aptly summed up in the epigraph to his 1910 novel Howards End: Only connect. His 1908 novel, A Room with a View, is his most optimistic work, while A Passage to India brought him his greatest success.
by Amanda Patterson from Writers Write

drea's picture
drea from Rural Alberta, Canada is reading between the lines January 1, 2013 - 8:23am

Thanks for bringing these back, Dave! I always enjoy them. 


Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 2, 2013 - 12:52am

Literary Birthday - 2 January

Happy Birthday, Isaac Asimov, Born 2 January 1920, died 6 April 1992
Isaac Asimov Quotes

1. Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today - but the core of science fiction, its essence has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all.

2. Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

3. When I read about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.

4. If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.

5. I write for the same reason I breathe - because if I didn’t, I would die.

6. From my close observation of writers… they fall into two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.

7. Science fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not.

8. Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.

9. Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.

10. Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.

Asimov was an American author and professor of biochemistry. He is famous for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. He was a prolific writer, having written or edited more than 500 books. Asimov, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, was considered one of the ‘Big Three’ science fiction writers during his lifetime.
by Amanda Patterson From Writers Write

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 3, 2013 - 12:21pm

Literary Birthday - 3 January

Happy Birthday, JRR Tolkien, born 3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973
JRR Tolkien: 10 Quotes

1. I desired dragons with a profound desire. Of course, I in my timid body did not wish to have them in the neighbourhood. But the world that contained even the imagination of Fafnir was richer and beautiful at whatever cost of peril.

2. It’s the job that’s never started takes longest to finish.

3. I am dreading the publication, for it will be impossible not to mind what is said. I have exposed my heart to be shot at.

4. I learned more in those two years than in any other equal period of my life. (On his time spent working on the New English Dictionary)

5. Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.

6. I am told that I talk in shorthand and then smudge it.

7. The unpayable debt that I owe to him [C.S. Lewis] was not ‘influence’ as it is ordinarily understood, but sheer encouragement. He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my ‘stuff’ could be more than a private hobby.

8. If you’re going to have a complicated story you must work to a map; otherwise you’ll never make a map of it afterwards.

9. The news today about ‘Atomic bombs’ is so horrifying one is stunned. The utter folly of these lunatic physicists to consent to do such work for war-purposes: calmly plotting the destruction of the world! Such explosives in men’s hands, while their moral and intellectual status is declining, is about as useful as giving out firearms to all inmates of a gaol and then saying that you hope ‘this will ensure peace’. But one good thing may arise out of it, I suppose, if the write-ups are not overheated: Japan ought to cave in. Well we’re in God’s hands. But He does not look kindly on Babel-builders.

10. A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in South Africa but moved to England as a child. He was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known for the classic high fantasy works: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.
by Amanda Patterson
From Writers Write

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jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like January 3, 2013 - 12:26pm

I recently read Tolkein's essay on Beowulf:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beowulf:_The_Monsters_and_the_Critics

JEFFREY GRANT BARR from Central OR is reading Nothing but fucking Shakespeare, for the rest of my life January 3, 2013 - 2:01pm

All hail the great grandfather!

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 3, 2013 - 4:00pm

Ithought about making some "...to rule them all" joke but couldn't come up with anything I'd want to claim. 

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 4, 2013 - 10:59am

Literary Birthday - 4 January

Happy Birthday, Harlan Coben, born 4 January 1962
Harlan Coben: Nine Quotes on Writing

1. I never bought the excuse of not having time to write. If you really want to do it, you’re either going to find those hours or eventually decide not to be a writer.

2. What I truly love about writing crime novels is that its form compels you tell a story. That’s why I think it’s so popular and why I truly believe we are currently living in a golden age of crime fiction.

3. Listen, I don’t care what you call me, as long as you read my book. One of the most annoying things writers say is that they only write for themselves and they don’t care if anyone reads it.

4. I set the reader up and then I start twisting.

5. I read Parker’s Spenser series in college. When it comes to detective novels, 90 percent of us admit he’s an influence, and the rest of us lie about it.

6. The actual writing time is a lot shorter than the thinking time. I don’t do too many notes. I keep it mostly in my head. I usually start writing a new book around January, and it’s due October 1.

7. People ask what my hobbies are. I don’t have hobbies. I don’t, because when I’m doing anything else, I feel like I’m supposed to be writing.

8. The only thing an aspiring author needs to worry about is writing the best book that they possibly can. If the book is gripping and moving, it’ll sell no matter what.

9. I like to read crime fiction. I know a lot of authors who don’t read in their fields of work, and especially when writing a novel, because they feel that they might somehow be influenced by what they’re reading. At this stage of my career, I feel my writing voice is my own, which may not have been the case when I started.

Harlan Coben is an American author of mystery novels and thrillers. With 50 million books in print worldwide, Harlan Coben’s last five consecutive novels debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. His books are published in 41 languages and have been number one bestsellers in over a dozen countries. He is the first author to win all three of these awards: the Edgar Award, Shamus Award and Anthony Award.

by Amanda Patterson from Writers Write

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 5, 2013 - 1:44am

Literary Birthday - 5 January

Happy Birthday, Umberto Eco, born 5 January 1932
Umberto Eco: Top 10 Quotes

1. I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.

 2. We live for books.

3. When men stop believing in God, it isn’t that they then believe in nothing: they believe in everything.

4. I love the smell of book ink in the morning.

5. Thus I rediscovered what writers have always known (and have told us again and again): books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told.

6. To survive, you must tell stories.

7. All the stories I would like to write persecute me when I am in my chamber, it seems as if they are all around me, the little devils, and while one tugs at my ear, another tweaks my nose, and each says to me, ‘Sir, write me, I am beautiful’.”

8. When the writer (or the artist in general) says he has worked without giving any thought to the rules of the process, he simply means he was working without realizing he knew the rules.

9. Fear prophets and those prepared to die for the truth, for as a rule they make many others die with them, often before them, at times instead of them.

10. Every time that I write a novel I am convinced for at least two years that it is the last one, because a novel is like a child. It takes two years after its birth. You have to take care of it. It starts walking, and then speaking.

Eco is an Italian philosopher, literary critic, and novelist. He is best known for his novel The Name of the Rose, a mystery combining biblical analysis, medieval studies and, literary theory. The novel has sold more than 30 million copies in 44 languages.
by Amanda Patterson from Writers Write

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 6, 2013 - 4:15pm

Literary Birthday - 6 January

Happy Birthday, E.L. Doctorow, born 6 January 1931
E.L. Doctorow: Top 10 Quotes On Writing

1. Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.

2. Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

3. Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader — not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.

4. I am telling you what I know — words have music and if you are a musician you will write to hear them.

5. Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.

6. Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves. Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake.

7. Stories distribute the suffering so that it can be borne.

8. I don’t have a style, but the books do. Each demands its own method of presentation, and I like that. My theory about why Hemingway killed himself is that he heard his own voice; that he reached the point where he couldn’t write without feeling he was repeating himself. That’s the worst thing that can happen to a writer.

9. A novelist is a person who lives in other people’s skins.

10. The writer isn’t made in a vacuum. Writers are witnesses. The reason we need writers is because we need witnesses to this terrifying century.

E L Doctorow, a Jewish American author, began his career as a reader at Columbia Pictures, then became an editor for New American Library in the early 1960s. He then worked as chief editor at Dial Press from 1964 to 1969. The publication of The Book of Daniel in 1971 brought him literary acclaim. His next book, Ragtime, was a commercial and critical success.

by Amanda Patterson from Writers Write

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Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne January 6, 2013 - 4:29pm

Nice. I love Doctorow. Still need to get to that copy of The Waterworks I got for a buck at HPB.

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 8, 2013 - 7:39am

Literary Birthday - 8 January

Happy Birthday, Wilkie Collins, born 8 January 1824, died 23 September 1889
Wilkie Collins: Quotes

1. No sensible man ever engages, unprepared, in a fencing match of words with a woman.

2. If the public only knew that every writer worthy of the name is the severest critic of his own book before it ever gets into the hands of the reviewers, how surprised they would be!

3. Books - the generous friends who met me without suspicion - the merciful master who never used me ill!

4. There are few higher, better, or more profitable enjoyments in this world than reading a good novel.

5. The man who has worked in the full fervour of composition yesterday is the same man who sits in severe and merciless judgement to-day on what he has himself produced.

Collins was an English novelist, playwright, and short story writer. He wrote 30 novels, 60 short stories, 14 plays, and more than 100 essays during the Victorian era. His best-known works are The Woman in White, The Moonstone, Armadale, and No Name.
Collins was a lifelong friend of Charles Dickens. A number of his works were first published in Dickens’s journals. The two collaborated and some of Collins’s plays were performed by Dickens’s acting company.

By Amanda Patterson from Writers Write

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 10, 2013 - 11:31pm

Literary Birthday - 11 January

Happy Birthday, Alan Paton, born 11 January 1903, died 12 April 1988

Alan Paton: Three Quotes from Cry, The Beloved Country
1. There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it.
2. Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much.
3. But there is only one thing that has power completely, and this is love. Because when a man loves, he seeks no power, and therefore he has power.

Alan Paton: Five Quotes
1. To give up the task of reforming society is to give up one’s responsibility as a free man.
2. There is only one way in which one can endure man’s inhumanity to man and that is to try, in one’s own life, to exemplify man’s humanity to man.
3. Sorrow is better than fear. Fear is a journey, a terrible journey. But, sorrow is at least an arriving.
4. When a deep injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive.
5. I envision someday a great, peaceful South Africa in which the world will take pride, a nation in which each of many different groups will be making its own creative contribution.

Alan Paton was a South African author and anti-apartheid activist. Paton, a science teacher, taught in Ixopo where much of his famous first novel, Cry, the Beloved Country, is set. He then served as principal of Diepkloof Reformatory for delinquent African boys, for 13 years, which provides the setting for some of his most memorable stories. Alan Paton won international acclaim with Cry, the Beloved Country, and sold more than 10 million copies of the book. He wrote four other books. He was leader of the South Africa’s Liberal Party from 1953. The Order of Ikhamanga (Class Gold) was awarded to him by the South African President, Thabo Mbeki, on 27 September 2006. Cry, The Beloved Country has been filmed twice. The Alan Paton Award for non-fiction is given annually in his honour.

by Amanda Patterson from Writers Write

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 12, 2013 - 5:37am

Literary Birthday - 12 January

Happy Birthday, Haruki Murakami, born 12 January 1949

On Writing: Haruki Murakami

Exerpts taken from Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

‘In every interview I’m asked what’s the most important quality a novelist has to have. It’s pretty obvious: talent. Now matter how much enthusiasm and effort you put into writing, if you totally lack literary talent you can forget about being a novelist. This is more of a prerequisite than a necessary quality. If you don’t have any fuel, even the best car won’t run.’

‘The problem with talent, though, is that in most cases the person involved can’t control its amount or quality. Talent has a mind of its own and wells up when it wants to, and once it dries up, that’s it. Of course, certain poets and rock singers whose genius went out in a blaze of glory—people like Schubert and Mozart, whose dramatic early deaths turned them into legends—have a certain appeal, but for the vast majority of us this isn’t the model we follow.’

‘If I’m asked what the next most important quality is for a novelist, that’s easy too: focus—the ability to concentrate all your limited talents on whatever’s critical at the moment. Without that you can’t accomplish anything of value, while, if you can focus effectively, you’ll be able to compensate for an erratic talent or even a shortage of it. I generally concentrate on work for three or four hours every morning. I sit at my desk and focus totally on what I’m writing. I don’t see anything else, I don’t think about anything else.’

‘After focus, the next most important thing for a novelist is, hands down, endurance. If you concentrate on writing three or four hours a day and feel tired after a week of this, you’re not going to be able to write a long work. What’s needed of the writer of fiction—at least one who hopes to write a novel—is the energy to focus every day for half a year, or a year, or two years.’

‘Fortunately, these two disciplines—focus and endurance—are different from talent, since they can be acquired and sharpened through training. You’ll naturally learn both concentration and endurance when you sit down every day at your desk and train yourself to focus on one point. This is a lot like the training of muscles I wrote of a moment ago. You have to continually transmit the object of your focus to your entire body, and make sure it thoroughly assimilates the information necessary for you to write every single day and concentrate on the work at hand. And gradually you’ll expand the limits of what you’re able to do. Almost imperceptibly you’ll make the bar rise. This involves the same process as jogging every day to strengthen your muscles and develop a runner’s physique. Add a stimulus and keep it up. And repeat. Patience is a must in this process, but I guarantee results will come.’

‘In private correspondence the great mystery writer Raymond Chandler once confessed that even if he didn’t write anything, he made sure he sat down at his desk every single day and concentrated. I understand the purpose behind his doing this. This is the way Chandler gave himself the physical stamina a professional writer needs, quietly strengthening his willpower. This sort of daily training was indispensable to him.’
‘Most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running every day. These are practical, physical lessons. How much can I push myself? How much rest is appropriate—and how much is too much? How far can I take something and still keep it decent and consistent? When does it become narrow-minded and inflexible? How much should I be aware of the world outside, and how much should I focus on my inner world? To what extent should I be confident in my abilities, and when should I start doubting myself? I know that if I hadn’t become a long-distance runner when I became a novelist, my work would have been vastly different. How different? Hard to say. But something would definitely have been different.’

Murakami is a Japanese writer and translator. His works of fiction and non-fiction have won critical acclaim and numerous awards, including the Franz Kafka Prize and the Jerusalem Prize.
Murakami is considered an important figure in post-modern literature. The Guardian praised Murakami as ‘among the world’s greatest living novelists’ for his works and achievements.

by Amanda Patterson from Writers Write

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 12, 2013 - 5:39am

So, I snagged three or four Murakami at some point, I can't remember which...any suggestions on where I should start or which were your favorites?

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 13, 2013 - 3:14am

Literary Birthday - 13 January

Happy Birthday, Jay McInerney, born 13 January 1955

McInerney Quotes
1. I made a lot for a literary novelist. Not only did I support myself but a bunch of ex-wives and kids and restaurateurs and club owners and drug dealers.

2. My tenure in New York has coincided with a really long period of prosperity. As someone who writes about New York, it’s going to be fascinating to see the values of the boom being replaced by something else.

3. I’ve always written about the larger social events of the moment. It just seemed like I had to confront this one.

4. I’ve been interested in writing and storytelling since I learned to read, but it wasn’t until I read Dylan Thomas, when I was 14, that I became interested in language itself, and saw it as more than a transparent medium for a story.

5. Being tagged a spokesman for a generation is mostly a curse, since there will always be people who don’t believe you are speaking for them. I am a chronicler, certainly, of a certain demographic slice of my generation. But I don’t write for that generation alone, and I don’t wish to be diminished with that label.

How Raymond Carver influenced Jay McInerney
Raymond Carver was someone whose work was tremendously inspiring to me. So I felt very fortunate when I had a chance to meet him in 1980. I was asked to show him around New York City prior to a reading he was giving at Columbia that fall. Instead, we stayed at my apartment and talked literature for six hours, and subsequently began a correspondence.
He convinced me that if I really wanted to write fiction I had to stop hedging my bets with jobs in publishing and journalism and make a real commitment, and the next year I followed him to Syracuse University, where he was then teaching in the creative writing program. If not for that move, I doubt I would be answering these questions today. Carver somehow convinced me to go for it, and convinced me that I had the right stuff—I’m not sure how he could have guessed that at the time, on the basis of a few early stories.
He was also influential in convincing me that the only secret to writing was to put in serious hours every day for years. I’d been under the thrall of a sort of romantic image of the writer as a genius who effortlessly produces masterpieces under the influence of a kind of divine madness. Carver convinced me that writing was 90% perspiration. He used to call me up every day to see if I had been writing. And I used to hear his typewriter every day, down the street, clacking away. That was almost as inspiring as anything he said.
He also reaffirmed my belief that good stories are made word by word; he would sit down with my pages and take each sentence apart, asking me, for instance, why I had used the word earth when the word dirt would do. I still hear his voice sometimes, chiding me for sloppy usage.
Studying with Carver was among the most important aspects of my development as a writer. I was lucky to find such a dedicated mentor. Likewise, I was extremely fortunate to have Tobias Wolff on the faculty as well. If Carver was a very instinctual teacher, Wolff was very cerebral. He was great on structure, and would take apart a story or novel and reassemble it piece by piece. Those two approaches are very complementary.

Quotes from Novels
1. The capacity for friendship is God’s way of apologizing for our families.

2. Everything becomes symbol and irony when you’ve been betrayed.

3. ‘Things happen, people change,’ is what Amanda said. For her that covered it. You wanted an explanation, and ending that would assign blame and dish up justice. You considered violence and you considered reconciliation . But what you are left with is a premonition of the way your life will fade behind you, like a book you have read too quickly, leaving a dwindling trail of images and emotions, until all you can remember is a name.

4. Sometimes I think the difference between what we want and what we’re afraid of is about the width of an eyelash.

5. Your heartbreak is just another version of the same old story.

6. It’s like, you can’t trust anybody, and if somebody you know doesn’t fuck you over it’s just because the price of selling you down the river was never high enough.

7. Your presence here is is only a matter of conducting an experiment in limits, reminding yourself of what you aren’t.

8. Loving isn’t the same as wanting, Luke. And it’s certainly not the same as having. It’s not about desire and self-fulfillment. In the end, it’s about wanting what’s best for the other person. It’s about giving and even, sometimes, letting go. Sometimes I think love is more about renunciation than possession.

McInerney is an American writer. His novels include Bright Lights, Big City, Ransom, Brightness Falls, and The Good Life. He edited The Penguin Book of New American Voices, wrote the screenplay for the 1988 film adaptation of Bright Lights, Big City.
He was the wine columnist for House & Garden magazine, and his essays were collected in Bacchus & Me and A Hedonist in the Cellar. He is now the wine columnist for The Wall Street Journal.
by Amanda Patterson from Writers Write

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Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 14, 2013 - 3:51am

Literary Birthday - 14 January

Happy Birthday, Edward St. Aubyn, born 14 January 1960
Edward St Aubyn: Six Quotes

1. It seems people spend the majority of their lives believing they’re dying, with the only consolation being that at one point they get to be right.

2. In the absence of God, we have the omniscience of gossip to keep us preoccupied with who knows what.

3. Even when you were awake it was hard to know what grown-ups meant when they said things. One day he had worked out a way of guessing what they were going to do: no meant no, maybe meant perhaps, yes meant maybe and perhaps meant no, but the system did not work, and he decided that maybe everything meant perhaps.

4. Surely: the adverb of a man without an argument.

5. You transform experience into, for want of a better word, art. I’m interested in structure and character. Otherwise it would be very boring for everyone else.

6. Mind you, I don’t know why people get so fixated on happiness, which always eludes them, when there are so many other invigorating experiences available, like rage, jealousy, disgust, and so forth.

St. Aubyn is the author of eight novels of which Mother’s Milk was short-listed for the 2006 Man Booker Prize, won the 2007 Prix Femina Etranger and won the 2007 South Bank Show award on literature. His other novels are Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, On the Edge, A Clue to the Exit, At Last.

by Amanda Patterson
From Writers Write

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Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 14, 2013 - 11:42pm

Literary Birthday - 15 January

Happy Birthday, Ernest J. Gaines, born 15 January 1933
Ernest J. Gaines: Top 10 Quotes

1. Nietzsche said without music, life would be a mistake. To me, without books, life would be a mistake.

2. All writers write about the past, and I try to make it come alive so you can see what happened.

3. Question everything. Every stripe, every star, every word spoken. Everything.

4. I believe that the writer should tell a story. I believe in plot. I believe in creating characters and suspense.

5. I knew I wanted to be a writer and I knew if I had a wife and family, I would neglect something, and I was afraid it wouldn’t be the writing.

6. I suppose I started writing seriously at 16 years old. I thought I wrote a novel at 16 and sent it to New York! They sent it back because it wasn’t novel.

7. Everything’s been said, but it needs saying again.

8. The artist must be like a heart surgeon. He must approach something with sympathy, but with a sort of coldness and work and work until he finds some kind of perfection in his work. You can’t have blood splashing all over the place. Things must be done very cleanly.

9. Today I must write a paragraph or a page better than I did yesterday.

10. I like the sound of people’s voices, and I think what a man says can very well tell what he’s thinking, whether he’s lying or not.

Gaines is an African-American author, born on a plantation in Louisiana, the setting for most of his fiction. At the age of nine he picked cotton in the plantation fields. At 15, Gaines moved to California to join his parents. He attended San Francisco State University and later won a writing fellowship to Stanford University.
Gaines has written eight novels, including Bloodline, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, A Gathering of Old Men, and A Lesson Before Dying, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Four of his works have been made into television movies.

by Amanda Patterson from Writers Write

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Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 16, 2013 - 12:32am

Literary Birthday - 16 January

Happy Birthday, Susan Sontag, born 16 January 1933, died 28 December 2004
Susan Sontag: Top 10 Quotes

1. Never worry about being obsessive. I like obsessive people. Obsessive people make great art.

2. A writer, I think, is someone who pays attention to the world.

3. Science fiction films are not about science. They are about disaster, which is one of the oldest subjects of art.

4. Life is a movie; death is a photograph.

5. A good book is an education of the heart. It enlarges your sense of human possibility what human nature is of what happens in the world. It’s a creator of inwardness.

6. What I really wanted was every kind of life, and the writer’s life seemed the most inclusive.

7. If I thought that what I’m doing when I write is expressing myself, I’d junk the typewriter. Writing is a much more complicated activity that that.

8. My library is an archive of longings.

9. Literature was the passport to enter a larger life; that is, the zone of freedom. Literature was freedom. Especially in a time in which the values of reading and inwardness are so strenuously challenged, literature is freedom.

10. Writing is a mysterious activity.

Susan Sontag was an American writer, professor, literary icon, and political activist. Beginning with the publication of her 1964 essay Notes on ‘Camp’, Sontag became a cultural and intellectual celebrity.
by Amanda Patterson
From Writers Write

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Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 18, 2013 - 2:22pm

Literary Birthday - 18 January

Happy Birthday, A.A. Milne, born 18 January 1882, died 31 January 1956
A.A. Milne: Quotes

1. To the uneducated, an A is just three sticks.

2. The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.

3. You will be better advised to watch what we do instead of what we say.

4. Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.

5.The difficulty in the way of writing a children’s play is that Barrie was born too soon. Many people must have felt the same about Shakespeare. We who came later have no chance. What fun to have been Adam, and to have had the whole world of plots and jokes and stories at one’s disposal.

6.Bores can be divided into two classes; those who have their own particular subject, and those who do not need a subject.

7. Ideas may drift into other minds, but they do not drift my way. I have to go and fetch them. I know no work manual or mental to equal the appalling heart-breaking anguish of fetching an idea from nowhere.

Milne was a British author, best known for his books about Winnie-the-Pooh. Milne was also a successful playwright. He continued writing detective novels, articles and plays for almost 30 years after Pooh’s first appearance.
by Amanda Patterson from Writers Write

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MattF from Tokyo is reading Borges' Collected Fictions January 18, 2013 - 5:36pm

Which Murakami did you buy?

Great thread, by the way.

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Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 19, 2013 - 7:11pm

Literary Birthday - 19 January 

Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe, born 19 January 1809, died 7 October 1849
Edgar Allan Poe: 10 Quotes

1.We should bear in mind that, in general, it is the object of our newspapers rather to create a sensation - to make a point - than to further the cause of truth.

2. Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.

3. The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.

4. I have no faith in human perfectability. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active - not more happy - nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago.

5. If you wish to forget anything on the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered.

6. I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.

7. Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.

8. Of puns it has been said that those who most dislike them are those who are least able to utter them.

9. With me poetry has not been a purpose, but a passion.

10. All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.

Poe was an American author, poet, editor, and literary critic. He is famous for writing about the macabre. Poe was one of the first American short story writers and is known as the inventor of the detective fiction genre, and for contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone.
by Amanda Patterson from Writers Write

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Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 19, 2013 - 7:19pm

@ MattF, South Of The Border, West Of The Sun, Sputnik Sweetheart and This Is What I Talk AboutWhen I Talk About Running

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MattF from Tokyo is reading Borges' Collected Fictions January 19, 2013 - 8:12pm

South and Sputnik are quite similar, if I remember. I'd recommend sequentially if you read both. In my opinion, over his career he steadily grows more technically proficient, but perhaps less 'reader friendly' if that makes sense. Norwegian Wood and The Wind-Up Bird might be an interesting pairing if you read more: Wood being his most commercially popular in Japan (and his least favorite) and Bird being his most critically praised and typically Murakami-esque. His story collection The Elephant Vanishes is excellent.

If you can get into his mood and themes you'll dig him, if you're a plot focused reader, he can be disappointing (you might like his stories better). Running will probably be more interesting if you become a fan--it's an odd one. His Paris Review interview was pretty good and gives some insight into his work as well. .

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 19, 2013 - 9:37pm

Awesome. I just finished Leaving Las Vegas so Im ready for my next read. 

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Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 25, 2013 - 9:01am

Literary Birthday - 25 January

Happy Birthday, Stephen Chbosky, born 25 January 1970
Seven Sensational Quotes

1. I have decided that maybe I want to write when I grow up. I just don’t know what I would write.

2. So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.

3. Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.

4. And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.

5. There’s nothing like deep breaths after laughing that hard. Nothing in the world like a sore stomach for the right reasons.

6. We accept the love we think we deserve.

7. It’s strange because sometimes, I read a book, and I think I am the people in the book.

Chbosky is an American novelist, screenwriter, and film director best known for writing the coming of age novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, as well as for screen-writing and directing the film version. He wrote the screenplay for Rent, and was co-creator, executive producer, and writer of the television series Jericho.
by Amanda Patterson from Writers Write