bronze_ribbons: snapshot of me in standing bow (Russian tins)
This morning's bathtub reading was supplied by the first 56 pages of the August issue of GQ, which includes Michael Paterniti's ode to Yotam Ottolenghi. This passage in particular caught my eye:


The immediate impression of the trio [Ottolenghi, NOPI head chef Ramael Scully, and recipe developer Esme Howarth] made was of friendliness -- how well suited to one another they were, and how soft-spoken and solicitous Ottolenghi was.

"Would you like some tea and cookies?" he asked, and without waiting for an answer he went rummaging to retrieve some. I'd been served so much Ottolenghi food by others, and now Ottolenghi himself was serving me cookies. This seemed to be the opposite of Gordon Ramsay. This was the opposite of the matador chefs and their brash opining. In fact, if you could say anything about Yotam Ottolenghi, you might say he contained multitudes: a sweet temperament and fierce intensity, iron discipline and wild creativity.


In checking on whether the piece was online, I found a speech by Paterniti on storytelling, which includes this anecdote:



I have an unofficial contest going with some writer friends, to see who can ask the stupidest question EVER without meaning to, and I think I recently won. I was interviewing the chef Yotam Ottolenghi in London, and at the risk of never being asked to go on assignment again, I'm going to quote my question, verbatim:

So I'm just--butternut! Butternut squash, broccoli polenta, pearled lemon, that idea of, and sometimes this happens at the ridiculous high-end restaurant, the prawn did this, eat the whole flower, or whatever, just get that marrow, or whatever it is, up here, on the plate, all foamy, and this is what you’re doing without having to turn it into some sort of ridiculous cooky thing in these restaurants, like, maybe you could tell me: Why are we doing this!?


Seriously, how can you answer a question like this? And you know you're in trouble when the response is, as it was in Ottolenghi's case, a very long silence, a polite but quizzical expression usually reserved for the platypus tank at the zoo, and then, with pity: I think I know what you're trying to say...


As someone who dines on her foot on a regular basis and actively contemplates vows of silence every third day, I found this awfully reassuring.
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30 November 1954:


My poems are supposed now to come out in the early spring, I think, but Houghton Mifflin and I don't seem to be getting along too well. I am sending them the sections from this translation, because I said I would mostly, but I haven't heard yet whether they are interested or not. I sent them all my stories to date, and they dropped them like a hot potato, so if you ever go by 2 Park Street you can throw stones at their windows for me, if you want to.
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bronze_ribbons: Sveta kissing her French Open trophy (Kuz kiss)
I've glimpsed at least two versions of this on Twitter so far:




[The photos depict Roger Federer blowing a kiss to the crowd after one of his Wimbledon victories and after today's loss to Novak Djokovic. The poem has a history with Federer fans, because he and Rafa recorded a reading of it together three years ago or so.]

Coincidentally, I pulled a clipping from a file a few minutes ago where Joni Mitchell calls "If" "just about my favorite poem." In the article, which appeared in the New York Times in 2007 (Working Three Shifts, Plus Outrage Overtime, about her collaboration with the Alberta Ballet). I suspect I saved the article in part because it talks about Mitchell's interdisciplinary interests ("Music, art, dance: Ms. Mitchell calls it 'crop rotation'") and night-owlery (the "'short moment' [the Alberta Ballet's director] had requested turned into one of her inimitable all-nighters..."), and especially because Mitchell and her interviewer (David Yaffe) discuss a song she was working on. Yaffe writes:


There was simply too much to express.

''You've only got so much space, and that's the point,'' she said. ''That's the art. In a very short space, you need pertinent details while knowing what to leave out.'' One song she's still revising is called ''Shine.''

''It starts, 'Shine on Vegas and Wall Street/Place your bets,' '' she said. ''You could write a thousand verses. 'Shine on the dazzling darkness that mends us when we sleep/Shine on what we throw away and what we keep.' I have written about 60 different verses and rhyming couplets to this thing, and I've kept 12. Are they the best ones? I don't know. I could write 60 a week. What are the 12 most important things to illuminate? It's overwhelming.''
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bronze_ribbons: Sveta kissing her French Open trophy (Kuz kiss)
While giving myself a pep-and-perspective talk of sorts earlier today, it struck me that I am not as anxious as I used to be about whether my writing will find its readers. And that a reason for this is because strangers are still letting me know (primarily via AO3 kudos) that they are enjoying fics I posted more than three years ago.

It is so pleasing to receive them. There is so much out there, and so much claiming and clamoring for everyone's time, that it continues to amaze me when people read and respond to pieces I wrote many moons ago. Thank you all -- for entrusting some of your time to me, and for taking the time to let me know that you are reading. This knowledge is a blessing I did not expect, and I am so grateful.
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Writing . . . is a license to be curious. I, for example, am interested in how things work, in how a creative movie deal is structured, how a conglomerate is formed. How a tooth is reconstructed or an aorta patched. How a geologist pinpoints a possible oil strike, how an immunologist isolates a virus. How a fire investigator knows when a fire is an accident and when because of the pattern of smoke stains in the burnt-out shell and the sponginess of the floor it is arson. How a pathologist knows that the prostate is the last male organ and the uterus the last female organ destroyed in a fire, how carbon granules in the bronchial passages indicate the victim was alive when the fire started and fat globules in the lung mean that the victim was attacked before the fire. How Fernando Valenzuela throws a screwball, how the air currents and the speed of the projectile and the angle of the wrist at the point of release conspire to make a pitch man was not intended to throw nor his elbow to endure.






Tired and fretful chez mechaieh at the moment - we just found out a neighbor passed away several days ago, and the wordcount, it incheth toward Byzantium like a leaky schooner. We'll get there, my lovelies, but be warned it may be a few days before I respond to comments and notes (quote-spam notwithstanding) - some I want to mull over for a bit, and others I'd rather save for a more mellow, less splintery mood. (There's a part of me that's still all aglow over my (ongoing) bestest birthday to date, and I've got half a pint of mango soup left, and all sorts of other happy things within easy reach. But I've also intermittent brain-cramps and terminal fussbudgetry to fight off (and/or appease with sleep) so I can get things done, and that's making me grouchy and stompety and querulous and way too self-absorbed to provide any semblance of rational company for the next 72 hours or so. *grousestompwhineflop*)
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It's over a year old, but I only now just read Arthur A. Levine's post on what makes a good book good:


...isn’t this the exact question a writer asks himself when sitting down to write? What do I have to say that is original, that contributes, that hasn’t already been done, said, written a thousand times before.

Of course when I’m in the editor’s chair I have an answer for this. I tell the concerned author that it isn’t what you say, it’s how you say it that makes an important, a worthwhile story. After all, books are like people—there are only so many positive qualities going around: intelligence, sensitivity, humor, physical attractiveness. As a person you can’t realistically think you can reinvent these categories in order to make an impact—to get people to like and notice you. It’s the particular combination of those qualities that makes you an individual, that draws people to you or repels them.


(I can already hear some of you sputtering, "But what about...?" FWIW, I was too (I share [livejournal.com profile] mrissa's "can't say never 'cause..." problem. Though it's not really a problem, just a nuisance when one's itching to indulge in a Categorical Declaration instead of a Long-Ass Parenthetical Tangent. That, and the phrase "only so many" is automatically a red flag, even though he means well).

Still, I like what he said anyway. Mainly because he goes on...


....people often ask me how I stay responsive to wonderful new manuscripts when I read so many every week, every day. The good news and the bad news is that the really special ones stand out as distinctly as real flowers in a shop full of plastic imitations. And it’s just like that really. The actual, living flower, has a smell. It isn’t perfect, it’s colors can be off a bit. But it’s REAL and you know it.


And, he really does use the phrase "channeled kosher raisins" later in the speech.)

On the personal level, I'm at the dining room table with a plate of chicken livers and my second can of cherry Coke and a whole heap of whaling-through to whale through:

  • Currently frustrated with a story because I've identified at least six places (in addition to the editors' concerns) that don't seem real enough to me now that I've had a month away from it. (But I did fix one problem tonight. 500 words up; I'm guessing there'll be another 1,000-2,000 net once I excise the glib bits and come up with whatever should be said.


  • Currently inching along on the essay I'd intended to wrap up last weekend, but I'm going to have to tear myself away from it in a few minutes because I still need to (1) finish reading the playscript a student loaned to me on Dorothy L. Sayers, and (2) pull together my outline for today's lecture.


  • Other stuff due this month: The sermon, three courseware scripts, two other essays, an HP illustration, and a poem on Francis Cabrel's eyeglasses are all simmering on my mental back burners, but I can't do anything about them right now.


  • Anyway, I was looking up a detail for El Essay when I came across Levine's blog, which is what prompted this post. So, back to it I go.


    ETA: ....And, this from the Spring 2007 Signals catalog: "If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be called Research." - Einstein
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    What Helen Radice said:

    As I've argued before, you have to make music matter enough for people to decide to invest in it, not expect it to pay. If you want a classical CD, you have to fund it, just as if you want a music lesson, or a nice harp. If you are poor, hopefully a civilised society that cares about the arts has sponsorship opportunities for you, but the need for money remains.

    To make people care about any music, recorded or otherwise, you have to communicate - in concert, on disc, in books and magazines, through education and by what you create in the first place. You have to reach out to others. It never ceases to amaze me how many so-called artists think their self-interest self-expression is the only thing that counts, but music (to me) is too widely human, too gloriously infinite. Just as someone who only talks about themselves is a crushing bore, all creative endeavours that are only masturbatory acts of self-love fail. Some initial charisma might carry the artist for a while, but there is no lyricism, no tenderness, no angry drive to make things better for others, no love: only an arid and deluded pride that ultimately burns itself away, for it has no other fuel.


    Applies to writing, too, and getting paid for it.

    From what Helen wrote earlier:


    As with anything where you must deeply think and feel, the more you know, the more you know how little you know.


    And, in a post I revisit from time to time, she quotes Sarah Bullen: "you can get better and learn, or get bitter and decline. The choice is yours."






    Today's French phrase: c'est la fin des haricots

    Deak: "That's the limit! can you beat that!"
    Harrap's: "the bloody limit!"
    [haricot literally means "bean"]

    More from Harrap's:

    des haricots! = "not a sausage!"
    courir sur le haricot à quelqu'un = "to pester someone"
    [literal translation: "to run on [with?] the bean to someone"]
    bronze_ribbons: snapshot of me in standing bow (feather)
    Mrrrr. I need another obsession hobby like a fish needs a flamethrower, but there's a part of me that's actively itching to sit down with my Harrap's, get a grip on all the damned prepositions and pronouns, and then translate a slew of French pop songs into (1) colloquial English and/or (2) singable English. And then to put in enough time at the piano so that accompanying myself on a Cabrel or Goldman ballad (for, say, a UU coffeehouse) wouldn't be just a pipe dream.

    Plus ca change, toujours pas de temps )



    During the 1990s, a number of French musicians volunteered for a series of CDs on behalf of Sol en Si, an organization assisting children with AIDS. Last month, I decided to treat myself to Vol. 4 after finding out it contained a French-language version of "Girl of the North Country" (with Francis Cabrel, Jean-Jacques Goldman, and Zazie on vocals).

    The CD finally arrived yesterday, and "Fille du Nord" is lovely, but the track I've replayed most often has been Maxime Le Forestier's cover of Goldman's "Quand tu danses." I've also been listening to Goldman's version via YouTube. (English lyrics can be found here. If you like Carla Bruni's "Quelqu'un m'a dit," you're likely to enjoy these.)

    How this relates to instinct and fruitbats )

    This post was also going to enumerate what I enjoyed about church this morning and other blessings, but I've lingered too long on this topic as it is, and I need to devote what's left of the night to billable work (plus supper). I spent a good chunk of the afternoon in my kitchen, boiling chicken (for stock and salads), baking chess pie and rosemary shortbread, and tackling other chores, all with the door wide open and the CD player blaring blues and zydeco. Here, it's spring, and today was one of those perfect days -- daffodils outside the church, a breeze with a bite to it (I like that, days like this), and the sunshine pouring down.

    I'd made two pans of the shortbread yesterday for a gift; that particular batch turned out so well that the BYM made a point of saying so. There had been only been a few pieces left over for us (all gone by breakfast), so I decided to bake another pan of it once I got home.

    This one? It's okay, though not as good as yesterday's. I ended up having to add milk after mismeasuring the flour, which is the sort of thing that happens when one ends up dancing to "Eunice Two Step" instead of counting. :-)
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    [livejournal.com profile] matociquala: All you can do as an artist is, when it's your turn, do your damnedest to tear the cord out of the motherfucking wall.

    Today's tally:
    * one sermon finished and delivered
    * one story revised and submitted
    * three new poems drafted

    Also one bunch each of asparagus and baby beets roasted, a delightful coffee-break with a friend, and another friend treating me to the Panda Garden buffet in Cookeville.

    Breakfast was a slice left over from last night's outing to Pizzereal. Good stuff. (One of the poems I drafted tonight was about retsina.) Maybe I simply failed to notice the combination elsewhere, but the fact that my neighborhood now has two combination pizza/Greek/Middle Eastern joints just seems way cool to me. (One of them, Italia, has become a major hangout for the precinct's cops -- there are usually several officers eating there when I pass by.)

    Also, Pizzereal has beautiful wood floors and a gas fire (last night's weather was wet and dreary) and great service.

    Tomorrow is not likely to be as much fun -- umpteen billable hours to crunch through, heaps of miscellaneous but must-do paperwork, and an appointment to deal with a fractured tooth. But it all can wait until I log in a good night's sleep. The better to fence with, at, and through all the double-damned ever-moving ever-maddening funhouse walls... Onwards!
    bronze_ribbons: snapshot of me in standing bow (feather)
  • Via marymary: Erin Noteboom's "Deep calls to deep at the noise of thy waterfalls". Wow.


  • Yaki manu (dumplings with sesame soy sauce) and chapjae (clear noodles with beef and veggies) at Manna.


  • This video of Francis Cabrel performing "Je sais que tu danses." I've owned the studio recording of this song for years, but there's an intensity to this rendition that really locks the song for me.


  • "Rockollection" -- why have I not known about this song before now? It is so much fun. I've been replaying the Enfoires 2001 version as I work (I can't get enough of David Hallyday's solo in "Tous les cris les SOS") and YouTube also has three other variations (Vanessa Paradis, Nouvelle Star, and Voulzy himself -- search on "Rockollection").


  • Bear's chatroom transcripts slay me. This one includes this jewel from [livejournal.com profile] katallen: "writers -- different because our subconsciouses can be bothered to hate us that much."


  • There was more I meant to mention, but I can't remember where in my conscious I stashed it. That, and a story needs revising, a sermon needs drafting, and an essay needs finishing. Onwards...
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    Feeling distinctly grotty instead of the slightly unwell that's plagued me the past week-and-a-bit, so it's tea and Robitussin and naps this weekend. Overall, though, it was a pretty good week -- sold a poem, attended a fun cocktail party (with really good crabcakes -- almost no breading and a perfect mustard sauce -- and good conversation, too), and finished drafting a six-page outline. The betas were very kind to the unholy holiday fic, so that's all sorted and submitted, which frees me to focus on revising poems as soon as I finish the Advent sermon...

    There's also the BBC Alphabetical Checklist, a repository of snark, despair, and pragmatism that sent me into stitches (as well as being quite informative about distinctions such as the proper prepositions for Anglican bodies (the Church OF England, the Church OF Ireland, the Episcopal Church IN Scotland, the Church IN Wales)). [ETA from an anonymous commenter: "Unfortunately the BBC is mistaken, which is unusual. There is no 'Episcopal Church in Scotland', though there used to be. It is now called the Scottish Episcopal Church."]

    Some of the highlights )
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    I forget what the phrase is, but you know how one might meander along, mulling over something in a vague-ish way and then someone on LJ neatly articulates it?

    What matociquala said:
    ...people expect characters to act in accordance with stereotypes, not with actuality--and if they break those stereotypes, the writer often has to find ways to defend or shore up their behavior. I run into this fairly frequently with first-readers in the Eddas, actually, because one of my base assumptions is a modern (sort of steampunk, actually, or post-Cyberpunk, maybe) world without Christian influence. So the mores--social, political, and sexual--are those that have developed from a Norse ethical system rather than a Christian one.

    Not so much, this world, with the forgiveness and redemption as privileged values.

    You know how hard it is to explain that stuff to a reader when none of your characters have any idea that forgiveness and redemption "ought" to be privileged values?


    Word.



    Gacked from [livejournal.com profile] swooop:

    survey-sheepery )
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    From the in-box:


    According to Rabbi Levi, Abraham said to God, 'If You seek to have a world, strict justice cannot be exercised; and if You seek strict justice, there will be no world. Do You expect to take hold of the well’s rope at both ends? You desire a world and You also desire justice? You can have only one of the two. If You do not relent a little, the world will not endure' (Genesis Rabbah 39:6)
      - from a Jewish Theological Seminary e-newsletter



    I remember very early having the sense that there is one poet in the world, and sometimes if you're very lucky and you work very hard, you get to be the poet for a while. The rest of the time, you're trying to earn your way back to being the poet for a moment. Meanwhile, you love poetry itself.
      - Franz Wright, from an essay to appear tomorrow on Poetry Daily


    I don't know that I agree with either of these, but they were interesting enough that I wanted to remember them.


    Yesterday ended up being more social and more domestic than I expected -- a friend suggested brunch, and I was feeling okay enough for that, so the BYM schlepped us all to Goldie's for blintzes (me), challah French toast (her), and other breakfast-y things, accompanied by a fairly intense discussion about research, citations, etc. (which is the sort of thing that's bound to happen when you plunk a quixotic sociologist and an opinionated copyeditor at the same table. Fun stuff, honest!).

    It wasn't until we got home that the BYM informed me that a neighborhood committee was going to congregate in our living room in an hour; this would be the living room I'd been treating as my writing/editing hut for the past week, with books and papers and napkins and socks everywhere. (Yes, socks. I have this tendency to get home and think I'm going to sit down for just a minute for a quick check, but then I get engrossed in writing and/or work, and then I want to get comfortable, so I end up kicking off my footwear so I can put my legs up on the sofa...) Cue Tasmanian-devil-style cleaning frenzy. (It's probably good he didn't tell me earlier, though, since I would have ended up fretting.)

    The to-do list remains fearsome, but most of it isn't due this week, so I have some hope of getting back into the swing of things (catching up on correspondence, seeing the floor of my study again, etc.). Seasonal scheming continues apace (with much glee), and I have (finally!) only two scenes left to write for my holiday exchange fic, so I'm hopeful I can send that puppy to the mod by the end of the week (provided my beta(s) are still speaking to me by the time they get through draft the nth) and then put in some serious time on (1) my upcoming Advent sermon, (2) assorted encyclopedia essays that need to be drafted sooner rather than later, and (3) the suite of poems I started while in Florida.

    First, though, the bank, and then the library, and then a couple more hours of billable work. Onward...
    bronze_ribbons: snapshot of me in standing bow (feather)
    Was up too late and up too early (in relation to the too-lateness, that is), and there was a rejection for two poems in my in-box when I opened it. And I don’t have enough left in the mental tank to get any new submissions out the door before midnight.

    On the other hand, I’m not sick yet, my beta-reader remains awesome, and there are other good things as well:

  • Receiving my copy and payment for On Our Way to Battle. (Thanks, [livejournal.com profile] samhenderson!)


  • The Library of Congress online card catalog and Amazon's look-inside-the-book feature. Vetting citations has never been easier...


  • The NYT’s article on Robert Fagles and his new translation of the Aeneid, and also that I noticed it because it happened to be #2 on the most-emailed list.


  • Songs from the Labyrinth is still delighting me during my commute and coffee breaks. It’s been reminding me both that Dowland is a hell of a songwriter and that Sting has that x-factor that separates okay musicians from those who have the knack of knowing when and how to bite off a phrase just so or stretchhh it out a second longer (I’m captivated by how he sings the word "eyes" two different ways in "Clear or cloudy" -- a very small detail, but it makes the performance for me.)

    I don’t happen to possess that x-factor when it comes to music or calligraphy – I’m okay at them on my good days, but I’m never going to be great at either. And it’s not nearly present enough during most of my efforts at writing, either -- but I have been gifted with a measure of it there, and when it does kick in, oh is that a good feeling. When instinct and training and practice manage to intersect such that I know I’ve locked the right words into the right order to make the reader laugh or gasp or suck in their breath in recognition – in those moments, I am myself most alive.


  • The sooner I get through my current deadlines, the sooner I can get back to leaving saucers out for the prowling half-truths and stinging rhythms (pace Viereck). Onwards, then.
    bronze_ribbons: snapshot of me in standing bow (Default)
    A kids' book author I know once worried that he might be on rocky ground with his characterization of a three-legged dog, so asked a group of children about it. "Wow," they squealed, "what about a one-legged dog?"

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    Some weeks, it just doesn't gel: started three letters while on election duty last week, and abandoned them all 2-3 pages in. Started a poem earlier today, but it's behaving like parachute material -- flappy in peculiar spots and dead flat on the grass otherwise.

    Even so, I've promised myself to get 500 words of sermon drafted tonight. I was trawling through Vassar Miller's If I Had Wheels Or Love for possible meditation texts just now, and these two poems stopped me in my tracks.

    Prudent / A Word to the Wise )
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    "Often, I believe a sonnet's about the right size for making things up." - Samuel Amadon, over at NoTell Motel.

    Not that I'm writing a sonnet at the moment. Eleven lines, though. Going to type up some notes, draft poem #2.5 for "Project 13 x 31," and then call it a night.
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    If you're curious about the contents of Becoming Fire, there's now a PDF with some excerpts from the book, including my poem "Rosh Hashanah."

    My mail this week included a box of "Artist's Challenges" from [livejournal.com profile] elisem (who's having a monster of a jewelry sale here, incidentally). For those of you not yet acquainted with Elise's schemes, what this means is that I now have a bundle of earrings and hair-jewelry that I've promised to incorporate into upcoming poems or stories or artwork. I'm not letting myself wear each piece until I produce a draft related to it, so that should get me cookin'.

    No Tell Motel's reading for their 2007 Bedside Guide (I'm in the 2006 anthology). The deadline is 30 June 2006, and I know some of you reading this have poems that might suit them.
    bronze_ribbons: snapshot of me in standing bow (feather)
    First, for those of you seeking a good laugh, may I steer you to Snape/Miss Piggy and Snape/CJ Cregg? Oh, the glee!



    Not yet sick, but still feeling on the verge of it. I even briefly contemplated making a garlic-potato smoothie, but I'm having lunch with a priest...




    Was skimming The 12 Bad Habits That Hold Good People Back (Waldroop and Butler) yesterday, having snicked it from my husband's office, having left my bookbag in the living room, having originally intended to come home for lunch... The first two chapters are on "never feeling good enough" and"seeing the world in black and white" (militant perfectionism); I can think of several people who might find them useful, and yes, I'm reminded of myself as well. This section stood out for me:


    Certain fencers are noted for their unwillingness to "give ground" during a match -- as if the outcome were measured by real estate gained, not wounds inflicted. Once they advance on the strip, they will never retreat in the face of a counterattack. They are easily disposed of by more skillful fencers. As a meritocrat you probably have an analogous tendency. Be aware of it (it can leave you, metaphorically, mortally wounded), and know when to give ground and live to fight another day. Remember, life is a long campaign, and if you risk death in every battle, your chances of fighting on and winning the war are slim.

    Guy Kawaski, best-selling author and former Apple Macintosh VP and evangelist, espouses the doctrine "Don't worry, be crappy." His point is that if your product or idea is at least ten times better than what came before (comparing even the very worse, most primitive toilet paper to leaves, for example), it is good enough to take to the market. Try to adopt a bit (if only a bit) of his attitude and just get things done.





    And, last but not least, [livejournal.com profile] schemingreader offered this lovely insight into why....:

    ...all creating is a process of editing, of selecting and rejecting. When you cook, you separate the vegetables from their peelings. You pick the ingredients to put them together. Every story is the sum of all the representations in your head (both words and images) that come of your real life experience and of the stories you've read.

    Which is why reading a lot of other books doesn't stop people from wanting to write their own stories.

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