17 October 2011

How a Pulitzer Prize Winner Writes and Gobsmacked Blog Awards

“It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.”
Steve Jobs (RIP fellow buccaneer)
Me Hearties!!
            What a few weeks it’s been. I’ve been to Wordstock, am creatin’ a writin’ workshop to present on Tuesday, and finished writin’ the last chapter of me novel. Ai! The last chapter. Nye, it’s not the end. I’ve plenty to do in the finishing stages (more on that in a later blog), but I have popped a celebratory champagne cork with my critique group. I’m an ardent believer in rewards at every stage!

A Pulitzer Prize Winner Writes by Hand?

            Most fascinating author at the Wordstock Literary Festival? Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan. She spoke about pushing the limit of form in fiction and working outside the three-act structure or hero’s journey models.
            And, ai, this Pulitzer Prize winner writes by hand. I be gobsmacked.
            She writes a first draft by hand and then enters the draft into her computer, not stopping to do any editing or changes. After she has the computer draft, she makes an outline of what she’s written with extensive notes. She is a “Seat of the Pantser” writer, or as I prefer to call it an “Wild and Organic” writer, writing whatever comes up in her first draft, not stopping so she doesn’t kill any good ideas or the flow of her imagination. She said she never writes from her own life.
            With her novel The Keep, she had this as a working title, which I found hilarious: A Short Bad Novel. Writers often have a working title for their novels as the best titles come from the writing of the beast.
            Her Pulitzer Prize winning novel Welcome to the Good Squad ended up echoing a concept album with sides A and B. Linked short stories that thematically dealt with the music producing world. When her publisher wanted her to decide what to put on the book—novel or short story collection—she said neither because she wanted the reader to make that distinction. It killed hardback sales. So on the paperback, she had them put “novel.”
            Jennifer discusses what inspired her and how the "novel" came about:

            At Wordstock, Jennifer, when asked by the moderator what she thought about meta-fiction and deconstruction devices that break the usual form of fiction, she made this point: breaking form has been going on forever. She used Middlemarch as an example, calling its form “flexible and odd.” I’d never thought of that before, but it be true.
            I wandered around the booths and tables at Wordstock, keeping me nose to the noticeable and that led to a number of tables that spawned tales for next time, so you’ll have to wait for those.

            I also met an old friend Diane Prokop who moved to Portland, and she’s now blogging reviews of books. She’ll be covering Anne Enright, Craig Thompson (graphic novelist), Justin Torres, Sebastian Barry (Irish playwright, novelist, and poet) and many more. Check out her site here.

Gobsmacked Awards & Paying Them Forward

            Avast! All me life, I’ve had an aversion to awards. Every award or honor seemed to be attached to someone else’s rules and an opposing force that sunk the happiness. I don’ mean ta be snivelin’, just honest. On the same day in high school just before being inducted into the National Honor Society, I was put on detention for going outside to my boyfriend’s car to tell him not to park where he was parking. He was there to attend the awards ceremony.
            When I was told I would be Valedictorian of our class, I lost both Valedictorian and Salutorian honors to two secretarial-prep students. I don’t belittle their academic status, only they didn’t take physics, trig, Latin, French, chemistry, et. al. for university track.
            Ai, I need to rid meself of this bilge and hold me pirate head up high when someone gives me an award, so I go forth with a new attitude and graciously accept both the Stylish Blogger Award and the Versatile Blogger Award.

Thanks, Julie!
            I don't know Julie Farrar of “Traveling Through …” personally, so receiving these awards from her is an even greater honor. After only ten months of writin’ me blog, I'm even more gobsmacked at the awards. About Gobsmacked she said, “I love her title. And I love her love of Paris and the Pacific Northwest. And I love her pirate talk.”
            Huzzah! to you Julie and a tip o’ me hat. And in accordance with the rules of receiving these awards, I offer seven doubloons of truth about me.

1) I don’t like black licorice or lima beans.
2) I’m a lifetime member of the American Legion Auxiliary because it means so much to my mom.
3) I am proudly a former back-to-the-land-style hippie who has now embraced what I call a bohemian French lifestyle.
4) Although I’m not into sports, I believe that sports keeps us from waging even more wars than we do.
5) I was trained in ballet even though I’m 5’9” and am not svelt. I also learned tap, jazz and baton twirling. When young, I marched and twirled baton in Memorial Day parades.
6) My first crush was on a boy named Punk. True!
7) I’m a Gemini with a Capricorn moon, Pisces rising, Venus in Cancer, Mars in Gemini and Jupiter in Aries. That means I’m grounded, am in my head a lot, and am tuned into the collective unconscious. The luck planet of Jupiter being in Aries gives me an edge.

To Those I Admire
            As a captain who recognizes the steadfast and necessary work of others, I hoist me flag to these five blogging captains and bestow the same awards on them, for style, because they each have their own, and for versatility because they are:

Captain Barbara Sullivan of the ship The Solace of Lowered Expectations.
            If we all sailed under her compassionate care and intelligent insight, we’d rid the world of numerous ailments. For those who need guidance, both in life and in writing.

Captain Kristin Lamb of the ship Warrior Writers.
            I’m certain Kristin has won these awards too many times to count, but I don’t care. She’s a buccaneer of the first order in the way she keeps every writer’s ship afloat. No shrinking violet or shaking in her boots, not this pirate! She gives us the necessary guidance to fly our flags as authors. 

Captain Lesley Howard of the ship The Art of Practice
            Lesley’s new blog deals with “a woman’s reflection on the chronic chaos” of writing and parenting. Ai! And she deftly ties the lessons of one to the other in ways only a true creative mind and heart can.

Captain Anne Schroeder of the ship Anne Schroeder’s Author Blog
            “A Baby Boomer writer's insights into the challenges of life as wife-mother-daughter-writer-dreamer-homemaker-reader-doer of all things. Humor and Inspiration.” She receives the awards for her bravery and honesty for reinventing herself.

Captain Samantha Stacia of the ship The Blooming Late Journal
            For having the Adams blood coursing through her pirate’s veins. We must never be afraid to speak up, to try to enlighten the world about serious matters while doing other work, such as Samantha’s good work of helping bloggers build their world.

Who Guessed My Muse’s Name?

Give a hearty Huzzah! to MaryJo Comins! She guessed the name of my muse: Sparrow.

            Sparrow, of course, is named after Jack Sparrow. Sparrow mimics Jack in being eccentric and loving the pirate life, although she’s walks more like Marianne Faithful than Keith Richards. Like all birds, she’s flighty. She hangs around the ship as long as there are no strong winds and she’s in the mood. In other words, I can’t always count on her, so I must carry on without her at times. But she’s incredibly creative and inspiring when she’s focused.

            Stay on board for in a few weeks I’ll be introducing The Buccaneer Award.

            Until then, Ahoy! Carry on, and remember to do honor to the pirate code. For more on that, take heed of Captain Jack’s Pirate Hats Fame. He and his family follow this code of honor: http://www.captjackspiratehats.com/apirateslife.htm
Unlike their raping and pillaging ancestors, these modern-day pirates are focused on giving back via art, entertainment, culture, charity, and living history.

Me very best to you, maties,
Captain Val

Coming Up!
NEXT WEEK! Interview with Jan Eliot, creator of Stone Soup—and it’s a good one!
What It Takes to be a Writer (besides a serious masochistic streak!)
When a Research Trip to Paris Goes Aground


Kelly Hashway said... [Reply to comment]

Congrats on your awards!

Valerie Brooks said... [Reply to comment]

@Kelly HashwayThanks, Kelly! I'm just happy that I'm reaching people and they're finding my blogs inspiring, entertaining or useful.

Samantha Stacia said... [Reply to comment]

You were a shoe in for those awards! That pirate talk makes me smile,especislly coming from a lady!I love that streak of playfulness, Captn Jack would be proud and I love that character too-actually dated a guy once that reminds me a lot of him actually! lol Keep up the good work!
Thank you slso for naming me in your awards,it's nice to be among such good blogs as those!

Valerie Brooks said... [Reply to comment]

@Samantha StaciaThanks, Samantha! We all need a little playfulness in these times. Lucky you to date someone who reminded you of Jack. Then again, maybe not?
You can drag the photo of the blog to your desktop, then upload them to your blog.
Thanks for commenting. And commenting on Barb's blog. She's amazing, isn't she?

Valerie Brooks said... [Reply to comment]

@FROM LORI ORSER VIA WOMEN WRITING THE WESTI too enjoyed your post, Valerie (aarg, matey!). Jenifer Egan is a fascinating writer, for sure. And I feel that sometimes we need to push boundaries in order to be true to ourselves and our story. I was also delighted to find another writer who writes her first draft by hand, on a yellow legal pad!!! (Although sometimes I buy the gray or mixed pastel pads; the yellow ones can induce migraines. Yeah, I'm weird.) I'm no luddite, but it just flows better from my pen than from my keyboard. (Of course, revisions are SO much easier on the computer!)

I realize that I probably won't be writing like Jenifer; she has such unique style and voice that my work wouldn't fit it. I'll also probably never win a Pulitzer Prize, since I suspect most of my work will be genre paperbacks (hopefully a trade paperback, eventually, or even a hardcover!). But that interview is something worth seeing. Y'all, if you missed it the first time, go back to Digest 4126 and read Valerie's blog! Valerie's writing is equally fascinating, and truly fun! I couldn't leave a message either, Valerie, so I guess this is my comment on it!

Valerie Brooks said... [Reply to comment]

@JULIE WESTON VIA WOMEN WRITING THE WESTEnjoyed your blog, Valerie. Since few of my posts ever get posted, I am
commenting here. Congratulations on the awards you received!

Valerie Brooks said... [Reply to comment]


My novel has been restructured totally and arduously and with tears for the parts I have to kiss good bye to, but I think now with a ton of writing it will actually work. I AM FINALLY EXCITED about it!!! I like my characters, I think they are real and the action grabs. (Sorry, I know this shouldn't be about me, but I had to tell someone and my outrageously solitary life limited that someone to you. The price you pay for the blog:-)

Anne Schroeder said... [Reply to comment]

Valerie, I am honored to be gobsmacked for my blog. You are a supportive and creative writer with gobs of blog taste! (And men taste!) I love Johnny Depp in all his roles, Sparrow most of all.

I'll follow you to the gallows, mate. Gotta run now and post my own blog about gal friends and road trips.

Valerie Brooks said... [Reply to comment]

@Anne Schroeder Ai, Miss Anne, 'tis an honor to be sailin' wi' ye. Now if we can only get that Johnny on board!
Thanks for ya comment, mate. Onward to more adventures.

Kirsten Steen said... [Reply to comment]

Whoo hoo! Congratulations on the awards and to those they went on to. So many blogs to check out, so little time. And so very sorry to have missed the line up at Wordstock! I am always amazed at how much you keep up with and as another said, how very supportive you are to other writers! We are grateful for the beacon from your prow through the ever foggy, salty horizon!

Valerie Brooks said... [Reply to comment]

@Ms. K @ Write On Thyme And you are one of the reasons it's all worth while. Thanks, mate, for kind words and sailin' with me. Maybe next year we'll take a whole boatload of buccaneers to Wordstock, make it a big adventure and huge fun. Yes, so many blogs, so little time. And thanks for keeping me in touch with our beloved Paris.

Lesley Howard said... [Reply to comment]

Val, hope this isn't a day late and a dollar short, but THANK YOU for including http://artofpractice.com in your awards :) I'm overwhelmed with keepin' the proverbial decks swabbed this fall but if I ever get the second mates to bed before I conk out myself, I'll be browsin' your picks first and foremost!