Friday, June 15, 2012

Writing Style Exposed

"Writing on the wood is prohibited."...
See the sign? "Writing on the wood is prohibited." (Photo: Nicolas Karim)
Yesterday I posted something new on Opinari Writers about my writing aims. I called it My Writing Style. I show how starting with a longer topic to trim it down helps clarify one's thoughts. Yet, letting everyone know exactly what you're aiming for can be a bit daunting, especially when it's so easy to get off track. Having a statement about style as a writer helps.  

The only way to grow in life and writing is to get out there and lay some things on the line, with careful personal barriers to keep it professional. The possibilities to practice writing for an audience and growing your audiences are as many as you can use over a long time. I keep learning more about digital tools and resources.

One favorite resource is Zemanta, a collector of article and photo data for free use. I turn to Zemanta almost every time I finish a new blog post. I try to read most related Zemanta "related articles" features that I select but lack time to read every sentence in all of them. It helps that the technology allows me to get the gist of each related work by a pop up of the beginning text when I point to it. The selected ones appear after the post, under "Related articles." 

I recently learned about LinkWithin, which chooses from other articles I've posted. LinkWithin's selections vary at the very end of the post pages, under "You might also like."   

What made me rethink what I had done in posting my writing style statement was what followed when I later investigated a Zemanta option I'd selected. It was from The Times (London) Literary Supplement (TLS), a column about style that I read and became so enthusiastic that I commented...on its comment block on-line. 

I think it's risky for an unknown American writer to send comments to established English writers. Our languages, American English and English...well, they are not the same. I learned this while living in Switzerland and working with TESL/TEFL/ESL teachers from Britain (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales in our group). On the occasional eating out together, I could not understand many words and phrases in their vocabulary. 'Felt lost, at times. (Did they do that on purpose? hm mm. No, I think not. They were a nice bunch.)

The chief reason I sort of squirmed after commenting today on the TLS article page is that I do not claim to be anything important in the areas I love to write about--history, literature, news, politics, philosophy, people, global issues, and so forth. I rely a lot on what I read as well as research. I make no claim to be an "important writer." I am an enthusiastic writer who also enjoys having research in the mix and connecting with somewhat like-minded or curious readers. 

I don't think, as some do, that it's annoying that "every Jane and Joe writes and self-publishes books and blogs and all sorts of stuff!" Good for them, I say. Nobody is forced to partake of their words.

We writers love, endure, and share stories, ideas, information...and selves. We  hope, by working at it, that we are improving in the skills and framing of our work to reach more interested readers.  
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What Russians Are Reading

English: TROITSE-LYKOVO, MOSCOW. Russian Presi...
English: MOSCOW. Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, at right. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Cover of "The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-195...
Cover via Amazon
The Capitain's Daughter, Alexander Pushkin
 (Photo credit: literaturarussa)

Russian books were big at BEA (Book Expo America) 2012 (read about BEA 2013). This reminds me of events following my stumble upon a site or networking group about "what Russians are reading." 

When I check stats for my blogs I notice returning visits from Russia. I do not get specific location information, yet knowing that much is a thrill. I am an admirer of Chekhov's stories, and others from years ago, such as Tolstoy and Pasternak. These are the Russian writers the average American would, I think, know about first. 

This has fit me regarding Russian writers, since in the 1970's a friend urged me to read her copy of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's writing about Soviet forced labor camps, first with First Circle (renamed and expanded: In the First Circle), and later The Gulag Archipelago (Russian: Архипелаг ГУЛАГ, Arkhipelag GULAG). 

At home, with young children, I felt the need to pay more attention to what was going on in the, then, Soviet Union and other parts of the world. Some books especially have the power to open our eyes and minds, as well as hearts. The trilogy gave much insight to readers of many language translations.   

Today I visited an online site featuring a 2011 book fair in Russia, and saw a video of men, women, and young people looking at and buying books. The young people seem to be intrigued with books as avid readers. Isn't that terrific? And they know the classical writers of their country, as well as being interested in Tolkien and Garcia Marquez, just two examples. Are we lagging behind their knowledge, in the U. S.?

One young girl said she enjoys "Bulgakov." I had not heard of this writer so I searched his name online. Here is an interesting quip: "In 1901 Bulgakov joined the First Kiev Gymnasium, where he developed an interest in Russian and European literature (his favourite authors at the time being Gogol, Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Saltykov-Shchedrin, and Dickens), theatre and opera." 

You can see how far the works of the caliber of Dickens have reached and how wide his influence, then and now.

We can be increasingly connected through literature in ways that our own words might not be able to express. When, for example, you hear that someone's favorite is one of yours, the connection is immediate. You feel that you know more about the person through his or her preferences in literature and books in general than you might in hours of non-literary discussion. 

There is more of it than we could ever explore of outstanding, long-standing books. I think we should make a point of reading more widely among the very best at the craft of stories, poetry, and history...whatever our favorite genres.

Note: Wikipedia's Russian language translation of Solzhenitsyn's title, above in the text, is used with respect; I visited Moscow and St. Petersburg in the 1990s, yet still the only Russian words that I know are "nyet" ('no') and "spaceba" (phonetic spelling of the word I think means 'thank you,' and possibly 'please,' and other meanings).  

Jean Purcell 6/5/12
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Knowing God

Words (Photo credit: tempestuousseas)

“Daily, quiet reflection on the Word of God as it applies to me becomes for me a point of crystallization for everything that gives interior and exterior order to my life,” wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer ....“Why do I meditate?” asks Bonhoeffer. “Because I am a Christian. Therefore, every day in which I do not penetrate more deeply into the knowledge of God’s Word in Holy Scripture is a lost day for me.” ...

from Barnes and Noble-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Meditating on the Word  

Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, June 1, 2012

Tornado Times

NEW YORK - AUGUST 27:  In this handout image p...
Hurricane watch, Atlantic Seaboard. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
tornado watch
tornado watch (Photo credit: BellaLago)
Tornado warning
Tornado warning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was about 10 years old I once hurried home from a long way, almost downtown. Someone had forgotten to pick me up from church at night, but I'd waited thinking they were just late. I let ride offers pass me by. 

Finally, before the church closed down (didn't think to look for someone and ask for a ride!), I set off on foot. It was raining so hard I could barely do more than hug myself and hold my head down. There were many, many neighborhood blocks to go. In the fast, pounding rain (I hope this seems as brave and dramatic as possible), I heard crashing thunder, and saw jagged flashes of lightning. (I really did!) They did their drama on, over, and around me. Eventually, I felt so sopping wet and shivery that I took shelter on a house porch about a block from home. I knocked on the front door of some sisters who were friends of my mother, who let me in quickly, although probably astonished by the sight of me. I had not even had a sweater to put over myself. Poor thing. I felt so proud, later of course, having been through such an adventure.  

I report this now to make the point that what is "bad weather" to me has to be scarier than hard rain accompanied by sparks and loud noises. These days news people love to get excited about "bad weather," and that can lead to some funny outcomes and exaggerations. For example, did you ever see the network reporter supposedly broadcasting in little boat on a terribly flooded land location? She was actually reporting live when someone's black rubber boots went walking by in the foreground, between the broadcasting camera and the journalist. Her boat had to have been resting on a road or on land hit by no deeper than a rowboat exterior-bottom of water. I hope she took the teasing well. The shock on her face, when she realized what had happened, truly spoke more than a thousand words. 

However, bad weather warnings for tornado watches are not to be ignored, nor is a storm warning. And there is a real storm warning, actually a tornado warning, in my county right now. As I write. We are not sure that we should believe the news, but the Weather Channel got our attention, and we will not stay on the upper level of the house. We've moved to the lower level of the house and have flashlights at the ready...well, downstairs when we're not running upstairs to get a book or a blanket, in case.

I'll update later, but for now things seem fine here in the basement with the laptop, the news, flashlights, and supper in the oven upstairs. It'll be ready in a few minutes if the electricity holds out.

Update: Crisis passed almost uneventfully last night. Electricity left us for a little while, enough time for playing shadow figures on the ceiling with flashlights and fingers, to tell a few jokes with hazy punchlines, one short story, and then...Lights on. Today is gorgeously sunny.
  (c) 2012
Enhanced by Zemanta