Joseph Carrabis On The Importance Of Literature In Modern Society

Roshan Bhodekar, author and publisher of the international, Madrid, Spain-based newspaper, Transcontinental Times, approached me to do an interview.

Grateful, yes, and appreciative, definitely, but I’m nothing special. Why interview me?

“Because your writing influences and inspires people. It’s important. Especially in modern society.”

Umm…okay. I don’t think of it that way, and okay.

A month later and with a few back and forths between the reporter assigned the interview and myself, you can read the interview at Joseph Carrabis On The Importance Of Literature In Modern Society.

My proposition is a simple one; you can best educate people if you entertain them. Few people remember high school algebra even a year after graduation because (when I attended high school) it was the most boring class imaginable. (anybody remember that great line from Peggy Sue Got Married regarding high school math?)

But I still remember Mrs. Hudon’s sophomore math class because she made it fun. Synthetic Division, anyone? Solving linear equations, folks?

She had a keen sense of her students and made the class interesting even on hot, muggy days when the windows were open and there wasn’t a breeze to be found.

So entertain your audience. Keep them engaged. Keep them wanting more. Keep them interested in what you’re sharing with them. Ask them questions to get them to ask questions of their own, to you, your work, and each other.

In short, get people to learn by getting them to care. Make your subject important to who they are, who they want to be. Why do most people forget books they’ve read once they’ve closed the cover? Because the book has no meaning to them, it’s a blowoff read. Sometimes such reads provide wonderful mental vacations but a steady diet of them leaves one weak and wanting, me thinks.

Roshan noticed my work affects people – or attempts it – and asked me about it. The interview is the result.

Take a read and enjoy.

And let us know what you think.

Natalie Goldberg’s “Wild Mind”

Natalie Golberg’s Wild Mind is another book I purchased 25-30 years ago and left on my shelf while life happened. I picked it up this month and am grateful I kept it around.

I previously reviewed Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones”, gave it high marks, and Wild Mind is another keeper, although a book I’d only recommend to writers already committed to their craft.

Like Writing Down the Bones and Dorothea Brande’s “Becoming a Writer”, Wild Mind is about the experience of writing and how to make that experience more fluid, dynamic, rewarding, and fruitful. There are some craft do’s and don’t’s at the end of the book and you can find similar do’s and don’t’s in most craft and technique books (and also in many of my StoryCrafting posts).

The book itself is a cornucopia of writing exercises designed to make you think differently when you write. Note that; not how to write differently but how to think differently when you write. Goldberg is a stickler for “your work, your style, your voice” and doesn’t want to change that.

Instead she offers exercises to free up your crafting to be more unique, more inventive, more exciting, more readable, and ultimately, more you.

Her forte is what I’d call “Ten Minute Drills.” For example, write “I remember” at the top of a page and spend ten minutes writing about what you remember. Easy enough. Now write “I don’t remember” and go for another ten minutes. Now your mind goes wild (and hopefully your writing follows). What don’t you remember? What have you forgotten? When you’re not walking down memory lane you’re traversing the paths of imagination. Find out where they take you.

Other drills teach you how to tame your inner critic (haven’t met an author yet who doesn’t have one) and how to set free your inner cheerleader (haven’t met an author yet who doesn’t need one).

Good stuff and strongly recommended.

He stands naked in a ditch.

I mentioned back in Four pieces for a workshop I’m taking an online writing course. I’m sharing the exercises from that class in that post, Two Pieces for a Workshop, and in Four (Other) Pieces for a Workshop. This post is from the last class in that series. Here we were given “He stands naked in a ditch.” as a prompt and asked to create an atmospheric flash piece/tone poem from it.

I came up with the following 54 word piece.

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There is a sense of peace and charity when one sees The Wild comfortable and safe.

It is rare for them, you know.

There is no such thing as deep sleep in The Wild. In a world filled with predator and prey, deep sleep is dangerous.

Even we, modern humans, could not enter deep sleep until relatively recently in our evolutionary and cultural history. Children could enter deep sleep but once they became ambulatory, such relaxations were out, forgotten, denied.

Must keep watch. From animal predators originally; large cats, bears, carnivorous flightless birds, wolves and similar roving pack dogs, boars, … Sheltering in trees meant you had to be awake enough to catch yourself if you rolled off the branch. Eventually humans realized shelters were a good thing, but that also meant predators went from hungry animals to other humans who wanted your shelter, your children, your mate, …

Even now-a-days, truly deep sleep is a luxury few allow themselves. Nancy Reagan said she kept a small revolver in her nightstand in case anyone broke in.

Good for her, and that meant she either slept little or extremely lightly; she’d end up shooting Ron on his way back from the lou otherwise.

Such deep, dreamful sleep is not seen often in The Wild.

So when we see an animal, Hester the raccoon is an example, being restful and at peace, munching away, having a sip or two of water, we rejoice.


Kit Reed’s “Revision”

I first read Kit Reed’s Revision (probably) four years ago. It was one of the first books I read when I decided to spend the rest of my life writing. I dogeared two pages.

I finished my second read about a week ago (as I write this). The book is a mess of dogeared pages.

It’s amazing how much more Kit Reed put into this book in four years, don’t you think?

Extra Effort Closes the Distance between You and Your Audience.

The entirety of the book comes down to Reed’s Rule Six: Extra Effort Closes the Distance between You and Your Audience.

Whenever you come to a moment of hesitation, unsurety, confusion, skimming, general off-ness, stop, figure out what’s not working, and fix it.

And Reed also provides a caution; Recognize when it’s done and let it go. There’s lots of examples of recognizing when something’s let-goable and when something isn’t. The one that hit me smack between the eyes is “Whenever you come to a moment of hesitation, unsurety, confusion, skimming, general off-ness, stop, figure out what’s not working, and fix it.”

I am training myself to do that. Too many times I’d read something and need to reread it, figure it out on the second take and decide it was okay.


Reed also offers several question lists to help you in your own revising. Early in the book Reed poses twelve questions so you can learn if you’re open to revision. Don’t know about others, I found it revealing (especially when invoking Reed’s suggestion to be strict (unforgiving) with your answers).

Another duh! list early in the book (pg 39) deals with determining if your work (and others, too, if you’re in a critique group) is ready to go out. Reed suggests writers/authors/writer-wannabes read for:

  1. Truth in action
  2. Accessibility
  3. Completeness
  4. Time scheme
  5. Point of view
  6. Length (with an eye to possible cutting)
  7. Organization
  8. And, once again, balance of showing versus telling. (Reed’s words, this, not mine)

Unsure what some of those mean? Read the book.

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