25 gifts for writers that they'll actually use, 50 books for foodies, A Moveable Feast, dictionary toms, drunk writing, Ernest Hemingway, four reasons to write the hell out of 2013, Ideas Behind Fiction, Ploughshares, Slow Sunday Reads, The Millions, the writing life
Many apologies for missing last Sunday’s Slow Sunday Jam for reading and lazing about on your Sunday! There was food to be eaten, walks to be taken, things to be sewn, and an unfortunate bout of insomnia thanks to an epic sound system next door (which my neighbor quickly and politely fixed).
Anyway, amid all of that holiday hubbub, I was still reading, and I’m very excited to share a few bits of reading with you for your enjoyment.
In my non-Internet reading this week, I finished A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. His feast is not only that of food and drink, but also of experience, of writing, and of living in Paris. The book is as much about the food he eats and the beverages he drinks as it is about his growing into the type of writer he would become. It was inspiring, and it made me think a lot about my own writing practice, about the ways I address my creative life, the respect I give it, and the ways I can improve it.
And frankly, here’s the thing: I’ve never had much patience for Hemingway. (I know. Whatever.) I always felt like he was held up as this mythic writer who drank all the time and managed to write anyway, and too often we were/are seduced by this image of alcohol-soaked Papa sitting at a bar in Key West, listening to music and scribbling (of course) genius ideas onto cocktail napkins. I always felt distaste for that myth, and so I rejected Hemingway.
This was a mistake. And A Moveable Feast showed me the fallacy behind that image. I grew to respect Hemingway as a writer, and I found myself looking to him for advice, the way other writers did in those days (at least to his recollection of things).
So in the spirit of all this writerly goodwill and education, I submit a few articles on the writing life for you to enjoy:
- In Finding Neverland, J.M. Barrie’s wife confesses to him that she always imagined that writers went off to magical lands where ideas hung around like leaves on trees. He tells her no such place exists, and she tells him he’s wrong. It’s Neverland. I always loved that scene because of its quiet power, but also because both of them are right – there is no such place, but if there were such a place, it would be limited to imagination and wonder and magic. Toni Jordan’s essay in The Millions, “Sparks to Make a Flame: On the Ideas Behind Fiction” addresses a similar query: where does a writer’s ideas come from, and how on earth can a writer possibly answer that question? Her response is lovely. Favorite quote (difficult to choose – there are many good ones): “Write what is going to keep you awake at night; write what you don’t understand; write to figure something out. Good novels are journeys into the unknown, for their authors as well as their readers.”
- It’s very easy to declare a break from writing for the holidays. Almost no one will judge you for it. It’s even easier to accidentally take a break from writing for the holidays, getting caught up in shopping, celebrations, parties, cooking, movie-watching, and any number of other things. But Ploughshares gives a few compelling reasons to write our hearts out for the remainder of 2013, compelling enough to keep me stoking the fire, snatching up bits of writing time where I can.
- Have you started holiday shopping yet? If you have a writer in your life, The Millions has a great list of 25 gifts for writers that they’ll actually use. The highlights? Subscription to Journal of the Month, manicures, clothing with literary print, and pets.
- Yeah, yeah, yeah, every writer you know already has the Toms with dictionary quotes printed on them or the Pride and Prejudice scarf and hand-warmers! What writers never have enough of is books! (Said no one ever.) But if books are your preferred route of gifting writers, here’s a list of 50 essential novels for foodies.