Saturday, April 28, 2012

Another Error

I try to be perfect, especially when submitting my work to agents or publishers.  But look what I found in my query letter

When he reaches the point of despair and lashes out at God, who then comes to him in power and cleanses him.

I hope they don’t think that I cannot write a complete sentence!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Avoiding Mistakes

I wish I could avoid mistakes, but the more I try the512px-Bahia_Honda_FL_old_bridge03 more mistakes appear on the page.  If I didn’t have a spell checker, you would see all of my mistakes.   There are several things you can do with mistakes.  First, the most obvious:  correct them.

Oh, if only we could.  Sometimes our life mistakes do irremediable harm.  If you kill someone, you cannot unkill them.   If you burn a priceless piece of art or destroy a sculpture, the result is art forever lost.

Two years ago, my dog broke my ring finger (due to my mistake, but that is the story for another day).  An artisan had created my silver wedding ring.  On the day following the break, the ring had to be cut from my finger.  Now, two years later, my finger is the size it will always be and I want to have the ring repaired, but I cannot find it.  All I know is that I put it somewhere in my house, but not with my other jewelry.  A mistake, but one that will be remedied someday when I clean house and find the missing ring. 

I, and others, make mistakes when we write.  Whether we’re writing a novel, a short story, an essay, or a poem, a word out of position can seriously damage a sentence.  Consider the following:

  1. She ate 3 bagels.
  2. She ate only 3 bagels.
  3. Only she ate 3 bagels.
  4. She ate 3 bagels only.
  5. She never ate 3 bagels.

The second sentence indicates that there were more than 3 bagels but she limited herself to 3, or that she was accustomed to eating more, but limited herself.  The third sentence tells us that the others ate a greater number or fewer bagels than she did, and the fourth tells us that she ate nothing other than three bagels.  The fifth may be ambiguous.  Did she eat one or two bagels?  Did she eat 4 or more bagels?  All we know is that she did not eat 3.  The change of one word, changes the entire meaning.

An improper word can crush a Facebook friend or Twitter follower or cast someone in a bad light.  For an example follow the story of the death of Trayvon Martin.  Perhaps inflated by the press, the story has many people ready to have George Zimmerman convicted without a trial.  They call him a criminal, when no court has yet determined whether what occurred is a crime and whether he is guilty.

Did George Zimmerman make an irremediable mistake or did he intend to kill Trayvon Martin?  That is what the law must decide. 

What it all comes down to is how do we deal with mistakes?  Do we punish ourselves for our own mistakes, both great and trivial?  Do we punish others? 

I don’t have all the answers, but I have a couple of words:  mercy and grace.  I am grateful that God, in his grace and mercy, does not hold my mistakes against me.  Yes, there are consequences.  An agent might ignore my novel after seeing my mistakes.  A reader may stop reading.  But I don’t stop writing and I don’t stop living, because as long as I live I will make mistakes, and by God’s mercy and grace I keep going.

I ask for justice for Trayvon Martin, whatever form that justice may take.  I ask for mercy for George Zimmerman, that his hasty act does not ruin another life.  I ask God to grant grace and mercy to both families and all affected by this tragedy.

I pray, also, that we can set aside the minor mistakes that we and others make and give grace and mercy to ourselves and others.  And if you find any mistakes in my blog, it’s OK.  I know I make them, but this is only a blog and a mistake here and there is permissible.
















By Ebyabe (Own work) [GFDL (

Monday, April 16, 2012

Art for Art’s Sake


One of my favorite undergraduate film professors was Mojmir Drvota.  In his classes he often referred to plastic art, which meant visual art that was not literature, music, or film.  That term jarred my mind, because as a Film major plastic was not something I associated with any form of art other than film.   I recently did a web search for Mojmir Drvota (who died in 2006), to see if I could find out more.  I found little except some references to text books he had written and films he had produced.  He was a professor in the Department of Photography and Cinema (which no longer exists) at The Ohio State University.  He was a native of Czechoslovakia (which no longer exists), who produced films about the Nazi horror.  But for me, he was one of the most interesting professors I studied under during my undergraduate years. 

When I sat in on a Reubens seminar, I made the distinction.  Photography and Cinema was more a craft than an art.  The difference between Reubens and other painters who worked with raw elements but achieved a result that was more than a sum of the parts, and a filmmaker or printmaker who worked with static 2-dimensional images was, in a small way, like the difference between the Creator who is the originator and designer, and the creature who can only manipulate what is already created. 

Philosophical discussions about plastic arts and other visual arts can wait.  Here are some examples of art from my favorite living plastic artists.  I own their prints or hope to own them at some time in my life.  I am the one who always is

Tim Botts is a calligrapher who combines words with art in exciting ways that make the words sing.  I have several of his prints.  Most hang in my cabin.  The one you see here is in my dining room because I wanted to look at it every day:

Smadar Levine is a fabric artist using colors reminiscent of Marc Chagall. She builds fabric hangings of depth and feeling. I cannot afford her original work, nor do I have anywhere large enough to display it. I have a print from one of her large fabric hangings. That print hangs in my entry hall. She does not have it on her website, but here is one that is similar:

Cornelis Monsma is an expressionist painter. His works are based on the Bible. He is a prolific painter. I don’t like every painting, but there is usually one from each month that I would like to hang in my home. I have not yet decided which one to purchase. Here is one example of his work:

Who are your favorite contemporary artists?  Who has had the greatest artistic influence on you?   

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Why Creative Writing?

Why do I do it?  That’s a question with several answers. 

  • I write because I read books that gave me direction.  I read many books but two books in particular creative writinginfluenced me to start writing again.  Yes, again.  I had stopped writing anything but my business newsletter.  The books that inspired me are not writing books, nor are they books that will necessarily inspire you to write, but they might help with another need in your life.

The first, by Luci Shaw, is a book that can be explained by the title.  If you live life too cautiously, what are you missing? 

The Crime of Living Cautiously: Hearing God's Call to Adventure

  The next, is a completely different sort of book.


Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion

Leading on Empty focuses on burnout, specifically the story of one pastor’s burnout and what he learned and what changes result from that time in his life.  One of the questions the book asked me was what do you want to be doing in 20 years.  My considered response:  I want to write.  Somewhere along the way in life, I had a dream to write, but it was pushed aside for other things.  This book prompted me to resurrect the dream. 

  • I write because a dream without action is a dream unfulfilled.  No, I am not a full-timer writer now, but I may be in 10 years . . . or not.  What I am doing now is acquiring the tools and techniques I need to be a better writer, and practicing.  Practice does not insure success, but those who succeed never do so without practice.  Practice has ancient precedent:

Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15, AKJV. (Emphasis added.)

Practice also has modern support.

Outliers: The Story of Success
  • I write because I have trouble finding books that I want to read.  Writers are told to write the book they want to read.  I find so few books that I want to read that I started writing my own.  And now that I’ve started writing, I have also started reading books I never would have read in the past and many of those authors encourage me to write and write better.  Two novels which fit that criteria are:


Bel Canto (P.S.)


  • I write because I want answers to questions.  I ask a lot of questions.  Why did he do that?  What was going through her mind?  What happened to cause this event, that action?  I sit and think about the answers and sometimes that takes me in the direction of a story or an essay.


  • I write because I am curious, although maybe that’s the same thing as wanting questions answered.  Curiosity, however, leads me to explore areas in which I formerly held no interest.  I want to know how things work.  I want to know more than I do now.  That’s why I’m reading commentaries and trail guides and dissertations, why I’m buying books on horses in the 9th century BC, and why I read geology books, and archaeology books, and wild flower and insect books.

Here are a few of those: 

The Horseman of Israel: Horses and Chariotry in Monarchic Israel

Butterflies of North America (Kaufman Field Guides)
Forager`s Harvest A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, And Preparing Edible Wild Plants [PB,2006]
Roadside Geology of Ohio (Roadside Geology Series) (Roadside Geology Series)
National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders & Related Species of North America
Archaeology and the Old Testament

What motivates you?  I like hearing what causes others to change direction.  Send me your comments. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Titles to Remember

As I sat down to rethink my book’s title, I asked myself, “What makes a title memorable.”  As I now sit here pondering that thought, I realize that the titles I remember best are from the books that meant the most to me.  Titles like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Millions of Cats, The Door into Summer, the Wind in the Willows, Exodus, Renovation of the Heart, and others.  Some are memories from childhood, others from my adult years, and certainly I can remember the book I am currently reading,

Bel Canto (P.S.)

This book has a great title.  Even though I haven’t finished it, I can tell you that it accurately suggests the theme, pacing, and longings of the characters.

What titles do you remember?  What title ideas would you suggest for my book, currently titled Eli’s Scrolls:  The Search?  I’m not in love with that title but everything else sounds equally lame.

Chronicles of Eli sounds like a fantasy.  Eli’s Quest also sounds that way.  Some authors take titles from a line in the book or a theme.  How about From Fire to Fire, Consuming Fire, Redeeming Fire.  Those are from a poem I use to introduce Part 2 of the novel:  Little Gidding by T.S. Eliot.  There’s also another title that could be pulled from that poem: The Unfamiliar Name.

On another bent, I titled an essay Bending the Soul, from Robert Browning’s Poem, Rabbi Ezra.  For my novel, I could use Bending Eli, Eli’s Bent, or Bending Fire or am I now grasping at straws, and silly straws at that?

What about a non-English title.  Shema Israel, or something similar?  Like my writing page on Facebook and request the link to my book’s first 3 chapters.  Then tell me what title you’d pick for it.  You’re sure to come up with some better ideas because I’ve struggled with titles since high school.

Happy hunting!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Books You Shouldn’t Read When. . .

There are times in life when it is inadvisable to read books with certain themes.  Yesterday, while sitting with my dying mother, I read a novel where death was all too real.  At any other time in my life I would have no problem reading that book.  However, with the all too real dying in my own world, reading about someone else’s death experience is not helpful.

Alright, I knew it was coming.  There was sufficient foreshadowing, but I kept going.  I have a problem putting down a book when I have passed the halfway point.  And that’s where I was when I knew death in the text was imminent.  So I plowed through to the end, interrupting my tears to attend to my mom each time she called for me.

Read the first three chapters of my own historical novel.  Eli’s Scrolls: The Search.    It’s appropriate for any time of life.  Like it on Facebook---when you do I’ll send you a link to the first three chapters. Is it something you want to put down or something you want to keep reading?  Please send me your comments.

And for the book that made me cry. . . read it and weep.

Stiltsville: A Novel (P.S.)