Friday, March 27, 2009

Charles Frazier

Good writing requires a certain level of life experience and worldly wisdom to be authentic. It's no wonder so many writers don't start writing, at least for publication, until later in life.

Charles Frazier, whose best-selling first novel, Cold Mountain, won the National Book Award in 1997, wrote:
"Like a lot of people, I tried to write some fiction when I was in my twenties -- college age, just after that. It didn't work out so well. I wasn't happy with what I did; it was sort of pretentious and technically pretty weak. So I put the idea away and decided that I was going to be an academic and that I would study other people's writing rather than write myself.
"But when I got to be forty, I started wanting to write again for some reason and found when I began doing it that what I was doing was very different from what I had done when I was twenty-five. I liked it better and was happier doing it, and it seemed to me to be worth doing suddenly. I think as you get older you get a sense of what is important in life and what is significant enough to write about."

Frazier was 47 when Cold Mountain was published.

Notice also that, by his own account, his early writing was product driven while the later was process driven. He talks about the results of the early writing (pretentious, technically weak), but of his mindset with his later writing (happier, worth doing).

A complete interview with Frazier is found at

Friday, March 13, 2009

M. Scott and E.A. Poe

Friday the 13th, an appropriate day for my favorite quote from The Office:

"I'm not superstitious. But I am a LITTLE stitious." —Michael Scott

And if you are a little stitious, you might appreciate a few thoughts -- witty, insightful and disturbing -- from Edgar Allan Poe:

"I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity."

"I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it."

"The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?"

"Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only at night."

"Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it 'the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul.' The mere imitation, however accurate, of what is in Nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of 'Artist.'"

"With me poetry has not been a purpose, but a passion."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


As I've probably written before, the imaginary Washington Post "Mensa Invitational" has circulated in e-mails for 12 years, and it also appears on countless Web sites. It may be an imaginary column, but it is humorous and it does contain actual word entries from the Post's "Style Invitational." The Style Invitational is a weekly contest for wordsmiths to respond to a different verbal challenge each week.

A few weeks ago the contest was to write a diary entry for people throughout history.

The winner was Jeff Brechlin of Egan, Minn., who wrote:
"June 20, '76: Working on draft of document for TJ. I've articulated two unalienable Rights -- Life, and the Pursuit of Happiness -- need a third. Well, it will come to me. -Sally"

Check out the Web site for yourself.