Write Your Novel in Mad Libs!

Write Your Novel in Mad Libs!

George Orwell, in 1984 (one of my favorite books, and I’ll leave you to wonder what that says about moi), predicted many horrors that have come to pass: government spying, “enhanced interrogation,” and strangling political correctness.  The prediction that hasn’t come true – yet – is factory-produced fiction (Winston Smith’s lover, Julia, repairs “the novel-writing machines”).  But when I saw how the auto-correct capability on my iPhone changed “cyxt” to “Hi there,” I realized that this final abomination cannot be far away. My anxiety seemed even more justified last week when I read about the HemingwayApp: a program that will scan your prose for adverbs and the use of passive voice.  Not that we shouldn’t be able to do this for ourselves, but we used to grow our...

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How to Not Fit In but Not Care

How to Not Fit In but Not Care

THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN DIFFERENTBRAINS.COM ON AUGUST 4, 2016.
A few years ago my then-high-school-aged daughter asked me to buy her a laptop skin: It was an intricate drawing of bookshelves, featuring titles such as War and Peas and The Seven Pills of Wisdom.
When I saw it, I asked her if she’d mind if I bought one for my own laptop.
She minded.
But all things come to those who wait. I have my own copy now, because the same design is printed inside the covers of Colin Thompson’s new memoir, Fitting In. He didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to use it, either, because he’s the artist.

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Are We There Yet?

Are We There Yet?

(Yeah, eventually you have to hang it up.)

There is a profusion—nay, a glut, an excess, a veritable avalanche of books and instructors out there who will help you get started writing a novel.

I myself contributed to this surfeit with my book, imaginatively titled Get that Novel Started. I was so grateful for having overcome my own writer’s block with the help of a compassionate teacher that I wanted to spread the joy. I also wanted to pass on what that first teacher had drummed into my head: just get that first draft written.

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Fly the Hostile Skies

Fly the Hostile Skies

I don’t travel very often, so when I do I usually have the luxury of saying to myself, “Self,” (sez I) “you don’t need to write for these few days.”

But not always. And just occasionally, believe it or not, I want to do some writing when I’m out of town.

So I take my laptop and set it up in the hotel room or the nearest Starbucks, which is usually no more than five feet away.

There was also a time when I could work on a plane.

Last week I flew to Houston for a wedding. Surprisingly, a flight to Houston is almost four hours from SFO. That doesn’t make sense: If it’s five hours to New York, then shouldn’t it be two-and-a-half hours to Texas? It must have something to do with what my third grade teacher, Mrs. Ritter, taught us about how maps are misleading, because maps are flat and the earth is round.

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A Blind Date Every Day

A Blind Date Every Day

I keep blogging about how miserably, masochistically and unjustly hard writing is, blah blah, poor me, poor me.  Well, as Leslie Gore sang, “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.” But I had one of those miraculous moments today, one of those – dare I say? – epiphanies, one of those times when it’s all worthwhile, and darn it, I’m going to record it. Yes, I have been in a slump of late.  I play Hearts for twenty minutes before I even try to write, and it isn’t more than a sentence before I’m back to Hearts, if only to get revenge on Nicole, which would be North (the default setting on the computer) but I changed the come-with-the-computer settings (North, South, East, and West, South being moi) to make the game more interesting.  More interesting, yes, but not...

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Adair Lara Is Naked and Drunk

I’m not good at faking (more’s the pity) so I’m going to come right out and say that Adair Lara is a “close, personal friend of mine,” as a certain entertainer was famous for saying — and as I am quite proud to say in this case.   She was a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle for fifteen years which made her a local celeb.  I have gone about the city with her and watched strange women (not “odd” women, just women I don’t know) clasp her arm up to the elbow and effuse, “M-my God, you’re writing about my life!” Four years before leaving the Chronicle in 2005, Adair had published Hold Me Close, Let Me Go, a memoir of her daughter’s adolescence, with Broadways Books.  (She gives me...

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Jacquelyn Mitchard on Motherhood

I had the pleasure, this past February, of hearing Jacquelyn Mitchard speak at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference. I was glad that she was so inspiring because otherwise you could get darn intimidated: nine novels (at last count) and seven children (at last count). These numbers don’t include her books for young readers or her non-fiction. After Mitchard’s talk a woman asked, “What advice do you have for those of us who have young children and find it so taxing?” Mitchard’s response, “I think you’re trying to be too good a parent.” First, I know the “too good” parents she’s talking about: They’re the ones who try to make me feel guilty that I’m not chaperoning, baking, setting up, taking down, selling raffle tickets and generally following orders. Too often...

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