Monday, December 14, 2015

Book Review: Diamonds Discovered in BIG MAGIC: Creative Living Beyond Fear... by Elizabeth Gilbert

New book by the author of Eat, Pray, Love is getting lots of attention.

I didn’t read it so much for the grand theory of creativity (which it offers) as for the fun to be found in its narrative.

Big Magic delivers a good time.

I read it the way tourists hunt diamonds in the roadside mines of Arkansas - occasionally finding sparklers to carry home.

Here, then, are four gems by way of review:

Elizabeth Gilbert describing fellow poet, now deceased, Jack Gilbert:

He became a poet the way other men become monks: as a devotional practice, as an act of love, and as a lifelong commitment to the search for grace and transcendence.

Elizabeth Gilbert revealing a bit of herself and her brush with inspiration:

Most of my writing life, to be perfectly honest, is not freaky, old-timey, voodoo-style Big Magic.... Most of it is not fairy dust in the least.... But sometimes it is fairy dust. Sometimes, when I’m in the midst of writing, I feel like I am suddenly walking on one of those moving sidewalks that you find in a big airport terminal; I still have a long slog to my gate, and my baggage is still heavy, but I can feel myself being gently propelled by some exterior force.

Elizabeth Gilbert describing the books she has written:

That’s what my books are to me: souvenirs of journeys that I took, in which I managed (blessedly) to escaper myself for a little while.

And, finally, Elizabeth Gilbert saying this:

If greatness should ever accidentally stumble upon you, let it catch you hard at work.

Every once in a while, reading Big Magic, you find gem stones like these. Put them in your pail as I did. Carry them home. Savor your memory of the good time you had in their discovery.

:o )

Thursday, December 3, 2015

On the Importance of Reading (and Writing) Bad Books

Tongue Slightly in Cheek, But It Gets Serious-er and Serious-er as the Essay Continues

Posted today at my companion web site:  with a link to another essay at 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Current Reading: Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir

I’m an optimist about this: her new writing craft book from Harper Collins....

I don’t think anyone’s better credentialed to write this than the author of The Liars’ Club and 2 other worthy memoirs. Mary Karr is also a professor of literature at Syracuse University where she teaches the art of memoir to graduate students.

Only about 10 pages in, and already I find this nugget worth carrying home:

"Any time you try to collapse the distance between your delusions about the past and what really happened, there’s suffering involved."  -Mary Karr

Read along with me?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Words to Think and Write By... from Author Ursula K. LeGuin

Ryan Petty

Author-itative Quotations 1 & 2

I particularly like these passages found in the essay, “A Matter of Trust,” from the book, The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination by Ursula K. LeGuin:

I have enormous respect for my art as an art and my craft as a craft, for skill, for experience, for hard thought, for painstaking work. I hold those things in reverence. I respect commas far more than I do congressmen.


People who say that commas don’t matter may be talking about therapy or self-expression or other good things, but they’re not talking about writing. They may be talking about getting started, leaping over timidity, breaking through emotional logjams; but they’re still not talking about writing. If you want to be a dancer, find out how to use your feet. If you want to be a writer, find out where the comma goes.

A wonderful essay and there’s so much more you can discover by reading it in full.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Kent Haruf - a Favorite Author

By Ryan petty

Our Souls at Night, his final book

I stood in a line at our public library for several months waiting to read this book. Maybe it was the anticipation, but when it was my turn, I found it brilliant, vivid storytelling with the ache of authenticity and presence and no small bit of wonder.

Kent died late last year.

The New York Times published an obituary on December 2, 2014, probably the only one they’ve ever published for a resident of Salida, Colorado.

Kent Haruf was by day a college professor at Southern Illinois University but spent summers writing in the small town of Salida he called home.

As surely as any science fiction writer, Kent invented a special world and held it in his steady gaze and  populated it with stories. His world was the made-up town of Holt, Colorado, on the high plains an hour or two northeast of Denver.

Each story, in the 4 books of his I’ve read, takes place in Holt but involves different characters leading lives that only lightly intersect. There are cross references enough between the books for consistency’s sake (so that the world of Holt holds together) but it’s like you’re looking into the heart of a prism through each of several different facets and you can feel the prism vibrate with an energy you cannot explain.

For his third book, Plainsong, Kent Haruf was nominated for a National Book Award.

And it became and remained for many weeks a bestseller.

He wrote and published 6 novels in all and I’ve read 4 of them, so far. I think each of them is a work of art for the thoughtfulness of each of its word choices and the accumulation of each of its sentences and the way each book grabbed me with character-revelations that remain etched indelibly in my mind.

All 4 of the books have been about Holt. Not just in Holt but about it as though it were itself another character.

I don’t know yet if this will be true of the other 2 novels (and I don’t want to be told or to read synopses - I’d rather find out by reading the books themselves).

Over the next few months I plan to read both of them - slowly to make them last.

The Kent Haruf books I’ve read:

Plainsong (1999)
Eventide (2004)
Benediction (2013)
Our Souls at Night (2015)

The two I’m looking forward to:

The Ties that Bind
Where You Once Belonged

He also collaborated with photographer Peter Brown on a work of nonfiction: West of Last Chance (2008).

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Dan Poynter - Father of Self-Publishing - In Memoriam

His Book - The Self-Publishing Manual - Kicked-off a Movement in 1979

I write about Dan Poynter and his self-published, self-publishing books this morning at

May he rest in peace.

Friday, October 16, 2015

"One of the sanctions of the writer is that he is doing something that he needs to do."

- Wallace Stevens 

[who crafted a poem I’ve always enjoyed puzzling over: The Emperor of Ice Cream, available here.]

[Stevens was a lawyer turned insurance 
executive, living in Hartford, Connecticut (the “insurance capitol of the world") when in 1955 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. In its wake, he declined an offer to teach at Harvard. Iwould have interfered with his insurance-related duties.]

Thanks to David at The Passive Voice who recently shared a more extensive Stevens quote with his readers, revealing the excerpt I have used here. And to the Wallace Stevens article on Wikipedia, which I turned to to refresh my memory.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Self-Publishing Triumph - “The Martian” by Andy Weir... Movie Opens Today

Big Day for Sci-Fi Lovers, Self-Publishers, Friends, Family & Fans 

A lone astronaut is believed dead and left stranded on Mars....

In most communities, the premier showing of “The Martian,” a film starring Matt Damon, is today's matinee in the suburbs.

The good news is: That’s a lot of theaters.

Andy self-published the The Martian book in 2011 and it grew into an Amazon bestseller almost immediately by word-of-mouth.

He sold the book rights to Crown Books in 2012; and the movie rights to 20th Century Fox.

Ridley Scott directs the film.

I don’t plan necessarily to review it; but I cannot wait to see it. 

Bright and early this morning, on the brink of his great success, I just want to say...

Way to go, Andy Weir!

P.S. Visit Andy’s official web site to read an interview with him under “The Martian” tab.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Thanks for the Good Wishes

In the wake of Mom passing at age 94, I want to thank those of you who responded with sympathy and prayer.

Mom’s career was on the administrative side of public education and several years of her retirement were spent as a literacy volunteer and public library docent.

She had a good, long life and we were lucky to have her with us these many years.

Though Mom wasn’t a writer, per se, she left 3 volumes of memoirs, the results of her 2 sons working with her on personal and family history projects.

Perhaps more on those, another time.

:o )

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Note the Passing of Michael Blake, Author of Dances with Wolves

Michael Blake, whose novel, written at the request of Kevin Costner, became - via his own masterful and Academy Award winning script - the movie, Dances With Wolves, died this week after a long illness in Tucson, Arizona.

Like many other movie fans I was deeply affected by this story but knew nothing of its author until reading his obituaries.

One thing of note: The novel did poorly until the success of the movie, starring Kevin Costner, after which it sold more than 3.5 million copies.

Amazon lists 3 other Michael Blake novels - each about American Indians. The Holy Road, published in 2004, is a sequel to Dances With Wolves....

What Mom Said on the Brink of Mother’s Day

"If I had more energy, I'd take a nap."

-Anna Marie Petty, Age 94