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.

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 with more to discover by reading it in full.

November 08, 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 four 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 six novels in all, so I still have two to go. I think each of the four is a work of art for the thoughtfulness of every word choice he made 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 four 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 two 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).

October 16, 2015

Regarding the Poet Walace Stevens

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

Thus spoke Walace 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 for Poetry. 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 shortened version I've used here. And to the Wallace Stevens article on Wikipedia, which I turned to to refresh my memory.

October 02, 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!

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 two sons working with her on personal and family history projects.

Perhaps more on those, another time.

:o )

September 02, 2015

Death in the Family

Ryan Petty

I will return to blogging in late September.

May 17, 2015

Mom’s Favorite Saying Is...

“If it is to be... it is up to me.”

-Anna Marie Petty, age 94

May 12, 2015

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