Posted in copywriter, literary magazines and publishing, photography, power of words, words of thoughts and spirit, writer's blog

a letter writer’s heritage

Heritage

I just received this WhatsApp message, “Would you please write another generic and/or personified donation letter for us on this new school project?” I cannot remember when I have stopped writing my own formal/informal letters. The last time I wrote was for someone else for charitable donation. As usual, when I receive a letter writing request I need all information of the project and meditate for a number of days, sometimes weeks. I could look at the numerous letters and newsletters I have received to find tips if any. But since they have not persuaded me to donate there is really no point looking at them.

In my recent month-long trip to clear a house of old stuff so that it can be put up for sale, I found and carried back some old books. They are mostly books printed in the 1950s. I asked for permission to keep some for myself. Here is one which I quite like: Ladies’ & Gentlemen’s Letter-Writer, printed in Great Britain, 1953. 

I cannot resist taking the liberty to quote the following sample letters. Enjoy.
All the names are fictitious of course.

November 20th
Dear Sylvia,
Here is a cheque for £5. I know just how difficult things are these days. In fact my own account is nearly overdrawn, so try and let me have the £5 promptly at the end of the month.
Love,
Pamela.

December 12th
Dear Sylvia,
What about my £5? Be a dear, and let me have it as soon as you can, since I’m getting rather short myself now.
Love,
Pamela.

December 20th
Dear Sylvia,
I wrote on the 12th, asking for repayment of my loan (which you promised to repay at the end of November), but I have heard nothing from you. I hope you haven’t spent all your last salary on Christmas presents, because I really need that £5 very badly. Could you send it by return?
Love,
Pamela.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hard times then and now. History does not change over mankind and circumstances. We now use digital ways to communicate instead of physical paper and ink. We gain speed. We can even delete our side of the record. But the mark is there on the other side unless he/she deletes too. In the house where I just cleaned up I found tons of paper records, old letters, magazines, books, exam papers, certificates, pictures, children’s school books, drawings, manuscripts, boxes and boxes of them. Some magazines are still in their original wrappers as though they have not yet been read. When I return to my own abode after a long absence, I too find many magazines (from some faithful mutual funds) in wrappers. I just do not have time to read them. The worst is that they come in two languages so I get two per month!

Many years ago I made a decision to get rid of my papers. So I gave away books. I burned my papers, pictures, certificates, thesis, whatever. Yet, many years later when I see some old pictures in my siblings’ collection I take a photo of those which depict me as a very young person. I find one such group photo lately. In those days people were expected to be respectfully serious and close their mouths when not talking. When all mouths were dutifully closed, me at five was captured in history with my mouth gapping, staring at the camera. Was it a premonition that one day I would do such verbose talking on screen?

“Every body allows that the talent of writing agreeable letters is peculiarly female.”
― Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

“Every body at all addicted to letter writing, without having much to say, which will include a large proportion of the female world at least…”
― Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

“Andy: But they gave us an out in the Land of Oz. They made us write. They didn’t make us write particularly well. And they didn’t always give us important things to write about. But they did make us sit down, and organize our thoughts, and convey those thoughts on paper as clearly as we could to another person. Thank God for that. That saved us. Or at least it saved me. So I have to keep writing letters. If I can’t write them to you, I have to write them to someone else. I don’t think I could ever stop writing completely.”
― A.R. Gurney, Love Letters*

*Love Letters is a lovely play. Quoting from online sources:

A new Letter begins
In the age of instant communication, iPhones and Twitter, Love Letters is bringing memories of a simpler time to Broadway in 2014, helmed by Tony-winning director Gregory Mosher. The limited engagement includes appearances by Carol Burnett, Alan Alda, Candice Bergen, Stacy Keach, Diana Rigg, Anjelica Huston and Martin Sheen. The first celebrity pair in the new revival is Mia Farrow and Brian Dennehy, who will reprise the role of Andrew. “[Love Letters] is an extraordinary piece,” Dennehy told Today. “You cannot stage a play more simply than this, and yet it’s about everything in life. First love, loss of opportunities, loss of life, loss of love…It’s a beautiful play, and all you do is speak it.” But there’s two things the play won’t include: “Tweets and twerks,” Dennehy joked. “There are no twerks in this play.”

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Posted in photography, thoughts, travel, words of thoughts and spirit, writer's blog

A Surprise return to the house of dreaming swiftlets: a short story attempt

Lutong River
Surprise
Surprise. Surprise. She never expects to go back after an interval of nearly fifty years. She never expects to see and walk on the same street and lane that leads to her old house. Today is her birthday.
The phone call from her eldest sister Liz sounded desperate. She was in fear. So being sisterly Kate decided to buy the ticket and fly with Liz-six years her senior. Liz has lived alone since her husband passed away a year and half ago. Kate has been away from her family since thirteen. The place they have landed which lies between an ocean and a river is her birth place. Her parents and siblings have all moved away but Liz and her late husband had decided to settle in this quiet and sleepy town with a handful of old families whose shops line the main street faithfully. Kate left at thirteen. She returned once in a while to see her parents before they moved. After they moved to another adjoining town in her university days she has stayed away completely.
But today Kate walks on this street and this lane again. And today is her 69th birthday.
She has forgotten the river but the river has not forgotten her, as it shows itself as she strolls to the back of the row of shops. The scene is spectacular. She has remembered a river of black water in which lurked crocodiles, as some folks warned her. She was a little girl then and was forbidden to go near it. But this beauty that reveals herself today is different. She is a class of her own: calm, serene, and breathtaking like a painting created by an unknown sublime painter of an imaginary place.
She does not mean to walk far but the same country lane entices and beckons her to walk on. So she walks and tries to remember the little house she used to live. There are big modern houses interspersed with smaller older wooden houses. She stops at a wooden house which is far inside with a driveway leading to its front. The green lawns on both sides are well trimmed. Someone has planted lovely red and yellow flowers in front of the stairs. The little house is on low stilts. She has dreamed of this place many times and remembers its details. The verandah, the stairs, shape of the house and the large garden. It is all there in this real life picture! She remembers her dad built it and they moved in when she was eight. How can this house still stand at the spot with the same look after sixty-one years? The ocean, the wind and rain storm, the river flood…the ages, do they not corrode and wear out even human looks? Has time bypassed this place? She asks.
The only change is the coat of white wash that someone has clothed the naked wood. She takes some photos with the permission of the owner. The perspective from the side makes it look bigger. Indeed, she remembers its rooms, three bedrooms and a sitting room. The dining area, kitchen and bathroom are on the ground floor in an annexed building. They moved in before it was painted. And her dad said they would paint it before the next new year. Yearly he told them, yes, it will be painted this year-end, before the next new year. It was never painted. Once she even wrote a short story about a house that was never painted. It was published by a local press. And it is now painted white.
Who are the new residents? Edible-nest swiftlet. Someone is using it as a house for the birds to build their nest, nurse their young and rest when the sun sets. The swiftlets are the new tenants. It is daytime and she cannot see them. The swiftlet nest farmers have boarded up the windows. There used to be one through which she looked at a blue, green and red bird who perched daily on a branch which stretched its arm toward her as she sat for hours after school daydreaming of the plot of her new story. She has always wanted to become a story writer. There was no TV, no radio, no mobile phone, no PC in those days. Story books were rare and costly. All she could do was dream and daydream her own stories. Verse by verse, chapter by chapter, plot by plot she dreamed them and seized the ears of any willing heart to listen to the stories that seemed episodes of an unfinished saga. The house was surrounded by lots of green trees then, tall and handsome. Her bird friend sometimes danced from branch to branch, tree to tree.
And now she is standing here looking at a forlorn habitat without the trees. Where are they? Not one tree is left behind. They too have migrated. She wonders where the bird has flown. Has he found his new home and settled down? Do birds settle down? Are they too, like humans, creatures of habits? Looking at this sun washed white house no one can imagine what habitat the birds have behind these walls, simulation of dark caves…? She likes to imagine the swiftlet parents soaring high and far to hunt food and bring home to feed their young. A man once told her the swiftlets have flight path. He even brought her to a place where the swiftlets gather because of the richness of insect supplies. He said that they would always fly through a pathway to the food source and later return the same way to their habitat. They never missed the flight path home.
Here she is, today, looking at the place she once called home. It dawns on her that she too, has a flight path home. How else can she explain this homecoming after nearly five decades? Has the flight path followed her all these years of traveling further and further from home? Like a string tied to her heart without a visible sign and yet in the unseen realm it pulls the other way, so she suddenly finds herself there without any warning? During the years when she was away she remembered the place as dusty and rather primitive, to which she was ashamed to bring her teachers or classmates. She remembers being taken by surprise when her high school Australian geography teacher suddenly turned up during school term holiday in the little town looking for her! Apparently he flew in to visit the adjoining town and asked someone to take him to her house. Her house did not have a formal address. But the folks knew each other and she was the only kid who took a plane to the capital city to study. So it was effortless to find her.
Looking at the beautiful lawn, flowers and solid white wash wooden house she realizes it looks rather nice. Why was she so ashamed of it when she was a teen? The land owner’s house has been demolished and rebuilt. Yet he has kept this house designed and built by her brilliant dad sixty-one years ago. The present owner is the eldest son of the former land owner. He is pleasantly surprise when she introduces herself even though he cannot remember her. He remembers Liz and all her other siblings except Kate.
I was the little girl who left at thirteen. She explains. He smiles and nods his head. What is your name? He asks kindly. Kate. He seems confused. There is no Kate in his recall. She asks him how old he is. 77, he says. You? He asks. 69. She replies. I have never seen you, he says. She too has never seen him. I know your younger brothers. She mentions some names. Then he tells her one of them had died. What do you do? He asks. She tells him she is a writer. From his silent response she knows the answer is beyond him. However, he is too polite to ask her how she really makes her living. You have a family? She shakes her head. Then he says that it’s better as she can be free to travel where she likes. Have you traveled away from here? He shakes his head. No, I am always here.
She waves goodbye and walks back toward the row of shops that line the main street. She notices that they bear the same old names just as they have been known for decades. There are few new names. The old signboards. The same layout of their wares. The old wooden shelves. The glass display cupboards. The goods. The trade. The faces of the shopkeepers, the children of those who passed away. Nothing much has changed. When she reaches a cafe named “United Profit” she decides to have a cup of coffee. As expected, her old primary school classmate “Beautiful Flower” greets her. She cannot recognize Kate. Kate remembers her. She asks, are you Beautiful Flower or Gentle Flower? They are two sisters. The lady answers, Beautiful Flower. Who are you? I am Blue Flower. Kate answers, removing her sunglasses.
Kate’s real name is Blue Flower, a name she hated and changed the minute she left home. The lady’s wrinkled face cracks as she smiles. I cannot believe it. I just cannot. Blue Flower. O Blue Flower. Is it really you? You look so different now! Kate has dyed her hair medium brown but it turned light gold in the process. She doesn’t know why. Perhaps her real hair color has turned white. What a nice surprise! Beautiful Flower exclaimed. Kate doesn’t remember much about her. But Beautiful Flower says, I was your classmate until form five (equivalent to Grade 12). Kate pretends she remembers as the lady enthusiastically talks about the past. At thirteen the children left this little town and went to a bigger town to continue their secondary school education (Grade 7-12). So Beautiful Flower was one of them. But she returned after Grade 12 and took over her dad’s business since then. Have you ever left this place? No. Travel? No. Joined any clubs? No, unless you count joining our clan association too. Clan association membership is hereditary. Being the eldest child, Beautiful Flower was automatically awarded membership at the demise of her dad. Beautiful Flower seems genuinely elated to see her. Why? Kate wonders.
She decides to ask whether Beautiful Flower ever thinks about the meaning and purpose of her life? She has never married. No suitors? No interest or hobby. Daily she sits in the coffee shop and manages the business. Her younger siblings work for her. They seem contented and easy with lives. No stress. They live above the shop. The married ones move out. Four sisters remain unmarried and one had died young. Kate shares her own testimony of how she encountered God at the peak of her professional career with ample material comfort. She felt empty and meaningless to continue with life as she watched some of her close friends suffered incurable pains, illness and death. One day she went with a couple to a worship meeting and God poured his love on her. That was the beginning of her journey with God. she challenges Beautiful Flower to ponder over this life and death matter. They briefly talk about three women, all their former classmates, one died of childbirth, two of cancer.
Beautiful Flower, we just cannot live life without a purpose. What is yours? Find yours. Kate challenges her.
Yes, Blue Flower, I will ponder over this. I am so so happy to see you. She says. Kate wonders why.
They have black coffee and take a picture together. they exchange phone numbers.
Please come back to see us again. As Kate leaves Beautiful Flower urges her.
Why such an encounter? Kate asks. Then she remembers Beautiful Flower. A student who failed her primary six exams and had to repeat one year and thus became Kate’s classmate. In the secondary school she had the same struggles to pass exams and Kate offered to help her, took pain to explain the lessons and helped her with homework. Was Kate exceptionally good to her alone? No. Kate has lived her 69 years (minus the toddler’s time) trying to help others, the weak and the sick. She just felt it was her duty. She did not particularly love them but she looked out for those in needs and tried to meet their needs.
A boy failed his exam and had to repeat and became Kate’s classmate too, like Beautiful Flower. His name was something like Glory. But he was just the opposite. In those days, teachers beat up kids who could not perform in class. Beating became this boy’s daily routine by default. Kate felt it her duty to help him out of his dire straits. She really tried. She made him learn lessons during recess time. She taught him shortcuts to memorize important facts. But he soon fell asleep and snored loudly. It was impossible. He received his daily beating for six years. And he quit school after that.
Beautiful Flower managed to pass exams. It was like a little miracle.
Yes, we all have miracles, big and small. Kate smiles to herself. Today is her birthday and she has two presents. Miraculous presents. Who would have thought she could find her way, her flight path, home after all these years? Or rather, who could have imagined that the flight path has found her after nearly six decades? Blue Flower has returned home after all.

Posted in books, creative writing, photography, words of thoughts and spirit, writer's blog

a dense but colorful concrete jungle

Today I walked through a Dense but not boring Concrete Jungle.

dense concrete world I bought the book for a young person. But it was left in my house for a long time. So one recent day I decided to buy some coloring pencils and tried out this pass time activity. The first picture was a rather futuristic one and my audience did not comment so I knew it was really not presentable. I did a second one without recognizing the objects until I finished and took a picture and read the small heading which labeled “Bon Voyage”. I realized then I was coloring a whole lot of sails on waves! Someone sent a few claps. So I was encouraged to do a third one. This is the result and I finished it on time for this week’s picture, “dense”.

When I first looked at the densely packed buildings in this concrete jungle I really had no clue what colors I should use to make it a bit more cheerful looking. So I just picked whatever color pencils I pulled out from the pack at odd time when I was taking a break from my usual writing or translating work. Often it was after a meal. It became quite fun as I was amused by the colors that come out at random after a while.

I like to imagine what kind of people would reside in such colors. Would they like the colors? I imagine myself as a friendly giant who tries to be helpful by breaking the monotony of the colorless world through splashing bright colors at random on people’s houses. Perhaps he is trying to cheer up some home alone children who look out of their tiny windows. I hope they like the colors. Being fictional characters they can swap house if they prefer the colors of their neighbor’s house and vice versa of course.

Posted in Bible verses, blogging, God's blessing, photography, travel, words of thoughts and spirit, writer's blog

May my readers find hope and strength in the small things in lives, just as these little endangered birds do.

It is hard to put into words a person’s life. But I try to do so. I perceive myself as a fluid, unhurried, unclassified blogger. Why blog? I like to test the water of the thinking river. Thoughts. Words. Pictures. Just as they appear. Like this brightly painted building next to the Amtrak rail on one fine mountain climbing day. I just happened to look out of the window of the train and saw it. Yellow is not my usual color. But it was a striking moment that appealed to me at an appointed time in space. I captured it. When I look through my pictures at random to find something for this blog, it comes out and so I use it to represent a view.

Roseville copy

I would describe myself as a mere keeper of some words which do matter to me a lot. I do not want to forget. I preserve good words. Preserving words is like preserving life. (I wrote this introduction two years ago)

Added on December 17, 2016.
In some ways, I am waiting with Anticipation.
Yes, an anticipation for a future. Come to think of it, our future can be a past soon, just as many futures of yesteryear. Here is an updated photo for this week’s challenge. May my readers find hope and strength in the small things in lives, just as these little endangered birds do.

micah-77

Posted in animals, celestial journal, photography, thoughts, travel, words of thoughts and spirit, writer's blog

“Leaving behind” is like a taboo statement.

dog left alone“Leaving behind” is like a taboo statement. We don’t want to talk about it much or not at all if possible. As a child I often dreamed of being left behind by people or events: my mom, teachers, classmates, going somewhere by bus or train and being left behind after I went down at one of the momentary stops, sitting for an exam and finding I had gone to a wrong exam hall which was empty, arriving too late for the school bus and everyone had left for a picnic, participating a school concert and found that there was no participants and no audience…Later as a young adult I had recurring dream of being left alone and stranded in a formal wedding hall without the other party turning up for the formal ceremony. I also dreamed of traveling on a train and having to keep walking from coach to coach to find the one who had promised to meet with me and traveled together for life! It was a forlorn feeling.

I recall reading a book by D.H.Lawrence, Sons and Lovers, Chapter 15 which is titled “Derelict”. It gives the feeling of being left behind. The mother died. The son decided not to marry a girl who loved him. She went to college. There are two portions to the “left behind”. A portion that goes away. And a portion that stays. Here are definitions that describe the two portions. The two portions are inseparable. One cannot exist without the other. When we talk about being left behind, there must be something or someone who has left. The two parts are actually together. What irony!

Anther ironical puzzle for those interested in mental health and psychology is that I actually grew up well balanced and heathy. I excelled in academic studies and profession. So the dreams were not really premonitions. Did they reflect my deepest fear? Looking back I see that they did in some cases. I did not fear exams or interviews. While I enjoy being alone most times, once in a while I like to have company too. Knowing I am loved despite being alone is essential for my well being. The physical solitude does not reflect the state to the soul and the spirit.

Derelict: Abandoned, forsake; given up or forsaken by the natural owner or guardian; (of a ship) abandoned at sea, dilapidated, neglected; (of a spacecraft) abandoned in outer space.
Relic: That which remains; that which is left after loss or decay; a remaining portion. Something old kept for sentimental reasons.

Here is a passage quoted from SparkNotes on the “Derelict” chapter in Sons and Lovers:
Paul is lost without his mother. He can no longer paint, and he puts all of his energy into his work at the factory. He has debates within himself, telling himself that he must stay alive for his mother’s sake. However, he wants to give up.
One Sunday evening, however, he sees Miriam at the Unitarian Church. He asks her to have supper with him quickly and she agrees. She tells him that she has been going to a farming college and will probably be kept on as a teacher there. She says that she thinks they should be married, and he says he’s not sure that would be much good. He says he does not want it very much, and so she gives up. That is the end between them. She leaves him, realizing that “his soul could not leave her, wherever she was.”
Paul, alone, yearns for his mother and considers following her into death. However, he decides to leave off thinking about suicide, and instead walks toward the town.

The Things We Leave Behind

Posted in blogging, books, creative writing, literary magazines and publishing, writer's blog, writing

Do we still need writers?

woman reading Irish copyToo often I write without thinking of what I shall do with the written words. When the words come, perhaps even at midnight I just sit up and write. I am doing a book in another language at the same time but it is based on a book already formed and written in English so the translated work is only a partial writing as I add new information I have since uncovered in my research and interviews. For that book I know the target audience so it is not exactly like writing without a direction.

But when it comes to my thoughts in words at midnight I have no audience except myself. I read yesterday that the traditional publishers of physically printed books have to collaborate with providers of e-technology so that the books can be published online or in other multi-media forms. The increasing spectacular growth in online internet environment and mobile-phone and portable hand-held e-book reading gadgets trend warrants that the traditional publishers change drastically and involve themselves in strategic alliance with paperless technology professionals.

Whilst the technology gadgets are dazzling and convenient for the young users and perhaps readers of books, the contents of books still cannot be replaced by gadgets. Content counts. That is why we still write. There is still hope for a content writer.

Posted in books, creative writing, life of riches and honor, literary magazines and publishing, photography, writer's blog, writing

Some people walk away from you. A few march with you.

jeffrey-archer-mary-archer
Jeffrey and Mary Archer

“Some people standby you in your darkest hour while others walk away; only a select few march towards you and become even closer friends.”
― Jeffrey Archer, Only Time Will Tell
“We all make mistakes but one has to move on.”
“If you make a deal with a fool, don’t be surprised when they act foolishly.”
― Jeffrey Archer, Only Time Will Tell
“I find I don’t learn a lot while I’m talking”
“While there may not be a book in every one of us, there is so often a damned good short story.”
“Are parents always more ambitious for their children than they are for themselves?”
― Jeffrey Archer, A Prisoner of Birth
“There are defining moments in one’s life when you learn about yourself, and you deposit that knowledge in the experience account, so you can draw on it at some later date.”
― Jeffrey Archer, Best Kept Secret
“Making a million legally has always been difficult. Making a million illegally has always been a little easier. Keeping a million when you have made it is perhaps the most difficult of all.”
― Jeffrey Archer, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less
“It’s one of the ironies of mountaineering,’ said Young, ‘that grown men are happy to spend months preparing for a climb, weeks rehearsing and honing their skills, and at least a day attempting to reach the summit. And then, having achieved their goal, they spend just a few moments enjoying the experience, along with one or two equally certifiable companions who have little in common other than wanting to do it all again, but a little higher.”
― Jeffrey Archer, Paths of Glory
“The sign of a great man is how you handle defeat. – Old Jack”
― Jeffrey Archer, Best Kept Secret
“No, Mr Redmayne, not my tears. Although I’ve read that letter every day for the past eight months, those tears were not shed by me, but by the man who wrote them. He knew how much I loved him. We would have made a life together even if we could only spend one day a month with each other. I’d have been happy to wait twenty years, more, in the hope that I would eventually be allowed to spend the rest of my life with the only man I’ll ever love. I adored Danny from the day I met him, and no one will ever take his place.”
― Jeffrey Archer, A Prisoner of Birth
“If you have talent and energy, you’re king. If you have only energy and no talent, you’re still a prince. But if you have talent and no energy, you’re a pauper.”
“You can often judge the character of a person by the way he treats his fellow men.”
― Jeffrey Archer, Only Time Will Tell
“only a fool blames the messenger.”
Mary Archer: ‘Jeffrey asked from jail if I wanted a divorce, but I’m not a quitter’
‘Hang on, hang on.” Dame Mary Archer is determined to interrupt her husband Lord Archer in mid-flow as he tells a story about the deal he did with her father to let her carry on with a career as a chemist after their marriage. “If I might be allowed…” she tells him in school-mistressy tones, fixing him with a look from across the drawing room of the Old Vicarage at Grantchester. But the bestselling novelist, entrepreneur, former politician, charity fundraiser and ex-prisoner is taking no notice. “You’ve said enough already,” he barks back, and the couple simultaneously burst out laughing.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Jeffrey Howard Archer, Baron Archer of Weston-super-Mare (born 15 April 1940) is an English author and former politician.
He was a Member of Parliament and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, and became a life peer in 1992. His political career, having suffered several controversies, ended after a conviction for perverting the course of justice and his subsequent imprisonment. He is married to Mary Archer, a scientist specialising in solar power. Outside politics, he is a novelist, playwright and short story writer.

Posted in blogging, books, creative writing, words of thoughts and spirit, writer's blog, writing

“If I decided to send this to you, where would I send it? “

alice munro young
Alice Munro 

This is often my own question too. When I decide to write something for someone I really care and even love, I do not know where to send the words of love. I hesitate because it is painful to think of another life where we might have had together and know that it is no longer possible now. Here are some random thoughts from Alice Munro, who looks at ordinary lives and put words to them.

“If I decided to send this to you, where would I send it? When I think of writing the whole address on the envelope I am paralyzed. It’s too painful to think of you in the same place with your life going on in the same way, minus me. And to think of you not there, you somewhere else but I don’t know where that is, is worse.”
― Alice Munro, The Love of a Good Woman

“Always remember that when a man goes out of the room, he leaves everything in it behind… When a woman goes out she carries everything that happened in the room along with her.”
― Alice Munro, Too Much Happiness
Few people, very few, have a treasure, and if you do you must hang onto it. You must not let yourself be waylaid, and have it taken from you.”
― Alice Munro, Runaway
“Love removes the world for you, and just as surely when it’s going well as when it’s going badly.”
― Alice Munro, The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose
“They were all in their early thirties. An age at which it is sometimes hard to admit that what you are living is your life.”
― Alice Munro, The Moons of Jupiter
“She sits in her usual ample armchair, with piles of books and unopened magazines around her. She sips cautiously from the mug of weak herb tea which is now her substitute for coffee. At one time she thought that she could not live without coffee, but it turned out that it is really the warm large mug she wants in her hands, that is the aid to thought or whatever it is she practices through the procession of hours, or of days.”
― Alice Munro, Too Much Happiness

Alice Ann Munro, née Laidlaw, is a Canadian short-story writer who is widely considered one of the world’s premier fiction writers. Munro is a three-time winner of Canada’s Governor General’s Award for fiction. Her stories focus on human relationships looked at through the lens of daily life. She has thus been referred to as “the Canadian Chekhov.”
She is the winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Posted in books, literary magazines and publishing, writer's blog, writing

Eloquence in her writing

cynthia ozickReading good writings by others helps us to write better. Reading is enjoyable in itself even when we cannot write. Each reader has his or her particular likes and dislikes. I personally like reading Jewish writing. I decide to post some quotes about writing from Cynthia Ozick (1928-) today as I have just read her short story titled,”Envy; or, Yiddish in America”. She is a writer of fiction and also publishes critical essays, poetry and plays. She is one of the most celebrated Jewish American writers. I marvel at the eloquence she displays in her writing. Where do all those words come from? Perhaps reading some of her quotes we may catch a glimpse of her secret. I fully agree with her: “Read, read, read.”

Her Quotes about writing and novel:
“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”
“No one can teach writing, but classes may stimulate the urge to write. If you are born a writer, you will inevitably and helplessly write. A born writer has self-knowledge. Read, read, read. And if you are a fiction writer, don’t confine yourself to reading fiction. Every writer is first a wide reader.

“If we had to say what writing is, we would have to define it essentially as an act of courage.”
“A writer is dreamed and transfigured into being by spells, wishes, goldfish, silhouettes of trees, boxes of fairy tales dropped in the mud, uncles’ and cousins’ books, tablets and capsules and powders…and then one day you find yourself leaning here, writing on that round glass table salvaged from the Park View Pharmacy–writing this, an impossibility, a summary of who you came to be where you are now, and where, God knows, is that?”

“To imagine the unimaginable is the highest use of the imagination”
“This is what travelers discover: that when you sever the links of normality and its claims, when you break off from the quotidian, it is the teapots that truly shock.”
“I write in terror…I have to talk myself into bravery with every sentence, sometimes every syllable.”

“What does the novel know? It has no practical or educational aim; yet it knows what ordinary knowledge cannot seize. The novel’s intricate tangle of character-and-incident alights on the senses with a hundred cobwebby knowings fanning their tiny threads, stirring up nuances and disclosures. The arcane designs and driftings of metaphor – what James called the figure in the carpet, what Keats called negative capability, what Kafka called explaining the inexplicable – are that the novel knows.”

“An author’s extraliterary utterance (blunt information), prenovel or postnovel, may infiltrate journalism; it cannot touch the novel itself. Fiction does not invent out of a vacuum, but it invents; and what it invents is, first, the fabric and cadence of language, and then a slant of idea that sails out of these as a fin lifts from the sea. The art of the novel (worn yet opulent phrase) is in the mix of idiosyncratic language – language imprinted in the writer, like the whorl of a fingertip – and an unduplicable design inscribed on the mind by character and image. Invention has little capacity for the true-to-life snapshot. It is true to its own stirrings.”

“On a gray afternoon I sit in a silent room and contemplate din. In the street a single car passes – a rapid bass vowel – and then it is quiet again. So what is this uproar, this hubbub, this heaving rumble of zigzag static I keep hearing? This echo chamber spooling out spirals of chaos? An unmistakable noise as clearly mine as fingerprint or twist of DNA: the thrum of regret, of memory, of defeat, of mutability, of bitter fear, made up of shame and ambition and anger and vanity and wishing. The soundtrack of a movie of the future, an anticipatory ribbon of scenes long dreaded, of daydreams without a prayer of materializing. Or else: the replay of unforgotten conversations, humiliating, awkward, indelible. Mainly it is the buzz of the inescapably mundane, the little daily voice that insists and insists: right now, not now, too late, too soon, why not, better not, turn it on, turn it off, notice this, notice that, be sure to take care of, remember not to. The nonstop chatter that gossips, worries, envies, invokes, yearns, condemns, self-condemns.”
― Cynthia Ozick, The Din in the Head

~~~~~~~~~~~
Definition of eloquence: fluency, articulateness, expressiveness, silver tongue, persuasiveness, forcefulness, power, potency, effectiveness; oratory, rhetoric, grandiloquence, magniloquence; informal gift of (the) gab, way with words.

Posted in copywriter, life of riches and honor, literary magazines and publishing, nerd, thoughts, travel, writer's blog, writing

“WORD NERD” on copywriters’ charges etc.

Wordnerd UK2When we read blogs from other nations we understand how much the writers around the globe are really alike and yet different. I find richness in varieties. Today I post a random link called “WORDNERD” from UK (my former and nostagic abode).

https://www.wordnerd.co.uk/2016-trends/

Here is a sample of what this article shares: How much do copywriters charge?

Let’s start with competition.

Competition is only one element of how I charge. If I really wanted to be price competitive I’d have to charge $5/hour to compete with non-English speakers who live in countries where the cost of living is a fraction of what it is in the UK.

I can’t compete with them on price and they can’t compete with me on quality so I’m not $5 an hour!

If you compete on price it’s a race to the bottom
– said someone insightful
Like lots of freelancers, I don’t see myself as having direct competition not because I’m an arrogant twit but because I’m the person my clients have met and like, I might be local which appeals to them, or they particularly like my work or what I offer, and they choose to work with me rather than anyone else.

Copywriting isn’t competitive in the same way as, say, children’s books. Last week I bought my Godson some books for his 3rd birthday and while I knew they had to be by Julia Donaldson (she wrote ‘The Gruffalo’ – my Godson’s got very good taste) I could shop around to save myself money. Wherever I ordered them from the books would be exactly the same.

Not so with copywriting…If you do work with freelance copywriters who charge by the hour, £35 to £100/hour is the going rate (or £250–£800/day) depending on their experience, location (you’ll pay more in London than elsewhere), specific skills or specialism…– ROI (Return on Investment): this is a funny one. Copywriters at the top of their game can charge £20,000 to write a sales letter, which would translate into a pretty hefty hourly rate. They’re using their competitive advantage – their experience, skills, masses of hard work and understanding of how to convert readers into paying customers to put that letter together – to justify that rate.

They’re also taking the client’s ROI into account.

If the letter is sent out to 500,000 homes and results in an increase in sales of £2m, it’s well worth the £20,000 spent on it.(read on in their website)

HOW LONG SHALL A BLOG BE? Here is another blog from them on 2016 trend:

https://www.wordnerd.co.uk/seo/writing-long-blog-posts/In 2009, the average blog was 250 words, now it’s 900 words and the average length of the results on page one of Google is over 2000 words. The first result has an average 2416 words, the tenth is a bit shorter at 2032…Why are blogs getting longer?1.
SEO
As I’ve mentioned, to get onto page one of Google for popular search terms you need to write longer posts (75% of people searching never go beyond page one and 60% of web traffic goes to the top three results).
Long-tail keywords (which account for 85-90% of searches) have far less competition so you’ve got a good chance of getting onto page one if you focus on them.
2. To rise above the noise
Google has to index billions of pages competing for readers’ attention, there are 4.87 billion pages (Source: World Wide Web Size) on the internet as of this moment and that number increases every day.
3. To build relationships & become a thought leader
But long posts are a lot more work. So how should you approach blogging for your business in 2016?
Think about what’s right for you
Don’t write long posts for the sake of it
be consistent…(read on in above link)
You can read more from the same author here: https://www.wordnerd.co.uk/author/directora/

Posted in creative writing, God's blessing, life of riches and honor, literary magazines and publishing, photography, power of words, thoughts, writer's blog

Conversation outside the box: football and writing exam questions

February flowers3 copyI include below excerpts from a recent casual social conversation between a reader-R (in her forties), a child-C (around thirteen) and me-M. The goal is to encourage thoughts outside the box about starting a (money-making?) venture like writing reviews or doing something interesting and useful for their own specialty lifelong hobbies.

C: we never have enough money. Mom’s earning is like below the market rate for her qualification and experience. We are classified as living below the poverty line.

M: ok. tell me what you like to do and what you are best at? (addressing R)

R: i like reading. my only talent is reading.

C: but reading cannot generate any money!

M: yes, you can. tell me, can you write something?

C: mom cannot write one word. her mind is full of numbers and horror fiction stories (she is a graduate in economics, with professional qualification in accountancy).

M: can you write something, anything, just jotting down your thoughts as you read?

R: i cannot. i don’t know how to express myself in words.

C: she has never done it!

R: i can write good english. i scored high in english language. i have never tried writing reviews. i don’t know how to do it.

C: (started yelling in the background that her mom cannot write, will not write,  and is not interested in writing words at all as she does not even want to communicate with her in words except shouting repeatedly a few short commands-all negative, for her to carry out).

M: (addressing the mother) ok. i suggest you start by reading others’ reviews. just do it. read and learn how others write reviews. since you have read so many (perhaps thousands) books, read good reviews on those books you like. start writing something about why you like or dislike in a book. write something from a different angle. your angle. read others’ reviews gives you the perspectives, structure, and essential contents of a review. send your reviews to me. i shall help you along the process. ok?

M: (addressing the child) ok. what can you use your best talent or interest for (in terms of making money)?

C: well, shall i start a blog? i am right now interested in stuff that cannot generate any money. i am not in the main stream. i like stuff others rarely like in my environment.

M: such as?

C: Well, i like football clubs that are way out here and i don’t quite like the local club. i have nothing to say about them.

R: the local sports writer is lousy. he writes poorly.

C: NO, MOM! he is good! he writes good sports writing! he is a good reporter!

M: ok. why don’t you start writing too? anything about what you know?

C: i can’t. what i know is noway compared with so many good football reporters/writers know. there are many many who know so much more than me. i cannot start a blog when there are people out there who know more.

M: there you are wrong. you don’t need to compare or compete or measure yourself with others. you measure yourself with yourself yesterday, one day at a time, always progressing in steps. today you are doing better than yesterday. at thirteen you know more than at twelve.

C: ha? i can do that!

M: from what you have been writing (poetry and short commentaries on football matches), you are pretty good at them. you have natural talent in the use of language and creativity in thoughts and perspectives. your imagery is rich and vibrant. i have always enjoyed your hidden sense of humor behind your sharp and accurate observation. you will make a good teenage sports commentator. send me your reviews and reports and i shall work through them with you. ok?

P/s While I was sending my visitors off at the train station, the avid reader suddenly remarked that she would write mathematics examination assessment books! What an insight! On the other hand, the kid thought of her own social media blogs with a more focused goal-targeting her own niche of one particular language speaking group of teen girls like her. The hurdle is she needs to further improve her communication skills in that language. On return from the station, I found a newly arrived email advising me of a job vacancy Associate/digital media/football in a global group in sports and entertainment. Certainly this is interesting and not a small coincidence. Of course I am not applying. But it does give relevant information and the kind of job opportunities for young people in the world of digital media.

Posted in creative writing, literary magazines and publishing, thoughts, travel, words of thoughts and spirit, writer's blog, writing

the twin sisters: some thoughts on reading and writing

Derby public libraryI was in a developed Western nation with good English library facilities for about six months recently and borrowed many books and literature periodicals. The library system for online access is good and efficient. I could ask for books from the whole county and even beyond in other States. During those months of research I managed to access to many printed resources. Resources of various media such as audio-books, large prints, DVDs, and e-books etc. The only area where I believe needs improvement is the limited resources in foreign languages.

Any serious writer will agree that reading is essential for writing. To write well we need to read well. There is no short-cut. Personally I became an avid reader at the age of perhaps four. When I was eight I was reading thick books in another language. I could not really understand the depth of the literature but I read them anyway. It became a lifelong habit like breathing. Words breathing. I became selective after I learned to differentiate the good ones and the bad ones. Why bother? Someone asked. It matters a lot when we intend to write. Other good writers become our mentors. In a way they are feeding us so that we grow. We cannot have the wrong food and expect a healthy growth. Although by nature and interest I used to like and engage in reading lots of classical detective stories exhausting nearly all the famous names. However I soon realized that I was not going to write them. So I learned to read the genre I specialized in and the ones I knew I had talent in. Reading taste can be acquired with changes of our lifestyle and belief. For example, I became a born again Christian many years ago and my reading taste changed. My writing too. Admittedly my published written work was confined mainly in another language and genre group, I continue to read English books as my main diet and other languages according to their availability ad accessibility.

What can I gain from reading English books? I find the thoughts, concepts and the varieties of creative materials useful and can be used as generic base for writing. I prefer to read the original English versions. Some translated books are able to reflect nearly the exact thoughts and expressions of the original English books but some are quite far off the mark due to the vast differences in culture, tradition, value system and even religious belief between the English author and the non-English translator. Can a non-English author write well in English if English is his or her second language? My personal experience is that unless you think in the English language you cannot write it as well as those writers who think in it. Can thoughts be conditioned to think in a particular language? My answer is yes. So there is still hope if you are really passionate to read and write in a particular language which is not your mother tongue. It might be a big hurdle but if you persist in reading, thinking and writing in that language you may make it. One word of caution: you cannot become English unless you acquire its socio-economic culture, tradition, intrinsic value system and even religious belief. On the other hand, you may still acquire a small group of niche readers even if you are writing English as a second language if they can identify with your contents.

Posted in books, creative writing, literary magazines and publishing, power of words, thoughts, words of thoughts and spirit, writer's blog, writing

top 50 of the class: to publish or not to publish

50litmagazineI decided to post a list of the Top 50 Literary Magazine from online source. Please check them out to see if any suits your needs for publishing and exposure as a writer/potential writer/poet. I have not read all. Some of those I have read are good. Please do not be overly concerned with the ranking by the source which compiled this list. For those who are Christian writers and those who believe in prayers, pray for guidance.

(The following information and suggestion are quoted/excerpted from: http://www.everywritersresource.com/topliterarymagazines.html)

“The most important criteria we used this time was date of founding, number of national anthologies publications (and we looked at a lot of them), and the quality of work of and names of passed greats published in the magazines. The purpose of this list is to help writers find a place to publish their writing that will get them some recognition. It gives the authors more opportunity for exposure. Also these magazines tend to have a very good name in literary circles.
We have a suggestion. Go down this list and pick out a literary magazine that takes online submissions. Go to their site and submit your work. Also while you are there buy a subscription. Support those who support writers.”

Top 50 Literary Magazine

New Yorker
The best of the best. We didn’t have any commercial magazines on our last list, but it was a shame to leave this literary magazine out. It is one the oldest and the most honored magazine of all. Started in the 1920s and has a circulation of over a million readers. Online submissions
Ploughshares
Founded in 1971 Ploughshares is our best and highest ranked university non-commercial literary magazine. It is more honored by national anthologies than any other magazine except the New Yorker. Ploughshares is excellent and outstanding. Online submissions
The Atlantic
Founded in 1857 and often honored by national anthologies. This is another outstanding commercial magazine with a very large circulation of about 400,000 readers. Submissions by email.
Harper’s Magazine
Founded in 1850 and always well honored. It is an outstanding commercial literary magazine with a circulation of 220,000 readers. Submissions by email
Tin House
Started in 1998 but quickly became one of the best and best known literary magazines in the country. It has been honored by national anthologies more times than many literary magazine that have been publishing for over 100 years.
Paris Review
The Paris Review started in 1953 and is one of the best known literary magazines in the world. It is always publishing great authors and great works. No online submissions.
New England Review
Started in 1978 and is one of the best known and best loved literary magazines in the country. It is outstanding. Online submission by payment.
Georgia Review
Started in 1947 and has won many awards. It is a great literary magazine that publishes great authors and great works. No online submissions.
Kenyon Review
One of the best literary magazines in the country. You can always find great writers in its pages. Started in 1939. The magazine is one of the best out there, always. Submissions online.
Five Points
Is published by Georgia State university and is in our top 10 of these 50 for being always in national anthologies and winning awards. Founded in 1996 still less than 20 years old but a great literary magazine. Online submissions
Threepenny Review
Founded in 1980 and one of the best literary magazines out there. It’s always in national anthologies and winning awards. Online submissions
Antioch Review
Publishes great authors and great writing. It has been published by Antioch College since 1941. We love the Antioch review. They are in our database, and an outstanding literary magazine. No online submission
Callaloo
A journal publishing great authors and great works. Founded in 1976. Online submissions
Virginia Quarterly Review
One of the very best journals out there. This journal is often honored. Published by The University of Virginia since 1925. Online submissions
Southern Review
A great literary magazine. No online submissions
Conjunctions
An outstanding literary magazine. No Online submissions.
Epoch
Published by Cornell University since 1947 and always publishes great authors and great writing. No online submissions.
Granta
An outstanding literary magazine that has been publishing since 1889. They are honored with awards often. No online submissions.
Gettysburg Review
Founded in 1988 this literary magazine has been honored and talked about in national press often. Great work from great authors. No Online submissions
Cincinnati Review
Started in 2003 this literary magazine has published many outstanding authors and outstanding work. No online submissions.
Yale Review
For 100 years this literary magazine has published great works by great authors. It’s always worth a read and a submission. No online submissions.
Southwest Review
This literary magazine can trace its roots back to 1915. Published by Southern Methodist University. The magazine is always publishing great work. No online submissions.
Hudson Review
Founded in 1947 this literary magazine publishes outstanding work and authors. No online submissions.
Triquarterly
Founded in 1958 Triquarterly has always published great work. The magazine is honored often by national anthologies. Online submissions.
Crazy Horse
This literary magazine has been publishing great authors since 1960. We really enjoy Crazy Horse Magazine. This is a rare gem among many magazines of its kind. They are old school, so to speak. We recommend you buy a copy. Online submissions.
Iowa Review
Founded in 1970 this literary magazine publishing great work again and again. No online submissions.
Agni
Published by Boston University since 1972. This literary journal is always publishing great work. Online submissions.
Alaska Quarterly Review
Founded in 1980 and published at the University of Alaska of Anchorage. The magazine publishes great work. No online submissions
Mcsweeney’s
This magazine was founded in 1988 and has a large following. They also publish book. The literary magazine publishes great names in writing. Online submissions.
Shenandoah
This literary magazine began publishing in 1949 and is one of the very best. No online submissions.
Boulevard
The literary magazine has been publishing great work since 1985. It’s one of the best. Online submissions.
Harvard Review
Has been publishing outstanding work since 1986. Online submissions.
Fence
This literary magazine has been publishing great work since 1998. Online submissions.
American Scholar
An outstanding literary magazine since 1999. Online submissions
Subtropics
This literary magazine has only been publishing for 6 years, but has been honored so many times it made our list. No online submissions.
Witness
First published in 1987 the literary magazine has come on strong lately with many honors. Online submissions.
Volt
Published since 1991 this magazine is always coming up with great work. On online submissions.
Glimmer Train
Glimmer Train is only way down here at 38 because they do not publish poetry. Most of our numbers that go into this list are based on awards and anthologies, and magazines on our list take a big hit for only publishing Short stories or only poetry. It’s not a perfect method. Glimmer Train is one of the best literary magazines in the country. If they published poetry they would most-likely be in the top 10.
Prairie Schooner
This literary magazine has been publishing since 1927 and is one of the very best. Their new website is very well done, and they now take online submissions!
The Missouri Review
Since 1978 this magazine has won many honors and has published great works by great authors. The Missouri Review is one of those old . Online submissions.
Oxford Review
The journal was founded in the 1970s and is always publishing great works. No online submissions.
Bomb
The literary magazine has been publishing since 1981 and always has great authors. No online submissions.
A Public Space
Was founded in 2006 but has won many honors in the short time it has been publishing. Online submissions.
Chicago Review
Founded in 1946 this literary magazine is always publishing great works. No online submissions.
Connecticut Review
An outstanding literary magazine. No online submissions.
Black Warrior Review
This literary magazine was founded in 1947 and always publishes great works. The Black Warrior Review is always publishing outstanding works by amazing authors. We are big fans of this unique and long standing magazine. Online submissions.
American Poetry Review
This literary magazine only publishes poetry and was founded in 1976. It is one of the top 2 poetry magazines in the country. No online submissions.
Poetry
The best poetry magazine in the country. Founded in 1912 and always publishing great poets. Online submissions.
Barrow Street
The literary magazine only publishing poetry and was founded in 1998. One of the best. No online submissions.
Massachusetts Review
One of the very best. Founded in 1959 and is always publishing great work. Online submissions.