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Posts Tagged ‘mentors’

Admiration for attention to detail: From Elvis to Sting

This is my fourth of 35 posts in the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge, all of them on the topic of writing, publishing, and book marketing. I went back and skimmed what I wrote in answer to a similar prompt for the 2012 Author Blog Challenge. As I imagined, my thoughts are in a different place today. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 4 writing prompt:

Who are your writing role models? Whose writing has most influenced you? Who are your writing mentors?

One of my earliest assignments for a fiction class in college involved writing description. A fraternity guy named Hunter received a low grade for handing in his third paper about surfing. Blonde, tan, and good-looking in that frat guy/surfer way, all he could do was shake his head because he just couldn’t understand why the TA wanted him to stretch and write about something – anything – else. Another guy wrote in detail about a one-night stand. I still recall his depiction of noticing the girl’s underarm stubble as she slept the next morning. Interestingly, I don’t remember what I wrote about.

travelin' elvis

The paper I remember most, however, was by another coed, about my age. She wrote the most glorious description I had read to that point by anyone other than a seasoned author of classics about … the traveling Elvis museum. She detailed the steps up into the RV-cum-museum. She wove word pictures about the glass cases and the trinkets and memorabilia they contained. She described the kitschy gift shop with its gaudy gadgets and t-shirts and velvet paintings. And most memorable of all, she captured snapshots of the visitors – people of every age, ethnicity, and economic background. It seemed no one was immune to the draw of all things The King. I don’t have a clue what this gal’s name was, or what’s happened to her since. Only that she was 19 or 20, and I was 19 or 20, and in a million years, I don’t think I could ever master her gift for description.

Perhaps because my strength has always lain in nonfiction writing, the writers I admire most are those who write wonderful fiction. Sue Miller’s first book, The Good Mother, is still a favorite, as is Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth. Both of these authors are masters of details that bring fictional characters to life. Miller describes a harried woman cutting her leg shaving one rushed morning, while Follett notes how the townfolk crane their necks until they hurt, looking up at the stone masons at work on a grand cathedral. In Gold Coast, Nelson DeMille captures perfectly the slow shifts in his main character, John Sutter, a Wall Street attorney who finds himself defending a mafia don. And one image from the classics I will never forget is the turtle on its back, legs waving wildly in the air in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

Fantastic writing is not solely the domain of fiction authors, however. Besides being an amazing lyricist, it turns out that Sting can also write quite beautiful prose. His memoir, Broken bubblesMusic, is one of the most gorgeously inspired books I’ve ever encountered. Another nonfiction book I’ve recommended often is From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives, by Robert Fulghum. This one challenges you to question conformity on all levels and may – at least subconsciously – have played a role in why I chose to wear a green gown for my St. Patrick’s Day wedding. Of course, there’s also the grab-you-by-the-throat-and-throw-you-against-a-wall motivation to be found in Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. If procrastination, or its first cousin perfectionism, is hounding you, this book will help you turn the corner and leave it in the dust.

Lastly, in terms of inspiring authors, is a fellow I “met” during the 2012 Author Blog Challenge, Robert “Chazz” Chute. This guy is a writer! And an author! He’s prolific, talented, and so willing to share his knowledge. If you like mysteries and thrillers, read his books. If you want to learn how to write, design, market, and create a fan base, read his blog.

Well, this post kind of overlaps with tomorrow’s prompt … about what we both love and hate to read … but it also conveys my heartfelt gratitude and colossal admiration for the really great descriptive writers who can also challenge the hell out of me. Tune in tomorrow. I promise it will be at least mildly interesting…

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Here’s to continuing to hone and improve your writing skills!

Laura

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Powerful women influencers on this budding social alchemist

For the next 26 days, we’ll be taking a little detour from the traditional marketing posts you’ve come to know and love on the Marcie Brock blog as I lead by example and follow my own writing prompts for the Author Blog Challenge. There’s still time to register. Join today and qualify for drawings for daily giveaways for every day that you post.

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Day 3 writing prompt:

Who are the writers you most admire? Who are your writing mentors?

The writers I most admire are good fiction authors, hands down. Writers whose seemingly effortless prose paints word pictures that etch themselves indelibly in my mind. Of course, I’m reminded of the quote from Spanish writer Enrique Jardiel Poncela: “When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.

Writers whose work I have loved include Steinbeck, particularly his classic, Grapes of Wrath. His attention to details amazes me still. I can still picture that turtle on its back all these years later after my FIRST reading of the book as a junior in high school. Contemporary word-picture painters include Sue Miller and Ken Follett. Their attention to the tiniest details (cutting your leg shaving and onlookers’ necks tiring from looking up as stone masons built a Renaissance cathedral, respectively) brought their work alive for me.

Another brilliant book is Sting’s autobiography, Broken Music. No surprise that a superstar songwriter should be a good storyteller, but there’s a magical lyricism to Sting’s words that I’ve seldom seen anywhere else. What I would give to be able to spin stories in such a fashion.

I can’t say that I necessarily have writing mentors at present. Two of my instructors from my days at the University of Arizona still inspire me. I’ve written before of Richard Shelton, writer, poet, and emeritus Regents Professor of English. The other is Nancy Mairs, author, columnist, feminist, and overall inspiration. I can only imagine meeting her today, instead of as a still-green, fairly unevolved young writer all those many years ago. But her words and our conversations continue to remind me that I have an important message to share.

In general, I admire powerful, successful women. Not Miranda Priestly, Devil Wears Prada powerful, but powerful because they know who they are, what they want, and they are using their large public platforms to do great work that is making a huge difference in the world. Madonna. Hillary Clinton. Oprah. Marianne Williamson. Anne Lamott. Lady Gaga. Lilly Ledbetter. Obvious? Perhaps. Authors? Some of them. But women of influence, all. That’s my goal in life: to be a powerful influence, a catalyst for change … a true social alchemist.

Who are YOUR mentors and influencers?

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

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