About This Blog

Hello, those in search of the creative spark. Welcome to the Grassroots Writer’s Guild. This blog began as a collaboration between two writers and friends, on the premise that all writers need a blog. In the past few years, it has become the blog of one of those two friends (Julia Simpson-Urrutia) because the other (Connie Kirchberg) has found so much activity and inspiration in other pursuits aside from writing, which include four dogs, two cats, and a never-ending project list that tends to revolve around carpentry.  Most writers are creative in so many ways, and so it is with us.

While many blogs aim to sell something or pedal a philosophy, my goal is to use this platform as a continuing repository of creativity, whether it be from myself or from others, including Connie Kirchberg.  Most of my own efforts do center around writing, but some of my artwork has been simply for joy (Which, I believe, is the way it should be) and to find another means of bringing my own creative work to the attention of others who might take interest.

Please feel free to comment on any of our posts.  We (I) do our best to keep them writing-related, but let’s face it, a blog is a place to sound off, and sometimes that’s what I might do. Most of the time, however, our posts will relate directly to the business of writing or artistic endeavor.

I am keeping all original posts, including the “get to know the writer” approach that offers personal experiences and family photos. It strikes me, after being assaulted by the din of Internet enterprise and guru know it alls, that some blogs should be for NOTHING else but to say, “Guess what, I am a seeker of the creative spark. I suspect you are, too!”

Whatever artistic activity you enjoyed at 13, you probably should be doing right now. That, at least, is what works for me–no matter who receives a Pulitzer or blue medal from the Group That Knows Better.

I do not know better.

Cheers. : )

 

 

 


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To the Writers Who Should Stop Bragging

bragging

You just published a piece in which you brag about how much money you make writing.

I appreciate that it has taken you a long time and a lot of work to . . .

sell writing-related products on Etsy.

write a subscription newsletter.

host a Martial Arts Writers’ Club.

run a Patreon account (where you solicit money from people who want to help struggling writers and if they knew how much you make, they might stop helping).

sell online courses in writing for money.

flood my consciousness because I am a writer so the keywords bring your new articles to my attention via the mystery of algorithms.

write 5,000,000 words.

appreciate a certain level of poverty even though you should be rolling in luxury at the income level of which you boast.

*From one writer to another: Consider the possibility that you are addicted to money and bragging. Not everyone appreciates your 5,000,000 words. Writing is supposed to be consciousness and conscience-raising, not a  means to gloat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Script writing for fame?

trumbo
You have a better chance of fame by defacing statues in the park.
For income and repute, if you have already worked yourself into that group of writers writing for the silver screen, congratulations.

The stories told of script writers having their words erased and being overwritten by someone else, often the director, abound.

In 2004, The New York Times ran a piece by Charles McGrath documenting F. Scott Fitgerald’s 2000 pages of “treatments, sketches, drafts, polishes [and] rewrites,” a mountain of work that one archivist called “heartbreaking.”

Fitzgerald made a similar lack of impact on the script of Gone with the Wind, finally leaving to go write The Great Gatsby.

Sidney Howard is given the credit for that script although anyone who reads the stories behind these authors and films knows giving full credit to one name for Gone with the Wind is a joke we could laugh at for a year.

William Faulkner was strongly considered as one of the scriptwriters due to his expertise in telling tales of the Old South. However, his jealousy of Gone with the Wind going into movie production was massive, as seems likely, for he was in desperate need of money and trying to sell movie rights of Absolom, Absolom to any producer who was interested. No one wanted it, however (Bugsie,gwtwscrapbook.blogspot).

Point: Faulkner, Mitchell and Fitzgerald are not famous for having been scriptwriters. Nor, for that matter, is Sidney Howard.

Julia Simpson-Urrutia is the author of Wax Works, a paranormal mystery-horror novel about a  defunct Swiss boarding school that reopens as an inn and wax museum, inviting back former students in order to punish them.

A Head for Sculpture: Madame Tussaud

marie antoinette2

Madame Tussaud: Her Life and Legacy by Geri Walton,

Pen and Sword History,

Sept 2, 2019

 

 

Merveilleux! Picture a talented young woman being forced to sit on a chair with the decapitated head of, oh, say one of her best friends or more enjoyable dining guests from last week in her lap, making a mold of the face so as to be able to render it in wax. Now put a maddened crowd in front of this girl, a crowd that insists on watching, and you get an idea of what kind of pressures Marie Tussaud had to endure and truly, what shaped her in becoming the world’s most famous wax sculptor. Geri Walton uncannily knows how to give the reader a fantastic ride. Walton’s stupendous research into (you name it) all people and trends that impacted Marie Tussaud’s life, which would include the absolutely tumultuous French Revolution, and her ability to render each person or event in a way that will most interest the reader means she (Walton) understands human nature. This is no dry history book. This is the kind of biography that will have the reader sharing intellectual tidbits at barbecues. I, who have taken more than one class on the French Revolution when obtaining my French degrees, was more absorbed by this book than anything I remember reading on the same subject in college. No disrespect is meant to the writer when I say that I had to drop the book in pure terror when reading about The Terror that overtook France. We talk a lot about how the Nazis persecuted other nations (after wiping out so many of their own people due to ethnic prejudice) during WWII, but The Terror was an example of how a crazed mania can cause wanton slaughter by a people to their own population for the most spurious of rationales. My hair stood on end. I appreciated the astute assessment of marketing propaganda employed by Curtius, Marie’s father, who taught his daughter all he knew. Marie learned, herself, to be a good promoter, which does not mean she was truthful. However, her skill was astounding. I spent hours looking up the figures I was reading about and I can easily see Wellington visiting Tussaud’s wax figures to stare at Napoleon for days and days, to contemplate his enemy. I admired Marie Tussaud’s survival instinct, her ability to cut her failure of a husband off, and her careful management of resources. What a book! Fantastic.

 

Heavy Poems with a Light Touch–Acrobats of Sound

Acrobats of Sound by Colin Pink

Poetry Salzburg, University of Salzburg, Austria, 2016

If not for the radiant twinkle, the sparkle of hope that readers of Pink’s verse have come to expect, some of the themes in Acrobats of Sound might weigh down our hearts. To his and his editors’ credit, Acrobats of Sound unfolds with wordplay that makes the reader smile in delight and lean forward in anticipation of the next whimsical juxtaposition, as in “The Pencil Fears the Eraser”:

The blind man’s memory is touching

A bone dreams of finding a buried dog.

The film stars’ smiles go out at night.

A lighthouse dreams it’s lost in the fog.

A jug pours emptiness out of itself.

The ringing silence of the blue bells.

The true secretly loves the false.

A demon vacations to warmer hells.

A lost postcard misses the sea.

The ledge is scared to look down.

The weather never complains.

A fake smile betrays the frown.

A fish never sees the sea even on holiday.

The umbrella tingles at the touch of raindrops.

A letterbox swallows every word.

The stage is wary of anxious theatre props.

A clock is never impatient no matter how late.

A stone never hides its feelings.

The pencil fears the eraser is always behind it.

The paper slowly unfolds its meanings.

In his stories and theatrical productions, Pink is known for a light touch that exposes the wounds of mankind unexpectedly, but not without hope. His nimbly astute eye seems never to blink, for he snares the tiniest memorable details, the truisms that we otherwise might miss for turning our heads or sipping tea. That is how he asks us to reconsider post-traumatic stress disorder in “Return of the Warrior” or the trivializing of war memories in “American Civil War Bubblegum Cards.” In the latter poem he says he almost sees himself, for “in one scene a little boy is hanged as a spy; he looked a bit like me, it made me feel sad, I guess that’s what it was meant to do.”

Pink’s appreciation of art and his endless temptation to juxtapose contradictory concepts show up in “The Raft of Medusa” which

hangs in the Louvre, its cargo of corpses, glinting

Beneath brown varnish, like celebrities caught

In a reality TV programme, permanently on pause.

The canvas is indeed so big, in an emergency we could

Actually use it as a raft, float down the Seine, astonish

The flaneurs as we wave from our improvised bateau.

Let’s run through the salons, like cool sixties movie

Icons, not care how many tourists we knock over,

In our race to prove we are still able to misbehave.

A poet wouldn’t be one without contemplating our tragedies, and from the “Panther in the City,” “Elegy for NYC” and the darkness who “cultivates your cowardice” in “Darkness Spoken,” Pink reminds readers that we might fall backwards into depravity at any moment. What else was the use of Lee Miller’s photography, Pink seems to suggest in “Lee Miller in Hitler’s Tub.” Both poet and publisher want to help us refocus, for the only illustration in the entire collection is a cobblestone printed along with “The Cobblestones of Berlin.”

Aside from his great love of art, Pink demonstrates an unwavering fascination with philosophy, which he studied at the University of Southampton. It is hard not to wonder whether his professors of philosophy received the double-entendres that regale the readers of Acrobats of Sound. We can get a peek of Pink’s mischief inside “Pandora’s Box”:

You would not know,

to look at it,

what it is.

A plain, unadorned,       

rather worn, wooden box

No warning signs

attached to it.

No Health & Safety

stickers seal it.

No seal at all

protects it.

It invites opening

with mute resignation.

Go on, don’t resist,

open it;

you know you want to.

Let’s find out what’s inside it;

you can’t stand idle beside it.

How does it feel

when you touch it?

Is it cold or warm

with something

                                broiling within?

What’s that tapping I hear?

O, just your impatient foot.

Go on, no one’s looking,

                do it now!

You know you’ll feel

So much easier

when everything is

out in the open.

Wild Bill Hickok, First Gunfighter of the West

Not since Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser have I read a book on the Old West that grips me as much as Wild Bill, The True Story of America’s First Gunfighter by Tom Clavin. Wild Bill (whose real name was James) is a historical character whose story is fascinating and ultimately tragic in much the same way as Princess Diana’s. For one thing, it is impossible not to like Bill Hickok. He was too chivalrous not to like, even love, as so many men and women seem to have, both close-up and at a distance. Hickok favored justice and the underdog. He cared about those in need of help. Hickok was astonishing for his courage and God’s grace upon him during the Civil War. (Advice: Read slowly. Your jaw will drop.)

Clavin’s measured and analytical (without being negative) approach to this biography makes reading it a joy. It seems he wisely wants to avoid the fate of Nichols, the journalist who wrote the 1867 piece in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine on Wild Bill Hickok that made the young sharpshooter an overnight national folk hero. (Writers and cowboys share the experience of the rough ride, even if one is more psychological.) Clavin tells how that one story changed the lives of both writer and subject.

Another element that makes Clavin’s book valuable is his sensitive descriptions of people whom Hickok knew or who impacted the change of the West for good or ill. Clavin has a great sense of the right touch. He fuels the reader’s interest with sensitively drawn depictions (starting with the prologue) of people like Davis Tutt (friend turned foe of Hickok), James Chisholm, half Scottish and half Cherokee, a kind man who spoke 14 native American dialects, Calamity Jane (whom Old West TV fans will remember from the phenomenal series Deadwood created by David Milch)–there is a great story of Jane and a loan–General Custer, Buffalo Bill Cody and an assortment of unsavory people. The reader will be glad to know about them all. Setting the stage and explaining the co-players is so important. We want to grasp Hickok by the place and people of his era, after all.

The way towns are described gives great pause. The ones we live in today are no way what they once were. Clavin pulls the reader back to a past full of drama and tragedy today hidden by malls and modern streets. Kansas readers of this biography may appear downtown with startled expressions.

I appreciated learning from Clavin that although Hickok tried to live up to the image created (perhaps disastrously) by Nichols, he was true to himself in ways that helped shape society–in my opinion, for the better. (How do we continue to tolerate, or for that matter, produce, creatures like McCall?) I really do not want to give too much away.

I got the sense that Hickok did what he did because of his values. As I was reading, I could not get the comparison with Princess Diana out of my head: both she and Hickok were beautiful, talented, graceful human beings with flaws because they were human. They were daring, loved and hunted. They touched the people of their time and they paid the price for their gifts. Thank you, Tom Clavin. You have done a marvelous job in painting a haunting and moving picture of Wild Bill Hickok and the America he lived in. Thank you, as well #NetGalley and #St. Martin’s Press. This will not be the first book I purchase hardback after reading the ebook version.

Post Holiday Blues

Right after any cheery event, the mood turns gray. It can be you or it can be your nearest and dearest who suddenly are crabby, cranky, unresponsive, and seemingly bent on proving that all the love expressed in the holiday card was a sham, an expression by some other being.

Adults are children grown up. After a visit to Disneyland, who gets cranky and peevish? Could it possibly be we had an overdose of fun and goodwill?

There would not be sci-fi if this sensation did not resonate. Some other being. . . some creepy, otherworldly creature who doesn’t love but wants to bite your head off or cut you off emerges the day after festivity. God Willing, it is certainly a this-life-only manifestation; otherwise, those entering the gates of Paradise might turn into residents one would expect to find in the flames.

There are several ways to cope with the earthly GRAY DAYS. It is the time to remember stored-up ethics, values, and goals. Abruptly upon awakening the day after–a holiday, wedding, birthday–a sane person will extend their fingers around to see if the backbone is still there. This is the individual we have to rely upon–the self.

Consider Your Audience

Whose attention do you crave?

Getting others’ (positive) attention is what 90% of life is about even if we deny it. Going to school to learn how to live effectively in society has the endgame goal of gaining others’ positive attention–at the very least, in that we will not be arrested and thrown into prison (a negative attention result). The programmer who becomes a hermit to code a software game of his/her dreams that others will play cuts himself off from convivial society for the future positive benefits of gaining others’ attention.

Some people mistakenly think that by being mean or authoritarian, the attention gained will increase their value. These individuals have a grand sense of self-worth, which might be altered if they were to consider how insignificant their presence is to the happiness of others. They may argue that the happiness of society is a hollow value, but they are wrong. Without happiness, or at least the contentment of society, chaos reigns. (Chaos is also about getting attention but in the form of fury and despair.)

Writers are intensely aware of the need to get others’ attention. As W. Somerset Maugham once put it, a writer understands that without gaining attention, the reader will not move from the first paragraph to the second (and the writing fails). Choice of methods for shaping those paragraphs to attract attention will chisel out various audiences. The best method is the one that appeals to the widest number of readers, leading to one of the first considerations writers must face at the outset of a project: who will care?

Naturally, the writer must care or no one else will.