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. : )

 

 

 


High Life in the Late Middle Ages

cover177159-medium Hooray for this nonfiction about Sir Francis Bryan, diplomat for King Henry VIII; this book stands out for the way in which Watkins makes the characters feel truly human, piquing the readers’ interest in their traits and foibles. It was super interesting to read about how Wolsey tried to pry the king’s friends away from Henry. Keeping a young man away from his male friends? It is also fascinating to read about the meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, where Francis I, though subservient in some respects to Henry, beat him in a wrestling match. Somehow, Henry held his temper. Francis I spent about 40 thousand pounds and Henry 36 thousand on this event, which Watkins gives as 32 million pounds sterling in today’s money. Good grief! Despite my mentioning Henry so often, I was really attracted to the way the author described the king’s friends, the way they dressed, and how they acted with each other. I truly enjoyed following the path of Sir Francis Bryan. The vicissitudes of life are thrown into high throttle in this milieu–one could gain the world one day and die a bloody mess (or drown attired in full armor) the next. A lot of detail is in this book about the Howard family, which I found interesting, knowing an American descendant of that same family. Bryan was an incredibly dexterous man, both physically and mentally, matching the needs of his king without getting into the kind of trouble that could cost his estate or his life. When he was on off hours, he drank and gambled too much, but that makes him human! I found myself envying him for knowing the courts of his era so well that he could compare them easily. He makes the most engaging comments: “And in the French Court I never saw so many women; I would I had so many sheep to find my house whilst I live” [sic]. I have never seen a book that gives more interesting details–perhaps as good, but never better. Yes, he lost his eye in a jousting match and apparently it is for that reason that it is nigh impossible to find a portrait of him. He was too embarrassed to leave a painting for posterity with his eye patch. I think I may end up buying the hard cover of this fascinating book. I just reviewed Sir Francis Bryan by Sarah-Beth Watkins. #SirFrancisBryan #NetGalley #ChronosBooks185904554_196b006f-a373-4dd9-941d-c863f4849083
[NetGalley URL]

Reviewing Now I Know The Soviets Invaded Wisconsin?!

cover172346-mediumAuthors/publishers should know that reviewing is done by a broad cross-section of the population. Reviewers’ commonality is that they know how to read and think. The direction of their thoughts, of course, is problematic.

People become emotional for imagined offenses. After writing my own review of the charming book of trivia, Now I know the Soviets invaded Wisconsin?! by Dan Lewis, a book which must have been tedious to research, I was taken aback by the comments of other reviewers.

Reviewers who have never actually written a book judge books against the level of engagement they feel with the work. This brings up the unfair correlation with novels or holy script. If a book of historical trivia does not stir the same passion and love in a reader as, say, his or her favorite philosophical writing, the author of that book may have to bear the consequences. This is the primary reason for 3 stars on a well-written book. It didn’t measure up to The Fault is in Our Stars or whatever the reviewer felt was top-notch for personal reasons. Other writers may judge based on the experience of writing. (My own personal criteria is whether I would have been proud to have written the book I am reading.)

I found Now I Know: The Soviets Invaded Wisconsin? by Dan Lewis to be extremely well written. Falling into a category that sometimes perplexes those given the job of assigning categories, one starts thinking about audience: to whom is a book of historical tidbits/significant trivia important? Frankly, the answer is all those who wish to know something about the unexpected details that unite our world in pertinent ways. That audience may be of teachers or students, and the purpose is to gratify the reader’s (typically) unquenchable desire for answers and to populate his/her memory bank of fascinating trivia with which to interest others. (Other reviewers have given enough spoilers already, but I was fascinated by the reason for the emergence of phone numbers!)

Lewis is justified in saying he makes transitions from one subject to the next because he does it so well! Writing teachers (I am one) may wish to use a couple of his transitions simply to show how it can be done with panache. Each time Lewis branched into a new subject, I remained interested, and that is a hard feat to accomplish (kudos!) when writing about seemingly unrelated topics. His finished product is one of the best I have ever seen in this category of writing. I recommend it as a gift book: easy to dip into, full of content that readers can use to stir conversation. Thank you,  #NetGalley #AdamsMedia

 

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.