Category Archives: non-fiction

the importance of craft-related reading

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I’ve been busy this year.  From our trip to Thailand and Bali in the winter/spring, to hopping from one place to another into the summer, to finally settling down again in the fall, I haven’t had the time to post very often.  I am hoping to change that now.  

As far as my writing goes, I’ve been hard at work with subsequent drafts of my YA Science Fiction novel.  I started a new practice in July during a break from my writing that has been extremely helpful in tackling the usual problems of world building, plot continuity, and character development.  I read other books in my genre, which is my usual break activity, but this time I also read Stephen King’s On Writing.

on writing  

This book floored me.  

I had no idea that Stephen King, like me, also has trouble with plot and feels that the books of his in which he did plot his way through are actually his worst books.  

“Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty, and best kept under house arrest.”  

~Stephen King

I felt empowered by my own tendency towards character driven stories, because he writes them, too.  

I enjoyed the first half of the book, which was a memoir of how he started out as a writer, but the second half was where his little bits of advice helped to illuminate many of the things I struggle with in revisions.  

He advises writers to write a draft of their book with the door closed first – so that we aren’t influenced by the opinions of others.  Our second major draft should be after a break of 6 weeks (or however long feels right to us) and written with the door open, so we can let the world outside mesh with our world and enrich it.  Both concepts aren’t foreign to me, but King spells them out with brevity and articulation that begs for rereading when needed.  He’s not just concise with his words, he’s actually funny, which makes this non-fiction book stand out from some of the more boring lecture-type books on craft that are out there:

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

I’m on yet another shorter break from the revising and I’m planning to reread the second half of this book to uncover some of his jewels of advice I’ve forgotten.  And I want to stress this practice for the writers out there that are feeling stumped during their revisions.

Craft is important.  Craft is essential.  Go out there and find books on craft and read them.  Today.  I guarantee that the more you read, the better your writing will be, and King does, too:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

The whole point of writing in the first place, for me anyways, is to visit another place and time, to gain a fresh perspective on life and what it means to be human.  Nothing does this as well as a book.  To give you a final, wise quote from Stephen King:

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

Yes, I remember feeling as I read that line.  They are magic.  But there are tricks to harnessing that magic.  It’s not all play.  It’s work, but the results are dazzling when we do it right.  

And we can read books within our genre critically, but sometimes it’s easy to forget some of the things we all learned in High School about writing clearly enough for our readers to not only be drawn into our stories, but to forget they are even reading something.  Sometimes, it’s easier when a writer actually spells things out and reminds us of the tools that can make our jobs easier.  And when we do mange to hone our craft, our writing has the potential to become a spaceship or a magic carpet to this other realm where our characters live and breathe, just like we do.

Deaf Lit Extravaganza

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I am so excited that two of my favorite poems have been published in Deaf Lit Extravaganza, another anthology put together by the wonderful John Lee Clark, author of Suddenly Slow and Deaf American Poetry: An Anthology.

deaflitextravaganza

If you are at all curious about the Deaf community, I urge you to pick this up.  It had great range, from fiction to poetry to non-fiction, and features some very talented writers.

From the introduction by John Lee Clark: 

“…this book represents the latest blow to the audist vision of deafness as a calamity, as something that must be fixed at all costs.”

The cover of the book, a dandelion, is a tribute to Clayton Valli, a ASL poet and linguist.  His famous ASL poem “A Dandelion”, which is about the persistence of ASL despite oralists attempts to weed it out, is transcribed in the book, though I love the ASL version below:

[A note from Wikipedia:  

“Audism is the notion that one is superior based upon one’s ability to hear, or that life without hearing is futile and miserable, or an attitude based on pathological thinking which results in a negative stigma toward anyone who does not hear.”]

[A note from me:  

Many hearing people are audists without even realizing it.  

They are audists when they feel bad for someone who is deaf—because of their deafness.  

(Though when they just feel bad about a deaf person being left out, or when they wish to learn ASL to communicate better with a deaf person, that’s not audism.)  

They are audists when they see a deaf person as disabled, or hearing impaired, or suffering from hearing loss.  

They are audists when they think that person should have hearing aides or cochlear implants, or speak with their voice rather than their hands.  

When you are part of the Deaf community or use ASL, hearing loss is not something that is “suffered.”  Hearing loss then becomes deafness.  It doesn’t include words like “impaired” or “loss” or “disabled.”  

I do feel disabled when I am surrounded by hearing people who cannot sign.  Or when someone turns on a movie that doesn’t have captions or subtitles.  But that doesn’t really make me disabled.  It just means I can’t hear English, despite the fact that I speak and write in English.  

English was my first language, and Hearing culture was my first culture.  Gradually, I’ve become a part of Deaf culture, too, and I’ve realized, it’s okay to be both.  It’s okay to feel a part of two different cultures—the same way I feel at home in India or Ireland, but I was not born of those cultures, either.  

I love ASL, but I’m not a master of it.  I need it, but I cannot sign nearly as well as I can speak or write.  This is why—this is exactly why—I’ve chosen to read my writing aloud, in English, because it was written in English.  But if Deaf individuals attend my readings, I will always deeply want to sign for them.  

I wish to take hold of my own voice with my hands as well as with my mouth.  But I don’t feel adept enough to translate my English into ASL.  And for a true ASL performance, I would need to read my work aloud, and then sign it in ASL.  Not every venue would be open to that (being that it would take twice as long to do a reading), but that is something I might later wish to attempt in the performing of my own work.  

Until then, I’m proud to be a part of anthologies like this—where my words can exist alongside other deaf writers speaking about the Deaf experience from their minds and from their hearts.