Books, Encouragement, Frank McCourt, JM Tohline, Junot Diaz, Sandra Cisneros, writers boot camps

I wanna write like Junot Diaz

This is traveling Thursday, but instead of a physical location I’d like to tell you about my inner travel experiences with a 3 day writing bootcamp and Junot Diaz. (He wasn’t there, mind you).

At the bootcamp we learned about opening velocity like Frank McCourt in Teacher Man: ” Here they come and I’m not ready.How could I be? I’m a new teacher and learning on the job. One the 1st day of my teaching career, I was almost fired for eating the sandwich of a high school boy.” Here’s another one, JM Tohline from his upcoming novel, The Great Lenore,” When I met Lenore, she’d been dead for four days.” Grabbers for sure.

After listening to 3 days of character, dialogue,voice, being critiqued and critiquing, I wanted to flop on the couch, but it was filled with signs, with targets and circles with slashes over the words “As, just, -ing, ly, stay in POV.” You get the picture. Now, it was a great experience and my classmates cool people, but after three days I was utterly exhausted. Yes I used an -ly.

So the next day, at Border’s you know they’re down to 40% off now, my writing world was blown to bits, expanded. This book I picked up took me back to Sandra Cisneros poems, language, and energy. I turned the book over, I didn’t like the pink smudge on the cover, and back over again: “The Brief, Wonderous World of Oscar Wao.” The title was reminiscent of old movies. As I usually do (there’s two rule breakers, the rebel that I am) I read the first line of the first chapter (for opening velocity of course). Como que first line, the dude grabbed me at the title of the chapter “GhettoNerd at the End of the World 1974-1987-The Golden Age.” I can relate.

Junot Diaz breaks the rules, no commas periods or quotes, and exclamation points! two to a page sometimes, and footnotes to there,  imaginate comadre! He slapped at all the rules, like a chancla to a cucaracha. He takes you on a wild ride through the DR to Jersey and back. And it’s all good. His writing style inspires me, maybe now I can get more emotion and depth into my manuscripts, if I type pell mell into my own world, and raise a middle finger to ‘the rules.’

Now I can hear my writing teachers say “But that’s not his first book, he can do what he damn well pleases now.” I don’t know, maybe that axiom is true. I haven’t read his first book “Drown,” but I’m going back to Borders to search for that one.

DW Kazzie, Encouragement, Faith, JM Tohline, Wisdom, Writer's Digest

There, there, never give up…

After a few months of reading Writer’s Digest  and The Writer at the library, I finally decided to subscribe to one of the magazines. I chose WD. Since then I haven’t regretted it and find an abundance of articles online and in the magazines.Many of the articles are excellent sources of information on the craft of writing and trends. Some of the articles, especially those with the statistics of how slim a chance a writer has of publishing her/his book, are frustrating and depressing.  But sometimes, especially when I need a dose of “there-there,” I find an inspiring article. The one I’m posting below is a great example. The author is JM Tohline. The video is hilarious and it’s from DW Kazzie.


A few months after I landed an agent, she decided it was time to shrink her agency, and she dropped me off at the Agent Orphanage. I began to wonder if I was being impractical. If this would ever happen. If I should just plain quit. I wondered if I was the only writer who ever felt this way.

A couple months ago, I e-mailed about 100 agents, asking them, “What is the biggest mistake writers make when querying you?” More than 50 agents responded, and after I compiled these answers and posted them on my blog, the traffic on my website exploded, and my inbox swelled with fresh correspondence. Much of this correspondence came from writers who vented about the difficulty of procuring an agent, or of breaking into the publishing world. Some of these writers even made themselves vulnerable enough to wonder, right there in their email to a stranger, “Am I being impractical? Should I just give up?


During those times when I felt this way myself, I came to the following conclusion: Sure, I dream of someday publishing a novel. Heck, I dream of publishing a string of novels. I dream of these novels being well-received and widely-appreciated. But never, at any point, have I written for these reasons. These are the goals, certainly; but all along, I have written to write. I have written because I have no choice but to write. If I ever try to quit, I’ll just come right back.

In truth, my path has probably not been so different from the one you are traveling yourself, or (you better start preparing now) the one you will travel yourself. And unless you are a masterpiece of mental toughness and emotional unassailability, you will sometimes find yourself asking that dark question: Is it time to just plain quit?

The answer, of course, is simple: Can you quit? Chances are, you probably cannot. So keep writing, Dear Writer – because that is what you are. Whether or not you have a novel in bookstores. Whether or not the whole world has read your writing. Whether or not anything of yours is ever published, as long as you live, you are still a writer. It is part of who you are. Keep writing. It is never time to quit.

JM is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the print book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before.