an Editorial Note
What is the source of creativity?
In an adventurous and surrealistic short story, Charlene Anderson speculates that creative impulses may, in part, reside in a fourth dimension above our mundane world. In this psychedelically charged world of Higher Space, a modern day Alice in Wonderland encounters long dead friends still deeply involved with her life as well as strange-looking duck-like creatures, called “Tweakies,” sent down to “tweak” our humdrum lives. We hope you enjoy the trip as you confront the sheer power, for good and ill, of “Writing the World.”
In a rather different take on our theme of writers on writing for this fifth issue of Vistas & Byways, Michèle Praeger, rather more prosaically, takes as her starting point the 26 letters of the Roman alphabet. It is out of these “austere markers,” she says, that “Balzac created the clay from which he molded the prostitutes, duchesses, merchants, bandits, Parisians, and provincials” who populate the vast world of his Human Comedy. In her contribution to our theme, “The ABC’s of Writing Fiction,” Michèle also questions the cliché that we should only write about what we know.
In a breezy and whimsical approach to the craft of writing, Bill Carpenter gives a number of practical tips on how to fill “The Blank Page,” not excluding, when all else fails, “toss[ing] back a couple of shots of Wild Turkey, 101 proof, of course.”
In a tongue-in-cheek disquisition, “The Tortoise and the Eagle: Untimely Observations on the Writer’s Craft,” Don Plansky willfully sets out to demolish just about every cliché ever uttered about writing. Beneath the wayward—at times, goofy—surface of his essay, however, may be discerned a serious inquiry into the limits of language.
Don’s concerns about the limits of “craft” are echoed in Jane Hudson’s “The Writing Student.” Jane wonders just how we are to evoke our deepest feelings about ourselves and the purpose of our lives through what we learn about craft. She openly confesses her struggles with the enormous gap between being a lifelong “sophisticated reader” and a “beginning writer,” between our “vivid” imaginations and the “pedestrian” prose that often results when we put pen on paper.
In one of three poems on our theme, “If You’re Lucky,” Allen Wilson reflects upon a dangerously irresponsible muse that comes upon us when least expected, hijacks our consciousness, and engages us in a “knock down drag out brawl smothered in doubt.”
Finally, we offer two poems that take somewhat different slants on just how that miracle of the writer’s craft, a well-composed poem, may emerge out of the artist’s inchoate imagination. Denize Springer’s prose poem, “Shears and Machetes,” draws attention to the painstaking process by which the poet’s diligent skill clears the way for “the tiny jungle flower that astonishes,” while first time contributor Heather Saunders Estes’s “Scent of Wet Words” plunges us directly “into a clear pool, the words close, splashing, over my head.”
In addition to our selections on writing, we encourage you to find your own favorites among several other prose, poetry and visual arts pieces that may be found in our Table of Contents. We urge you to comment, if you are so inclined, directly to a visual artist or writer in the spaces provided. We also now have a blog in which the entire OLLI community (and beyond) can share ideas about the craft of writing, or any other topic that strikes your fancy. Many thanks are due to Charlene Anderson for boldly venturing forth with our first blog posting. And please note the numerous enhancements in our web design for which special thanks are due to Jane Goldstein.
The visual backgrounds and accents throughout this issue are on the theme of Bay Area architecture.
May you receive much pleasure from this fifth issue of OLLI at SF State’s online literary and visual arts magazine!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Writers on Writing
INCLUDES FICTION, NONFICTION AND POETRY
The ABC's of Writing Fiction
by Michèle Praeger
an essay on using the 26 letters of the alphabet to become what you are not
The Blank Page
OR Zen and the Wild Turkey Approach to Writing a Story
by Bill Carpenter
a not altogether tongue-in-cheek manifesto on how to write
Shears and Machetes
by Denize Springer
a prose poem on removing the weeds in your work to find the poem underneath
The Tortoise and the Eagle:
Untimely Observations on the Writer's Craft
by Don Plansky
a not altogether tongue-in-cheek treatise on the writing craft
Scent of Wet Words
by Heather Saunders Estes
a poem which sensually describes how poetry is formed
Writing the World
by Charlene Anderson
a magical realism story positing that our 3D world is being written from a 4D one
If You're Lucky
by Allen Wilson
a poem about battling your muse
The Writing Student
by Jane Hudson
a personal essay on the difficulties of morphing from reader to writer
(CLICK GENRE FOR TABLE OF CONTENTS)