WHY I WRITE

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We writers are a tenacious lot.  Despite work, our social lives, family ties, and all the other intricacies that make up our lives we still choose to throw these things aside once a day (if we are lucky) to sit down and develop our craft.  Why do we do this?  What drives us?  Why do we keep at it even when those close to us hover over our desks asking that unbearable question, “can’t you write later?”

The answers are innumerable.  Why do I write?  I write because I love stories.  I write because I want to change lives.  I write to remember.  I write because I must.  Each person is different and every answer is a story in itself.  We have created this space so that writers may have the opportunity to answer this question in their own original voices.  This blog will be updated every Monday with a new answer from a different writer.

What makes us keep turning these words into sentences, these sentences into paragraphs, these paragraphs into compositions?  Why I write… I’m excited to read the stories behind the stories.


 

Why I Write by George Kimeldorf

From Seeker to FinderWhy do I write? I’m not a writer. Now in my seventies, I have only written one book, a non-fiction book, and don’t plan to write another. I wrote the book (with a lot of help) because I had something worthwhile to say. I never learned how to write well, but I did learn how to be happy. I actually took a formal course in happiness and have taught what I’ve learned to others. So, what I say in the book is that happiness is an ordinary skill, like writing or playing the piano, which you can learn.

My book describes what I’ve learned and how I learned it. It also tells of many mistakes I and others have made in our search for happiness. For example, I found self-help books, positive thinking, and affirmations to be counterproductive.

Do you want to be a successful writer? That’s a great goal, but success won’t make you happy. Successful writers, like successful athletes and successful actors, are not happier than other people. Be in the present and enjoy the process of writing. Just don’t expect to be happier in the future when you attain your goal. Will you be happy when your work is accepted for publication? Yes, but that happiness will be short-lived. In fact, academic psychologists have studied lottery winners and found, after the initial euphoria wore off, that they were no happier than before they won the lottery. That’s hard to believe, but it’s true. It is very difficult to find happiness by modifying the external circumstances of your life.

You could probably teach me a bit about writing so that I would be a better writer, but it would take discipline and practice for me to become proficient. The same is true for happiness. My book will teach you a bit about happiness so that you will be a somewhat happier person, but it takes discipline and practice to experience peace of mind, joy, and satisfaction regardless of the circumstances in your life. My book can definitely point you in the right direction.

Why did I write my book? I didn’t write it to make money: The book is priced at under $7.00, so that royalties will never cover my cost of production and promotion. I didn’t write it to attain credibility to promote other activities like teaching: I am retired and have had only had a few students whom I’ve taught for free. I certainly didn’t write it expecting appreciation, admiration, or adulation.

I had four reasons for writing the book. First, I enjoyed doing it.

Second, the book was a labor of love: an expression of gratitude, love, and generosity for those who taught me this invaluable skill of happiness. It is my way to “pay it forward.”

Third, whenever I teach, I am my own best student. Writing the book reminded me of what I had learned and helped me sharpen my skills and avoid destructive ways of thinking.

My fourth motivation in writing the book was to make a minor contribution to the effort of making this world a better place for everyone. The book demonstrates clearly that learning to be happy is not mystical, mysterious, or magical. Happiness is an ordinary skill which anybody can learn. Suppose the art of happiness were taught in schools alongside arithmetic and reading. Imagine what the world might become if people practiced love, generosity, and forgiveness, forsaking greed and the quest for power. Could we have peace on earth in a few generations? What if drug users no longer needed chemicals to find joy and peace of mind?

You can help me make the world a better place by buying the book, reading it, and then giving it away. The book is From Seeker to Finder: Discovering Everyday Happiness by George Kimeldorf. You can find further information about the book at www.fromseekertofinder.com and buy the book at amazon.com.

The Reason Why I Hate Parties by Scott Bergstrom

Bergstrom Author PhotoThere’s a reason I hate parties. Right after meeting a fellow guest for the first time, they invariably ask me, “So, Scott, what do you so?” At this point I usually look away, take a deep swallow of whatever I’m drinking, and tell them I’m a writer. Eyebrows rise. Noses crinkle. “Really?” they ask. Then, invariably: “How did you get in that?”

It’s at this point that I lie. I tell stories about my love of the written word. The joy of creating new worlds. The nearly erotic pleasure of placing great characters in nasty situations. But none of these are true. The fact is, I write because I’m addicted to it.

You see, there’s a demon inside me that compels me to write stories. The addiction started early. In middle school, I wrote an epic fantasy novel that had grown to 400 pages before I abandoned it. It was terrible, of course; my two main literary influences at the time were Tolkien and the Die Hard movies. But I simply couldn’t stop myself from working on it. Like some junkie, I’d wake up early every morning, slink to a dim corner of my parents’ unfinished basement, and indulge the demon: plunking out ream after ream of awful prose on an ancient, rattling IBM Selectric II.

I managed to kick the addiction for a while. Or kind of. After college, I took a job as a copywriter at a large ad agency in Manhattan. But this was like an alcoholic taking a job in a bar. Temptation to be creative was all over the place, and it wasn’t long before I succumbed. I fell off the wagon in my mid-20s, and began another epic novel, this one about politics and intrigue in late-90s Russia. Like my first attempt, it was overlong and overwrought. The difference was that this time the early drafts garnered praise from writers I respected, real novelists who knew their stuff. I had found my enablers.

Over time, it became easier to hide the addiction. In my day job, I’d risen through the ranks and actually made something of myself. I became a respected creative director. Started a family. Got myself a mortgage. I was a responsible writer for a while, indulging only on the side. A few non-fiction books here. Some articles in magazines there. But the demon’s thirst could not be slaked, and no matter how well my career was going, the desire to write pulled at me. During meetings, I wrote bits of dialogue, pretending I was just taking notes. In my office late at night, I worked out plot twists on my white board as my colleagues looked on with admiration, thinking I was a dedicated corporate soldier burning the midnight oil.

These days I don’t bother trying to hide my addiction. Indulging it is what I do. It’s my fulltime job. “I really respect your dedication to your art,” some of the kinder people at the parties tell me. At this I just smile. It’s not dedication, I want to tell them. It’s louche indulgence, nothing more. The fact is, after all these years, it’s still hard to say it aloud: My name is Scott. And I’m a writer.

Scott Bergstrom is a writer and traveler fascinated by the darker, unloved corners of the world’s great cities. His books and articles on architecture and urbanism have been widely published both in the United States and Europe. The Cruelty is his first novel. You can see more at http://www.thecruelty.net.


 

KEY EXPRESSIONS!

peter-sacco-midnight-eclipse_picOften times, I am asked why do I like to write, or why did I get into writing? I can answer that it is not about the money (but the money is great!), rather for the passion that it stirs inside of me. I get to tap on my keyboard and literally (pun intended) “key” my expressions into literature and self-help books.

For starters, writing is not only enjoyable, but the best catharsis, rather make that an escape from the mundane rigors of the real world. It is my time to make the colors, sounds and actions that fill my mind, often times racing uncontrollably with unbridled energy, come to life on my computer screen. In fact, sometimes the characters in my stories tell me how things are going to be in terms of plotlines and endings, so I just sit back and listen to them hoping that I pay them the respect that they so deserve in my stories.

The very first thing I ever wrote was a screenplay…then another screenplay and then another. Friends of mine who were in film told me they were really, really good–they were amusing and entertaining! Then came the big question, “Have you ever thought about writing a book?”. “Hmmm, are you kidding me, me a novelist?” I would often times respond. The idea of writing a complete novel was daunting, if not nerve wracking. What the heck did I now about writing novels? After all, my education (Master’s Degree and Ph.D.) were in psychology. I sure as heck was no Hemingway! Upon further influencing, coaxing and prodding, I decided to try a short story, then another and many more before I finished my first book Fear Factors, a collection of short stories which were sci-fi, fantasy and horror-based. And then my writing of both fiction and non-fiction started full-swing!

TBGI write with the primary focus of creating a solid story from start to finish, developing characters that readers can relate to, and of course entertaining individuals that I am very blessed to have reading my books. I believe that art definitely imitates life and captures it in black and white pages. Even though I try to make characters and colors as vivid as possible, I leave it up to the reader’s imagination to fill in the proverbial dots. As an author, I like to think of my work as a “paint by number” fun activity–I create the picture, connect the dots, color-code each piece on the canvas, and you get to fill in the strokes. In the end, we are both artists to this process in that what I have written you get to read and interpret based on your own perception. Interestingly, my novel Touched By Grace is about an artist who not only uses a canvas and paints to touch the lives of others, but he is also trying to paint a surprise ending to a life that has become so mundane and disheartening. It is amazing that when love shows up in a person’s life, how colorful and vivid life truly becomes!

Touched By Grace was something I experimented with about a decade ago and finally put into print recently. It is something altogether different from what I am accustomed to writing. It really pulled me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to express emotions–love, joy, disappointment, rejection and acceptance at the deepest levels of humanity. As an author, I like to stretch the proverbial boundaries and takes things beyond expected limits.

When I wrote The Lost Fountain, I wanted to reach a tween/YA audience that could put themselves in the boots of a modern-day Harry Potter meets Indiana Jones explorer. It was a very “touching” story because it hits upon real-life issues such as Progeria Diease (a premature aging disease which kills kids).  Then there was Midnight Eclipse, the second vampire novel I wrote. Being an avid Stephen King fan as a youngster, as well as a lover of Alfred Hitchcock film masterpieces, I decided to do some justice for vampire lovers–I explained where they came from. Some reviewers dubbed it “Horrific Historical Vampire Fiction” in a good way!

When people start to tell you that your writing “affects” them, it makes you want to write even more. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t find catharsis in my own writing, as well as even entertaining myself. Yes, I do find that I enjoy writing because it allows me to tell myself stories–ones that I didn’t even know were in me! As a social psychologist and radio talk show host who deals with “self-help” issues, Matters of the Mind (my radio show), fiction writing provides me a place to spread my wings and create fantasy, comedy, drama, science-fiction and horror. Each day is a new day and you never know what life may bring your way, or what new ideas your mind whispers, “Hey, I have this really great idea for a new story…”.

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Peter Andrew Sacco is a former psychologist, psychology professor and author of 25 books both fiction and non-fiction. In addition to 700 articles published in newspapers, magazines and journals, Sacco appears regularly on television and radio shows both in the United States and Canada, and is host of the weekly Toronto radio show Matters of the Mind, and host of the hit TV series Niagara’s Most Haunted. To learn more about him, visit him at petersacco.com or on Facebook.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time by Tsara Adelman

I wrote Wrong Place, Wrong Time because I loved the story and I wanted to read it.  When I realized no one else had written it, my imperative became clear.

tilia7I had been published before, mostly for nonfiction; but the grip that this story had on me was different.  It started as a daydream inspired by a movie about a kidnapping.  The victim is a young, beautiful woman (surprise!); the man who steals her away is hunky and devilishly insouciant.   It’s very light-hearted, and only the bad guys got hurt.

But what if this happened in real life? I thought.

How would the characters be different?  What would happen after the crime was solved?  In movies, the happy ending occurs when people stop responding to the story.  In real life, we carry our experiences around with us every day.  I would suggest that by the time any of us is about eight, we have enough life experiences under our belts to fuel at least one novel if not a whole series.

What if the kidnap victim were Jewish?  Not Hollywood Jewish, meaning either a Holocaust victim or New York neurotic with thick glasses.  What if this person were a smart, funny, tough Jewish woman who might conceivably live next door to me and carpool her kids to Hebrew school at our synagogue?

Soon my head was full of people I had never met but always known.  They were in a desperate situation none of them could have imagined (but I did).  I walked around with them all day.  I took them to bed with me at night.  We were constant companions.

Eventually, perhaps out of self-defense, I decided to let them out.  In other words, write their story.

The first step, of course, was creating character bios so that when the action started I wouldn’t have to wonder how my people would respond.

Meet my cast.

Tilia-VBTTsara Adelman. Tsara is the kind of person who writes “overeducated housewife” on forms that require a job description.  She is devoted to her husband and their two kids, Josh and Abbie, who are five and three respectively.  The fact that Tsara is a good mother is in many ways the backbone of her personality, and it was a conscious choice on my part because generally speaking, Jewish mothers in popular culture are a contemptible ethnic joke.  The ones I know in real life do not overfeed their children and smother them with inappropriate love, thereby damning them to a lifetime of therapy.  Like Tsara, they are reasonably sane people attempting to raise strong and loving children.

Tsara’s happiness is adumbrated by a decades-old family tragedy that makes her all the more grateful for her current serenity.

…You just know it’s not going to last, don’t you?

Mike Westbrook.  Mike is a former Marine with a criminal record, a battered soul who plays by his own rules. He has frequently run afoul of the police force in his small New Hampshire town, so when his only child is in peril he stops at nothing and no one to save the boy.  That includes the cops, the local bad guys—and, when she gets in his way, Tsara.

Erin Spaar and Victor Galen.  The two FBI agents who are called in to solve the case when Tsara goes missing posed an unexpected challenge for me:  when I first conceived of the story, they were minor characters whose main function was to unearth plot points.  As the story unfolded, however, and especially after I had the extraordinary privilege of interviewing two real FBI agents, Spaar and Galen took on lives of their own.  Which was a problem, because I hadn’t given them backstories and therefore didn’t know them well enough to script them properly.  In the end I went back and retrofitted biographies:  Spaar grew up the only child of an abusive marriage; in college, she fought off a would-be attacker and realized that she could defend herself.  This insight led her to a career in law enforcement.  Galen, I decided, was the oldest of ten kids in a Catholic family.  This gave him both a specific moral compass and a strong need to protect the vulnerable, especially children.  Once I figured all that out, Spaar and Galen began to work together beautifully as a team.

Thus was Wrong Place, Wrong Time released from my cranium; and this is what happens in the story:

When Tsara Adelman leaves her husband and two young children for a weekend to visit her estranged uncle, she little dreams he is holding several local children captive on his lavish estate.  Mike Westbrook, father of one of the boys, kidnaps her to trade her life for the children’s.  Soon Tsara and Mike are fleeing through New Hampshire’s mountain wilderness pursued by two rogue cops with murder on their minds.

I hope you enjoy it.

Writer Tilia Klebenov Jacobs has mastered the art of keeping readers in suspense with her newest release, Wrong Place, Wrong Time (October 1, 2013, Linden Tree Press).

Jacobs was born in Washington D.C. and studied at Oberlin College in Ohio where she earned a bachelor of arts in religion and English with a concentration in creative writing. After spending time as a park naturalist with the Fairfax County Park Authority in picturesque Virginia, she returned to school and obtained a master of theological studies from Harvard Divinity School and a secondary school teaching certification from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1997. She went on to teach middle school, high school and college. She is a world traveler, having lived in or visited Colombia, Norway, England, Venezuela, Bulgaria, Israel and Jordan, among many other countries.

Jacobs has won numerous awards for her fiction and nonfiction work. Her writing has appeared in The Jewish Magazine and anthologies including Phoenix Rising: Collected Papers on Harry Potter (2008, Narrate Conferences Inc.) and The Chalk Circle (Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, 2012), a collection of intercultural essays.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time was designated IndieReader Approved and the book won honorable mention for the 2010 Joanna Catherine Scott Novel Excerpt Prize.

Tilia’s book Wrong Place, Wrong Time is also a recipient of book awards from London Book Festival and New England Book Festival.

For the past 12 years, Jacobs has lived in near Boston, Mass. with her husband, two children and their two standard poodles. She is a judge in the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition and a member of Grub Street, Boston’s premier writing center. In addition to teaching writing at several state prisons in Massachusetts, she has been a guest blogger for Jungle Red Writers, Femmes Fatales and author Terri Giuliano Long’s website.

New Year’s Resolutions by Marlena Maduro Baraf

Prompt: For the first time in the history of your character, the character is actually following through on her New Year’s resolution.

Photo Marlena Maduro Baraf Jan 2014Oh, so you want to hear about me?  It’s all about me, indeed, me, me, me.  And will she, will she come through with the New Year’s plan to stay with it?  But the prompt says she will.  Isn’t that wonderful.  So she will write every day every day every day.  At least for one hour, for one hour only.  An easy task?  Impossible task.  Let’s pretend.  It’s January 11 today, only eleven days into the New Year commitment.  And what has our girl done?  Let’s pretend. The girl – or is it an old lady now nearing the bewitching age where she can’t escape the appellation “old.”  Can one publish a first book when “old?”  SEVENTY old?  What a fright! Freddy Krueger frightful.  I saw that movie with my eyes closed, clutching the arms of my husband and my cousin Daniel (now dead, dead, DEAD).  But then, I digress.

Our main character me me me is fulfilling her eleven-day-old resolution, if this prompt lasts one hour. Well, hell yes for today. Does she need a “container,” a serene place in which to write free of distractions, a photo of a beloved, air and light and view? Well, hell yes.  She’s done that. Everything is set. Whisper softly, lady M.  Siri is counting.

Now to establish a habit a habit a habit…

Marlena Maduro de Baraf (as you would say it in Panama, “belonging to Baraf”) has just completed the last draft of her memoir, Days of Opera, about coping with a difficult mother, about a Jewish girlboth insider outsider – living in a Catholic country, about leaving a galaxy of relations in order to find her self in another landscape. 

Marlena has moved between the worlds of books, writing and design over the years–as a book editor at McGraw-Hill and Harper & Row, a principal with Just North LLC, Interior Design Studio, and writing.  Always writing.  A vignette from her memoir was published in The Westchester Review.

It’s Only a Numbers Game by Nan Mutnick

wacfs4JYeYyzq_iILDV3gIOqAn8VV9xdtrWLnUs5qzEEvery year on my birthday I reverse the numbers of my age, and depending on the digits, either imagine what it will be like to be the future age or remember what I was like when I was the younger age.

For example, 24 was 42, and 42 was 24. It’s fun. I wondered at certain age whether the “older me” would still be wearing jeans. At other ages I recalled my first kiss, first date, and first dog. Luckily, at 13 I wouldn’t have imagined my father’s death when I turned 31. At 25, I imagined being married to my husband at 52, and at 52 I still was. At 37, as I held my baby girl I wondered if at 73 If I would be holding a grandchild.

Last year I couldn’t play the game. At 55, the number was the number.

It’s karma I told myself. It’s the year that I have to be me, the year that my baby would go off to college, the year that my husband and I would return to just the two of us again. The year I would finish my novel and let my writing go public. I worked on stillness and patience and learned to be a yoga teacher. I cleaned out my closets and threw away the clothes that at 54 I remembered wearing at 45 and thought well maybe next year I’ll fit into them again.

I looked in the mirror at 55 and saw that the scar from my thyroid surgery was fading, that I had recovered from the cancer that invaded my body at 53 and would never have been on my radar at 35, when all I could think of was getting pregnant.

So at 56 I am enjoying the prospect of social security at 65 while doing downward dog.

Nan Mutnick is an essayist and struggling novelist. She is a perpetual student at the Sarah Lawrence Writing Institute.   As a certified yoga instructor she says “while in Standing forward bend the ideas tumble out of my heard on to the mat waiting for me to collect them.”

She lives in Westchester with her husband, daughter and dog Lucky.

Why I Write by Bill Gourgey

gourgeyIn the spirit of Letterman (interesting wordplay, that, for a piece like this), here’s a countdown of the top ten reasons why I write:

10. The page doesn’t talk back.

Ba-dum-bum…  But sometimes it does have that chilling blank stare.

9. My pen (keyboard) actually does what I ask.

Ba-dum-bum…  Be careful what you ask for!

8. Along with a prominent Do Not Disturb sign (which is as essential to a writer as pen and paper), writing provides good cover for catching a few Z’s.

Ba-dum-bum…  But that’s not the way to make dreams come true.

7. I can make things up without being accused of making things up.

Ba-dum-bum…  As they say, if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance…

6. Words are the best kind of friends, always ready to play.

Ba-dum-bum…  But too much of a good thing…

5. I’ve been told I can’t think on my feet, so I compensate by thinking on my butt.

Ba-dum-bum…  But sometimes I find it hard not to make an ass of myself.

4. Writing is the only profession with a respectable excuse for slacking off.

Ba-dum-bum…  Whoever heard of Accountant’s Block?

3. Since I can’t afford therapy, I write.

Ba-dum-bum…  But you’re sure to go insane if you ever try to calculate the opportunity cost buried in revision.

2. Since I’m a wimp, writing allows me to exact revenge on reviled relatives and frenemies without fear of reprisal.

Ba-dum-bum…  Don’t forget the “This is a work of fiction” disclaimer on that copyright page!

And the number one reason why I write (drum roll):

1.  Writing is the best soul food around.

Ba-dum-bum…  But eating your words is not recommended.

Perhaps this old Latin proverb captures best what motivates me most: verba volant, scripta manent. In other words, being mortal (and more painfully aware of it every year), it’s nice to think I might leave behind something that could stand the test of time. So, I write.

After spending two decades in the field of technology, Bill Gourgey put his expertise to work as a full-time writer, releasing the first book in his “Glide” trilogy in 2011.

Gourgey served as a managing partner at Accenture where he was awarded a patent for Software Service Architectures. Now, he spends time as a venture capital partner at Omni Capital and a technology advisor for startup companies. He is a member of the Alpha Sigma Mu and Tau Beta Pi engineering honor societies.

NuLogicVBTGourgey’s first science fiction novel, “Glide” (2011, Jacked Arts Press), has drawn more than 5 million reads on Wattpad.com, and the second book in the series, “Nu Logic,” received a highly coveted starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Gourgey has contributed to Wattpad, PatrickMcMullan.com, Wavecloud and Enterprise Systems Journal. He is also the author of the short story collection “Unfamiliar Fruit” (2012, Jacked Arts Press) and the book of poetry “Outside the Box” (2007-2008, Jacked Arts Press).

 

Why I Write by Kathleen Wheaton

I write because I read.

wehatonThe first books I read on my own were Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “LIttle House” series about a pioneer family continually on the move. I was seven, and my family had recently moved from Los Angeles to a small Oregon town at the foot of the Siskiyou Mountains. This was in 1964, but much of “Laura’s” 19th century experience–from her minute observations of new landscapes to her difficulties fitting in at new schools–echoed in my own life. I re-read the books so many times that whole passages would bubble up verbatim in my head as I collected tadpoles in the creek behind our house or lay in the dark beside my sister, waiting for sleep.

At that point, it was no use reading the books yet again. Instead, I fashioned a log cabin out of my mother’s church hatbox and outfitted it with an assortment of miniature dolls and furniture made of empty spools and matchboxes, spinning adventures for this small family as they blazed the Oregon Trail. The narrative was probably a mash-up of things I’d read and things I’d lived–there was, I recall, a baby brother doll, with orange hair like my brother’s made from a cotton ball dipped in curry powder. I’m sure the whole kaboodle looked pretty motley–I’m no good at manuals–but in second grade I wasn’t any good at writing, either. What I wanted was to answer Wilder with stories of my own; to continue the conversation I felt she’d started.

When I took my first creative writing class, in college, our young and handsome instructor imparted tips on craft that seemed revelatory (show, don’t tell; make your characters want something right off the bat). He also urged us would-be writers to read as much as possible. This sounded laughably obvious, like telling members of the football team to be sure to get plenty of exercise. But as the term progressed, it became clear that some students hadn’t–and didn’t–read very much. Their impulse to write seemed less reactive and more organic than mine, to spring from an internal well of imagination I didn’t possess.

“Creativity” was big on campuses in the late 1970s (you could even take a class in it), and it bothered me that a quiz administered by the university psych department revealed that I was too cautious, my habits too orderly, my homework too promptly finished, for me to qualify as a creative personality. And the stories I wrote for the instructor (himself a natty dresser with neat penmanship) were usually a response to something I’d read: about a trip to a new place, a romance gone wrong, an old person looking back on life. Writing, I felt, was an ongoing conversation between someone long dead or far away, and me.

I moved to Spain after college and taught English, and then moved a lot more, to Boston, New York, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and Tepoztlan, Mexico. It was several years before I had enough freelance newspaper and magazine assignments to be able to say that I made my living as a writer.

With journalism, the “why” of writing is never in doubt: your editor gives you an assignment, you do it and hand it in–it’s like having homework for the rest of your life.  But I continued to write short stories, and here the “why” was less clear, especially after I was married and had two children. I could claim that I turned down assignments and spent money I wasn’t earning on babysitters because it turned out that I actually was creative, because I had a deep-seated drive to invent and imagine. The truth is that some other writer was doing the imagining first, and that was what always got my own wheels turning. Living much of my day in another language, and writing what I hoped were indisputable facts, I looked forward to sinking under the covers at night with a novel or short story collection in English. In the early 90s, before books could be turned into bytes, they were expensive to mail or took up precious space in suitcases, so I chose carefully, and reread a lot. And then I’d want to sit down and reply to my invisible, distant, dear friends.

The British novelist Anthony Powell once said that when writers read they’re always thinking about how they’d have told the same story. I don’t think he meant that they’re nitpicking or criticizing (though they also do that) as much as working out what they’ll say when they get their turn at the mic.

Of all the arts, we view writing as the least collaborative–songs are written and movies made and dances performed and even murals painted with and alongside others. A book written “with” someone else is ghostwritten, maybe bogus. Writing is only properly done alone, we’re told, in that hard-won room of one’s own. To say that you rely on others for your ideas, your techniques, your stories, seems to skate dangerously close to confessing to plagiarism. But I’m not talking here about about passing off someone else’s work as your own. I’m saying that stories, like language itself, evolved from a long-ago mother source. Nobody is born speaking a language–you listen, imitate, practice, until your words sound like you. And you have to know the story–in as many iterations as possible, as close as you can get to the ur-version grunted around the campfire while the mastodon sizzled–before you can tell yours.

You have to keep reading.

18060278Kathleen Wheaton’s articles and interviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Smithsonian, The Paris Review, Bethesda Magazine, and other publications. Her short story collection, Aliens and Other Stories, won the 2013 Washington Writers Publishing House Prize and will be published October 15. Her website is www.kathleenwheaton.com.

Why I Write by Demethius Jackson

jacksonAs I think back over the years, I can’t officially pinpoint the beginning of my interest in writing. It’s something that I’ve always done. Yet it still took me a loooooong time to realize that my purpose was to write.  As crazy as it may sound, the thought simply had never occurred to me.

As a kid, I used to keep a journal.  Growing up as an only child, this book became my companion.  It knew me better than anyone else.  It was filled with my school adventures, my dreams of the future, and my questions about the world around me. During this time in my life, I also began writing short stories about my favorite television characters.  For example, an idea such as the Muppets meeting Lucy and Ricky Ricardo could potentially keep me busy for days!  As my writing ability increased, so did the intricacies of my stories, which later evolved into writing poems and songs.  I quickly fell in love with rhyme.  It was a powerful platform for expressing emotion. In fact, my passion for rhyme and my interest in old English literature would later inspire my first published book which was a fully rhyming epic-adventure.

Writing became a part of my identity. It’s what kept me grounded during the difficult times of my childhood. While most people read books as their means of escaping reality, it was writing that became my personal outlet. Nothing excited me more than a blank page. I could be anyone; I could do anything; I could go to any location -past, present, or future. The possibilities were endless. I needed only to imagine, and my ideas became a new reality.

Over the years that followed, writing fueled many of my personal and professional decisions. However, it wasn’t obvious to me.  Think of it as a fish not being aware of the water it swims in.  Writing was as natural to me as walking, and like walking, it just wasn’t my primary focus. This, understandably, created an internal conflict within myself because I was literally ignoring, if not working against, my nature.

There were many times as a young adult that I felt restless and dissatisfied. No matter what I did or what career path I took, there was always something within me bubbling just beneath the surface. Even though I was actually working in media, which was my chosen field of study in school, I was never completely fulfilled.  It wasn’t until I was 30 years old that I finally realized what had been tugging at me.  My restlessness stemmed directly from neglecting my desire to write.  Writing had been the cornerstone of everything I’d ever done up until that point, and it now needed to be the centerpiece.  I owed it to myself to do so.

Sitting down to write my first book filled me with great pride.  Every day I looked forward to the block of time I devoted to writing.  I enjoyed sneaking away to type a few lines or quickly whispering them into my digital voice recorder while at work.  It took what seemed a lifetime, but I’d finally discovered my purpose, and now my goal is to use writing to help others find theirs.

I can honestly laugh at myself now as I think back on the amount of time and energy I spent changing companies, moving into different positions, and searching for something that was within me all along.  Life knew I was supposed to be a writer long before I ever did. And I know it to be the truth because every word I write brings me peace. I often tell my readers that the voice within you will never lead you astray. Nowadays, I take great effort to continue listening to my own. Because every day it tells me to “Just Keep Writing.”

Demethius Jackson is a fiction writer from Washington, DC. He is the author of The Realmsic Conquest book series, which chronicles the struggles of the only magical kingdom in existence. Since its establishment, the kingdom has been ravaged by endless warfare, and must undergo a transformative quest to find ever elusive peace.

At its core, The Realmsic Conquest is symbolic of the life-journey we all must partake to discover our own purpose and peace. Born into adversity, Jackson himself coped with extreme hardships and desperation throughout his life. During his early adulthood, he experienced further frustrations as he tried to establish himself in the world. Yet, continuous encouragement and guidance allowed him to discover his hidden potential and identify his chosen path. He later realized that his personal struggles were widely common among young people. Now, through his coming-of-age stories, he intends to encourage and inspire young adults who are hoping to find themselves, and reach their own potential.

Jackson is an alumnus of American University’s School of Communications. Through his ten year career, his written works have spanned numerous forms of media such as music and television. He has also held positions at global media and cinema companies.

In July of 2010, Jackson published his first book. Initially releasing The Realmsic Conquest as a rhyming epic-adventure, he spent the following years vastly expanding the story of the Realm. Now in 2013, he will be publishing his much anticipated full-length novel entitled, The Hero of Legend.

http://realmsic.com
http://demethius.com
https://twitter.com/Demethius_J
http://instagram.com/demethius_j

Why I Write by Liz Worth

For much of my life, I’ve felt unheard, unseen.

WorthPhotoWhen I was a kid, I remember sometimes putting my hand up in class to be the first to answer a question, but the teacher would overlook me and call on the kid who was second to raise their hand. Sometimes someone might point out that I should have gone first, and the teacher would raise her eyebrows, surprised. “Oh, I didn’t even see you there.”

I was the first of my friends to go vegetarian, but no one noticed until over a year later, when someone else in the group went veg. Then it became a big deal, but when I did it, it was forgettable, as if it wasn’t even real. Or maybe I wasn’t real.

When I was 13 I was struggling with depression and self-harm, but any adult who got involved followed the rules they felt were right, rather than listening to what I wanted, what I needed. I felt like I was something they wanted to fix rather than a person they were trying to help.

Whenever I tried to explain the impact it all had on me in the years to follow, I felt like people didn’t get it. Whenever I tried to open up about something I would get blank stares, stiff lips, changed subjects.

When I was working as a freelance writer for a few years, stories I’d pitch would go unanswered sometimes, only to appear six months later under another writer’s name. I know it happens to other people, but I couldn’t help but wonder if it was just another case of going unheard, unnoticed. I could almost hear the editors on the other end of the inbox saying, “oh, I didn’t even see you there.”

When I first asked myself the question, “why do I write?” I actually answered, “I don’t know.”

It’s only recently that I’ve come to enjoy the writing process. Up until recently, I more enjoyed the feeling of having written.

Because there have been times when I resented writing, when I felt it kept me from living my life, kept me missing out on Sunday brunches and shopping with friends and regular trips to the Laundromat.

Instead of wondering why I write, I would ask, “why do I do this to myself?” But still I returned to the page, often day after day, pushing myself as much as possible.

I’ve never had a mandate or a mission for my work. Instead, I’ve often rushed forward with it, sometimes with blinding obsession, working past the lump of anxiety that inevitably settles deep in my chest if too much time passes without hitting the page.

I knew that I wanted to write the types things that I would want to read – punk rock poetry, obscure bands, spirit animals, haunted girls and the ghosts that lived in the – but I wasn’t on a mission. I didn’t have a reason to write, just an urgency.

I believe that creating is the most important thing you can do, and for me, building structures out of words is what I am most drawn to, what is most exhilarating.

But I can, and do, create other things. They don’t come through me the way writing does, though. I don’t feel driven by them in the same way. I don’t feel like I need them in the same way.

So why do I write? Why choose words over another medium?

When I look back at everything my writing has brought out of me – so many truths, so many secrets that would have remained hidden and unheard, so many things that people have told me they always wanted to say but never knew how – I see now why it had to happen.

I feel heard when I write, and sometimes I get the privilege of knowing that my words have connected with someone else.

postapocWriting also lets my bypass the fear I often have of sharing something out loud. I still experience that feeling of being ignored, or misunderstood – even in some of my closest relationships. When I write, I can send my words out there, weighted in black and white, and trust that they will find the people who need to see them. I don’t have to risk a blank stare. I don’t have to ask for someone to try to hear me out. The words are there for whoever wants to receive them, and that’s all the work I need to do.

Strongly introverted, writing also lets me talk to a lot of people without leaving home. Sometimes, there are things that need to be said, but without the power of a blog or the delicacy of a fresh poem, certain pieces of my life would never be known outside of myself.

I write to connect, to pull out every truth and jagged edge I can, to understand myself better and in the process maybe reflect back someone else’s truth, too.  I write to make sense of who I am and I write to find freedom and I write to liberate aspects of myself that would never otherwise be known.

But mostly, I write because I have to, because that lump in my chest just keeps nagging if I don’t.

At just 31 years old, writer Liz Worth has blown readers away with stunning poetry and a fascinating tribute to Toronto’s music scene. Worth has worked as a journalist, but these days, she is mostly focused on poetry, fiction and performance art. Her writing has been published in Exclaim!, Dead Gender, Carousel, The Toronto Star and Broken Pencil. She published a collection of poetry called “Amphetamine Heart” (2011, Guernica Editions) and the non-fiction book, “Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond” (2009, Bongo Beat/ECW Press) that gave an in-depth account of Toronto’s earliest punk scene. She has written three chapbooks – “Eleven: Eleven,” “Manifestations” and “Arik’s Dream” Worth’s latest work, “PostApoc” comes out Oct. 15 from Now or Never Publishing. Excerpts from the book have appeared in Dead Gender and Carousel. Worth lives in Toronto, Ontario.