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Archive for the ‘Creative Writing and Literary Criticism’ Category

With the first of November just around the corner, writers everywhere have stockpiled paper and food and bid farewell to their family and friends as they prepare to hole up in their writing caves until December 1.  November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, an annual internet-based creative writing event that challenges participants to write a new 50,000-word novel in thirty days.

The project was founded by Chris Baty in 1999 with twenty-one participants, and the official NaNoWriMo website was launched the following year.  The number of registered participants has grown steadily every year, and the affiliate Young Writers Program and official podcast were developed in 2005.  A summer version of NaNoWriMo (Camp NaNoWriMo) was introduced in 2011.  In 2017, over 402,000 writers from six continents registered for the challenge, and over 58,000 ended the month as novelists.

The novel can be on any theme and in any genre.  However, it cannot be a project already in progress.  Writing of the new novel cannot have commenced prior to midnight on November 1, and the 50,000-word mark must be reached by 11:59 p.m. on November 30.

While I will not be working on a new novel during NaNoWriMo, I will be researching and crafting approximately twenty-five new pages or 7,500 words of my developing dissertation in November.

For a comprehensive list of FAQs and guidelines, visit the website at www.nanowrimo.org.

Have fun, and good luck!

 

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

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The recent loss of my beloved pet and constant companion of twelve years has reminded me of how unconsciously we impute human thoughts and feelings to animals.  As I reflected on the weeks leading up to her passing, I initially construed her hibernation as sadness and grief for the impending separation.  Now I realize she was likely feeling only discomfort, lethargy, and perhaps pain.  Emotionally, however, I subscribed to the belief that we suffered alike.

John Ruskin refers to the literary ascription of human capabilities, sensations, and emotions to inanimate and inhuman objects as “pathetic fallacy” and asserts that the notion is a typical response to grief and other intense feelings.  Ruskin was originally critical of such sentimentality, which was common in the poetry of the late eighteenth century, but eventually pronounced some uses of pathetic fallacy “exquisite.”  While I contend that there is nothing typical about the experience of loss and grief, I do agree with Ruskin that much of our favorite poetry (such as Tennyson’s Maud) is replete with fallacy of this kind and is more beautiful because of it.

 

I have led her home, my love, my only friend.

There is none like her, none.

And never yet so warmly ran my blood

And sweetly, on and on

Calming itself to the long-wished-for end,

Full to the banks, close on the promised good.

 

None like her, none.

Just now the dry-tongued laurels’ pattering talk

Seemed her light foot along the garden walk,

And shook my heart to think she comes once more.

But even then I heard her close the door;

The gates of heaven are closed, and she is gone.  (Part I, XVIII, 1-2)

 

While Ruskin generally considered pathetic fallacy such as a plant’s “pattering talk” or a shaking heart an artistic mistake, “produc[ing] in us a falseness in all our impressions of external things,” other critics, artists, and writers disagree, regarding it as a natural way for humans to comprehend and relate to the world.  To dismiss it would mean rejecting most poetry and literary images—not to mention the bittersweet final moments of understanding and love between a girl and her cat.

Rest in peace, my sweet Sabrina.

 

Pierre Carrier-Belleuse, 1895

 

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April is National Poetry Writing Month, also known as NaPoWriMo, an annual creative writing event that challenges participants to write a new poem each day from April 1 through April 30.  NaPoWriMo coincides with National Poetry Month, which is celebrated annually around the world.

The project was founded by Maureen Thorson in 2003 and modeled after NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, which challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the month of November.  Since its inception, the number of registered participants has grown steadily every year, and many writers’ organizations coordinate NaPoWriMo activities.

For a comprehensive list of FAQs, guidelines, and daily prompts, visit the website at http://www.napowrimo.net.

Have fun, and good luck!

 

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With the first of November just around the corner, writers everywhere have stockpiled paper and food and bid farewell to their family and friends as they prepare to hole up in their writing caves until December 1.  November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, an annual internet-based creative writing event that challenges participants to write a new 50,000-word novel in thirty days.

The project was founded by Chris Baty in 1999 with twenty-one participants, and the official NaNoWriMo website was launched the following year.  The number of registered participants has grown steadily every year, and the affiliate Young Writers Program and official podcast were developed in 2005.  A summer version of NaNoWriMo (Camp NaNoWriMo) was introduced in 2011.  In 2016, over 384,000 writers from six continents registered for the challenge, and over 34,000 ended the month as novelists.

The novel can be on any theme and in any genre.  However, it cannot be a project already in progress.  Writing of the new novel cannot have commenced prior to midnight on November 1, and the 50,000-word mark must be reached by 11:59 p.m. on November 30.

While I’m not working on a new novel during NaNoWriMo, I am committed to writing twenty-two new pages or 6,050 words of my developing dissertation—not bad for a writer with a full-time day job.

For a comprehensive list of FAQs and guidelines, visit the website at www.nanowrimo.org.

Have fun, and good luck!

 

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There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station.  He lives in the ground.  He’s a basement guy.  You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in.  You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you.  Do you think this is fair?  I think it’s fair.  He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist (what I get out of mine is mostly surly grunts, unless he’s on duty), but he’s got the inspiration.  It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the midnight oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic.  There’s stuff in there that can change your life.

 

~ Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

 

Ensio Ilmonen

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Eight years ago on this day, with a succinct, autogenous “Hello, World!” announcing its quiet arrival on the heavily populated, cyber literary landscape, Archetype was launched.  Conceived originally in 2009 to chronicle my academic journey through Chapman University’s dual Master of Arts in English and Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program and provide a forum for peer critique and camaraderie, I promptly posted passages from one of my short stories (“Windmill Ridge”) and my novel-in-progress Time of Death and invited classmates to contribute their work.  I also published original essay excerpts on Jonathan Franzen and the waning of a literary America (“Antisocial or socially isolated?”, “‘Tis the good reader that makes the good book”), mirrors and reflective imagery in world literature (“Masks, Manipulation, and Madness”), and the notion of the invoked doppelganger in fiction (“The Self We Seek”), all of which I was studying in those first few months of back-to-school bliss.

Like any creative endeavor, the site evolved as I did and soon reflected my deepening involvement in and abiding commitment to literary and academic pursuits.  In addition to promoting Chapman fiction and poetry readings and publication opportunities in those first years, I mined journals and the Internet for interesting and informative local events taking place beyond the university’s borders.  Details regarding local and national writing contests and Calls for Submissions were and still are also posted regularly.  In 2012, I added a section for the growing number of my guest blog posts, my interviews, and other places where I’ve stumbled pleasantly upon my own work in the cybersphere.

Followers know that I most often post poems and passages that have timely personal significance.  From my occasional struggles with insomnia and feelings of isolation to my simple delight in a book or summer peach, each post, like a journal entry, suggests precisely where I am intellectually and emotionally.  Early on I rejoiced to find pictures, particularly nineteenth century oil paintings, that evoked or complemented the literary piece I was posting, and I now spend nearly as much time searching for corresponding artwork as I do compelling literature.

Thanks to my passionate professors and their fascinating courses on Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetic Movement, the life and works of Virginia Woolf, female enchantresses of modern British literature, and Gothic and fantastic fiction, Wilde, Woolf, and the works of A. S. Byatt, Katherine Mansfield, Angela Carter, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Edgar Allan Poe were frequent early Archetype subjects.  Posts on Wilde peaked in November 2009 with the writing of my course thesis on The Picture of Dorian Gray (“The Act of Creation,” “Wilde Irony”), while Woolf reigned in the fall of 2010.  My essay on chaos theory and the butterfly effect in the works of Virginia Woolf remains one of my proudest literary achievements to date and served as a Ph.D. application writing sample last year.  (Click on these links to review excerpts from “The I in the Portrait: A Bakhtinian Analysis of The Picture of Dorian Gray and “On the Wings of Angels and Butterflies: The Chaotic Journey to Woman in Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse.”)

My penchant for Russian literature and philosophy was also soon discovered, and I immersed myself and, by extension, Archetype in Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Nabokov and began to examine just about everything through the lens of Mikhail Bakhtin.  Later courses exposed me to the intriguing life and works of Gertrude Stein (“Back to Bakhtin: The ‘I’ in Ida), Junot Díaz, Ralph Ellison, and many others, and every newly encountered author was explored here to some extent.

The craft of writing is another recurrent theme on Archetype; “Genetics-Based Grammarianism,” “In Celebration of Technique,” “Last Writes,” “More is More,” “Not Quite Write,” “Drafting Perfection,” and “A Sense of Style” are my personal favorites.  However, it is the angst of writing about which I tend to muse and articulate most freely; “Why Write?,” “One True Sentence,” “Bird by Bird,” “Write About Now,” “Demons and Darlings,” “The Reality of Rejection,” “The Joy of Ending Well,” “A New Summer of Writing,” “The Write Stuff,” “You Heard Write,” and “Imposter Syndrome” all convey my own grapples with the creative stall and feelings of inadequacy.

With the MA in English and MFA in Creative Writing attained and a few modest writing awards under my belt (“Praise for Time of Death,” “On the Write Track”), I spent most of 2015 considering what’s next—for me academically and literarily and for this site (“A Silent Abyss,” “A Beginning and an Ending,” “Writing in the Afterlife”).  As I’ve mentioned more than once on Archetype (“Это правда?”) and in an interview on TreeHouse, applying to various Ph.D. programs in English, Comparative Literature, and/or Rhetoric was always in the “someday” plans.  To that effort, I devoted much of 2016 to researching local curriculums, preparing for the treacherous Graduate Record Examination, and pursuing admittance to my chosen university.  In December, I received the happiest of news (“We Are Pleased”) and began my doctoral studies in nineteenth century British and American literature and neuroscience at Claremont Graduate University this past January.  When and if time permits, my ancillary focus will remain on submitting my nonfiction work to various conferences and journals, establishing a part-time freelance writing career, revamping Archetype and launching a new site, and at last completing and marketing my novel (“This is the Year,” “This is That Summer,” “Writing in the Aftermath”).

During the last ninety-six months, I have published over one thousand posts about literature, critical theory, writing technique, literary figures and events, submission opportunities, favorite poems and passages, articles of interest, books I’m reading, classes I’m taking, papers I’m writing, other literary blogs I’m following, conferences I’m attending, and demons I’m wrestling.  Archetype celebrates holidays, welcomes new seasons, and gives the occasional nod to lunar activity—and to much-needed sleep.  Finally, personal aspects of my affective life and literary and academic journeys are memorialized and shared (“Write of Passage,” “Cartwheels Under the Arch,” “Pathetic Fallacy,” “Beyond Words,” “Finis,” “Running the Risk of Beginning,” “The End Is Where We Start From”), even when the discovery and healing are mine alone.  I hope you will all follow me as this new narrative unfolds.

 

“Student Girl” by Nikolai Yaroshenko, 1883

 

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With writing the conclusion for my seminar paper on the lyric “I” the only remaining task of my first doctoral course at Claremont, it seems only fitting that I repost my article on endings.  Enjoy!

 

Like most people, I believe, I love the last bursts of fireworks at the end of a public Fourth of July show.  The pyrotechnicians know we wait for them with anticipation and excitement, eager for the rhythmic, more sporadic booms of the first rockets to culminate in the rapid-fire, snare drum-like rat-a-tat and dazzling sparks shower of the finale.  The end seems ironically endless until, at last, we are oohed and aahed out, breathless and completely fulfilled for that holiday.  And then the rogue pops and whistles begin in random episodes throughout the neighborhood and continue for hours, even days, jarring our bliss.

Huh? I thought we were done with that…?

Ah, yes…the lingering conclusion.  I’ve seen this before.  Like those crazy candles on a birthday cake that never fully extinguish after the song, P.F. Chang’s Great Wall of Chocolate, a third curtain call, and then a fourth, the protracted or seemingly unending ending merely delays the inevitable and may even undermine what was or could have been a spectacular and perfectly timed denouement.

Admittedly, we have conflicting feelings about endings.  Firstly, we tend to prefer beginnings with all their possibilities and mystery.  Secondly, there is the pressure to get them just right.  Done poorly, they can destroy the merits of all that came before.  And, frankly, most of us have more practice with starting things than with finishing them.

The written conclusion can be just as tricky as the real life one, as both writers and readers can attest.  Personally, I’ve always been inexorably daunted by the task of summing up.  Perhaps it’s the perceived (and correct, by the way) notion that the last paragraph will singularly uphold or enervate the entire narrative or essay that has me rattled.  Or perhaps the looming deadline triggers what remains of my creativity to gather its things, turn out the lights, and go home.  Then again, it’s hard to write with the Grim Reader snickering over my shoulder.  “Seriously?” he scoffs, crunching an apple and rolling his sockets.  “How many times are you going to say that?”

In On Writing Well, William Zinsser cautions writers about the oh-so-important last sentence: “An article that doesn’t stop where it should stop becomes a drag and therefore a failure. […] The perfect ending should take your readers slightly by surprise and yet seem exactly right.”  He goes on to extol the virtues of striking at the end an echo of a note that was sounded at the beginning, gratifying the reader’s sense of symmetry with its resonance.

There is such a thing as a perfect ending.  The wish only comes true if the candles are blown out.  The bowing and clapping (and fireworks) have to conclude so we can all leave the arena and get some sleep.  And, really, no one needs six layers of chocolate cake.  Ending well, according to Zinsser, is a joy in itself.  Like the epilogue that hints at a sequel, things must end so new things can begin.

 

This column first appeared in the Orange County Register.

 

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