Friday, July 26, 2013

Write what you know.

Greetings my Firehouse friends. Let's have a discussion, shall we?

I was perusing my Facebook wall the other day and came across a post by The Writer's Circle. They posed this question:

 Should writers stick to the subjects they know best or become familiar with new ones?

So much to talk about! Where to begin?

The Writer's Circle posed this question in response to an article posted on the New York Times website in which the author discusses three famous writing mottoes. One of them is, "Write what you know." I could get into some of the things discussed in the article but I just want to focus on the question above.

Like most writers, I'm sure, I heard the phrase, "Write what you know" very early in my writing career. It is a very common sense statement in my opinion. It's hard to write about, even talk about something you know nothing about. But the idea of limiting your writing just because you don't know enough about a certain subject seems a little crazy to me, especially in this day and age. Information is so easily accessible how could you not become familiar with new subjects?

This question of writing only what you know versus learning about new things makes me think of a couple of quotes and a conversation I had with Victoria Hanely (she's the author of The Seer and the Sword and several other books).

The first quote is from F. Scott Fitzgerald. "Writers aren't exactly people...they're a whole lot of people trying to be one person." Now, I won't deny everyone has those different sides of them. But for writers, I think those sides are more fully formed and fleshed out. It's not just that sometimes you turn into a total jerk when you're really hungry. It's more like you change from being you to being a person who legitimately enjoys the thought of clubbing baby seals. Not quite the same.

That being said, writers are likely to dabble in a lot of different areas and explore a lot of different things that will likely show up in their writing somewhere.

This next quote comes from the bestest most awesome show ever, Avatar: The Last Airbender. It may be animated and meant for kids but it is quality, trust me.

The wise Uncle Iroh tells his nephew, "It is important to draw wisdom from many different places.  If we take it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale. Understanding others...will help you become whole."

This is an idea that I think everyone, not just writers, should take to heart. Feelings like anger, hate, distrust and fear nearly always stem from a lack of understanding. If we all took the time to understand more of the world around us, even at the most basic level, the level of suck in the world would likely decrease a great deal.

The last thing I want to mention is a comment made by author Victoria Hanley. We were at the CSU Young Writer's Workshop. Ms. Hanley was talking about how so many kids come up to her saying they want to be a writer. She then explained her response to them is usually along the lines of, "Be a Marine Biologist. Then be a writer." Point being, it's hard to have something to write about if you don't do anything with your life.

So, to give my own personal answer to the question, should writers stick to the subjects they know best or become familiar with new ones, I would answer that they should absolutely and undoubtedly become familiar with new ones. The world has far too much to offer to limit yourself to one area of expertise or one lifestyle or one kind of hobby.

What do you think? Is it better to have your niche and stick to it making the assumption the final products will be of a higher quality? Or should you branch out as much as you can and run the risk of producing something less than satisfactory?

I have one last story to illustrate my stance on this matter. I once inflicted a serious amount of damage to my elbow while doing archery for the first time. I was doing archery so I could have a better understanding of the craft so I could write about it in a story. Also because archery is awesome.

Until next time my friends! And I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter.



Thursday, July 11, 2013

Peter Heller, Poets, and Beer!

Hello my Firehouse friends. It has been a while since we last chatted. Thank you again to Chloe for posting another review and not letting the blog go neglected.

I'm writing this with Tired Brain (a thing I just made up) but thankfully there won't be too much content that requires me to craft eloquent sentences and present thought provoking ideas. Phew.

I mostly want to talk to you (again) about the great events we have coming up.

This Friday we have an amazing trio of poets giving readings right here in our store. We are super stoked to host Heather Taylor Johnson, author of Pursuing Love and Death, Cassandra Eddington, an MFA poetry graduate from CSU, and Jason Hardung, our 2013 Fort Collins Poet Laureate!

That's right; we got Fort Collins' Poet Laureate. Who's awesome? We are!

Tasty treats and beverages will be provided. That plus the poetry is like the triple threat of Friday night events. Why wouldn't you come? The reading begins at 6:00pm.


With it being summer and all, I'm sure many of you have been partaking in a nice cold brewski or two at the end of a hothothot day. Recycling those holders, bottles and caps is great, but why not make them into some cool art?

If you're not sure how to make awesome beer art, Shawn Gascoyne-Bowman can give you some help. She is the author of Beer Crafts (a very appropriate title).

In the neighborhood for a new purse? Why not crochet one with some beer cans?
Can never remember which Elli's Brown Ale is yours? Why not make a beer charm for it?
Could your bulletin board use some sprucing up? Put those beer caps to use!
Porch looking a little dull? Add some beer can wind spinners for some flair!

You can learn how to make all these things and a ton of others in Bowman's book. 

The event is taking place on the patio of The Forge Pub so you can have a good beer while you learn how to keep the fun going after the last drop has been drunk. The event starts at 6:00pm.

Okay, I saved the best for last (even though it comes first in the title). 

If you haven't heard, 1) where have you been? and 2) pay attention! Peter Heller, author of The Dog Stars will be at the Old Town Library this Sunday!

Peter Heller

Not only does the book look pretty, but I hear it's also good for reading. Who would've guessed?

Seriously. I've heard from several people that it is a great book. Justin absolutely loves it (though he confessed to me tonight parts of the book are beginning to fade. Time for a re-read!). I am currently reading it and while I won't pass any final judgment just yet, it certainly is keeping me interested.

At first it was a little hard to get into. You start off with not much exposition so you don't really know what is going on or why the main character (Hig is his name) is where he is. The syntax is also less than orthodox but you get a feel for it soon enough.

It is doubtful I'll finish the book before the event this Sunday, but I will finish it eventually. The Dog Stars is Heller's first book of fiction but he has written several other books of non-fiction. He is also a Colorado author based in Denver.

All of us here at the bookstore are very excited for this event. I highly recommend you stop by. The event begins at 2:00pm. 

That's all for me. I'm off to zone out for a bit before ending the night with a tasty ginger beer and some more of The Dog Stars. 



Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Review of Wonder by R.J. Palacio

            I thought that Wonder by R.J. Palacio told a wonderful story. The protagonist, August, has been home schooled up until 5th grade because of a facial deformity.  He is treated both specially and unfairly when he comes to Beecher Prep even though he wants to be treated normally.  He tries to convince his peers that he is just like them and that looks don’t really matter. Throughout the book the point of view changes, different thoughts of August are told and people learn to accept August for who he is. After reading Wonder you’ll catch your self judging people for their real selves, not their looks. The book really explains the quote “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. I highly recommend this book for any one in middle school or people who enjoy stories about coming to terms with their identity.