Tuesday, August 15, 2017

YOU'RE JUST A ROCK

guest post by DeAnna Nolan 




But first, Lynn says: 

DeAnna's contribution comes to us by way of Kristin Abraham, who is one of DeAnna's professors at Laramie County Community College.  I'll be working with Kristin this fall to bring more fine posts to our blog from LCCC students... love those student voices!



Rocks and poetry have always been a passion of mine. When I was a kid, one never topped the other. And to be honest I do not know where the love for either one stewed from. They just grew on me like weeds in my brain.

Now being a tad bit older and even more curious I think constantly about how writing and geology connect and intertwine with each other. Geology is more than just rocks. It is the study of the earth, its structure, processes, and history.

Which, if you really think about it, is a lot like being a writer. We want to study human nature (and many other things) and put it into words. Just like Geology, we have a structure of writing, our processes of how we get words from our minds to paper, and we all have a history we need/should share with the world around us.

One of my favorite things I think I have discovered about the connection between geology and being a writer is that both are delightfully unpredictable. This is truly amazing and fascinating because this is what fuels a writer to write such astonishing things, the way that tornadoes can randomly show up in the middle of a beautiful day.

Writers can be in the middle of doing taxes and be hit with a sudden idea about a character who has the ability to see the numbers he/she writes. This interruption is both a blessing and a curse because just like a tornado that can turn a quiet town into an upside down, barren land, being hit with ideas at random times can really mess up our flow and get us distracted. But to be honest, I think that is when our best ideas come to life.

I also like to think about some of the anxieties I have as a writer. Some of them are being constantly afraid to write, terrified of revision when I do write, and wondering how I can be a writer when my punctuation and grammar are so terrible. When these anxieties hit me (and they hit me quite often), I like to think about the layers of the earth. The earth has many layers, some in rock formations and the layers right under our feet. These layers come about by sand or mud being built on top of each other and the weight causing the rock below to become solid.

Just the way a writer (or human in general) is made of layers. We are not just one thing. If we were just one thing then some of our best stories would not have layers. Therefore, I like to think of my anxieties about writing as being part of my layers. We all have them and they are a part of us. There are other layers inside, I know, that are on top of those anxieties and that help me realize that “Hey! I can write and I will write because I know I have improved from then until now.”

There are many other things about geology and writing that really make me giggle and shake with excitement. Because how wonderful is it that we can look at where we are now--the sky, rain, the dirt--and know that we are not so different and we share such creative things about us.







DeAnna Nolan is an English major at Laramie County Community College. She also has the pleasure of working at her college library, where books surround her all day (her second favorite thing next to cats). When she is not at school you can usually find her writing poetry, reading, or dancing at her second home, Act Two Studios, where she also teaches.

When she has the time or just needs to unwind, you can find her at home with her two dogs and cat watching Bob’s Burgers or The Twilight Zone.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Escaping the Land of Lethologica

by Susan

Lethologica 

Grandiloquent Word of the Day defines "lethologica" (LETH-oh-LODG-ik-a). as "The inability to remember a word or put your finger on the right word." Lethologica impels us to use language like "whatchamacallit" or "whatsit" or "dooflackey.

Photo by sean Kong on Unsplash
Lethologica is that feeling when a word dangles on the tip of your tongue, elusive. It's like a sneeze that won't come, an itch you can't scratch, or the desire to have a good cry when you're too heavily medicated to do so.

I love the sound of it: lethologica. Try saying it without putting your tongue back in your mouth -- it's almost possible. (Now, clean the spit off your screen.)

How would it appear in a travel guide if it were a country?
Lethologica is located just north of Aphasia, the border  between the two countries demarcated by the Lexicon River. From the Plain of Shush, tourists will see stunning views of the Stuttering Mountains. Travelers should beware the Jabberwocky and bring their own maps, as the locals are notoriously bad at giving directions to wheresit.
If lethologica were a disease, it would be benign in the majority of the population, but drive writers to madness. Writers do not rest until they find exactly the right word. At least, I don't like to.

I most often find the cure for lethologica in a thesaurus, when I can get to one. What writer doesn't love, adore, cherish, prize, and cherish a thesaurus?

I've stumped the occasional reader with words like "tallow" and a "gibbous" moon. I suppose I could use "sheep fat" and "nearly full," but those don't have the sound and spirit I want. English is a rich language, and I revel in its riches. I'm not using those words to impress, but to express it exactly.

On my bookshelf is a 1935 copy of Rats, Lice, and History* by Hans Zinsser. At one point, he uses the word saprophyte. A helpful footnote at the bottom of the page reads, "If the reader does not understand this word, it is too bad."

The utter lack of damns he gives is heartening. It was the precise word he wanted, he used it, and he expected the reader to figure it out one way or another.

I will keep his book forever for that footnote alone.


* Rats, Lice, and History: Being a Study in Biography, which after Twelve Preliminary Chapters Indispensable for the Preparation of the Lay Reader, Deals with the Life History of TYPHUS FEVER

Why yes, I do have strange reading tastes.

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Writer's Homework

Susan here: I'm not sure how I connected with Nicholas Trandahl on Facebook, but I'm grateful I did. After getting to know him more online, I invited him to send us a guest post. Again, I'm grateful I did. When I read this, I felt like I had a cheerleader in my corner.

by Nicholas Trandahl

Nicholas Trandahl at Hemingway House.
I’d made it. I was in Ernest Hemingway’s house on Whitehead Street in Key West, Florida. I was in the sanctum of my literary hero, where most of his body of work was written. There were his books, his typewriters, his photographs, his fishing rod, his bed, and everything else that comprised his life when he lived in Key West during the Great Depression.

I’d walked the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard with my wife in an October breeze, beheld a massive herd of elk graze way above the tree line in the Colorado Rockies, and flown over the glittering lights of Baghdad in a March night. But stepping through the rooms of the Hemingway House in Key West was an entirely new type of experience. It was when I realized that great writers, perhaps the greatest, were mere men and women, no different than you or I. They suffered the same struggles that all of us contemporary writers struggle with concerning our literary craft.

But I was not there for sightseeing and not even necessarily to have a life-changing moment or epiphany as a writer. I was there as a collector of experiences, i.e., writing material.

When I write poetry, I pull words from the things that I see and the places that I go. I write about my life. When someone tells me that they don’t know what to write about, I like to reply:
“If you’re breathing, there’s always something to write about.”
And it’s the truth. This world we live in and all the people that inhabit it are pure unfiltered inspiration for poems, stories, art, and lyrics. It’s all just begging for someone creative and observant to pay attention to it.

I’ve written my whole life, but things didn’t get serious for me until I was serving in the Middle East as a soldier in the U.S. Army. I started writing poetry over there as way to cope with the things I was feeling and the stresses I was experiencing. However, over the years, my poetry has become observational as opposed to introspective. I’ve plumbed the depths of my internal demeanor enough, and as a resident of this planet, there’ll never be a shortage of new material for me or anyone else. It’s limitless.

How do you become inspired? There’s nothing simpler or cheaper than inspiration. You stand outside for a moment or two and watch the colorful artwork as the sun falls away into the west, or you watch the primal strength of a coming storm, or the snow drifting down like ashes through the boughs of an old pine, or the stars flickering like chips of diamond in the vast vault of the night.

In fact, you don’t even need to go outside. Sit at your writing desk or at the kitchen table. Lay in your bed even! If you can watch the light fall through a window and paint the ice in your drink or the color of your lover’s eyes, then your capacity as a writer will never be diminished.

Go outside. Travel when you’re able. Adventure. Experience things. Because even fiction is not entirely fiction. And poetry is best when it’s honest.

And now you may be saying to yourself that inspiration doesn’t entirely cut it. You might have loads of ideas: barely-started stories or errant lines of poetry that mark notes on your desk like half-remembered dreams. You’re overflowing with ideas; that’s not the issue. The issue is completing your idea, seeing it come to fruition in publication.

There’s no easy answer to this, no poetic answer. Despite what non-writers may think, writing is indeed actual work. A story, a poem, a novel, or a collection of poems will not write itself, no matter how marvelous you think your ideas are nor how outstanding and poetic your experiences may be.

Writing is hard. It takes a commitment. People that have spoken with me about their multitude of ideas but their lack of finished work lament their predicament. And so do I.

It’s a problem we all suffer from. But there’s hope; it can be controlled. It takes a single-minded devotion to your work that borders on obsessiveness. Finish it! Work on nothing else when it comes to your writing. Pound away on those keys until the final word is reached. Write every day. Set aside writing time, early in the morning or in the evening when things are quietest.

Remember, your story and its characters depend entirely on you. They came to your mind, and are counting on you to reveal them to the world. Without you telling their story, it will never be told. Think about how tragic that would be. Without you to write it out, your story, poem, or novel is no more than a quickly-forgotten dream. There’s so much responsibility in being a writer. It’s no wonder we’re all a little crazy.

As you’re writing your current piece and ideas for a new story come to you, don’t fret! But also, don’t ignore it. That idea may not be coming back if you ignore it. Don’t, under any circumstances, ignore your inspiration and imagination. But how do you do this without neglecting your important work-in-progress?

Don’t worry. It’s easy, as easy as jotting down a note. Write some brief sentences about your idea that came from out of the blue. Take notes until you think it’s all written down. Then put the note away and get back to work on whatever it was that you’re devoting your writing time to. The idea won’t be forgotten as you complete your work-in-progress. In fact, in the time it takes for the current work to be completed, your idea may bloom into something even better, or you may even realize when you look again at your note that it wasn’t really that good of an idea anyway.

So, there’s my writing advice in a nutshell. Get inspired. Seek out inspiration in the honesty and simplicity of the beautiful world around you. Also, devote yourself to your single work-in-progress until the rough draft is finished. It’s counting on you, and only you, to bring it into being.

Hemingway himself said it best when he wrote in a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald, “You just have to go on when it is worst and most helpless—there is only one thing to do with a novel and that is to go straight on through to the end of the damn thing.”

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Nicholas Trandahl is a newspaper reporter from northeast Wyoming. His poetry is currently published by Winter Goose Publishing, and he's had several novels published by Swyers Publishing. His work has also been published by River Ram Press and, most recently, by Selcouth Station. Trandahl’s latest book of poetry, Pulling Words was published by Winter Goose Publishing in 2017, and they will release his next collection, Think of Me in the spring of 2018. He will be a featured poet in the upcoming poetry compilation from Swyers Publishing, Heart of Courage. Trandahl is happily married and has two daughters (with another on the way). Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.