Beautiful Writing, Part 4: Charles Dickens

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Charles Dickens was one of the most prolific and important British writers of the 1800s. His works have been read by millions, and most people have been influenced by his writing, even if they have not read him. How many people are unaware of A Christmas Carol? This is just one of his many books and novellas. I will offer as an example of his beautiful writing part of the first page of A Tale of Two Cities, which I believe to be one of the best openings of a novel.

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it

was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it

was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,

it was the season of Light, it was the season of

Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of

despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing

before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were

all going direct the other way–in short, the period was

so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest

authorities insisted on its being received, for good or

for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

 

 

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J.K. Rowling on Writing

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“Read as much as you possibly can. Nothing will help you as much as reading.”

 

“There’s no formula.”

 

“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”

Beautiful Writing: Part I: Ray Bradbury

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One of the reasons that I love to read, in addition to experiencing other worlds, walking in the path of other characters, learning about the world around us, and escaping from reality for a short time, is to enjoy the beauty of words. Some writers are able to elevate their writing to a level of poetry and beauty that is exhilarating and joyful to read.

One writer, whose use of words, reaches poetic levels is Ray Bradbury. He is a writer not easily confined to one genre and whose work is defined by love of story. I have taught his work in several college classes in both Muhlenberg College and Lehigh University, and his writing has been an influence on me as a novelist.

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I will offer two passages from his brilliant novel Dandelion Wine, a BildungsRoman or coming-of-age story, set in late 1920s in Green Town, Illinois. These passages are from the perspective of a boy who is beginning to see possibilities in life, both the external world and in himself.

The first passage is the opening of the novel:

It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed.

Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing

of the world was long and warm and slow. You only had to rise, lean from your

window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living,

this was the first morning of summer.

Douglas Spaulding, twelve, freshly wakened, let summer idle him on its

early-morning stream. Lying in his third-story cupola bedroom, he felt the tall

power it gave him, riding high in the June wind, the grandest tower in town. At

night, when the trees washed together, he flashed his gaze like a beacon from

this lighthouse in all directions over swarming seas of elm and oak and maple.

Now . . . (1)

That is an extraordinary opening to a novel. It pulls the reader into the story with a seemingly simplistic prose, but within that simplicity is beauty and the poetry of the world being seen through young eyes.

Another passage shows Douglas at night time:

Douglas sprawled back on  the dry porch planks, completely  contented

and reassured by these voices, which would speak on through eternity, flow

in a stream of murmurings over his body, over his closed eyelids, into his

drowsy ears, for all time. The rocking chairs sounded like crickets, the crickets

sounded like rocking chairs, and the moss-covered rain barrel by  the

dining-room window produced another generation of mosquitoes to provide

a topic of conversation through endless summers ahead. (33)

 

Both excerpts, in my view, are beautiful, compelling, and poetic. All writers should read and study Ray Bradbury.

Works Cited

Bradbury, Ray. Dandelion Wine. New York. Avon Books. 1999.

Back From the Writers Digest Conference!

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I have not posted anything in the last few days because I have been busy at the 2017 Writers Digest Conference in New York City, and it was a great time! If you are a writer, and you want to learn more about the world of publishing and to have an opportunity to pitch to agents, then I recommend this conference to you.

I attended many sessions with publishing professionals and writers, and I learned something useful at each session, including about writing, marketing, and various other aspects of the world of publishing.  I met and networked with other writers, and that was also extremely important and valuable. To those I met, it was delightful, and I hope we keep in contact.

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Perhaps the most exciting event was the Agent Pitch Slam, which is essentially like speed dating, with a strictly enforced 3 minute maximum with each agent, and then the writers move on. If a writer does well in pitching his/her book, then they might see 6-8 agents. I was able to pitch to 7, and one requested my entire manuscript–my YA novel The Ameriad: The Monastery of Knowledge by Charles F. French! Now, I know that is not a guarantee, but it is a major step forward, and I am excited about it.

I also want to say thank you very much to my in-laws, who very graciously opened their home to me while I attended the conference. They are wonderful people, and I love them.   Again, thank you!

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Quotations on Strength

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“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

                                                                   Mahatma Gandhi

 

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“And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.”

                                                                   John Steinbeck

 

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“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot”

                                                                   Eleanor Roosevelt

What are you reading?

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Occasionally, I write a post in which I ask this question, and it has been some time, so I wanted to ask all of you again: what are you currently reading?

I am reading Aggravated Momentum by Didi Oviatt;

In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson;

Surrender, New York by Caleb Carr;

and rereading for classes that I teach at the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College:

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

and Dracula by Bram Stoker.

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I wish Happy Reading to all!

Quotations on Thinking (Revisited)

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“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

                                                                             Socrates

 

 

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“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

                                                                              Albert Einstein

 

 

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“Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. It sees man, a feeble speck, surrounded by unfathomable depths of silence; yet it bears itself proudly, as unmoved as if it were lord of the universe. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man”

                           (Russell, Bertrand. Why Men Fight 178-9).

 

 

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“All good writing is inherently subversive.”

                                                                          Charles F. French