Monday, September 30, 2013

What Is Your "Believe"?

Last night, a friend and I traveled to Santa Fe to see Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer at George R.R. Martin's Jean Cocteau theater. I honestly didn't expect such an intimate setting -- the theater only seats about 120 people. If either of them had sneezed, I'd have to wipe it off with a tissue. They sang together, read some short stories and poems, chatted with the audience, and answered our state question: red or green?

They both prefer Christmas.

Anyway, I wanted to bring this up because they of course signed CDs, books, comics, etc. after the show. In my copy of American Gods, Neil wrote, "Believe." It couldn't be more appropriate, seeing as how that book acted as the trigger for a lot of spiritual introspection. It continues to do that every time I revisit it. But more than that, as a last-semester senior, it can feel intimidating to look at the future and say, "I can do that." So reminding me to believe couldn't be more appropriate.

I could also just be reading way too much into it. Whatever, it was awesome.

Imagine your first major project (film, book, whatever) has been completed, and a fan asks you to sign something for them. What would you write? What's your "believe"?

Should We Write What We Know?

Sorry it took me so long to post this. 

In class I discussed the article I found titled "Should We Write What We Know?” Which you can find here :

I forgot to mention that this is actually one piece of an entire series in the NY times opinion pages called “draft”. Draft is a “series of articles about the art and craft of writing”. It “features essays by grammarians, historians, linguists, journalists, novelists and others on the art of writing — from the comma to the tweet to the novel — and why a well-crafted sentence matters more than ever in the digital age.
Here is the link to the whole series: 

Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

N. Scott Momaday

I went to the guest speaker series featuring N. Scott Momaday. For those of you who don't know who he is, he is a Native American author of Kiowa decent. He spent some time in the Jemez Pueblo Reservation which is the setting for one of his novels House Made of Dawn, which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1969. He writes poetry, fiction, essays, plays, as well as other mediums. He has won many awards and honors.

He talked about the Indian Oratory which at some point he described as the spoken work as a spiritual and creative form. He said that his voice was diminished, because he recently was in the hospital, but to me I really enjoyed his voice and loved the way he spoke. His voice was very pleasing to the ears, and it had a hint of wisdom, understanding as well as playfulness.

He spoke of how his father use to tell him stories as a young boy and that they were a generation from extinction. Which I thought was true. Stories that were passed down orally can be extinct by the next generation if the story telling doesn't continue. He told the audience how he got his name which is an interesting story intertwined with the story of the seven sisters running through the forest from their brother "the bear".

N. Scott Momaday spoke of the spirit of the Navajo people as they were force to relocate and make the long trek to a new land. He described them having dignity even though they were going through this ordure. They were singing, talking, and playing with their dogs when they made camp; not letting their sadness take over their life.

He described his time riding on his horse, Pecos, and how it was an exercise of the mind and that the Kiowa ancestors were centaurs. With his horse he would rescue the maiden in distress, rode with Billy the Kid, and fight the bad guys.

He told this funny story with him meeting Georgia O'Keefe for the first time. The way he tells it is funny and sweet. He wrote a poem after describing their first meeting. If you get the chance to meet with him or hear him speak that story is worth hearing.

Something he said I really liked, but I'm not sure if it is word for word, but he said, "I read to find inspiration. I write to restore candor to my mind".

He now resides in Santa Fe and he feels at ease. He was telling us of the time he swam laps, and how it was more boring than running on a treadmill. To entertain himself while swimming laps he wrote epitaphs. I really enjoyed his speech and his voice is truly remarkable. I would encourage anybody if you get the chance to go hear him speak. He seems sweet, nice, and funny. He also likes to mention the word erotica.


I think when it comes to poetry some people just have a knack for it. They can think in that kind of structure and rules and make it work for them to express their ideas. Writing poetry is hard work and it's hard to make a living off of. I'm currently reading poetry in my Spanish class and some of them I really enjoy and others are not my cup of tea. I now I understand why poets publish a whole book of poems, because if you are a beginning poet you can't just sell one poem but a volume of poems and they have to be good or something that people want to read. I personally like when a poem has a meter and has rhymes and the poem get the theme across. I think that is a great accomplishment and great creativity on the poets part. I admire poets that can do that and take the time to try and follow that structure and not just write in free verse. I'm not saying I don't like free verse, but there is something more to those poems that follow the strict  rules of poetry. What are your opinions if any or the creative process papers we had to read?

"Sudden Illumination"

Here is the article I discussed in class about the creative process and I wanted to know your thoughts on some things discussed in this article.

Do you think it is a good idea to step away from your work when you are stuck on a problem or have writers block? Personally I think it helps me. I don't know the reason, but when I don't focus on the problem at hand the answer sort of comes to me out of nowhere and at the weirdest times. Another thing I wanted to ask is if you guys had "sudden illumination"? And what do you think about caffeine stimulating the "unconscious ideation"? Some say that caffeine stops the creativity by making you too focused. What do you think?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Does the title go first or last?

Here's a link to the artist's (Joe Reimer) website I spoke about, where he details his creative process from start to finish.

What I found particularly interesting about him is that he waits to name the work and decide its meaning at the very end, after all the physical painting and drawing and touching up is done. He says it's no different than any other viewer of the work deciding what the meaning is, and although he sees more symbolism and meaning in it, he won't say what they are to anyone else, because it's up to each individual viewer what they see in it.
Now whether this indicates a subconscious meaning leaking out of him obliviously during the painting process, or if he's just an artist that makes up a questionable "meaning" where there is none, is not for me to decide. However, I also never title anything I write until the very end. When I have to write for school, I often just jump in, type out the whole thing in one sitting, and am not even sure of where I'm going with it until it's over. Once I've written everything out and realized exactly what point I made, I revise the introductory paragraph and the thesis statement to work around it, and finally pick an appropriate title. Although this might seem like a very risky way to write a terrible paper, this method has actually worked quite well for me throughout high school and college.
This all goes back to the creative processes we went over in class on Monday, including the point that the product is more important than the process. As long as the product is worthwhile in the end, it doesn't really matter how it got there.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Speed vs. Accuracy?

The article I read was helpful in giving students like ourselves tips about how to be creative in classrooms where we aren't really given a chance. I think we all remember our high school days where an essay consisted of an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. There was a specific way of doing things and they had to be done that way, otherwise our grades would suffer. This article really advocates for the use of the creative process and I liked that.
However, the part I want to ask you guys about is the writing itself. Do you write continuously without even stopping to correct your grammar, or do you stop at what you would consider a chapter, or even a paragraph, and correct all your misspellings and such?
I think I am the kind of person that, no matter what I am writing, I go back immediately and look for corrections to be made. I go back about every paragraph or so, sometimes less, and do some editing. I think it just frustrates me to see a word underlined in red so I have the urge of going back and correcting it as soon as possible.
Are any of you guys the kind of writers that like to write and write then go back and correct your mistakes and syntax? Beverly Cleary, a children’s book author, says that she just writes and writes and doesn't go back to re-read what she wrote until a couple of days later which is when she does all the corrections. She says that she waits until the rough draft of the entire novel is done that she goes back and begins the work of rewriting. I could not possibly imagine myself doing that. I would be too temped to go back and reread what I wrote within a couple of hours.
Anyway, do you think it matters how an author likes to do it? Would we even be able to tell by reading their book which way they did it? I don't think so. Ultimately in writing it comes down to whatever makes the writer happy.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Writing Process for Second Language Learners/Foreign Language Learners

Hello everybody!

We have been talking about the writing process and how it is in English, but going beyond that this article addresses how the writing process is for ESL students or students learning other languages. Being a foreign language learner and an enthusiastic polyglot this article caught my attention. I aspire to be able to write eloquently in other languages and not sound the way I would if I was writing a speech in that language. I hope you all enjoy~

The Writing Process for Second Language Learners/Foreign Language Learners

Monday, September 23, 2013

Author Pep Talks

Hey everyone! Here's the link to the Nanowrimo pep talk archive: Pep talks. Lemony Snicket's talk is towards the bottom. I encourage everyone to read it, as well as a few other author pep talks, and then you should post your comments about your favorites! Are they good pep talks? Do you find them encouraging? I think Lemony Snicket's is fantastic because it is both entertaining and encouraging.

Here are also a few blogs that I follow on Tumblr that I think you guys might enjoy: (This blog includes encouragement and writing tips. I think some of the better stuff that this blog has posted is a bit further back in its archive.) (Mostly encouragement for writers and sometimes advice.)  (This blog occasionally posts some helpful grammar tips!)

Setting and its Suitability to a Genre

So far this semester we've read several stories set in New Mexico--an action/adventure in Butterfly Kisses and a mystery in A Box of Pandoras. I'm not sure about Melinda Snodgrass's Box Office Poison, but I've begun reading her novel The Edge of Reason for next week, and it's turning out to be a magic-based fantasy (epic?) set in Albuquerque. From the time I realized this I've been stuck on one thought: Really? In Albuquerque?

How much do you think a setting like Albuquerque is suited to a genre like fantasy? How would a story of that genre have to differ from one set in New York or London or New Delhi? Personally, the thought of a magical battle for the fate of humanity being set in Albuquerque has been jarring--it just isn't as natural for me to imagine it here as it might elsewhere. Could you imagine this city being host to an alien invasion or home to a super hero? On the contrary, I thought Santa Fe made an interesting and suitable setting for A Box of Pandoras because the juxtaposition of rural and high societies in that context added to the story's complexity.

What genres do you think suit or don't suit Albuquerque, if any? Or is it just a matter of how the story is told, regardless of genre?

Creative Process -- Where You Go For Advice

I wanted to post this in part because we'll be bringing in articles about the creative process for tomorrow's class, and partly because I always want to know where artists get help from. I'm talking about writing mostly, but if anyone participates in other artistic forms, I'd be curious to hear about that as well.

For the past year or so, I've gone to Chuck Wendig's rather irreverent but very poignant blog for advice on everything from world-building to editing (trigger warning for language). Many of us have probably read Stephen King's "On Writing," or have other books collected over the few years that include prompts, breakdowns of story structure, and ways to create more dramatic conflict. I also get great advice from the kind of fiction I want to read. For writing action or suspense, I turn to Preston & Child's "Pendergast" series, but for flowery language, I often end up rereading Neil Gaiman.

So where do you guys get your advice and inspiration? If you need to write a suspenseful or romantic scene, what helps you get it right? Maybe post links to your articles from class?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Banned books

In case you didn't know, next week, September 22 - 28, is Banned book week. Banned books are an interesting and relevant topic to our course, so I thought I would get your opinions.

There are actually two distinct groups of censored books. There are “banned books” and “challenged books”. According to the American Library Association’s webpage about banned books: 
A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials.  Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.  Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.
Although it still occurs, book banning is less common nowadays then it was in the past, but books are still constantly being challenged in schools and libraries across our nation. In my opinion, banning or challenging a book because it is says something you don’t want it to is ridiculous. Some of the greatest books I have ever read were once “banned books”. This includes:
  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  • The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  • The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  • Ulysses, by James Joyce
  • Beloved, by Toni Morrison
  • The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  • 1984, by George Orwel 

There are many, many others as well. You can check out the American Library Association’s webpage about banned books to get an idea about just how many books are challenged each year and to explore the controversy.

I want to know what you guys think. Are there situations where you think a book should be banned? Or is it never ok? How many books that you have read are on the banned books list? Do you think they should have been banned?

I also wanted to let you guys know that the UNM Bookstore always does events during banned book week. This year they are having two speakers. Both are authors of banned/challenged books.

Nasario García
Author of Grandma's Santo on Its Head.
Wed, Sept. 25th, 3:00pm

Gene Lessard
Thu, Sept. 26th , 12:00pm

Both authors will be talking about their books and then doing a book signing. The events will be held in the general books department in the main campus bookstore.

I assume that these events would count for our lecture, please correct me if I am wrong professor Donovan.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hillerman's edits

Take a closer look at any 3-6 pages of your choice from any first or second edition of any of Tony Hillerman's works as found on the Tony Hillerman Portal we saw at CSWR yesterday. Look closely at the edits made on the pages you choose and write a post about what those edits suggest to you about Hillerman's creative or editorial process.

Zimmerman Library = A Hidden Treasure

I was wondering what the class thought of having gone to visit Zimmerman library as a class yesterday! As for me, it was incredibly informative and really stunning to know that the rooms we were shown yesterday contain more hands-on material and information than I could imagine. It was a great chance to not only get to know the library, but to see truly how much it has to offer students, and how much information we can all get for our research on our papers. I also enjoyed the presentations by the three women, and getting to see each of them in their element, talking to us of all the opportunities the library and research present to us, as well as actual material from different authors was great.

So my question to everyone is what were your impressions? Was there anything you would've liked to see? Did anything disappoint you? What were your impressions on the presenters? Will you use the materials they presented in the future?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Writing together with someone else/Brainstorming

As you all were talking about your writing styles last week, I thought about my own. I don't usually write on my own outside of school work, except for movie reviews and short screenplays. The screenplays are actually usually written together with my like-minded boyfriend. When we come up with an idea, we flesh it out just by talking back and forth. We add on characters, their characteristics and histories, settings, plot points, and even camera angles as we go along, just talking it out for maybe an hour or so. After we have a solid backbone of a story to work with, that's when it's finally written down on paper, usually by whoever came up with the idea in the first place. (Whether or not these stories ever make it to film is another story.)

When it comes to thinking of ideas, we play this game where one person gives the other either a genre or a character to work around, or sometimes a combination of opposite genres, like a western-type that takes place in the 1980s. We used to both work at a movie theater, and this game was great for passing time on slow weekdays.

So given that, I was wondering if any of you had worked together with someone else to write something, or if you had any other tricks for brainstorming ideas.

Monday, September 9, 2013

What do you think about self-publishing?

So now that we've all been able to hear what Mr. Brewer had to say about his writing process, his influences, his career, and A Box of Pandoras, did your opinion of the book change? Mine did a little, for the better. Before reading the story, I noticed the lack of publisher information on the first page. Self-publishing is often a red flag for me--not outright a bad sign, but more of a signal to tread cautiously. However, I ended up mostly liking the story (although Loretta did annoy me at times). That opinion solidified after hearing more about Mr. Brewer's past as a journalist, that he'd written 28 books so far, and that he's a legitimate authority on crime fiction and mystery. I also especially enjoyed hearing about all the books he's read in his life, from childhood to now, which I think is a hugely important factor for how much of an authority on writing and storytelling someone is. What do you think about self-publishing? Is there more for a self-published author to prove, or does it not matter?

Discussion layout: Box of Pandoras

Omkulthoom Qassem
Meet the Authors
“Box of Pandoras” Discussion


Pull out a piece of paper and write down the name of the person you first thought of as the murderer. Be honest!

Compare results, who seemed like the most plausible suspect? Whose name was repeated the most?  


1. What was your first impression of Loretta? Could you see something of yourself in her character? Yes or no? and if yes what characteristic?

2. Did any of you anticipate the outcome of the mystery? Did you feel that there were enough clues for the reader to figure out who the suspect was if they played close attention?

3. Loretta had many quirks about her, one of my favorites being how she just found random sorts of pills in her bag and used them. What was your favorite and why?

4.What was your impression of Harley and Loretta’s relationship?

5. When you began reading this book what did you anticipate it being about?

6. If there is one part which you particularly liked or which stuck out to you the most tell us which part and why?

7.  What did you like most about the author’s writing style?

8. Did the person you thought was the murderer shift throughout the book? Did the author do this on purpose? Leaving red hearings for the wrong people?

9. Which part surprised you the most?

10. And finally last but not least what did you take away from this book as a whole?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Thoughts on Box of Pandoras

I was wondering what the class thought so far of the book Box of Pandoras? I'm only halfway through it at this point, (will be finished with it tomorrow night), but personally, I can't seem to get into the narrator's head, even when there's comments that a woman of her age and nature would say. I am a guy after all, as is the author, but something doesn't click between myself and the narrative.

Secondly, I really like Mitzi and Nannette. They kind of remind me of a combination between Rita Skeeter (from the Harry Potter series) and Michelle Pfeiffer. That's just simply what my brain cast them to be. However, their characters seem to be overdone (in a good way I suppose). Everything Mitzi does is outlandish, outrageous, frivolous, and very exaggerated, while Nannette is the exact opposite, but they complement each other perfectly. I think the author had a great time writing these characters into the plot.

Thirdly, for me, the story seems to be driven almost completely by the females in the story. There's the narrator, Loretta, who seems to always be in calm control of any situation, her friend Inez (who lets Loretta know about Mr. Girard in the first place), then Loretta's "arch-nemesis" Mitzi and "sidekick" Nannette, followed by Maria Mondragon (big part of the story - won't throw out any spoilers for anybody who hasn't read yet!) and even the very effeminate characters of Andre and Tony. I'm wondering if anybody else has picked up on this and what your thoughts might be.

Finally, the story moves at a good pace. There's no dragging out of the plot, and no extraneous details that can distract the reader from the plot. The descriptions of the characters in the story are short and to the point, and we get a first-person point of view from the narrator, Loretta, which is very different from having read Butterfly Kisses. 

What do you guys think so far, or how was the book??

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Additional Resources on Our Website

Go to the Public website for our course and click on any of the links under Authors, Writing and Research, or General Resources (under the Links section). Write a comment here about 1-2 resources you find, what you may have found that seems interesting in terms of our course, and what might be helpful on that link for your classmates. The Public website can be accessed through the link on the right side of this blog.

(If you find any dead or broken links, please send me an email message.)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Saying Goodbye

I just thought of this. It is something that I wondered about and have asked other writers. How do you decide you are going to kill off a character? As Dr. Thomas said he didn’t know Megan was going to die, but that is what ended up happening. So I wanted to ask your thoughts about “killing” or “getting rid of” a character. Do you know from the beginning what is going to happen to your characters or does it just come to you?

For me personally I don’t like when characters I really like die. Yes of course I like it when the bad guy fails, but characters that I fall in love with I really hope they don’t die. A main example would be the Harry Potter series. I was so sad that some of the characters I enjoyed reading about died in the last book. I know it’s not realistic that all the good guys live and all the bad guys die, but I guess I really enjoy those super mega happy endings.

Now that I’m writing this I can see killing off a character being necessary and symbolic. Like in The Great Gatsby. I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone, but I really enjoyed the character, and I didn’t want them to die, but found their death more meaningful. I just want to know your thoughts and how you feel as a writer getting rid of a character that you spent time developing and getting close to and falling in love with them because they are of your own creation?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Favorite Places to Read

If you are in this class, you probably like to read. I personally love to read, especially fiction. In college we have to read pages and pages from our textbooks, which can be quite boring. Therefore, I was wondering if you guys have favorite spots to read at?

I am somewhat of an outdoors person ( if mosquitoes aren't around) and prefer to read outside. We have a beautiful tree outside of our house with these tiny pink flowers that only bloom three months out of the year. They also give this sweet smell of roses and I love to sit under there and read books. I would prefer to go down to the Rio Grande and listen to the birds chirp as I read. That is not always possible since I live far from the Rio but whenever given the chance to go down there, a book is always my fellow companion.

Also, do you guys prefer to read paperback books, or do some of you prefer technology, such as eBooks or tablets? I personally love holding a book in my hand and using a bookmark to see how I've advanced in my reading. Any thoughts on which method of reading is better?