Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Ernest Hemingway

A Blog Conversation about Writers’ Groups . . .

Our previous conversation here was about Book Promotion; but, it ended due to a lack of reader comment… Writers' Groups

I’ll begin this new discussion by sharing that I’ve only attended two writers’ groups in my relatively long life and didn’t see the benefits of the arrangement.

My not appreciating the experience could have been due to the way they were conducted or the particular people attending; though, now that I’m quite a bit older then when they happened, I could add my individual “disposition” to why they didn’t work for me.


My best friend is and has been for many years quite faithful in her attendance and participation in her writers’ group; and, she happens to have quite the independent mind; so, there must be something worthwhile in certain writers’ groups, for certain people…

I’m sure there’s a profusion of different kinds of writers’ groups in the world since, in the first place, writers are usually quite unique folks; and, in the second place, a group of writers couldn’t very well form a group without it also being unique; though, I suppose there are a few groups out there that copy the structure and behavior of other groups and either fail or limp along helping none of the participants…

And, I should mention, this discussion isn’t about writing “workshops” (usually, limited-time events); but, there could be workshop elements in a regularly-meeting group…

As far as the “right” kind of group, I could only imagine it would need to have a first meeting with the immediate group of writers; and, those writers would need to “write the first draft” of what their particular group needed to accomplish for the members—a collaborative sketching out of the type of “organism” the group could become—the group’s “story”…

Naturally, if other writers were admitted to the group, the “story” would need some sort of “revision” based on the new “characters”—not necessarily a complete recasting of the group; but, at least, some adjustments for the creative nature of the new participants…


Maybe I’ve just drawn up a plan for a writers’ group I could join :-)

Then again, being a septuagenarian, I’ll continue plotting my writer’s voyage alone; yet, certainly, stopping in my best friend’s port of call for a bit of writerly banter and, perhaps, from time to time, a sounding out of a new way to set my sails…

Though, from what I’ve just said, you might think my friend and I have a writers’ group; but, in my definition of “group”, there must be at least three people…

However, recently, I’ve been visiting a “writing community“; but, due to the intensive nature of my personal writing activities, I only check in for short spells of friendly chat…

And, no matter what I may say about our discussion topic, folks who’ve attained some renown in writerly pursuits have belonged to writers’ groups.

According to an article on Inked Voices the following writers found value in the group experience:

J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Virginia Woolf, EM Forster, John Maynard Keynes, Robert Frost, Rupert Brooke, Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald…

And, even if you don’t want to pay to join Inked Voices programs, they still have interesting pages on different types of writers’ groups and various elements of successful groups

Finally, I should mention there are online writers’ groups, as well as a few in virtual worlds…


Are you in a writers’ group…?

What do you most enjoy about your writers’ group…?

Do you think you need to join a writers’ group…?

Are you sure a writers’ group could never fit your needs…?

Have you formed or are you about to form a writers’ group…?

What do you think is most important for a successful writers’ group…?

All it takes is one reader comment to continue this conversation :-)
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Our Blog Conversations are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—the rest of the week, I share valuable posts from other blogs

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Ever Heard of Literary Journalism…?

I’ve had many re-blogs here from Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog… Literary Journalism

And, I’ve covered the journalism beat:

Investigative Journalists Are Storytellers, Too…

Journalists Have a Lot to Teach Other Writers . . .

Today, I’m featuring an article by John McPhee, who’s won a Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, has been a teacher of literary journalism, and a staff writer at The New Yorker.

I think regular readers here know that I think all writers can pass on valuable information to all other writers, no matter what particular kind of writing they pursue.

Let’s look at a few excerpts from McPhee’s article from The New YorkerOmission ~ Choosing what to leave out (as always, I urge readers to take advantage of perusing the full article…):

“Writing is selection. Just to start a piece of writing you have to choose one word and only one from more than a million in the language. Now keep going. What is your next word? Your next sentence, paragraph, section, chapter? Your next ball of fact. You select what goes in and you decide what stays out. At base you have only one criterion: If something interests you, it goes in—if not, it stays out. That’s a crude way to assess things, but it’s all you’ve got. Forget market research. Never market-research your writing. Write on subjects in which you have enough interest on your own to see you through all the stops, starts, hesitations, and other impediments along the way.

“Ideally, a piece of writing should grow to whatever length is sustained by its selected material—that much and no more.”

There was much of interest written about his life in journalism before that last excerpt and there is much before this one:

“…inevitably we have come to Ernest Hemingway and the tip of the iceberg—or, how to fashion critical theory from one of the world’s most venerable clichés. ‘If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.’”

And, an excerpt that very well may cause many writers to deeply contemplate their writerly ways:

“The creative writer leaves white space between chapters or segments of chapters. The creative reader silently articulates the unwritten thought that is present in the white space. Let the reader have the experience. Leave judgment in the eye of the beholder. When you are deciding what to leave out, begin with the author. If you see yourself prancing around between subject and reader, get lost. Give elbow room to the creative reader. In other words, to the extent that this is all about you, leave that out.”

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There are 66 posts about writing advice on this blog and they include this one since I tag my posts with keywords; so, if you take that last link, you might see this post again at the top of the list, unless I’ve written another post about writing advice before you take that link—ah, the ins and outs of the Internet :-)

Today’s post features another blog’s articles about writing advice

The blog is Brain Pickings and the blogger is Maria Popova and I wrote about her in my post, A Blog for All Seasons.

However, she has a particular post, Famous Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers, that may have a somewhat flamboyant title but does pack a severe punch

It’s essentially a link-post—as she says:

“By popular demand, I’ve put together a periodically updated reading list of all the famous advice on writing presented here over the years, featuring words of wisdom from such masters of the craft as Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller, Stephen King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Susan Orlean, Ernest Hemingway, Zadie Smith, and more.”

Maria has 109 links to various authors’ advice; and, here’s just a bit of advice from this author (especially, if you’re relatively new to the craft of writing)—it’s much better to read the books of other authors that have no writing advice than it is to read writing advice and not apply you’re own judgement to it.

Naturally, that would mean I’m actually sharing two pieces of advice:

  • Read a lot.
  • Write a lot

If you don’t do the second one, you can’t generate your own judgement to apply to the advice of other writers.

I know, that may sound quite convoluted; but, we’re talking about writing, not about baking bread—though, there may be a few tricks that can be transferred from baking to writing
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Writing Challenge ~~~ 6-Word Stories :-)

Writing Challenge

Image courtesy of Armin Hanisch

Writing challenges have been around since ancient hunting parties sat around the home fires trading verbal tales of their latest overland pursuit.

I recently gave myself a personal writing challenge to keep my pen sharp and my mind flowing.

Back in 2011, I had a challenge to use the 1200 most common words in a story.

That particular post still gets more traffic than any of my other 800+ posts

Today I’m starting a writing challenge sparked by three posts on the site io9.

Their challenge was to write six-word sci-fi stories which readers did in their comments—Here, then Here, and Here

The challenge I’m launching today is writing six-word stories; but, the genre certainly doesn’t have to be sci-fi—any ol’ genre at all, even genres you make up just for the challenge :-)

To get the pens stirring and the keys clicking, I’ll share just a few of the six-worders from io9:

“The engines held, until they didn’t.”

“The Earth Moved, Just As Planned.”

“Post Verbicide, only six words remained.”

“James Clarke: Born 1985, died 1885.”

“Looking up, she saw herself falling.”

Of course, there’s the extremely famous six-word story attributed to Ernest Hemingway:

“For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.”


Do you have a six-word story in you? Two six-worders? More?

Just be sure, along with your story, you tell us the genre, ok? Even if you have to make it Literary Fiction :-)

Let The Challenge Beginin the Comments :-)
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Do Daily Rituals Make You More Creative?

What do you do in the way of ritual to tone-up your creativity?

Want to know what folks like Ernest Hemingway, Beethoven, Benjamin Franklin, Franz Kafka, Flaubert, W. H. Auden, Joyce Carol Oates, Anthony Trollope, Sylvia Plath, Friedrich Schiller, Marcel Proust, and many others, did?

You could buy the book Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration And Get To Work, by Mason Currey or, for the quick fix, check out an article in The Guardian, Rise and shine: the daily routines of history’s most creative minds.

A topic like this could easily be mishandled in today’s fractured, frenzied world; yet, while I haven’t read the book, the article has some valuable information.

There is the caveat, “there’s no one way to get things done”, then six “lessons” are derived from folks’ rituals (all of which may be successfully avoided :-) :

1. Be a morning person

2. Don’t give up the day job

3. Take lots of walks

4. Stick to a schedule

5. Practise strategic substance abuse

6. Learn to work anywhere

Each of those is referenced to a famous creative person

I’d love to have your feedback in the Comments. About the book, if you’ve read it, about the article, or about you’re own creative rituals
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