Tag Archives: Ray Bradbury

Friday Links: Commencement Addresses by Authors

28 Jun

Quindlen

June seems to have come and gone ever so quickly this year. I suppose that’s the nature of life. The older we get, the faster the days, months, and years seem to pass. I think even Einstein would agree. June always has thirty days in it—it’s not like sneaky February with its leap year—and yet those thirty days seem to go by so much faster than they did when I was a kid. I remember being in grade school just waiting for school to let out for summer break. The winter months seemed to drag on and on, and that last month til graduation felt like for-ev-errrrr.

The funny thing is, as much as I looked forward to graduating and summer vacation and all the excitement that June brought, it also felt like a sad time. It was a time to say good-bye to teachers who had great impact on my love of reading and writing as well as a time to throw out old notebooks filled with a year’s worth of thoughts and doodles.

It was also a time of change and uncertainty. What would the next school year bring? What would college be like? What kind of job would I find after college? What would it be like to go back to grad school after so many years out of college and in the workforce? Did I take advantage enough of grad school and will I now make good use of my MFA?

I wasn’t in any sort of academic program this year, and yet once again I’ve found June to be a time of exciting and positive change but also uncertainty about what the future holds. I recently made what felt like a pretty big decision that will (hopefully) bring me a bit more stability and permanence in my life, however the decision was made at a time when I found out a family member was making the opposite decision. I guess even as adults, we encounter times when we graduate from one phase of our life into the next.

Years ago, my mother gave me Anna Quindlen’s A Short Guide to a Happy Life. I’ve had to get rid of a lot of books over the years with all my various moves, but I’ve held onto this small volume, inspired by a commencement speech she once gave. I think no matter where we are in life, June is a good midpoint in the year to celebrate the accomplishments we’ve made so far this year and plan for the rest of the year. Commencement addresses like the ones by famous authors below are a great inspiration. I also like Warren Buffett’s recent advice to the Millennial Generation to “stop holding yourself back.”

Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451) at Columbia College

Max Brooks (World War Z) at Pitzer College

Louise Erdrich (Love Medicine) at Dartmouth University

Neil Gaiman (The Sandman, Coraline) at University of the Arts

Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees) at Scripps College (woot!)

Anne Lammott (Traveling Mercies, Bird by Bird) at U.C. Berkeley

Michael Lewis (The Blindside, Moneyball) at Princeton University

Barbara Kingsolver (The Poisonwood Bible) at Duke University

David McCullough (1776) at Wellesley High School

Anna Quindlen (Black and Blue) at Villanova University

J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter) at Harvard University

David Foster Wallace (Infinite Jest) at Kenyon College

Elie Wiesel (Night) at Washington University

And for those of you who dropped out of college: Jack Kerouac did too, but he kept on studying and you too can keep on learning and growing.

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10 Quotes about Persevering and Finding Your Story

21 Nov

I’ve never been intimidated by a blank page or a brand new diary.  When I was younger and in elementary school, I relished in-class writing assignments.  Inspiration and ideas came easily to me, and I wrote fast and furious.  Perhaps this is because I was a quiet student, who probably went days without speaking in class, so writing assignments gave me a chance to let loose all the thoughts that had been bottled up inside my head.

Most of the time when I sit down to write, I have little idea what will come out.  I almost never work off of an outline, and even when I have a thesis or a direction I want to take my work, the writing seems to have a mind of its own.  I feel that my job as a writer is to just let the words flow and the story will find itself.  If I try to wrestle my words down to keep to some preconceived notion of what I am expected to say, I run the risk of missing something purer and truer.

Much more intimidating to me than the blank page is a work in progress.  Are my words rebelling against my story and leading me astray?  Has everything I’ve said been gibberish?

Below are famous literary quotes about persevering and finding form and structure:

The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with. ~William Faulkner

There is no method except to be very intelligent. ~T.  S. Eliot

One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.  ~Hart Crane

Something that you feel will find its own form.  ~Jack Kerouac

The task of a writer consists in being able to make something out of an idea. ~Thomas Mann

If the artist does not fling himself, without reflecting, into his work, as Curtis flung himself into the yawning gulf, as the soldier flings himself into the enemy’s trenches, and if, once in this crater, he does not work like a miner on whom the walls of his gallery have fallen in; if he contemplates difficulties instead of overcoming them one by one…he is simply looking on at the suicide of his own talent. ~Honore de Balzac

Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer. ~Ray Bradbury

It is perfectly okay to write garbage–as long as you edit brilliantly. ~C. J. Cherryh

Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it… ~Michael Crichton

Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good. ~William Faulkner

 

Do you plot out your entire work before you begin writing?

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac: The Typewriter

9 Oct

 

One evening, a student came into our writing workshop at The New School and announced he’d bought a typewriter.  We were all very impressed.

“What kind?” we asked.

“Where did you get it?”

Most of us were in our twenties or thirties and had grown up using computers.  Many of us had entire mini computers—smart phones—jammed into our pockets and purses at that very moment.  We’d attended readings in bars across Manhattan, where authors had read poetry off their iphones.

But a typewriter!  Now that sounded really literary.  The click-clack of the keys echoing in a bare-bulb room.  Allen Ginsberg’s first-thought-best-thought mantra forced upon a generation accustomed to the “backspace” button on our keyboards.  Facebook procrastination less accessible.

And the history!  Continuing the beautiful tradition of authors attached to specific models of typewriters.

This evening, the documentary The Typewriter will screen at the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center Theater (245 Market St.) as part of the Lowell Film Collaborative with Lowell Celebrates Kerouac.  Here’s a little bit about the film from its website:

Three typewriter repairmen the filmmakers have interviewed all agree that their business is better than it has been in years.

Perhaps it is a reaction to the plugged in existence of today’s 24/7 communications world. Perhaps it is mere nostalgia and kitsch. Perhaps it is an admiration for the elegance of design and the value of time-tested workmanship. And for some, like typewriter collector Steve Soboroff, it is the appeal of owning machines on which American writers like Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Ray Bradbury, John Updike and Jack London typed some of their finest work. (He also owns typewriters once owned by George Bernard Shaw and John Lennon)

The film is directed by Christopher Lockett and produced by Gary Nicholson.  You can read fascinating typewriter stories here.

As for Jack Kerouac, he owned several typewriters throughout his lifetime but most famously used a 1930s Underwood typewriter.  His father was a printer, so even from a very young age, Kerouac was in a world full of language, literacy, typography, and printing presses.  Not surprisingly, he had a reputation for being a speed typist.  myTypewriter.com offers some background information on Kerouac’s—as well as other literary figures’—use of typewriters.  Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road will also include information about Kerouac’s typewriter.  Larry Closs‘ novel Beatitude also includes a plot involving Kerouac and typewriters.

Here’s a tip for those of you attending Lowell Celebrates Kerouac or if you happen to find yourself in Lowell any other time: you can see one of Kerouac’s Underwood typewriters, and other memorabilia firsthand at the Mill Girls and Immigrants Exhibit at the Morgan Cultural Center.  It may sound like an unlikely place to view some of Kerouac’s possessions, and it’s not really well advertised, so it’s easy to miss if you don’t know about it, but the exhibit is open 1:30-5:00pm except on major holidays.  It’s free, but even if it weren’t the entire exhibit is fascinating.  The case display for Jack Kerouac is very small, but literary pilgrims will appreciate it nevertheless, since it’s rare to have opportunities to view his personal travel gear and typewriter in person.  The exhibit is engaging in retelling the story of immigration to Lowell.  Many of the immigrants were from Greece so the exhibit gives insight into the influence of Greek culture on Lowell.