Barbara DeMarco-Barrett’s first book, Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within (Harcourt, 2004; 8th printing), made the Los Angeles Times best-seller list and was honored with a 2005 American Society of Journalists and Authors Outstanding Book Award. Her short story, “Crazy for You,” was published in the Akashic Books noir anthology, Orange County Noir, in April 2010. She is the editor of The ASJA Monthly, the official publication for the American Society of Journalists and Authors. More about Barbara »
Pen on Fire Video
Some days you just need a jump start to your writing. A promotional video for Pen on Fire Video by Don Haynes and Travis Barrett
Guest host Marrie Stone chats with Anna Quindlen about her new memoir, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake and Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interestings.
Please note that Anna’s interview finishes abruptly and Meg’s interview begins mid-stream due to studio recording issues. We apologize for the technical snafu, but the majority of both interviews were captured. Thanks for your patience.
Judith Schwartz, author of Cows Save the Plant (Chelsea Green) came on the show to talk about how cows are not only cute–they are useful in countless ways. They’ve also been much maligned for their methane gassy ways. It’s not so! Listen to find out why. Judy also talked about how her articles about soil and the environment segued to a book length manuscript.
I’m not talking about sitting down to write, or going to your writing class or workshop, or reading a good book. I’m talking about going away, just you, to be with other writers and take part in workshops. It might be a writers’ colony or a weekend workshop or a writers conference. I just returned from the ASJA writers conference in New York City. It’s a conference we put on every year and every year it’s a good one. (The weekend prior was the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which I always enjoy.) At the ASJA conference, I met with agents and I spent time with writers I only see when I’m in New York. I haven’t laughed so much or hard since I can’t remember when. I returned charged up and motivated. Summer is almost here and along with it are so many writers conferences and events. If you want to do something nice for yourself and your writing life, attend at least one. Promise?
My son Travis and I gathered the sea glass collected over the years–mostly by me, a little bit by friends–since moving to a cottage a few long blocks from the beach, and in unison said, “Whoa!” There was a lot there. Brown glass, green glass, white and sea foam, and a few stray shades, anomalies. The most I bring home from a walk are a few pieces at a time, and not every day. Maybe an average of once a week. And sometimes weeks will go by, even months, without looking for it, or finding any.
I was thinking how the sea glass adding up is so like writing. It’s not uncommon for people who want to be writers, or who feel they have a book in them, to dream of having that year or month or even two week uninterrupted span when they have nothing else to do but write, and when that time comes, they will get the book written, or the short stories or essays.
What works better for me and for most successful–or productive writers, for who can truly say what success is?–is chipping away at projects. And I was reminded of collecting sea glass, and how the sea glass you see here was collected over the years–about 20. You’d never find this much in a couple of weeks, or months, no matter how you tried. This is why you can go on eBay and buy bags of “sea glass style” pieces (not truly sea glass but glass tossed in a rock tumbler to resemble sea glass): because it’s ain’t easy to find it. The conditions have to be right; the tide has to be low.
I look at our containers of sea glass and I remember. This is how words pile up: over time, little by little, bit by bit.