Words of wisdom for these times from author Ursula K. Le Guin

The wise words below are those of distinguished author Ursula K Le Guin, from her acceptance speech at the National Book Awards two years ago, when she was honored for her lifetime achievement. I think they are worth reading again, now.

“I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries, the realists of a larger reality.”  Ursula K. Le Guin

Author Ursula K. Le Guin

Note: See/hear the full speech, live on video, (posted on my blog Nov 24, 2014).

Gutsy, insightful words from a wise woman: Ursula K. Le Guin

In her acceptance speech at the National Book Awards a few days ago, when she was honored for her life’s work, science-fiction author, Ursula K. Le Guin, demonstrated once again her ability to view the world as a visionary, this time turning her perceptual acuity to the evolving world of authors, publishers, and booksellers.

I have no doubt her powerful words rang loudly in the scholastic halls of fine arts programs, rattled the shelves of bookstores everywhere, and embraced the weary shoulders of writers working endless hours on their creations. Hopefully they also struck lightening in the minds of those who put profit over art and seek to diminish the value of writers and their work.

If you missed her short but oh-so-sweet speech, hear it below:

Ms. Le Guin is one of those rare, intuitive individuals who sees not only between the current linesin this case, Amazon and those publishers who devalue authors’ work and challenge libraries’ worthbut far beyond to pages on which the literary world’s story is yet to be written. Not only did Ms. Le Guin boldly call out capitalism’s corruption of art, but she voiced a prescient warning that should be heeded if the value of American literaturenot just to writers and readers but to our culture’s healthis not to be denigrated or lost.

It has been gratifying to see her words recognized and repeated. We owe her a boatload of gratitude, but now need to take up the cause lest it be forgotten or is defeated by apathy due to assuming “others” are doing the job.

In Ms. Le Guin’s words:

“I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom.  Poets, visionaries, the realists of a larger reality.”

To my literary colleagues: We are writers, and our written words can be powerful actions to push against the forces she warns of. Everyone, let your voices be heard!

Check your calendar! Martta Karol to read short stories!

Announcement: Martta Karol reading short stories.I’m so excited to be one of the writers starting off this season’s Oregon Writers Colony author reading series at Rain or Shine Coffeehouse. The free event is this Thursday evening, October 1st, starting at 7 PM. Address: 5941 S.E. Division, at 60th, in Portland. Everyone is invited!

I will be reading three “light literary” short stories: Irresistible, Waitin’ for Normal, and Loose Papers. Meant to be entertaining as well as convey a message about the importance of reserving quick assumptions or judgement and appreciating people for who they really are, the stories are written to make readers, and listeners, not only smile but chuckle, chuckle, chuckle–a tone far less serious than my novel-in-progress and much of my other writing. All three stories have a surprise twist at the end, and I can’t wait to see the listeners’ responses.

Reading as well, I’m delighted to say, is novelist Kate Dyer-Seeley, author of Scene of the Climb, the first in her Pacific Northwest Mystery series in which a twenty-something female heroine finds more than she bargained for–murder, anyone?–mixing intrigue and outdoor adventure, all set right here in the Portland region. I can’t wait to hear her read from her novel, and hope she brings lots of books to sign!

View of Rockaway Beach on the beautiful Oregon coast.The OWC is one of the Pacific Northwest’s most respected writers’ organizations, serving the literary community in Oregon and nearby Southwest Washington in multiple ways, from reading events to networking forums, workshops to annual conferences, and more. I have found membership highly rewarding, not only because of all the programs I’ve participated in, but because the community is full of really great people. One of these days I want to head out to Rockaway Beach to enjoy OWC’s charming writers’ retreat cabin on the Pacific. It sounds like a fabulous place to write!

Standards be damned?

Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read.                          I know of no shortcuts.                                                                                                                          — Larry L. King


When I first put pen to paper (or fingertips to keypad) and began filling the pages of my novel, the process was exhilarating. When I shared my initial draft with family and friends and they applauded my writing, I was encouraged. But as I said in my first post on this blog, I soon discovered there was more to this business of writing fiction than I had first imagined. It’s true; I could have believed the flattery I received was sufficient, patted myself on the back, and jumped on the self-publishing train so as to quickly launch my book and pin on a shiny badge of authorship, but I’ve never been inclined to proudly wear something I haven’t yet fully earned. I knew I had dues to pay before I could really call myself a novelist. A writer, yes, but still only aspiring to be the author of a debut novel I could be proud of. And so I’ve learned to write, and rewrite, and rewrite again.

Hemingway-first-draft-is-shit-quote. Hemingway didn’t mince words. Indeed, I do agree, and let me add: Shit don’t shine! And, you know, it might even stink a bit when fresh, making it especially important to clean up any boo-boos and polish things up well.

There are no shortcuts to becoming a successful, published author. One must learn the craft of writing, and then practice, practice, practice.

I take the craft of writing seriously, with pleasure, and with no small measure of patience. I think most writers feel the sameor at least they say they doand I have no doubt they mean it, but I have noticed that in the sometimes heady rush to be a published author, patienceeven the patience necessary to first learn the basic mechanics of writing, let alone refine the art of good storytelling—is often lacking.


Secure writers don’t sell first drafts. They patiently rewrite until the script is as director-ready, as actor-ready as possible. Unfinished work invites tampering, while polished, mature work seals its integrity.

                                                          ― Robert McKee, Story


The truth is, in this digital age, anyone can publish a novel, even if the language is jibberish. Being able to write is no longer requisite to publishing, nor will filling pages with content that is pure nonsense stop a literary imposter from producing a book. For better or for worse, in the world of self-publishing, the traditional gatekeepersprofessional agents, editors, and publishing housescan go home, and the relative pros and cons of their doing so depend on your perspective.
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The joy of writing

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Old-peasant-woman-with-laptop.

A picture really is worth a thousand words. Maybe more. What’s that? You don’t think she’s a writer? Remember: everyone has a story. She could be reading someone else’s story, but I prefer to believe she’s inspired, recalling her own adventures or telling tall tales.

What is meant by mainstream fiction?

Stacks of colorful books displayed on a table.In several recent posts I described the essential characteristics which differentiate popular or commercial “genre” fiction and “literary” fiction. Floating somewhat porously between these two types of fiction is another over-arching category called “mainstream” or “general” fiction, sometimes also referred to as “literary light.” Combining elements of both genre and literary fiction, these novels have the potential to attract broad audiences. The best are exceptionally good stories of substance that are written really well.

In writing mainstream fiction, some but not all genre conventions and rules can be broken. Like commercial genre books, these novels must have a strong “hook” to draw readers in, but in addition to a compelling plot, well-developed characterization is important. What characters say and do isn’t enough; readers of mainstream fiction also want to know something about what motivates the characters’ behavior. Continue reading