Fighting Words

Thankfully, a few creators have stood up against the cuts to arts education in recent years.  Roddy Doyle is one of them. He started Fighting Words in 2010, a group that offers free writing workshops for kids.  Their website features student-created stories like “Popcorn Attack” and “The Cranky President” and a schedule of workshop opportunities that include: fiction writing, playwriting, film making, graphic novels, song writing and photography.  Doyle aims to provide kids with opportunities to explore their creative side, experience the discipline of writing, and to fail. In an article in the Guardian, he explains the importance of  “… the freedom to challenge your mind, to admit failure and then to start again. Schools don’t really allow failure and yet it’s a valid part of any endeavor, not just writing.”

While creativity doesn’t appear to be in short supply, funding support does.  It is hoped that a new limited edition book project will come to the rescue of the financially strapped group. Fighting Words is a soon to be released book of short stories edited by Roddy Doyle.  Fighting Words will contain short stories by Colm Tóibín, Anne Enright, John Banville, David Mitchell, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Sam Shepard, Richard Bausch, Russell Banks & Salman Rushdie. Each of the ten stories has been specially written for this book.

Each book is signed and numbered by the contributing authors and also includes a signed etching by the artist Sean Scully.  Only 150 copies will be available, but the steep price of 1,950 euros is clearly aimed at collectors and philanthropists.  Still anyone can donate time, and if you have it, expertise.


Tips for Writers

I love The Guardian.  I’d even go so far as to say that it you want to be a writer,  it’s even more of a ‘must read’ than the New York Times.  Even seasoned writers will relate to tips offered by some of the best in the business…Elmore Leonard, Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, PD James and AL Kennedy.

Here are a few of my favorites

Elmore Leonard…”Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”

Diana Athill…”Read it aloud to yourself because that’s the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK”

Margaret Atwood…”You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.”

Roddy Doyle…”2Do be kind to yourself…3 Until you get to Page 50. Then calm down, and start worrying about the quality. Do feel anxiety – it’s the job”

Helen Dunmore…”4 Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn’t work, throw it away. It’s a nice feeling, and you don’t want to be cluttered with the corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the life they need.”

Geoff Dyer…”6 Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire”

Anne Enright…”2 The way to write a book is to actually write a book.”

Richard Ford…”9 Try to think of others’ good luck as encouragement to yourself”

Esther Frued…”2 A story needs rhythm. Read it aloud to yourself. If it doesn’t spin a bit of magic, it’s missing something. 3 Editing is everything.”

Neil Gaiman…”1 Write.”

P D James…”4 Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell”

Al Kennedy…”7 Read. As much as you can. As deeply and widely and nourishingly and ­irritatingly as you can. And the good things will make you remember them, so you won’t need to take notes”

By the way, this isn’t a new article, but it’s well worth going back to have a look at.  In fact, there are tons of articles well worth a second look.  Thanks Jeremy Tankard for the reminder.