Tag Archives: Ivan Doig

Ivan Doig

Ivan DoigThis is Ivan Doig, my favorite author. I just read that he passed away today, and it breaks my heart. He wrote 15 books, his first one, This House of Sky, was his beautiful memoir. His 16th, Last Bus to Wisdom is scheduled for an August release. From the first page of the first Doig book I read, I fell in love with his writing style and his characters. Doig was a master of witty, one-of-a-kind descriptions that always made me stop and re-read, out of sheer awe. He had a way of developing characters, who within a page or two, became people you wish you could meet in real life. What a loss. I encourage you to check out Doig’s work. My recommendation is to start with The Whistling Season or English Creek.

Rest in peace, my friend, and thank you for your contribution to the literary world. You’ll be missed.

Write it Down!

Dad's notebook

Today is my father’s birthday; he would have been be 64. I inherited my love of writing from him, so it’s no wonder I’ve adopted his method of keeping a small notebook with me at all times. I know he didn’t invent this practice, but it’s surprising to me how many of my fellow writers aren’t in this habit. My father would not only have these small spiral notebooks in his shirt pockets, fishing vest and among his camping stuff, but his lunchbox from work usually contained slips of paper with story ideas, quick dialog exchanges, and random words jotted down on them. When I compiled all of his writings in a book after he passed away in 2007, I included many of these “snippets”—they were too good to leave out. These are just a few of my notebooks over the years:
Writer notebooksThere are so many times when I’m sitting in my car, standing in line somewhere, or at a restaurant, when I hear something I could use in a story, or essay. In fact, the notebook on top are my notes about an incident that had happened moments earlier and became a published essay. Nothing’s worse than a writer without paper and pen, especially when inspiration hits, because we all know that a muse can be an elusive S.O.B. Another reason to buy cute little notepads, is to jot down words and phrases that catch your attention while reading. I have been wanting to do this for ages and I finally designated a notebook for it, aptly named . . .
Word.It gave me an opportunity to get down with some ’90s slang, but I also got to use my coveted label maker. Anyway, I can’t tell you how many times I’ll be reading Ivan Doig, and think, “Ooh, great word!” “Nice phrasing.” (And the occasional, “Geez, I suck.”) Doig is a true wordsmith who creates these incredible characters and settings; his work always makes me pause and admire his way with words. My father was an Ivan Doig fan as well, so I’m grateful to him for introducing me to this amazing author. I wish I had started this practice years ago because so many words are a dime a dozen; you want the uncommon ones that will make readers  say, “Damn, great word!” Buy these little notebooks in bulk for all those big ideas (and words!); you never know what short story, essay or novel will get its start on those pages.
Oh, and happy birthday, Dad! Write on.

Fantasy Critique Group

I love being a part  of a writing critique group. Who else is going to constructively  tell me the chapter I spent a month writing, sucks? (And besides my mom), who is going to put those hard-earned smiley faces next to certain sentences and paragraphs that were funny or well-written? My critique group, that’s who. Plus, it’s much wiser to have a trusted group of fellow writers tell me that my plot has pacing issues, my characters are flat, or that I misspelled an agent’s name on a query, instead of a big, fat rejection letter telling me. I’ve been with the Raintree Writers since it began in late 2003. We’re the fab five and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. When I wrote the acknowledgments page for my book, it was with great honor to include each of their names, because after all, I wouldn’t have gotten that far without them. Of course, it would have been really cool to be able to write, “And a big thank you to Stephen King. This book could not have been possible without his invaluable input.” Does Stephen King even have a critique group? Hell, does he even need one? This got me thinking . . . (as much as I love my group) who would be my fantasy critique group? Sports enthusiasts have their Fantasy Football; us writers have our Fantasy Critique Group (or maybe I’m the only one) . . .

1.) Ivan Doig. Mr. Doig is hands down, my favorite author. His thirty-two year writing career has yielded 14 books, including a memoir, that are all set in his home state of Montana. He’s arguably considered the dean of western literature. I greatly admire (green with envy, actually) his clever, witty, and original prose that makes me stop and re-read lines several times, just because they’re so damn good. His characters are so well developed, you almost forget they’re fictional.

2.) J.K. Rowling. And no, not because of her lovely British accent (although I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t be mesmerizing to hear her read her submissions aloud), but because I would hope that a even just a tiny bit of her badass creativeness would rub off on me. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt if we became besties and she paid for my son’s college education.

3.) Jefferey Eugenides. Eugenides is a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist who wrote Middlesex, probably one of the best books I’ve ever read (as evidenced by the 5 stars I gave it on Goodreads). I don’t hand out those Goodreads stars willy-nilly. That  book earned every one of those yellow, five-point accolades. Everything I learned about a hermaphrodite, I learned from Jefferey Eugenides.

4.) J.D. Salinger. Oh yes, did I mention that your Fantasy Critique group could be made up of dead authors? (That’s why it’s called a Fantasy Critique Group). Granted, he’d probably sit in the corner and not say much, but c’mon, it’s J.D. Salinger.

5.) Fanny Flagg. Holy shit, her books are funny. We’d probably get nothing done except drain some bottles of wine and laugh. She’s most known for Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (which, like most books, is better than the movie), but her other books are just as funny, poignant and damn good reads.

6.) Harper Lee. Room for two Pulitzer Prize winners? Of course. It’s my fantasy group, so anything is possible. Who hasn’t read To Kill a Mockingbird? Seriously? Who hasn’t?

My list could go on and on. There are a hundreds of authors I would love to have sitting around my kitchen table, brainstorming ideas and telling me how fabulous I am at eliminating passive voice. (Again, it’s a fantasy, right)? I also wouldn’t turn Davis Sedaris away if he showed up with a six-pack and fruitcake.

So, who would be in your Fantasy Critique Group?