Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities: San Francisco and Los Angeles

I recently finished my draft of Dreaming of Laughing Hawk and I decided I needed a breather. (Editing 500 pages is hard work!) So I took a few days of vacation in northern California and I also spent a day in Los Angeles, doing the usual tourist things. San Francisco and Los Angeles are two very different cities.

San Francisco is beautiful, perched on a steep hill overlooking a bay. It has a very European feel: it's a city that respects its rich history. The new and the old coexist comfortably. It's a very livable city in terms of culture, dining, transportation and so on, although it's quite expensive.

Los Angeles, on the other hand, is a big, sprawling orgy of life. Buildings go up; buildings come down. It's hard to keep track of history here. It's constantly being obliterated. There's a lot of glitter and grit all mixed together.

One thing that caught my eye in both cities was the plight of the homeless. In San Francisco, the homeless seemed more enterprising and aggressive. Wherever you went, someone would try to sell you a newspaper you didn't want and engage you in a conversation to obtain your spare change. An old woman, bent over her shopping cart full of belongings, shuffled across the street. Her skin and clothing were the color of dust, rendering her invisible in the late afternoon light.

In Los Angeles, the homeless seemed crazier. One man was engaged in a passionate conversation with a traffic light pole. A young man sat in the shadow of a Hollywood statue, surrounded by tourists, and mumbled to himself incoherently. His expression wavered between confusion and irritation. Another man, clearly Native American or South American Indian wandered among the crowd and seated himself in the shadows, invisible to everyone but me. He wore a large silver pendant around his neck. In all fairness, he may not have been homeless, but he clearly wasn't in a world he understood. His face was a mask of stoicism.

So while I enjoyed playing the tourist in these two cities, what really engaged me were the homeless. I wonder about these people and their stories. What events and circumstances brought them to live on the streets? How do we feel about them? My emotions range from distrustful, fearful, sad, curious, and concerned. I think of the newly homeless in my own neighborhood--the nicely dressed woman standing in front of Costco with tears running down her face as she begged for food and work. The man who stood on a corner begging while his children were seated behind him doing their homework. I wonder about these people and the misfortune that has befallen them. I want to understand.

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