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Friday, April 27, 2018

The Muse of Music

I recently read a piece at Literary Hub about the influence Van Morrison's album Astral Weeks has had on writers. It's a tremendous record. Morrison's best, in my opinion. Songs on that album make me cry, make me think. The classic from 1968 is hard to pin down, however. It's an album with a lot of themes running through it. But all together, it's a masterpiece.


Certainly music plays a part in writing. Writers will often name great songwriters as inspiration. Dylan, for one. Even before the Nobel Prize for Literature. Springsteen, John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, Kurt Cobain—to name just a few. Jason Isbell is a tremendous lyricist. Listening to the music of Iron and Wine is guaranteed to trigger a bout of writing. But there are also the songs without lyrics that can spark creativity.

It may be a bit of a cliche, but Mile Davis' Kind of Blue has always been magic for me. It has for others, too. The album is over 50 years old and it still sinks into my soul every single time I play it. There is something new to hear; something new that resonates. It's cool, melodic, romantic, and 
revolutionary. Any one of those emotions could fit the bill. 

                                                                                                      Other Music without lyrics known to do the trick: Beethoven, Mozart, Debussy, and even meditative music like Indian flute.

Writers use music to get in the mood to write, but others have been known to create a "soundtrack" for their work, a song list that helps to maintain a theme or a mood. I read in a Write Life post that writer Chandi Gilbert was developing a personal essay that centered around her early teenage years, so she created a musical list of songs from the year 1994 to help put her in the right frame of mind.



My novel, Night Radio, actually prompted a musical playlist. The story revolves around a period of time when radio had strong musical relevance, and so I created a Spotify playlist for the novel. It was fun and it helped promote the book.

How does music relate to your writing? Do you play it when you write? Do you use it to create mood? When you hear a certain song, does it inspire you to sit down at the keyboard?

Share your thoughts on how music connects to your writing, because. . .you know it does.


Monday, April 9, 2018

A Community of Writers

I'm writing a new series of essays called Walks With Sam, and this post is how you can be involved either directly or indirectly as a reader and/or a writer, how reading the series can benefit pets, and how writing on a subscription-based site can help you as a writer and the charity of your choice. 

If you follow me at all, you know I am not a fan of the plethora of writing "tips" found all over the Internet. Much of what is there is clickbait, and although there are some slivers of good advice, a lot of it leads to formula writing. Think of it this way: There are a lot of good pasta sauce recipes from all our Italian grandmothers, and there are certain things that make all sauces savory, but not every sauce is the same, each is made a different way, each has unique and varied ingredients, each is cooked in a unique way. And in the end, you may not like every sauce, but it's still pasta sauce. All of it. 

I'm a big proponent of simply getting after the work. If you want to be a good golfer—go play. If you want to be a good painter—paint. Writers should write, not belabor over tips and advice. It's okay to make mistakes, whatever they are. Mistakes are simply steps along the way, right? The idea is to get to the work. Yes, you need a framework of skills, you need support, you need to read the work of good writers. But there is only one way to be a writer and that's to write.

I have found a wonderful site that keeps you engaged in your writing. It helps you maintain deadlines and supports your work, and best of all, it gets your work out there for others to read and share. Writing should be shared. Personal journals are great. But art—painting, sculpture, music, theater, writing—should be offered to the world.

A friend turned me on to Channillo.

The site is a community of writers on a digital publishing platform that allows authors to share their work in regular installments. The "regular" part is crucial. As a writer, it forces you to stay on a deadline, to populate your "series" regularly, to write, to create. As you certainly know, inspiration alone does not make you write. If we all waited for inspiration, we would all be still waiting. Writing is a job. Go to work. Channillo helps you do that by keeping you "responsible" for populating your series. Yes,  submit to other opportunities—journals or lit magazines. But Channillo, due to its commitment component, keeps you writing no matter what.   

And if you are not ready to write, then read at Channillo. 

There are wonderful stories of all kinds, styles, and themes. Poems and prose. You can follow a novel's progression, or read regular columns, or essays. 

Channillo is somewhat discerning. You can apply to write a series, but only a limited number of writers are accepted each month. That's a good thing. It keeps the quality high and it encourages those who are not quite ready as writers to keep at it, to work at their craft. I was contacted by the founder of Channillo, Kara Klotz, through Twitter to consider writing. I'm so happy she reached out.


I write a weekly series entitled Walks with Sam. I had written a 60,00 word novel about a man who walks this dog every morning after facing a number of life setbacks and begins to rediscover the world through those walks. But after finishing the first draft, I wasn't satisfied. I thought maybe the Walks with Sam concept needed something different. Maybe it needed to be real. Nonfiction. Essays. Memoir. So, to keep me focused on this new approach and to see what kind of reaction I might get from these weekly installments, I found a home for the walking stories on Channillo. The jury is still out on what will come of the series, how the series will progress, and if it's worth more. But no matter what, there it is. For me to work on and for you to read. I'm sharing not only my work, but my writer's journey. 

And that is the beauty of Channillo. 

There is one more thing, although it is not the main reason to use Channillo. Writers get paid. This is a subscription-based site for readers. But I would suggest setting up your work to be a non-profit. This allows you to use the proceeds for charity. It might be a bit easier to get people to sign up for a subscription if they know the money is going to a charity. I have signed up to donate all of my profits from Walks with Sam to PAWS Chicago, which works to build no-kill communities that respect and value the lives of cats and dogs. 

Take a look at Channillo. Sign up. Read the stories. Write for them. 

One last thing...

Here are a few reasonable recent stories about writers working on Chanillo that will give you a well-rounded idea of its benefits and scope. 

Keep writing! 

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