Author Archives: EMiller

Happy Birthday Graham Greene!

by Eric James Miller

Graham Greene, the scholar, author, adventurer, spy and sometimes rogue is one of my all-time favorite authors. Today, October 2nd, 2014 would have been his 110th birthday.

As a high school student I had to read several of Greene’s early novels for my English classes and each one captivated me and demonstrated the power of ideas mixed in with story. In many ways, he compelled me to look beyond my cozy life in a posh Maryland suburb outside Washington, D.C. and experience life not from a safe distance but from the rails of the roller coaster itself.

I still remember, in vivid detail, being stuck on a remote mountainside in the Austrian Alps in 1985 cursing … and thanking … Greene for giving me the courage to hike up a mountain I very nearly was unable to survive descending back down. A calm, reflective peace wrapped its arms around me and I sat there not afraid to die because I knew I had already lived the adventure of a lifetime.

I discovered Greene right on the heels of Hermann Hesse’s “Siddhartha” and his “A Journey WIthout Maps” (1936) made me feel like I was walking right next to him in the halcyon daze that griped most of the European intelligentsia prior to WWII. I devoured his first novel “The Man Within”, then “The Confidential Agent”, “The Third Man” and “Twenty-one Stories” on my own prior to being assigned to read “The Power and the Glory” and “Getting to Know the General” in the following semester.

When I finally got to “The Quiet American” and “The Tenth Man” I was pretty sure I wanted to be a spy.

And a writer who didn’t write about just other people’s adventures and exploits.

The fact that the Internet Movie Database lists at least 66 titles based on Greene’s novels did not surprise me when I read his bio on wikiepedia this morning. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Greene) He painted his main characters like innocent victims of the moral decay and political circumstances surrounding them and the reluctant, morally challenged hero archetype is one that Hollywood has loved ever since the very first frames of cellulose nitrate began sputtering through cameras and projectors.

I thank my Barnes & Noble Desk Diary for highlighting the fact that today, 110 years ago, one of my all-time favorite authors was born. Most writers know who their literary heroes and inspirations are and when pressed will spout off their favorite novels in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, I know from my own experience, many writers don’t afford themselves the luxury of acknowledging those early inspirations. Or take the opportunity to re-discover them.

Well, Graham, this year at least, I am tipping my hat to you. I hope other writers will do the same to their literary inspirations.

As I look ahead at famous literary birthdays in the month of October, I see there are at least half a dozen authors that no doubt inspired many writers like me who are putting ink to paper, or turning keystrokes into pixels today. To name a few October notables other than Graham Greene: Anne Rice, ee cummings, Ursula Le Guin, Doris Lessing and Sylvia Plath.

If anyone would like to write their own happy birthday acknowledgement to any of them, or any other author, send it to info@nevadawriters.org. We’re always looking for helpful and inspirational submissions to the WSN blog and happy to post your byline, too.

 

(Eric James Miller is a freelance writer working in Las Vegas and the President of Writers of Southern Nevada. He is also the author of the For Rent Mystery Series and the Graham Greene-esque road story “The Metaphysics of Nudity”. To see what he’s been working on lately visit his new, work-in-progress website: ww.ericjamesmiller.com)

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Online Writing Communities Want You!

by Eric James Miller

 

GoodreadsWriting can be a solitary, even isolating endeavor. Carving out a set amount of time per day (or week) to write isn’t always easy and feeling “inspired” to write during that precious time is a gamble any casino odds-maker would bet against.

Plus, let’s face it, writers can be a prickly bunch.

Most of the time we just want to be left alone.

But a writer waiting around for inspiration to strike is idle folly. I know that I’ve been guilty of using the slightest excuse for not keeping my butt in the chair and hitting my daily word count goal. We all have our rituals and pet-peeves that we wrestle with as we struggle with our doubts and insecurities to get those pretty words on a page. Letting anyone into our sanctified, creative little worlds is a big deal.

Sometimes, to make progress we need to force ourselves out of our shells and find comfort in community.

It’s a hurdle every new writer must face. It’s a hurdle that can prove daunting even for seasoned pros.

One of the changes this fragmented, modern age has brought about is that if you’re a writer looking for a little compassion, a little support, advice, or yes, honest, constructive criticism, you may not find it at your local library, coffee shop or in your local Meetup group. However, there’s a real good chance that with a little digging, you’ll be able to find a robust and active online community of writers that not only has similar interests and goals as yours, but one that also synchronizes well with your particular (sometimes prickly?) personality.

If you’ve been to a writers conference or event that you connected with, even if it’s out of state and not near where you live, look to see who sponsored it. Many times they are sponsored, or at least co-sponsored by one or more writers groups. Shoot the organizer or contact person an email. Ask to join. If there’s a membership fee, ask if they offer a trial membership. Check it out. Give it a try. If you don’t like it, stick with it but start looking for a different group. Try not to quit one group until you’ve found another.

Writers of Southern Nevada has been a effective, though behind the scenes organization here in Las Vegas for the past three years. We have sponsored a writing conferences each year since 2011, one on memoir writing, one on the business of non-fiction and last year’s very robust two-day fiction writing conference at the Plaza. This year the WSN is changing it’s corporate bylaws and becoming a membership based organization (more on that coming soon!). Aside from sponsoring local author meet and greets, thematic readings, and co-sponsoring writer-friendly events with other organizations in Clark County, we’re inviting guest bloggers onto this blog to share their advice, thoughts on writing or the writer’s life. By expanding its presence and reach on the internet, the WSN is seeking to enhance,  enrich and work collectively to bring attention to the local writing community.

As a big fan and supporter of the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, I also personally recommend a small contingent core of writers from that conference that I had the pleasure of meeting two years ago. Aaron Brown and Chris Mandeville formed Delve Writing [http://www.delvewriting.com/] to help writers set realistic goals for themselves. They have established a versatile, interactive framework for not feeling alone and you don’t even have to live in Colorado to benefit from joining their group. Delve Writing, like many other online groups of writers helping other writers, is worth looking at whether you’re searching for inspiration, accountability, or how-to advice.

Another great resource is the Goodreads author program. [http://www.goodreads.com/author/program] There are over 100,000 authors that contribute to this forum in varying degrees. Fish around on the blog, the monthly newsletter archives and the Featured Author Groups, or be proactive and create your own author group if you can’t find what you’re looking for. You’ll be amazed at what you find and in a group that large you might even tip your hat to serendipity, because you may find something you didn’t even know you were looking for.

Another good group is the Google Group APE: Authors, Publishers, Entrepreneurs which centers around the eponymous principles outlined by Guy Kawasaki, Shawn Welch, Barry Eisler and others. You’ll need a GMail account to get started, but it’s worth setting one up even if it’s just to check it out. (note: please don’t ask me about Chrome!)

There are literally thousands of virtual writing groups online, and by virtue of Skype, You Tube, instant messaging and other handy electronic social media touch points, it’s easy to find one (or two!) groups that will probably work for you.

Gone are the days of writing in isolation, sending your unedited manuscript to a stranger in New York and having them turn you into a literary superstar. Newsflash: those “old days” only exist in myth and legend anyway. (Sorry J.D. Salinger and Jack Kerouac — I love your books, but role models for success you ain’t! :-)

The beauty of this electronic interweb we’re all connected to is that if you’re willing to look for something, you can probably find it.

But, choosing to participate is the first step and it’s purely up to you.

If you want to engage with other writers, interact with readers and reading communities, share your voice, learn and grow with other people that share the same interests as you, online writing communities want you!

They just leave it up to you to find them. As Lao Tzu said, “Every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Louis L’Amour, the prolific writer of westerns, said it even better “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning. ”

As a writer, who do you turn to when  a new question, one you didn’t anticipate or think of before, pops up? If you can answer that in five seconds or less you are fortunate. If not, you may want to consider searching for and participating in an online writing community that’s right for you.

 

(Eric James Miller works as a freelance journalist in Las Vegas and is the President of Writers of Southern Nevada. He is the author of “The Metaphysics of Nudity” and the For Rent Mystery Series. Book 1 in the series, “For Rent: Dangerous Paradise” was released in 2013 and is available in bookstores and various online retailers. Book 2, “For Rent: Haunted Neon” is due out later in 2014.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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