Thursday, December 31, 2009

Richard Hugo:

You will find that you may rewrite and rewrite a poem and it never seems quite right. Then a much better poem may come rather fast and you wonder why you bothered with all that work on the earlier poem. Actually, the hard work you do on one poem is put in on all poems. The hard work on the first poem is responsible for the sudden ease of the second. If you just sit around waiting for the easy ones, nothing will come. Get to work.

The Triggering Town, p. 17

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

John Shore:

Learn to think before you write. So many writers think that beautiful thoughts come from beautiful words. Wrong. First have the clear, beautiful thought, and then let the only words that can express that thought naturally attach themselves to it. That’s how you get a style. Put developing a style first, and at best you’ll end up as a writer with a nice enough technique, but nothing to say. The world has plenty of those. Never forget that the only point of writing is to serve thought.

"My Last, Best 10 Tips on How to Make It as a Writer,"

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

George Bernard Shaw:

This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mary Pipher:

When we writers rethink conventional wisdom, we are helping our readers rethink it as well.

Writing to Change the World, p. 118

Friday, December 18, 2009

H. L. Mencken:

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Richard Hugo:

If you write often, perhaps every day, you will stay in shape and will be better able to receive those good poems, which are finally a matter of luck, and get them down. Lucky accidents seldom happen to writers who don't work.

The Triggering Town, p. 17

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hildegard of Bingen:

We shall awaken from our dullness and rise vigorously toward justice.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

John Shore:

Say what you see. Never force things to be what you or anyone else most typically wants or expects them to be. Let things and people tell you who and what they are: Let the real truth of whatever you’re considering unfold itself before you—and then just hang on, and see what happens.

"How to Become a Factory of Story and Article Ideas,"

Monday, December 14, 2009

John Neihardt:

She wove her ways into the landscape of my life.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mary Pipher:

When we are lucky, we enter what the poet Marjorie Saiser calls "cruise control." It is a state of grace, in which our egos have disappeared, the juices are flowing, and we are one with the writing.

Writing to Change the World, p. 116

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Latest haiku chapbook arrives

Amy's third annual, limited edition haiku chapbook, Haiku:2008 -- For the Record, is hot off the press; just in time for the holidays! Orders and inquires may be sent to Also available: Haiku:2007 and Haiku:2006, while supplies last.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rob Bell Event Tonight

This evening, I will hear author Rob Bell speak. I have read and appreciated three of his books thus far, Velvet Elvis, Sex God, and Jesus Wants to Save Christians. Years ago, my fledgling rock band opened for Bell's "northern gospel" rock trio, Big Fil.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Richard Hugo:

Once you have a certain amount of accumulated technique, you can forget it in the act of writing. Those moves that are naturally yours will stay with you and will come forth mysteriously when needed.

The Triggering Town, p. 17

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mark Twain:

Calmness is a language that the blind can read and the deaf can hear.

Friday, December 4, 2009

John Shore:

The other Truly Excellent Way to find as many great stories as you can possibly write is to go out into the world secure in the knowledge that people are absolutely fascinating: that they do fascinating things, have fascinating histories, are involved in fascinating dynamics. Move around in life assuming that everyone you meet is astoundingly original and infinitely interesting—and sure enough, their stories will never disappoint you.

"How to Become a Factory of Story and Article Ideas,"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jewish Saying:

That which is spoken from the heart is heard by the heart.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mary Pipher:

The calmness and order in Vermeer's art did not exist in his country at that time...As change agents in our loud, fast, high-intensity culture, we can accomplish much the same thing as Vermeer did by sharing calm, reasoned writing.

Writing to Change the World, p. 97

Monday, November 30, 2009

Eric Sevareid:

Never underestimate the reader's intelligence or overestimate his information level.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Richard Hugo:

Our triggering subjects, like our words, come from obsessions we must submit to, whatever the social cost. It can be hard. It can be worse forty years from now if you feel you could have done it and didn't. It is narcissistic, vain, egotistical, unrealistic, selfish, and hateful to assume emotional ownership of a town or a word. It is also essential.

The Triggering Town, p. 14

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

John Shore:

I really do think the secret to consistently producing quality creative ideas—whether it be for local, regional, or national magazine or newspaper work, or for fiction, or poetry, or play writing—is to never fail to be brutally, crazily, viciously, obsessively (and always politely) honest about whatever it is you’re writing about.

"How to Become a Factory of Story and Article Ideas,"

Monday, November 23, 2009

Jane Kenyon:

The poet's job is to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, in such a way that people cannot live without it; to put into words those feelings we all have that are so deep, so important, and yet so difficult to name.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Donald Miller Event Tonight

I am excited to hear New York Times best-selling author Donald Miller speak tonight. I've read Miller's Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. BLJ is among my favorite books.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mary Pipher:

A great deal of the work of both writers and therapists could be called empathy training. We help people sample one another's fates. Therapists ask, How do you think Y felt when you said X? Change writers ask the same type of questions.

Writing to Change the World, p. 92

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Richard Hugo:

The poem is always in your hometown, but you have a better chance of finding it in another...At home, not only do you know that the movie house wasn't always there, or that the grocer is a newcomer who took over after the former grocer committed suicide, you have complicated emotional responses that defy sorting out. With the strange town, you can assume all knowns are stable, and you owe the details nothing emotionally.

The Triggering Town, p. 12

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pete Seeger:

Singing together you find out that there are things you can learn from each other that you can't learn from arguments or any other way.

Friday, November 13, 2009

John Shore:

Being an Idea Factory, is, after all, the key to being a successful writer, and no two ways about it. If you wait to get assigned a story, you die waiting; if you come up with a good story of your own, though, you’re gold. From fiction to poetry to nonfiction, idea is king.

"How to Become a Factory of Story and Article Ideas,"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Kurt Vonnegut:

Music makes practically everybody fonder of life than he or she would be without it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Scott Simon:

Intelligent people can always come up with intelligent reasons to do nothing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mary Pipher:

Skilled writers pay attention when the muse or any other internal visitor comes to call. Poet Marjorie Saiser describes the muse as a "polite little girl." She will come up when we are busy and tug at our shirt. If we ignore her, she will go away. If we want her in our work, we must be ready to attend her gentle call.

Writing to Change the World, p. 78

Monday, November 9, 2009

Richard Hugo:

All art that has endured has a quality we call schmaltz or corn.

The Triggering Town, p. 7

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Donald Miller:

I've wondered for a long time why it is that writers hate to write. William Zinsser says that writers "love to have written," and I agree with that.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, p. 245

Friday, November 6, 2009

John Shore:

Writing’s a weird business: You have to be sensitive enough to be open and vulnerable and creative — and yet be The Terminator when it comes to rejection.

"More on How to Make a Living Writing,"

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Gary Snyder:

Find your place on the planet, dig in and take responsibility from there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ellen Goodman:

I give very few people the right to make me feel badly.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mary Pipher:

Writers tend to be sensitive people, and yet to write we need to be tough. Change writers in particular require a certain solidarity to deal with adversity....When we write about important issues, we will inevitably be challenged. Others will feel equally passionately about these issues, but from the opposite points of view. To manage the intense reactions of others, we "need to put the footsteps of courage into the stirrups of patience," as explorer and writer Ernest Shackleton put it.

Writing to Change the World, p. 78

Monday, November 2, 2009

Richard Hugo:

If you feel pressure to say what you know others want to hear and don't have enough devil in you to surprise them, shut up.

The Triggering Town, p. 5

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Donald Miller:

Everything's a mirror when you're a writer...

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, p. 28

Friday, October 30, 2009

John Shore:

The universe is full of ideas just waiting to be grasped and formulated. So what if someone takes one of yours? They’re likely to fail with it anyway, because no one can execute your idea like you can.

"More on How to Make a Living Writing,"

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Change occurs when deeply felt private experiences are given public legitimacy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Robin Collingwood:

The artist tells the audience, at the risk of their displeasure, the secrets of their own hearts.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mary Pipher:

The ideal writer's temperament includes the ability to tolerate ambiguity, handle intensity, wrestle with self-doubt, take risks, and accurately assess criticism. Most writers must be able to withstand poverty, loneliness, and anguish. And we also must be able to motivate ourselves to keep going in the face of the world's total indifference.

Writing to Change the World, p. 77

Monday, October 26, 2009

Richard Hugo:

To write a poem you must have a streak of arrogance -- not in real life I hope. In real life try to be nice. It will save you a hell of a lot of trouble and give you more time to write. By arrogance I mean that when you are writing you must assume that the next thing you put down belongs not for reasons of logic, good sense, or narrative development, but because you put it there. You, the same person who said that, also said this. The adhesive force is your way of writing, not sensible connection.

The Triggering Town, p. 5

Friday, October 23, 2009

Baba Dioum:

In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Albert Einstein:

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mary Pipher:

Our biggest plunge is taking ourselves seriously. Many of us find it difficult to simply state, "I am a writer." We fumble and mumble around -- "I'm not really a writer," or "I don't consider myself a real writer, but..." When we equivocate, we lose an opportunity to build our identities as writers. If you are not saying it already, I advise you to learn to say you are a writer.

Writing to Change the World, p. 76

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sanford Pinsker:

For me, poetry is not like the jeweller's craft...polishing, polishing, always rubbing it more and more. It's more like the exhilaration of getting somewhere. It's like running fast and your elbows and knees may not always be exactly right...but you're really getting somewhere. That's the sort of feeling writing a poem has.

When interviewed by William Stafford, Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 123

Monday, October 19, 2009

Graham Green:

Poetry is the photography of the invisible.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Wendell Berry:

I did make up my mind at some time that instead of trying to serve my purposes by rhetorical artifice or personal attacks, I would try to make as much sense as I could. If your cause doesn’t make sense, why defend it? Writing is a test of sense. It’s an exposure of your ideas to your own scrutiny, and then to the scrutiny of other people.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Carl Jung:

Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mary Pipher:

Your desire to communicate originates from some internal combustion of intellect, heart, and experience. No doubt, you are on fire about certain causes.

Writing to Change the World, p. 46

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gunter Grass:

The first job of the citizen is to keep your mouth open.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sanford Pinsker:

What about reading other poets, particularly the "great" ones? Couldn't that become an inhibiting factor?

No. I think such reading is harmless. Particularly the reading of excellent models. I think God has put a safety factor in here. You are unable to read up to a standard greater than the standard of yourself. You may feel a good deal of gusto about a great poem, but that's because you are worthy of it. You just cannot feel that gusto if you're not worthy. So, if you really do feel that a certain poem is that good, you are just about there yourself. I mean, you're that kind of person.

When interviewed by William Stafford, Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 118-119

Friday, October 9, 2009

Southern Festival of Books

Downtown Nashville hosts the 21st annual Southern Festival of Books this weekend. I'm especially excited about Alimentum's sessions, "The Poetry of Food," to be held around lunchtime today and tomorrow. I recently discovered Alimentum, a fabulous literary journal that features poems and short stories that celebrate food (whether directly or indirectly). Rich, wonderful stuff, indeed.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mary Pipher:

As are all humans, you are an amateur psychologist, with your own unique theories about why humans act the way they do. All of this individuality that is you, properly understood and clearly presented, is a tremendous gift to the world. It is a one-of-a-kind point of view on the universe.

Writing to Change the World, p. 45-46

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Soren Kierkegaard:

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Meeting Mel

Last night I had the privilege of hearing author/activist Mel White speak at Vanderbilt University. I am inspired by his courage and determination.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sanford Pinsker:

The correct attitude to take about anything you write is "Welcome! Welcome!"

When interviewed by William Stafford, Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 117

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Marion Dane Bauer:

Never think of revising as fixing something that is wrong. That starts you off in a negative frame of mind. Rather think of it as an opportunity to improve something you already love.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Haitian Proverb:

The rocks in the water don't know how the rocks in the sun feel.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mary Pipher:

You have something to say that no one else can say. Your history, your unique sensibilities, your sense of place, and your language bestow upon you a singular authority.

Writing to Change the World, p. 45

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cynthia Lofsness:

I've experienced that the activity of writing does make things happen....That's the way ideas come about for me...through a willing acceptance of sub-ideas that aren't really dignified enough for most people to pay any attention to, but if I begin to pay attention things always come....It's not writing from a reservoir; it's like engaging in an activity out of which things come.

When interviewed by William Stafford, Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 112

Friday, September 25, 2009

Joan Silber:

Shutting up is a good research tool.

Ideas of Heaven

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Daniel Patrick Moynihan:

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mary Pipher:

Our sensibilities, our moral outlook, and our point of view are what we writers have to offer the reader. Only when we know who we are can we fully offer this gift.

Writing to Change the World, p. 35

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mark Twain:

Rumor can run all the way around the world while Truth is still putting on his pants.

Monday, September 21, 2009

William Stafford:

Technique used for itself will rot your soul.

Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 78

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bonnie Friedman:

Daily life is always extraordinary when rendered precisely.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


If a writer could truly capture the life of any person for just one day, that writer would be the best writer who ever lived.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mary Pipher:

We write with a sense of urgency. We write because we discover that we have something we alone can say. And we struggle on because we still believe in the power of words, just as Anne Frank believed in goodness despite powerful evidence to the contrary.

Writing to Change the World, p. 30

Monday, September 14, 2009

Linus Pauling:

The secret of having good ideas is to have a lot of ideas, then throw away the bad ones.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Unbridled Pen

Today I attended the Council for the Written Word's 16th annual fall writing workshop, featuring author Michael Martone and cowboy poet Peggy Godfrey.

Friday, September 11, 2009

William Stafford:

To curry favor by saying what you do not mean, or what you do not feel, is as damaging in poetry as it is in politics or business or other parts of life.

Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 78

Thursday, September 10, 2009

William Carlos Williams:

Catch an eyeful, catch an earful, then don't drop what you've caught.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Anne Lamott:

How alive am I willing to be?

Bird by Bird, p. 236

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mary Pipher:

Writing turns out to be one thing we can control in a world where much feels beyond our control. Most of us will not be spearheading protest marches against the World Trade Organization, masterminding boycotts against sweatshops in China, or leading the charge against oil exploitation in Nigeria. We won't be building orphanages for children in South Africa. But we do what we can. We write.

Writing to Change the World, p. 29

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fredrick Nietzsche:

Be careful, lest in fighting the dragon you become the dragon.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Willa Cather:

It's easy to be a writer. You just open a vein and bleed over every page.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

William Stafford:

You accept leads that take you to unrecognized results. In the arts you must stand fast, accept the chances that the moment brings.

Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 78

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bob Dylan:

Protest songs are difficult to write without making them come off as preachy and one-dimensional. You have to show people a side of themselves they didn't know is there.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Anne Lamott:

Being a writer is a part of a noble tradition, as is being a musician -- the last egalitarian and open associations.

Bird by Bird, p. 235

Monday, August 31, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mary Pipher:

Yet, paradoxically, our discouragement can be the very impetus that motivates us to write. We may feel the need to be that voice crying out in the wilderness. We may feel compelled to shout "Fire!" or "Man overboard!" or simply "The emperor has no clothes!"

Writing to Change the World, p. 29

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Anton Chekhov:

A book ought to be an ax to break the frozen sea within us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

William Stafford:

The exhilaration of discovery, the variety that comes as a result of being yourself -- these benefits are so important and so effective that they bring results that are truly original, more exploratory and satisfactory by far than the "competing-with-models" formula.

Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 78

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Marcel Proust:

The real voyage of discovery is not in seeking new places, but in seeing with new eyes.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Anne Lamott:

There are a lot of us, some published, some not, who think the literary life is the loveliest one possible, this life of reading and writing and corresponding.

Bird by Bird, p. 232

Friday, August 14, 2009

Winning Haiku Featured on Nashville Blog

Amy's winning tomato haiku is featured on the Nashville Scene's Bites blog.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mary Pipher:

Any form of writing can change the world. Your goal is to find the form that allows you to use every one of your talents in the service of what you consider to be your most important goals. You want to search for what you alone can say and then how you can say it most effectively.

Writing to Change the World, p. 27

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Daniel J. Boorstin:

The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance -- it is the illusion of knowledge.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Charles Baxter:

Feelings of inadequacy are the black lung disease of writing.

Monday, August 10, 2009

William Stafford:

The only real poems are found poems -- found when we stumble on things around us.

Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 67-68

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Amy Named Haiku Contest Winner

Amy was named the winner of Nashville's Tomato Art Fest's Hot Tomato Haiku Contest's "Plum Humorous" category. Three Belmont University English professors judged the over 400 contest entries. Amy read her winning haiku on the main stage at today's festival following the announcement of her winning status.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Malcolm Forbes:

The dumbest people I know are those who know it all.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Anne Lamott:

You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible.

Bird by Bird, p. 231

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mary Pipher:

By definition, writers are people who care enough to try to share their ideas with other people. We are not passive, or utterly cynical, because then we would not even bother. We have a deep yearning to connect, to write things down and pass them around.

Writing to Change the World, p. 8

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ernest Hemingway:

If a writer stops observing he is finished. Experience is communicated by small details intimately observed.

Monday, August 3, 2009

William Stafford:

But to live your writing life by assuming that certain "norms" have been established and thereby made operative for any writer -- such a stance reverses the actual: writers recognize opportunities...Norms are for talking about art; opportunities are for artists.

Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 53-54

Friday, July 31, 2009

John Steinbeck:

A good writer always works at the impossible.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Anne Lamott:

Tell the truth as you understand it. If you're a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this.

Bird by Bird, p. 226

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mary Pipher:

Writers help readers construct larger, more expansive frames of reference so that more of the world can be more accurately perceived.

Writing to Change the World, p. 8

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Martin Luther King Jr.:

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Monday, July 27, 2009

William Stafford:

A writer coasts into action with willing involvement, always ready for something to happen that may be a first time, not a repetition of something already accomplished.

Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 52

Friday, July 24, 2009

Duane Elgin:

The character of a society is the cumulative result of countless small actions, day in and day out, of millions of people.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Anne Lamott:

If something inside you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal.

Bird by Bird, p. 226

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mary Pipher:

Good writing enlarges readers' knowledge of the world, or empowers readers to act for the common good, or even inspires other good writing.

Writing to Change the World, p. 7

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Philo of Alexandria:

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.

Monday, July 20, 2009

William Stafford:

The action of writing, for instance, is the successive discovery of cumulative epiphanies in the self's encounter with the world.

Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 51

Friday, July 17, 2009

Buckminster Fuller:

What can I do that isn't going to get done unless I do it, just because of who I am?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Anne Lamott:

Don't be afraid of your material or your past.

Bird by Bird, p. 226

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mary Pipher:

Good writing facilitates the making of connections in a way that inspires openheartedness, thinking, talking, and action. All totalitarian governments achieve their ends by frightening and isolating people, and by preventing honest public discussion of important matters. The way to promote social and economic justice is by doing just the opposite: by telling the truth, and by encouraging civil, public discussion.

Writing to Change the World, p. 7

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

William Stafford:

In art, one at a time, experiences contribute their immediate, felt existence: one reads a house, a scene, a room, a space, a sequence, etc. In writing, for instance, the quality of the work and its effects on the feelings are welcomed at once. One does the documentary of what is happening -- the whole orchestration including the personal reaction -- while the activity is happening. The feel of our lives, instead of being disregarded or slighted, is accepted as important.

Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 49

Monday, July 13, 2009

Alex Haley:

Every death is like the burning of a library.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Anne Lamott:

Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious.

Bird by Bird, p. 225

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mary Pipher:

A writer's job is to tell stories that connect readers to all the people on earth, to show these people as the complicated human beings they really are, with histories, families, emotions, and legitimate needs. We can replace one-dimensional stereotypes with multidimensional individuals with whom our readers can identify.

Writing to Change the World, p. 6

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Michael Jackson:

I believe that all art has -- as its ultimate goal -- the union between the material and the spiritual; the human and the divine. I believe that to be the reason for the very existence of art.

Oprah Winfrey Interview, 1993

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Oliver Wendell Holmes:

The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of bigger ideas, never returns to its original size.

Monday, July 6, 2009

William Stafford:

...what people say -- the people around us -- floods our attention and then passes; it alerts us, now and then jiggles our feelings or provides a sigh or a laugh, or a combination...The everyday talk around us throbs waxing and waning interest and possibility.

Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 35

Friday, July 3, 2009

Anne Frank:

How wonderful it is that no one has to wait, but can start right now to gradually change the world.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Anne Lamott:

Writing takes a combination of sophistication and innocence; it takes conscience, our belief that something is beautiful because it's right. To be great, art has to point somewhere...This sophisticated innocence is a gift. It is yours to give away.

Bird by Bird, p. 205-206

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mary Pipher:

Once we have a label that doesn't fit us, we can ignore the humanity of the labeled. Part of our responsibility as writers is to tell stories that make such erasures impossible.

Writing to Change the World, p. 6

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

William Stafford:

Poetry is the kind of thing you have to see from the corner of your eye. You can be too well prepared for poetry...It's like a very faint star. If you look straight at it you can't see it, but if you look a little to one side it is there...If you analyze it away, it's gone. It would be like boiling a watch to find out what makes it tick.

Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 3

Monday, June 29, 2009

Anne Lamott:

But so many of us can be soothed by writing: think of how many times you have opened a book, read one line, and said, "Yes!" And I want to give people that feeling, too, of connection, communion.

Bird by Bird, p. 204

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tobias Wolff:

A true piece of writing is a dangerous thing. It can change your life.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mary Pipher:

I am not interested in weapons, whether words or guns. I want to be part of the rescue team for our tired, overcrowded planet. The rescuers will be those people who help other people to think clearly, and to be honest and open-minded. They will be an antidote to those people who disconnect us. They will de-objectify, rehumanize, and make others more understandable and sympathetic.

Writing to Change the World, p. 5

Thursday, June 25, 2009

James Baldwin:

You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can't, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world...The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way...people look at reality, then you can change it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Anne Lamott:

You are going to have to give and give and give, or there's no reason for you to be writing.

Bird by Bird, p. 202

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

William Stafford:

Many remarks from writers give this kind of glimpse into how they actually feel when entering the activity; frequently they say something like, "It was only recently that I was able to write this poem." The implication is that writing is something other than just an intention and the craft to carry it out. Writing is a reckless encounter with whatever comes along.

Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 67

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bob Dylan:

I believe that things are handed to you when you're ready to make use of them. You wouldn't recognize them unless you'd come through certain experiences.

Rolling Stone, Issue 1078, p. 45

Friday, June 19, 2009

Anne Lamott:

But when you open the closet door and let what was inside out, you can get a rush of liberation and even joy.

You cannot write out of someone else's big dark place; you can only write out of your own.

Bird by Bird, p. 199

Thursday, June 18, 2009

William Stafford:

Writers have many things to be careful not to know -- and strangely one of the things not to know is how to write. Sometimes writers who have wandered into good poems have become too adept. Auden was one. Someplace he said he feared repeating himself as the years went by, and this fear shocked me, for it undercut a view I have long cherished -- that a writer is not trying for a product, but accepting sequential signals and adjustments toward an always-arriving present.

Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 66

Friday, June 12, 2009

Anne Lamott:

Truth seems to want expression.

Bird by Bird, p. 199

Thursday, June 11, 2009

William Stafford:

One who composes in language confronts opportunity too varied for fixed rules, or for violation of rules: from the emergency of the encounter emerges the new realization, the now poem.

Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 55

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Anne Lamott:

We write to expose the turn the unspeakable into words...

Bird by Bird, p. 198

Monday, June 8, 2009

William Stafford:

This attitude toward the immediate experience of the world may indicate why in planning to consider writing I reminded myself to be alert, to be aware of the nowness of things -- the feel of the day, the temperature, the kind of room, the people, what they said.

Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 47

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Anne Lamott:

Toni Morrison said, "The function of freedom is to free someone else," and if you are no longer wracked or in bondage to a person or a way of life, tell your story.

Bird by Bird, p. 193

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

William Stafford:

A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them.

Writing the Australian Crawl, p. 17

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Anne Lamott:

Mark Twain said that Adam was the only man who, when he said a good thing, knew that nobody had said it before...But what you have to offer is your own sensibility, maybe your own sense of humor or insider pathos or meaning.

Bird by Bird, p. 181

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mary Oliver:

When I step onto a stage to read poems, the anticipation and even the hope of the audience is palpable. The people sitting quietly in the chairs -- they have have not come to rest, but to be awakened. They have come for some worthwhile news.

At Blackwater Pond: Mary Oliver reads Mary Oliver, Performance Note

Monday, May 18, 2009

Anne Lamott:

Writers are like vacuum cleaners, sucking up all that we can see and hear and read and think and feel and articulate, and everything that everyone else within earshot can hear and see and think and feel.

Bird by Bird, p. 177

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mary Oliver:

The poem is meant to be given away, best of all by the spoken presentation of it; then the work is complete.

At Blackwater Pond: Mary Oliver reads Mary Oliver, Performance Note

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Anne Lamott:

...there are these stories and ideas and visions and memories and plots inside me, and only I can give birth to them.

Bird by Bird, p. 164

Monday, May 4, 2009

Amy to Perform at Women's Work

Amy will be sharing some of her poetry this Sunday at the third annual Women's Work festival. Come and enjoy an evening of original poetry and spoken word presented by women wordsmiths.

Sunday, May 10, at 6 p.m.
Z. Alexander Looby Theater
Looby Branch Library
2301 Rosa L. Parks Blvd.
Nashville, TN

For more information or to purchase tickets in advance, visit Tennessee Women's Theater Project online.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Anne Lamott: don't always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it, too.

Bird by Bird, p. 156

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Henry James:

A writer is someone on whom nothing is lost.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Anne Lamott:

The way I dance is by writing.

Bird by Bird, p. 130

Friday, April 24, 2009

Brenda Ueland:

And what is the purpose of existence Here or Yonder but to discover truth and beauty and express it, i.e., share it with others?

If You Want to Write, p. 179

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Max Lucado:

Jesus listened to his common life. Are you listening to yours? Rain pattering against the window. Silent snow in April. The giggle of a baby on a crowded plane. Seeing a sunrise while the world sleeps. Are these not personal epistles? Can't God speak through a Monday commute or a midnight diaper change? Take notes on your life.

Mocha with Max, p. 117

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Vincent Van Gogh:

...I tell you the more I think, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Anne Lamott:

Take the attitude that what you are thinking and feeling is valuable stuff, and then be naive enough to get it all down on paper.

Bird by Bird, p. 113

Friday, April 17, 2009

Brenda Ueland:

And in every sentence, no matter what horror, evil and misery a truly great book my describe, I know that I seem to have a feeling of wonderful gratitude and hope (really and literally I can hardly read a Chekhov of Tolstoi without a kind of obstruction in my throat of grateful emotion), for I say to myself: at least there has lived in the world a great man like this writer -- too great to be a brilliant know-it-all, too kind to be a satirist. If this is so, I am glad I live in this world too and believe in God and all His creations.

If You Want to Write, p. 125

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Anne Lamott:

To be a good writer, you not only have to write a great deal but you have to care.

Bird by Bird, p. 107

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Brenda Ueland:

...I have come to think that the only way to become a better writer is to become a better person. By better I do not mean goody-goodier, for a great person often does things that so-called good people think very bad indeed. And I have come to think there is irony in the lives of writers who sit at a desk always, tenderly or crossly protecting themselves from all disturbances, danger or uncomfortableness, so that they can work out a better literary style.

If You Want to Write, p. 129-130

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Anne Lamott:

When what we see catches us off guard, and when we write it as realistically and openly as possible, it offers hope.

Bird by Bird, p. 101

Monday, April 13, 2009

Brenda Ueland: must not try too hard to be honest, sincere, in your writing, for that too is a kind of falseness. When you are honest there is no trying about it. You are just quietly honest and that is all there is to it.

If You Want to Write, p. 123

Friday, April 10, 2009

Anne Lamott:

There is ecstasy in paying attention. You can get into a kind of Wordsworthian openness to the world, where you see in everything the essence of holiness, a sign that God is implicit in all of creation.

Bird by Bird, p. 100

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Brenda Ueland:

That is another reason why I think it is a fine thing to write. People who do it, do not ignore any more the bad passions in themselves and shut their eyes to them, ostrichlike, but begin to take a good and interested look at these passions and try to understand them, and are even glad they have them because it has set them thinking.

If You Want to Write, p. 110

Friday, April 3, 2009

Anne Lamott:

This is our goal as writers, I think; to help others have this sense of -- please forgive me -- wonder, of seeing things anew, things that can catch us off guard, that break in on our small, bordered worlds. When this happens, everything feels more spacious.

Bird by Bird, p. 100

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Brenda Ueland:

I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten -- happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.

If You Want to Write, p. 50

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

C. S. Lewis:

Thirty was so strange for me. I've really had to come to terms with the fact that I am now a walking and talking adult.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Vincent Van Gogh:

The world concerns me only in so far as I feel a certain debt and duty towards it, because I have walked on the earth for thirty years, and out of gratitude want to leave some souvenir in the shape of drawings or pictures, not made to please a certain tendency in art, but to express a sincere human feeling.

Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Philip Yancey:

I write (books) to resolve things that are bothering me, things I don't have answers to.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Anne Lamott:

I honestly think in order to be a writer, you have to learn to be reverent.

Bird by Bird, p. 99

Friday, March 20, 2009

Jean Renoir:

She will always prefer a scandal to a lie.

of Ingrid Bergman

Monday, March 16, 2009

Madeleine L'Engle:

...when the words mean even more than the writer knew they meant, then the writer has been listening.

Walking on Water, p. 15

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Anne Lamott:

The writer is a person who is standing apart, like the cheese in "The Farmer in the Dell" standing there alone but deciding to take a few notes.

Bird by Bird, p. 97

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Philip Yancey:

I became a writer, I feel certain, in an attempt to reclaim words that had been tarnished by graceless Christians.

What's So Amazing About Grace?, p. 42

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Springing Forward

This morning I attended The Council for the Written Word's spring fiction workshop, featuring author Susan Gregg Gilmore. Her first novel, Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, even captured this mostly-non-fiction reader.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Madeleine L'Engle:

When I start working on a book, which is usually several years and several books before I start to write it, I am somewhat like a French peasant cook. There are several pots on the back of the stove, and as I go by during the day's work, I drop a carrot in one, an onion in another, a chunk of meat in another. When it comes time to prepare the meal, I take the pot which is most nearly full and bring it to the front of the stove. So it is with writing.

Walking on Water, p. 215

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Anne Lamott:

Writing is about learning to pay attention and to communicate what is going on.

Bird by Bird, p. 97

Monday, February 23, 2009

Woody Guthrie:

It's my job to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Madeleine L'Engle:

There is no topic which is of itself taboo; if it springs from the writer's need to understand life and all its vagaries and vicissitudes, if it is totally honest and unself-pitying, then it will have the valid ring of truth.

Walking on Water, p. 123-124

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Words and Music

I am thrilled to be able to combine two of my great loves tomorrow -- music and literature/writing. I will be attending a roundtable discussion featuring Mary Gauthier, Minton Sparks, Linford Detweiler and Karin Berquist of Over the Rhine, and Julie Lee. The musicians will discuss "Shadows of the Word: Songwriters and Literary Legacies of Religion and Place." The gathering concludes a series hosted by Nashville's Vanderbilt University focusing on the late author Flannery O'Connor (pictured above).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Anne Lamott:

Try to remember that to some extent, you're just the typist. A good typist listens.

Bird by Bird, p. 72

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

C. S. Lewis:

You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Madeleine L'Engle:

Remembering the lovely things we have forgotten is one of the reasons for all art.

Walking on Water, p. 121

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thornton Wilder:

Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?

No. The saints and poets, maybe. They do some.

Our Town

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Flannery O'Connor:

All I have is a talent and nothing else to do but cultivate it.

In a letter to Betty Hester

Monday, February 2, 2009

Anne Lamott:

If you are a writer, or want to be a writer, this is how you spend your days -- listening, observing, storing things away, making your isolation pay off. You take home all you've taken in, all that you've overheard, and you turn it into gold. (Or at least you try.)

Bird by Bird, p. 66

Friday, January 30, 2009

Luci Shaw:

A poem is a little lens through which we can examine at close range some of the details of the universe.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Will Self:

...I have a healthy appetite for solitude. If you don't, you have no business being a writer.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

John Updike (1932 - 2009):

On publication:

I still love books coming out. I love the smell of glue and the shiny look of the jacket and the type, and to see your own scribbles turned into more or less impeccable type. It's still a great thrill for me...

Taken from a June 12, 2004 interview with Academy of Achievement

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jonathan Safran Foer:

I try not to speak to my extended family before I write, because that just clouds everything up.

Monday, January 26, 2009

E. M. Forster:

The poet wrote the poem, no doubt. But he forgot himself while he wrote it, and we forget him while we read.... We forget, for ten minutes, his name and our own, and I contend that this temporary forgetfulness, this momentary and mutual anonymity, is sure evidence of good stuff.

Friday, January 23, 2009

C. S. Lewis:

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Anne Lamott:

...we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift. My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I'm grateful for it the way I'm grateful for the ocean.

Bird by Bird, p. 15

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Luci Shaw:

What makes a poet a poet? The slender antenna of awareness combing the air for messages.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

T. S. Eliot:

Poetry may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Donald Miller:

I...understand every writer has a responsibility to tell the truth, and to lead a way through tension, toward peace, whether that peace is internal or external.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

C. S. Lewis:

Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

William Strunk Jr.:

Vigorous writing is concise.

The Elements of Style

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Grace Paley:

You become a writer because you need to become a writer - nothing else.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Anne Morrow Lindbergh:

Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Anne Lamott:

Writing can give you what having a baby can give you: it can get you to start paying attention, can help you soften, can wake you up.

Bird by Bird, p. 13

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Madeleine L'Engle:

That's the way things come clear. All of a sudden. And then you realize how obvious they've been all along.

The Arm of the Starfish

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Helen Keller:

People do not like to think. If one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant.