Bloomsday Blooms

It almost slipped past me, but I just managed to grab it by the tale — pun intended! Today, June 16, is officially Bloomsday — and probably the most famous single day in literature. Why? June 16, 1904 is the day that James Joyce chronicled in his legendary Ulysses. So it is  suitably celebrated every year in Dublin, where the story took place, and around the world, by Joyce enthusiasts with marathon readings, pub crawls, and festive events.

It all began not long after Ulysses was published in 1922: Joyce himself coined the word when he referred to it in a letter in June of 1924. Bloomsday took root and became literarily official when The Oxford English Dictionary added an entry for it in 2005 — roughly 100 years after the date was cited in Joyce’s landmark tome.

The practice of gathering on Bloomsday to celebrate started in 1929 when Sylvia Beach and a friend invited Joyce and 30 other guests to a luncheon at the Leopold restaurant near Versailles to celebrate both the publication of Ulysses in French and Bloomsday’s 25th anniversary. The lunch actually took place on June 27th, but no one seemed to care.  Then, in 1954, a band of Irish authors celebrated Bloomsday by dressing up in costumes, traveling from one end of Dublin to the other in a horse-drawn carriage, and (probably) stopping off at a pub or two on the way. On June 16, 1967, the first gathering of Joyce scholars was held in Dublin.

Across the pond, for  30 years, Symphony Space in Manhattan hosted an annual “Bloomsday on Broadway” where Leopold-loving actors and writers come together to perform scenes from the novel. Now, readings both long and short of Ulysses and other festivities are held in cities across America, from New York and Washington, D.C. to Philly and San Francisco.

I love the idea of people celebrating a red-letter day in an author’s life — especially by reading, carousing, and singing — it all sounds very fitting and fun, doesn’t it?

This raises a wealth of possibilities. If James Joyce can have his day, why not Willa Cather, Charles Dickens, or Emily Dickinson? Now, since none of them immortalized a particular day in their work as our boy James did, for simplicity’s sake, we can pick their birthdays as times of celebration. Charles was born on February 7, 1812 (a Pisces, like me!), Willa on December 7, 1873, and Emily on December 10, 1830.

Now I’m sure you have your very own merry little band of beloved authors. Why not check out their birthdays and plan a little fun with friends to celebrate the joy they’ve brought you over the years. A cozy dinner, a glass or two hoisted to the memory of your special scribe, a snazzy new journal purchased in their honor — what could be more fitting?

We burn lots of little gray cells plying our trade, so why enjoy ourselves as we write on?

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Start Doing

“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Knowing and willing are not enough; we must apply and do. How true these words ring and yet how hard it can be to cross the bridge from knowledge and intent to taking action! We’ve all encountered people —  even ourselves — who see amassing knowledge as a form of action and over-research before they write. They gather ever-more information, piling it up until there’s a mountain of it. And then the mountain seems so high that they feel defeated by it and never get started.

And yet, on any given day — today, for instance — we’re intuitively attuned to what we need to do to move forward in our work. Most of the time, it’s no mystery — it’s pretty simple and straightforward. So what stops from getting on with it? Steven Pressfield has devoted a whole wonderful guide, The War of Art, to resistance in creativity that’s well worth reading. Three stumbling blocks trip me up — and perhaps you as well:

Overcoming inertia: This is huge — this is Resistance in its most blatant form. “It’s the start that stops most people,” according to Dr. Rob Gilbert* and most of us know just how true this is. Simple Rx: Apply “The 15-Minute Rule” — decide to commit just 15 minutes to getting started and often it’s enough to push forward (see post, 15 Minutes).

Overcoming fear: Another huge roadblock and reams have been written on it. It comes in a variety of flavors: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of inadequacy — these are chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Simple Rx: “Act as if it’s impossible to fail” — proceed as if success is inevitable. Figure out what you’d do if you knew success was a sure thing — then do it.

Overcoming distraction: Another biggie — and one of the sneakiest and most lethal forms of Resistance. Being a Turner Classic movie buff who’s whiled away many an hour, I can attest to this. Simple Rx: Put yourself on a distraction diet: give yourself strict allotments of time for entertainment and social media. Tough but doable.

OK, let’s start our Apply and Do engines — and all write on!

* Check out Dr. Gilbert’s wonderful Success Hotline (973.743.4690).

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“Rejection Club”

A book chat in a cozy café on a rainy day — what could be better? Martha Moffett — gifted storyteller, poetry lover, and editing ace (https://marthaspencil.com/) — and I got together so she could loan me a fabulous YA novel. Fueled by caffeinated ambrosia and croissants, Martha told me about her “Rejection Club.” “Brilliant!” as the Brits say!

Martha and a few writing buddies were all individually submitting to literary journals and contests, which can be lonely and dispiriting.

Submitting is a “numbers game.” To boost their “output” and take the sting out of their turndowns, this intrepid band of writers decided to start a yearlong competition to see who could rack up the most rejections.

As a first step,” they all pulled out and shared any literary journals they had in order to pool their resources and cast a wider submissions net.

Now, the “Club” meets monthly (over wine and treats, I trust!), trading rejection notes and experiences, and alerting each other to fresh opportunities.

It also shares helpful, hopeful  feedback and celebrates any successes.

At the end of the year, the winner will be suitably feted.

What a winning idea! As Martha described it, the “Club” has:

Lightened up the whole submission-rejection process for everyone;

Motivated her to complete and submit more work more consistently;

Provided more access to more journals and other submissions outlets; and

Encouraged her to polish a cycle of stories for a major competition.

Such a simple strategy — and yet so powerful! It helps put writers where they should be: in the driver’s seat. Maybe clubs will spring up all over. Bravo, Martha — write on!

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Contest Alert

Do you have a manuscript on hand that you polished until it sparkles?One that you would love to get in front of editors and publishers? Then you might want to give it some final touches and submit it to the Writer’s Digest 86th Annual Writing Competition, one of the best established competitions around. But sharpen your pencils and fire up the computer, because the deadline is coming up: June 19. Close to 500 people will be recognized and one Grand Prize Winner will receive:

$5,000 in cash
An interview with the author in Writer’s Digest
One on one attention from four editors or agents
A paid trip to the upcoming Writer’s Digest Conference
A one year subscription to Writer’s Digest Tutorials

The First place winner in each category will receive $1,000 in cash
The Second place winner in each category will receive $500 cash
The Third place winner in each category will receive $250 in cash
The Fourth place winner in each category will receive $100 in cash

The Grand Prize winning piece and the 1st place winning piece in
each category will be published in the 86th Annual Writer’s Digest
Annual Writing Competition Collection. All other top winners will have
their names listed in Writer’s Digest, on WritersDigest.com and in the
86th Annual Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition Collection.

Categories:
Inspirational Writing (Spiritual/Religious)
Memoirs/Personal Essay
Magazine Feature Article
Genre Short Story (Mystery, Romance, etc.)
Mainstream/Literary Short Story
Rhyming Poetry
Non-rhyming Poetry

Scriptwriting (TV/film) and Children’s/YA submissions are also welcome.

For contest requirements visit: http://www.writersdigest.com/writers-digest-competitions. Write on!

 

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Astound Yourself

“If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”
Thomas Edison

Who better to inspire us to dig deeper and tap into our hidden capabilities than tireless Thomas? Just think of all he accomplished and how he amazed not only himself, but the entire world. Not only was he a monumentally creative inventor, but he’s also been called the most important contributor to the 20th century.

And yet, as a kid, virtually everyone around him predicted he’d be a failure in life. His hearing was damaged in an accident and he had a hard time focusing in school. At one point a teacher sent him home with a note to his mother saying that he wasn’t capable of learning and she didn’t want him in her classroom. When Thomas asked his mother what was in the note, that wise woman told him his teacher had written that he was so smart she had no more to teach him. Many years later, he found that note hidden away in his mother’s things. Thomas went on to educate himself — and astounded the world.

Armed with belief in himself fueled by his mother, Thomas tapped into an bottomless well of creativity. According to him, we each have this same capacity to astonish inside us.

So, what would it mean if you aimed to “literally astound” yourself?

First, you’d believe that you had an endless well of imagination and intelligence to draw upon in your writing. Second, you’d believe that you were supremely well equipped to come up with inventive solutions to any problems you faced. Third, no matter what obstacles cropped up, you would see them as feedback and fuel. And finally, you would know that you were totally capable of conjuring up something new and fresh — something delightfully original. Why not take Thomas at his word? Why not choose his story about who we are?

Why not choose to “wonder, marvel, admire, surprise” — and write on?

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Something Wonderful

When Daisies Pied

When daisies pied, and violets blue,
And lady-smocks all silver white,
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight.

William Shakespeare

 

 

 

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Energy Boosters

As we hit the end of the week, our energy can begin to flag. Here are a few tips to keep us all perking along and on track:

Stretch to de-stress: Need an instant boost of confidence and can-do energy? Put down your phone or get up from your computer and take a break from anything that makes you hunch over, Then stand up and stretch. A Harvard study found that an open body position boosts your self-esteem and makes you feel more alert.

Munch mid-morning snacks: Treating yourself to a mid-morning snack instead of holding off until lunch time can help you stay calm and focused, note Harvard researchers. Midday blood-sugar dips can be anxiety triggers, but you can avoid them by snacking to keep your energy humming. Nuts rich in healthy fats and dried fruits like raisins and dates can
give you’re a lift.

Bank on bananas: These handy helpers are packed with nerve-soothing potassium, but that’s just one of their soothing, happiness-boosting benefits. They’re also loaded with B vitamins, which up energy, along with magnesium and other tension-taming, brain-boosting ingredients.

Calming your caffeine: If you’ve been downing more coffee or other high-caffeine drinks than usual, There’s a simple way to offset the jitters and insomnia you may be feeling: Drinking a cup of decaffeinated green tea. Why does this all-natural antidote work well?
Two compounds in decaf green tea work together to soothe caffeine’s stimulating effects, relaxing you and helping you get a good night of restorative sleep.

Check out chocolate: On nights when you’ve stayed up late and Past your usual bedtime (this is me today!), eating an ounce of dark chocolate with your breakfast the next morning can be a sweet solution to brain fog. It will boost your thinking and your ability to manage
information. Why? Studies show that skimping on sleep slows brain speed, but antioxidants in cocoa increase blood flow to the brain, according to the Journal of Hypertension. The darker the chocolate the bigger the brain boost. On days you’re low on sleep, taking 500 MG of Vitamin C in the Am and PM also helps keep your brain humming
according to The Brain Research Bulletin.

OK, calm and focused, let’s all write on!

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