July 29, 2015

Wednesday Writing Wisdom (18) George Orwell

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

George Orwell
(1903 - 1950)
Curious facts about:

Born as Eric Arthur Blair he changed his name (allegedly because he was concerned for his parent's reputation) to George Orwell. "George" was taken from the King and "Orwell" from the river of that name. Another reason for “Orwell” was because he wanted a name that started with a letter in the middle of the alphabet. Why? Because, as he stated in a letter to bookseller Louis Simmonds, it allowed for his books to be placed in the middle shelf in bookstores. Not too high, where customers can’t see and not too low where he would be near the customer’s feet.

"Animal Farm" is an allegorical satire of the Russian Revolution of October 1917 and, above all, of how things went badly wrong under Stalin in the Soviet Union. The Party was all powerful and literally watched over Winston Smith's (and everyone's) every move and even his thoughts. He tries to rebel and escape, but the Party drag him back and re-indoctrinate him into the system. Written over 50 years ago the more astute social observer may see some evidence today of where Orwell thought we were heading.

 Orwell WAS an atheist. He identified as one. But he also still hung onto the traditions of the Church of England, and many of his morals were Christian-based. He was also quite superstitious. While in a Wallington church yard, he could have sworn he saw a ghost. He had  the belief that people could do secret black magic on a person’s name—another reason he chose a pen name. In his early Eton days, he and a schoolmate created a voodoo doll out of soap of an older kid they felt bullied them. The kid would end up breaking his leg and, later, dying of cancer. Orwell felt guilty about this fact for the rest of his life. In Burma, he got small blue circles tattooed on his knuckles to ward off bad luck.

July 22, 2015

Wednesday Writing Wisdom (17) Sylvia Plath

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

Sylvia Plath
 (1932 - 1963)
Curious facts about:

She published her first poem, “Poem,” in the Boston Herald in 1941. She was nine years old! At twelve, her IQ was recorded at around 160 (certified genius, literally).

The way in which Plath structured the events evolving her suicide were extremely time sensitive and IF they had taken place the way she had planned them to she would have been found in time. Previously to that morning (February 11, 1963), Plath had spoken to her downstairs neighbor and found out his plans that day. Knowing when he was planning to leave his home, she left a note for him to call her doctor and placed her head into her gas oven. Her plan fell apart because the gas seeped downstairs and knocked the neighbor out as well.

Plath wrote a book of nonsense poems for children. Called The Bed Book, the volume comprised a series a poems about different kinds of beds. This was only published posthumously, in 1976. As with most classic children’s books, The Bed Book was written for the amusement of the author’s own children. The original British edition was illustrated by Quentin Blake, best known for providing the distinctive illustrations to many of Roald Dahl’s books for children.

When Plath received a $2,080 novel-writing fellowship associated with publishers Harper & Row, she must have thought that publication was a sure thing. But Harper & Row rejected The Bell Jar, calling it "disappointing, juvenile and overwrought." While British publisher William Heinemann accepted the book, Plath still had trouble finding an American publisher. “We didn’t feel that you had managed to use your materials successfully in a novelistic way,” one editor wrote.