Lit Lesson #20: The Butler Method

From Flight School & One more thing about scene: This is a nearly abandoned beach and this four by four foot sign makes the rules pretty clear: Yet, as I walk on the wet sand, I take note of truck tire tracks, bike tracks, and what else do I see up ahead in the bear grass…is that a woman trudging through the dry sand (in the nesting area of the endangered birds)…with a dog that is off leash? Indeed. Indeed. Indeed. It’s not my business, right? Who cares, really? But there’s a lesson here,...

Blackbird’s Summer Check-In

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”  ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby We have two retreats planned for the summer: The Get Published Intensive in early July and The Writer’s Diagnostic Intensive in August, but the weekly classes are on a much-needed break while folks work to establish some new Normal in their lives....

Lit Lesson #19: The House of Spirits and the Language of Love?

“If I just show up, and I work and work, there is a moment, a magical moment, at some point, when it gives.” ~ Isabele Allende Summary: Chilean writer Isabel Allende’s classic novel is both a symbolic family saga and the story of an unnamed Latin American country’s turbulent history. Allende constructs a spirit-ridden world and fills it with colorful and all-too-human inhabitants. The Trueba family’s passions, struggles, and secrets span three generations and a...

Lit Lessons #18: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Professional Groomer? Or Fizzy Educator?

“O where shall I find a virtuous woman, for her price is above rubies.” Proverbs 31:10 I knew The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark would be trouble when a writer wrote a hilarious text that read, “I want to claw my eyes out.” 😂 🤣 😂 True, it is extraordinarily hard to connect with this book and yet, if one can place this dark satire in the proper context, the story is chillingly familiar. First and foremost, Miss Jean Brodie was an early groomer of children. Aspects of...

Lit Lesson #17: Oh Pioneers by Willa Cather: Which Plot?

…the time will come when she’ll be ranked above Hemingway. ~ Leon Edel “My God, girl,  what a head of hair!” he exclaimed, quite innocently and foolishly. She stabbed him with a glance of Amazonian fierceness and drew in her lower lip, most unnecessary severity… …and we are off on a story about Alexandra the only daughter of a Swedish farmer about to die. Alexandra was an unusual heroine of her time, strong, smart, and more, clever. She sacrifices...

Lit Lesson #16: Incorporating Feedback

From Flight School: 4/24/22 After that first time up to read, I developed a system of going through the commentary from Tom and the other writers page by page and transferring all their marks onto a my master set of pages. Praise. Typographical errors. Line edits. Everything. Next, I sat down and typed the feedback into my computer copy. If a suggestion bugged me, I didn’t cast it aside. Rather, I looked at this feedback a couple extra times to see what bugged me. If I still couldn’t make it...

Lit Lesson Submission Guidelines:

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ~ Anais Nin If you are on the path to becoming a published writer, Blackbird is devoted to supporting you with a format for publication: Lit Lessons. This isn’t just a blog, or newsletter (as some call it). This is a place to capture the teachings here at the Studio and bring them into concrete form. It is also a place for you to share your voice through your own creative insights. We hope you’ll consider...

Lit Lesson #15: God of Small Things

Never again will a single story be told as though it’s the only one. ~ John Berger This Berger quote opens The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, a literary novel released in 1997 that went on to win the Booker Prize. It was Roy’s first book, and took her many years to write (you can certainly deduce this when you note her remarkable care and attention to detail and language). This post is the result of three weeks of conversation about a literary novel that makes the reader...

Lit Lesson #14: How Do I Get Published?

“…don’t worry about publication…”  ~ Abigail Thomas If I had a nickel for the number of times I’ve been asked this question, well, you know the rest. But it still comes at me year after year. “How do I get published?” It’s an important question, a necessary question, a bit of a driving-question because we writers want to cross that finish line. But often a writer asks the question too soon in the process and this is important because the...

Lit Lesson # 13: Classic Stories that Miss the Mark and Why

We dance around in a ring and suppose; but the secret sits in the middle and knows. ~ Robert Frost Out here among the trees and wide open sky and the endless chatter of birds nesting, I’ve been thinking about the way we have come to accept the simple conclusions offered in a lot of our best stories. I’m talking about easy endings like the girl gets the guy or the other way around. Fame is achieved. A house purchased. Or the hero gets rich. These endings result in “egoic...