A Writer’s Choice: My Seven Steps to Saying Goodbye to Something I Love

fwblog_wwcg_ CollageHello writers, this is Adair Heitmann writing to you today. I’ve written many blogs about finding balance in life as a writer. On this note, I’m letting you know I’m continuing to seek mine. I’ve decided to stop both being a regular contributor to the Fairfield Writer’s Blog, and to leading the Wednesday Writing Critique Group at Fairfield Public Library.

I’ve loved writing for this blog. Penning my prose on your behalf for the last seven years has been fulfilling, you’ve let me know it has helped, and we’ve even won an award for it. Thank you for letting me into your writing lives and your social media networks. In my writing critique group it’s been seven glorious years of vigorous writing, support, constructive feedback, improvement, plenty of belly laughs, and gentle tears. There has been a constant Wait List for my group and it’s been filled to capacity with dedicated authors sharing their stories in all genres. It’s been an amazing opportunity and journey with other writers. I will miss you all.

Many writers, like myself, carve writing time out of already full lives. Some writers retreat to their computers while the baby naps or like Toni Morrison, write by hand early in the morning. I usually forge  time before I go to work or on a weekend. When I do make time to write, it’s usually meant I’ve  given up something else, like exercising or filling in my child’s camp medical form.

Now to the theme of today’s blog. Maybe I should title it, “Seven Ways to Leave Your Lover.” My back-story is that our son is a senior in high school. For all you parents out there you’re probably nodding your heads and saying to yourselves, “Oh, now I know why she’s stepping down!” During our son’s next year of looking at colleges and then the applying for college process, I want to create a supportive atmosphere for him. With my full-time day job as a communications director for a nonprofit and my careers as a writer and artist, maintaining that was a challenge. Add to the mix leading an on-going writing critique group, writing for this blog plus a creativity and wellness blog, and volunteering in our hometown, school, and church, I’ve realized I need to stop all volunteer work for the next year, even though I love what I’m doing.

These are the steps I told myself to follow. They worked for me and I hope they inspire you to create balance in your writer’s life as well.
1. Deliberate your decision for a long time.
I considered it while I tracked my life and commitments for one year.
2. Know your unconscious signals.
I was beginning to operate more like a robot and less as an authentic, spirited, creative person. This is my personal signal. Though no one mentioned it, my writing was becoming predictable. My heart wasn’t in it because I had too few hours in the day to do everything I wanted. Like a pinball, I bounced from one responsibility to the next.
3. Be honest about your reasons.
The demands and responsibilities of my job increased last year and haven’t shown any signs of slowing down. With my desire to be fully present and helpful as needed for our son, some thing(s) had to go.
4. Co-create a plan for the future.
My marvelous writing critique group and I co-created an idea to keep the group going without a leader, as a peer-led group, until a new leader is found.
5. Cherish the memories.
I remember everyone who has been members of my group. In my mind’s eye I see where you sat, hear what you wrote, and how you laughed, or tried to hold back tears, or how graciously you accepted criticism. We’ve celebrated the publishing of your books, essays, and we’ve cheered you on after literary submission rejections.
6. Say a clean goodbye.
I’m doing that here, letting you know, and wishing you well. I believe that the energy within which I let something go is the energy that will carry me forward. My fond memories and good vibes will carry me into my next writing adventure.
7. Have patience and allow space for possibilities.
Even though my writing routine will change over the next year, it will allow an open-mindedness for new writing ideas to percolate. I have some long-range writing projects I’d like to ponder.

I’ll add an optional step here, one that I learned only by following 1 – 7:
•    Accept emotions that bubble up after your decision.
Over the weeks since I’ve been in the process of closure and in writing the draft for this blog, sadness has crept in. Grief has surfaced in unexpected ways. During my days,  I’ve had to stop mid-stream, in whatever I was doing, and let my eyes well up and seeping tears fall. The first time this happened at work, I had an answer ready if anyone asked, “I just let go of my writing critique group.” By being gentle with my vulnerable self I made room for my feelings as they passed through.

At the beginning of every new year, for the last seven years, our writing critique group has written our writing goals for the upcoming year. I looked back at my 2015 goals. Gazing at my handwritten notes, I read, “Allow inner space for my next writing juice to come forward.” Hmmmm, that surprised me! I loved the idea of “my next writing juice.” That signifies something new, exhilaration, pep, engagement. Still surprised at the word “juice” I looked closer at my penmanship. Ahhh, I see I actually wrote, “Allow inner space for my next writing voice to come forward.” Ha! I like that too.

Here’s to new writing juice and new writing voices for us all. Until next time, keep on writing.

Happy Birthday John Steinbeck

john_steinbeckHello, this is Adair Heitmann writing to you. Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Steinbeck would be 112 today. Steinbeck (February 27, 1902 – December 20, 1968) was an American writer widely known for the The Grapes of Wrath (1939), East of Eden (1952) and the novella Of Mice and Men (1937). As the author of twenty-seven books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books, and five collections of short stories, Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.

What do you think his secret is for writing works with such staying power?

A few hints may lie here . . .

and here . . .
john steinbeck story quote

Until next time, keep on writing.

Remembering Elmore Leonard, Part 2

The envelope, bearing a Royal Oak, Michigan postmark dated April 17, 1985, had the return address, in Birmingham, Michigan 48009, printed sideways along the left edge of its front. A careful slit across the top spread open to reveal a single sheet of unlined yellow papELNwswker folded into thirds. Below the date, the pica-sized typed text—four paragraphs in all, filling up the entire page—began with “Dear Alex, [new line] GUNSIGHTS is a Western.” At the bottom of the page: “Take care,” beneath which, in black ink, sat the legible signature. “Elmore Leonard,” its only flourish a large loop at the top of the capital “L.” I’m looking at the envelope and letter as I write this a few weeks after Elmore Leonard died on August 20 at age 87 after suffering a stroke while at his desk working on his next novel, Blue Dreams.

In celebration of a great American writer, this second part of an extended post of the Fairfield Writer’s Blog focuses on Elmore Leonard’s life as a working writer. Scroll down to read Part 1, on how he wrote.

I had written to Leonard care of his publisher at the time, Arbor House, on March 8 of 1985, after finishing his 23rd novel, Glitz. “It is the 11th one of your novels that I’ve read in the past two years, and I enjoyed it as much as any of the others,” I wrote. My letter asked him about his previous novels that I had not read. I wondered which were Westerns and which were contemporary crime dramas, and which might be coming back into print. The news was good, he said: “By the end of the year everything of mine that’s been published will be in print again.”

All these years later, there is at least one missing piece to my almost-complete Leonard collection, the short story “The Treasure of Mungo’s Landing.” It is contained in the paperback version of The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard. First published in True Adventures magazine in June 1958, it surfaced from pulp limbo only after the publication of the hardcover edition of TCWS , the version I have.

Here, now, in the inimitable voice of the author himself and others, an anecdotal portrait of the evolution of a writer’s career:

Early days. Leonard was born in New Orleans and spent his early childhood in southern and southwestern states such as Tennessee and Oklahoma—while his father, who worked for General Motors, scouted locations for new car dealerships—before the family eventually settled in Detroit when Elmore was 10. Leonard revisited this period in The Hot Kid, Comfort to the Enemy and Up in Honey’s Room.

“I knew I wanted to tell stories. In grade school, I used to tell movies. I’d get with friends and tell ‘Captain Blood’ and anything Errol Flynn was in.”—Rolling Stone, 1985

“Then I read a serial version of All Quiet on the Western Front in the Detroit Times. I must have loved it because I wrote a World War I play that was put on in our fifth-grade classroom, using the desks as No Man’s Land.”—People magazine, 1984

“I was in high school and needed a nickname.”—The New York Times, 2013 [For the rest of his life, his friends called him “Dutch,” after 1930s major-league knuckleball pitcher Emil “Dutch” Leonard of the Washington Senators and other teams.]

“I joined the Navy in ’43 and ended up as a storekeeper’s mate with a SeaBee unit in New Guinea and the Admiralty Islands. We maintained airstrips for Aussie and U.S. Navy fighters. The closest I came to action was when some Jap[anese] airplanes dropped eight-pound antipersonnel bombs near us. The only other adventure was when I was stateside [in Seattle at age 19] and got a tattoo. It says ‘Dutch’ on my left shoulder, in script, the Palmer method. Cost a dollar. Red and blue ink, but the red has faded.—People magazine, 1984 & Xavier Review, 1987

“When I was at the University of Detroit [after the war on the GI Bill, I] entered a short story in a contest sponsored by the Manuscribblers, a school creative writing club. Didn’t win. Entered again when I was a senior (didn’t write a thing in between) and placed second or third. I was graduated in ’50. In ’51, I began in earnest to write and sell.”— The Armchair Detective 1983

Western years. “I chose the genre because there were 25 magazines you could aim at selling to.”— Crime Fiction Academy Master Class 2012

Also, “I chose Westerns because I liked Western movies. From the time I was a kid I liked them. Movies like “The Plainsman” with Gary Cooper in 1936 up through “My Darling Clementine” and “Red River” in the late forties.”— Introduction, The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard, 2004

“I wrote my first Western short story without having done any research at all, sent it directly to pulp magazines, and it got rejected.” So, in addition to subscribing to Arizona Highways magazine, he read such books as “On the Border with Crook, The Truth About Geronimo and The Look of the Old West [by Foster Harris], which describes everything about cowboys—everything you always wanted to know about saddles and horses and guns, even the kind of coffee they drank. I still, every once in a while, look at The Look of the West.”—Film Comment, 1998

“Trail of the Apache,” a 35-page, seven-chapter “novelette,” was the first story he had published, in Argosy in December 1951. He was paid $1,000. The better pulp magazines paid two cents a word. “The story [‘3:10 to Yuma,’ twice made into movies] was in Dime Western, 4,500 words. I got ninety dollars for it. The editor insisted I rewrite one of the scenes and do two revisions on my descriptions of the train. He said, ‘You can do it better. You’re not using all your senses. It’s not just a walk by the locomotive. What’s the train doing? How does it smell? Is there steam?’ He made me work for my ninety bucks, which was good.”—Film Comment, 1998

“I got only $5,000 for the movie, with Glenn Ford, but in the fifties that was OK.”—The Guardian, 1993

“I was trying to sell something to The Saturday Evening Post because they paid very well. . .more than the pulp magazines. I never really caught on with them. They told me my characters were ‘too relentless’ and that they had ‘no redeeming moments.’ Well, that certainly was true. I really couldn’t argue with them about that. I finally sold one story to them in 1956, I think. [‘Moment of Vengeance,’ April 21, 1956.] It must have been more redeeming than my other stories.”— thedailybeast.com, 2012

Because he was working a fulltime job as an advertising copywriter at Campbell-Ewald in Detroit, “I realized I was going to have to get up at five in the morning if I wanted to write fiction. It took a while, the alarm would go off and I’d roll over. Finally I started to get up and go into the living room and sit at the coffee table with a yellow pad and try to write two pages. I made a rule that I had to get something down on paper before I could put the water on for the coffee. Know where you’re going and then put the water on. That seemed to work because I did it for most of the fifties.”—Introduction, The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard, 2004

“Leonard wrote advertising copy for Chevrolet trucks. Then, too, he would go out to do research, use his ear. He would ask: what’s the best thing about this truck? One driver replied: ‘You don’t wear that sonofabitch out, you just get tired of looking at it and buy a new one.’ Leonard proposed the line for an ad campaign; Chevrolet was not prepared for such authenticity.”—Newsweek cover story, April 22, 1985

He also worked on his fiction at the office: “I’d put my arm in the drawer and have the tablet in there and I’d just start writing and if somebody came in I’d stop writing and close the drawer.”—Introduction, The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard, 2004

“Never, in thirty short stories and eight novels, did I stage a fast-draw shootout in the street, the way practically every Western movie ends. Later I developed ways of having the violence happen more unexpectedly and low-key. ‘And he shot him.’ ”—Film Comment, 1998

Drought. Leonard wrote Hombre, his fifth Western novel, in late 1959 and sold it in January 1961 for $1,250. Hombre was later selected as one of the 25 best Western novels ever written. The print market for Westerns was drying up as TV became saturated with them. In 1960, after 10 years on the job, he took his $11,500 in profit sharing from Campbell-Ewald with the intention of writing fiction fulltime. Instead, the family bought a house. He sold a story, “Only the Good Ones,” about a character named Bob Valdez to the Western Writers of America anthology Western Roundup in 1961. Then he stopped writing fiction for five years. Instead, he freelanced, including writing education films for Encyclopedia Britannica on such topics as the French and Indian Wars, Julius Caesar and pioneer settlers along the Mississippi. One script was called “Boy of Spain. “I took my family to Spain for that one, my one attempt at real research. It was the only one they rejected.”—Rolling Stone, 1985

Leonard kept one freelance advertising job, for Hurst shifters. “He says that if you had a hot rod in Detroit in 1963, you had to have a Hurst shifter or you were nowhere. Which is where Leonard was: . . .‘The years 1961 to 1966 were the low point, definitely. . . .I had probably resigned myself to writing again sometime, but never full time.’ ”—Esquire, 1987

“Finally Hombre did sell [to Hollywood]—for only ten thousand bucks—but that got me writing fiction again, no more freelance of any kind.”— Film Comment, 1998

Six years after writing “Only the Good Ones,” in seven weeks he expanded it into the novel Valdez is Coming, published in 1970, with the movie version starring Burt Lancaster coming in 1971. “Valdez is Coming is my favorite Western of the ones I wrote. Now when I read it, I can see my style beginning to change. A little more dialogue. The characters are a little more human. I’m loosening up a little bit. That’s what I finally learned.”—to Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” 1995

“It’s pretty much a perfect book, there’s not a word out of place. I re-read [Valdez is Coming] often just to get inspiration and to see how it’s done, and how it should be done.”—George Pelecanos, The Wall Street Journal, 2013

Turning to crime. “My first novel with a contemporary setting, The Big Bounce [published in 1968], was rejected by publishers and film producers eighty-four times in all, editors calling the book a ‘downer,’ void of sympathetic characters—the same ones I’m writing about thirty years later.”—“Introduction,” The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins, Owl Books edition, 2000

The Moonshine War (1969) [started as] a nine-and-a-half page outline called ‘The Broke-Leg War.’ . . .Mr. Majestyk (1974). . .became a novel after the movie. . . .I had part of another book I had written for a producer who was looking for a migrant worker story. . .eighty or ninety pages, called Picket Line. . . .I hung it up for parts and used most of it in the novelization of Mr. Majestyk.”—Film Comment, 1998

“. . .197[4]. . .I started doing crime with Fifty-Two Pickup.”—Writer’s Digest, 1997

In 1984, LaBrava won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel, beating out, among others, John LeCarre’s The Little Drummer Girl.  “Glitz, published in 1985, was his 23rd novel and the breakthrough that flew to the top of the best-seller fiction lists and put him on the cover of Newsweek (above).”—Front-page obituary, The New York Times, 2013

Glitz “ ‘began when [movie producer] Walter Mirisch asked me if I wanted to do a sequel to “In the Heat of the Night.” ’ ” [That led to lots of research about the Philadelphia mob’s penetration of Atlantic City, including] “reports of a Pennsylvania crime commission  which contained long runs of wiretapped dialogue with various hoodlums.”—New York Daily News Magazine, 1985

“You read [the wiretaps], and it’s just one cliché after another. And since you’ve got to make these guys individuals in a novel, you can’t go by that. I think that good dialogue is made up to sound realistic, but it isn’t that real at all. And you can’t go on forever with it. You’ve got things said. There’s a topic sentence somewhere, and you’ve got to put that down.”—The Barnes & Noble Review, 2009

“[Inmates] write to me and want to know if I’ve done time. I met a guy at Telluride who had done a few years in Colorado for selling marijuana. He said, ‘God, you’ve got it right down, the way these inmates talk.’ He said, ‘In my trial, I maintained that the marijuana was for my own use.’ And I said, ‘Well, how much did you have?’ and he said, ‘400 pounds.’ ”—VICE Magazine, 2009

“. . .I just feel more secure in a situation [in a book] where I know a gun can go off at any time if things get boring.”—The New York Times Magazine, 1984

Influences. “I was impressed by John O’Hara’s dialogue, and I would learn from and imitate [it]. I think that’s the best way to learn: just to read an imitate for a while, until you finally get your own voice.—The Onion A.V. Club, 2002

“. . . [I]n John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday. . .a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: ‘I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . .figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that.’ ”—Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, No. 2, 2001

“I’ve always liked Hemingway. I can still read Hemingway’s short stories and enjoy them. . . .In the fifties. . .I was reading For Whom the Bell Tolls, reading it every day before I started to write—because I thought of the story as sort of a Western; they’re in the mountains with horses and guns. But once I realized he didn’t have a sense of humor, or at least show it in his books, then I had to find someone else.”— F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference Award, youtube.com interview from Montgomery College (Md.), 2008

“There was a writer by the name of Richard Bissell. . .He wrote books set on the Mississippi River, where he was a pilot, he was a towboat pilot. . .He had such a natural style. There was humor on his towboats, guys talking. But it was never forced and he wasn’t trying to be funny. . . .I thought, that’s the way to do it.”— F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference Award, youtube.com interview from Montgomery College (Md.), 2008

“. . . The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972). . .I think it’s the best crime book ever written.”—VICE Magazine, 2009

“What I learned from George Higgins was to relax, not be so rigid in trying to make the prose sound like writing, to be more aware of the rhythms of coarse speech and the use of obscenities.”—“Introduction,” The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins, Owl Books edition, 2000

“George Higgins [also] taught me that it was okay to jump into the middle of a scene and let the reader catch up.”—GQ, 1984

“I had an editor who’d. . .say, ‘Well, where are the [characters]? I don’t even know where they are and they’re talking.’ I said, ‘Well, take it easy, you know it’ll be revealed. Be patient.’ ”—Crimeculture Q&A with Charles Rzepka, 2010

“Higgins’ agent at the time of Eddie Coyle read the manuscript, told him it was unsalable and dropped him. Let this be an inspiration to beginning writers discouraged by one rejection after another. If you believe you know what you’re doing, you have to give publishers time to catch up and catch on.”—“Introduction,” The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins, Owl Books edition, 2000

A road not taken. At one point, when his crime books were not selling enough, Leonard considered writing romance novels. “I bought some. . . .I thought, Why don’t I just write one of these to make some money? But I could’nt even read the first five pages. I thought, How can I write what I can’t read?”—Rolling Stone, 1985

Two turning points. “I joined Alcoholics Anonymous in 1974, and on January 21, 1977, at 9 in the morning, I had my last drink.”—The New York Times Magazine, 1984

“[It’s] an amazing thing, after thirty-two years, to know I can get better. . . .I have so much more confidence in my work. . . .I look forward to working in the morning, something I didn’t used to do. . . .I sit and look out the window when I’m writing away, I look out, and I don’t believe it. I’m sitting here all by myself, doing this story, getting all excited about it and getting paid for it. . . .”—The Courage to Change, 1987

“At the preliminary examination in Recorder’s Court, the defense counsel cross-examined the doorman of the pad. . . .‘Was anyone else present in the room?’ ‘Yeah, that one sitting over there.’ The defense attorney looked around. ‘You’re indicating the gentleman in the first row with the beard and the polka dot necktie?’ ‘That’s the one,’ the doorman said. He was pointing at me.”—“Squad 7: Impressions of Murder,” Detroit News Sunday Magazine, November 12, 1978

“I spent most of three months sitting around squad rooms in Detroit listening to cops.”—Newsweek, 1985

“We’re kind of prejudiced around here about Dutch’s article and book. He got on paper the way we talk and act every day,”—Detroit felony homicide detective Dixie Davies in Gregg Sutter’s article “Dutch,” Monthly Detroit, 1980

“[‘Squad 7: Impressions of Murder’] was the first and only piece of journalism I’ve ever done.”—NPR’s “Fresh Air,”1995

Getting it right. Gregg Sutter’s piece on Leonard for Monthly Detroit was published in October. “In January of 1981, I received a phone call from Dutch. . . He asked me if I wanted to do some research for him on his new book. I said sure. Split Images was a good book to get started on [as Leonard’s full-time researcher and, later, website-master as well]. . . . At our first meeting, Dutch said: “Let’s take the Detroit cop down to Palm Beach.”—Gregg Sutter in The Armchair Detective, Winter 1986 (first of two part-article)

“Sutter’s research fills a box for each book. What cops do each day, books on prison culture and slang. The boxes are kept in the basement. Inside, there’s a regular schoolboy’s notebook, 80 pages. It’s the ‘skinny’ for each book, or [Leonard’s] essential notes. These are filled with possible character names, addresses of banks that get robbed, snippets of dialogue, and facts like the population of Miami and the number of autopsies performed each year in Detroit.”—The Washington Post, 2008

“What Dutch is looking for in research is a series of ‘triggers’ that inspire scenes or characters. . . .My job was to go after the bigger picture, in search of hidden triggers. Dutch would then shop the material very discriminately for a single fact, a gesture, or a backdrop; once he had it he’d be off and running.”—Gregg Sutter in The Armchair Detective, 1986

Adventures & Misadventures in Hollywood. “I love writing books. I wrote movies for money.”—Film Comment, 1998

“Joe Kidd” (1973) was the only screenplay Leonard wrote, that got made into a movie, that was not also a novel. “[Clint] Eastwood [the film’s star] is the easiest guy in the world to get along with. I don’t recall him changing that much. . . .The only time I can recall him saying anything was for the scene where Joe Kidd is confronted by an armed faction, near the end of the second act. Eastwood said, ‘Shouldn’t I have my gun out when I say that?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t think you need to have your gun out.’ Eastwood said, ‘But my character has not been presented as a gunfighter.’ He turned to [director John] Sturges, ‘Don’t you think I need my gun out?’ Sturgis said, ‘No. . . .” Eastwood said, ‘Why not?’ Sturgis said, ‘Because the audience knows who you are—they’ve seen all your pictures.’ But when the picture was made, Eastwood did have his gun out.”—Film Comment, 1998

The last property bought by Alfred Hitchcock was [Leonard’s 1977 novel] Unknown Man No. 89—American Film, 1984

Leonard wrote the screenplay for “Stick,” starring and directed by Burt Reynolds (1983), from his novel of the same name. “In Leonard’s library hangs the movie poster. . . .The words on the poster say, THE ONLY THING HE COULDN’T DO IS STICK TO THE RULES. Leonard crossed out rules and inserted a new word: script.”—Rolling Stone, 1985

Dustin Hoffman expressed interest in playing the lead role in Leonard’s screenplay of his 1983 novel LaBrava, to be directed by Martin Scorcese. “By the summer of 1984, Leonard was publicly describing the rewriting experience as ‘laborious,’ and when Hoffman told Leonard, ‘You’ll be paid retroactively,’ Leonard’s agent told the writer, ‘They’ll never make this picture.’. . . .By 1986, Hoffman was gone.”—vulture.com, 2013

[A decade later, Leonard was]  “in Australia, on a book tour supporting Get Shorty. . . .[The] phone in the hotel room rings. It’s Dustin Hoffman. He’s really ticked off. He says the pompous, diminutive character [Martin Weir, later played in the movie by Danny DeVito] for which the book is named is so obviously a dead ringer for him that ‘everybody’s going to know this is me.’ Leonard said, ‘Oh, I don’t know, Dustin. There are a lot of short actors in Hollywood.’ ”—Washington Post, 2013

Whence the name of the protagonist in both Get Shorty and Be Cool? “[Leonard] had a Miami friend who works for a private investigator [named Bill Marshall], a Brooklyn Puerto Rican named Chili Palmer.”—New York Daily News Magazine, 1985

“When I first heard that [John] Travolta was going to play Chili, I said, ‘Are you kidding? Is that the guy in those talking baby movies?’ . . .Then I saw ‘Pulp Fiction’ and said, ‘Oh, my God, he’s the guy.’ . . .[A]nd he was great. He said the lines right. He had the eyes right.”—thedailybeast.com, 2012

“[I]n early June 1996, [Quentin Tarantino] called again. He said, ‘I’ve been afraid to call you for the last year.’ I said, ‘Why? Because you’ve changed the title and you’re starring a black woman in the lead?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Do what you want. You’re the filmmaker, you’re going to do what you want anyway.’ . . .I trusted Quentin and felt certain the film would work.”—Film Comment, 1998 about the movie “Jackie Brown,” a Leonard favorite, starring Pam Grier from the novel Rum Punch

“They made me an executive producer on the [TV] show [“Justified”], and executive producers don’t really do anything. I thought, ‘How can I sit here and collect money and not do anything?’ So I wrote a book, Raylan [2012]. I didn’t want to interfere with the writers. I gave it to them and told them to take what they wanted.”— thedailybeast.com, 2012

Role model. “To say that Mr. Leonard lacks pretension does not quite get it. He is scary normal, friendly in an absent way.”—The New York Times, 2005

“He was the guy that a lot of us in my generation wanted to be. We wanted to be as good as him and, beyond the content itself, we wanted to have his career. I mean, to write good books that were popular and to have his longevity, to be in the game as long as he was and to be as good as he was. . . .Sometimes you meet your idol and you’re disappointed, but I wasn’t disappointed at all. He was a gentleman and very gracious to a young writer, me.”—George Pelecanos in The Wall Street Journal, 2013

“Just before going onstage [at the 2010 Tucson Festival of Books] we thumbed through a program listing all the esteemed authors, of which he was easily the best known and, he told me, the one who had won no prestigious fellowships and few awards. ‘Most of these writers don’t write for a living,’ he said. ‘They write for tenure. Or for The New York Times. Or to get invited to conferences like this. When you write to make the rent or send your kids to school, you learn how to write without a lot of nonsense.’ When he repeated something like that onstage, the room rocked with laughter and applause. In his 80s, Elmore had become the kind of star who could tweak his hosts and be loved for it.”— Scott Simon on NPR’s “Weekend Edition Saturday,” 2013

“We would go to libraries and bookstores and I would be lucky enough to interview him, and sometimes he’d start off slow, telling stories about his stories, and then he’d start getting laughs, and then he was the hot kid all over again.”—Mike Lupica in the New York Daily News, 2013

A few more thoughts on writing. “My handwriting goes up, which I’m happy to hear is a good thing. Hemingway’s went down something awful, like a waterfall.”—“How I Write” in GQ, 2000, with a black-and-white photo of him holding up two handwritten manuscript pages

The fictional precursor to Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing are his character Frank Ryan’s “ten rules for success and happiness” in the novel originally published in paperback under the title Ryan’s Rules. Frank is a used-car salesman at Red Bowers Chevrolet in Detroit. He convinces Ernest “Stick” Stickley Jr.—a car thief—to become his partner in armed robbery. Examples: “2. Never say more than is necessary. . . .4. Dress well. Never look suspicious or like a bum. . . . .10. Never associate with people known to be in crime.”—Swag, 1976

“There are a couple [of books] where I went with the wrong main character. In Pronto, I went with the character [Harry Arno] who, when I was writing it, was my age, 67. When he got about 100 pages in. . .I lost interest in him, because he was getting hard to get along with. . . .I didn’t care that much for the guy anymore. I had to bring another character on, who wasn’t introduced until page 40, this guy Raylan Givens, the federal marshal in Kentucky. I could write a book about him any time. I made him a lot more important and opened the next book, Riding the Rap, with Raylan. So I gave him his due.”—The Onion A.V. Club, 2002

“You’ve got to give your characters attitudes, or else. . .they’re just sitting there.”— Detroit Free Press, 1982

“A New Yorker editor used to ask me for stories, and I’d say, ‘I don’t do your kind of stories.’ My stories have endings.”—thenewyorker.com, 2013. [The magazine did publish a Leonard story, “Riding the Rap,” on June 27, 1994; it was the first chapter of the forthcoming novel of the same name.]

“I believe it takes at least ten years for a writer to reach the point that he knows what he’s doing.”—VICE Magazine, 2009

“Write every day. Write all the time. . . .You’ve got to write. That’s it.”— F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference Award, youtube.com interview from Montgomery College (Md.), 2008

Endings. “My favorite ending was in Get Shorty. It’s a [Chili Palmer] line, that character is trying to rewrite the screenplay. And he’s gotten to the end of it, and the last line is, ‘F—-n’ endings, man, they weren’t as easy as they looked.’ ”—Joint interview with Donald E. Westlake in On Writing (a publication of the Writer’s Guild of America East), 2007

The future. The Bounty Hunters, from 1953, was Elmore Leonard’s first novel. It told the story of good guy Dave Flynn, a contract scout for the U.S. Calvary, trying to beat Curt Lazair, an outlaw bounty hunter hoping to earn 500 pesos for a scalp, to the renegade Mibres Apache Soldado and bring him in.

In its July/August 2012 issue, The Atlantic published “Ice Man.” It is an early version of an early chapter of Blue Dreams, Its protagonist is Victor, a Mimbreno Apache bullrider who has just won first place, $4,000 and a new saddle at the All-Indian National Rodeo in Palm Springs. His antagonist is Darryl Harris, a federal agent in Immigration and Customs Enforcement. At the time of his death, Leonard had made the decision to bring his good guy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (hero of Pronto, Riding the Rap and the hit TV series “Justified”) into the story. A few weeks later, Elmore Leonard’s son Peter, a crime novelist himself, told the BBC that he had spoken with family members and researcher Gregg Sutter about his finishing the book.

So at the end, had Elmore Leonard’s storytelling come full circle? We’ll know only if and when the unfinished Blue Dreams is published.—Alex McNab




Published in: on September 16, 2013 at 7:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Stephen King: We Lie for a Living

stephen_king_david_williamson_vip_reception_collageHello writers, this is Adair Heitmann writing about meeting Stephen King on July 18, 2013. How does it feel to meet an author worth over $400 million? Pretty damn good. How did it feel, even though I’m not a voracious King fan? Pretty damn good. Thank goodness I’ve liked some of his movies. I attempted to hold my own among his thousands of fans.

I met King at a VIP reception at the Mark Twain House and Museum, in Hartford. His devotees were then bused to the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts for a sold-out author interview. The Twain House was a fundraiser, with all proceeds benefiting the continuing educational and preservation activities of The Mark Twain House. My friend, David Williamson, owner of Betts Books, LLC, got VIP tickets.  He was kind to include me in his family for the night.

Oh, it’s good to know a book-rock star. Not King, Williamson. David was besieged with Stephen King groupies at the VIP reception. While King was protected by his body guard and posed for pictures, the rest of us enjoyed an open bar and ate gourmet finger foods. It was the fans, however, of David’s, who flocked and buzzed around him. For you King lovers, David is the model for the character “Father Callahan” in King’s The Dark Tower series.

King, as you know, is an American author of contemporary horror, suspense, science fiction and fantasy. His books have sold more than 350 million copies and have been adapted into a number of feature films, television movies and comic books. King has published 50 novels, and five non-fiction books. He has written nearly two hundred short stories, most of which have been collected in nine collections of short fiction. He wears his fame well. King was authentic and surprisingly funny.

I’ve been to a lot of author talks, yet this was the first time I’ve witnessed an author receive a standing O just by walking on stage. The audience roared to their feet, clapping and whooping, before King even sat down. Interviewed, at the Bushnell, by WNPR radio personality Colin McEnroe. King said, “All fiction writers are liars, We lie for a living.” King went on to encourage writers to “. . . find a sweet spot in what you are doing. When you get it right, no matter what it is you are doing, you get the buzz, you know you are in the sweet spot.”

King praised Charles Dickens as one of the best published authors to provoke emotions in his readers.  King commented that he, himself, was a sensitive and imaginative boy. Now when he starts writing a book, he “starts with an image.” Once he has the image, the story flows from there.

When an audience member asked King what his favorite book-adapted-into-a-movie was, he answered, “Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and Misery. In that order.” Gasping, I leaned over to David, and whispered, “That’s my list too!” In an instant I added my name to the Stephen King fan club.

McEnroe and King discussed many topics. The one that tattooed itself in my brain, was hearing that 36 years after first publishing it, King is writing the sequel to The Shining. As a writer myself, I think that is worth a standing O.

I Was a Wrimo Again

Participant-100x100-2Hello writers, from Adair Heitmann. With the recent, tragic and unimaginable losses in the Sandy Hook community in Newtown, CT, I can barely focus on this post. Yet, writing helps me through grief, it has universal curative powers.

Kahlil Gibran wrote, “When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” Much of our collective grief has to do with the senseless killing of innocent children. Children who were in a safe place, school. Children who were with teachers and administrators, loyal to the children’s welfare and capable of taking care of them, until, the unthinkable happens. Gibran’s quote helps me see that I cry because I love children, because I’m a mom, because I’m a teacher, and because I love teachers. All those things, when taken in the balanced order of life, bring delight. I mourn, with the rest of our country and the world. As a writer, I write, to help me get through this grief. So, I am going to continue with the essay I planned, an article about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

Dipping my toe in the NaNoWriMo seas again this year was truly delightful. This past November, I managed to participate in NaNoWriMo and still keep my job. Plus keep all my diverse professional and personal plates spinning. The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to inspire writers of all ages to write 50,000 words in one month. I entered with my eyes wide open, knowing that reality prohibited me from having the spare time to write a 50,000 fictional novel. However, if I added up all the words that I wrote for work, I’m sure I’ve written several full-fledged novels during the month of November. I used NaNoWriMo as a way to fertilize my own writer’s platform, by playing in a national arena. I knew I couldn’t complete a new novel, but my day job gave me the opportunity to participate as part of a community outreach. (It’s nice to write for a living.)

To complete the participation in NaNoWriMo, I needed to look into my own resources of what I’d previously written. I brushed off a parable, for children of all ages, that I wrote 21 years ago. I re-worked some sections, and wrote some with fresh eyes. NaNoWriMo inspired me this year. I had to submit something to get the dandy “Participant 2012” icon you see above. I submitted my children’s parable in a word document to the official NaNoWriMo word count counter on their website. The word count added up to a spanking 2,369! Like any good teacher who acknowledges an advancement that his or her student makes, I’m giving myself an A for effort.

Being involved in NaNoWriMo writing circles also gave me a chance to learn more about their Young Writers Program for kids and teens. It looks like an energizing and creative way to engage young writers. I’d encourage any teacher out there, reading this post, to incorporate this into next year’s Language Arts syllabus.

I end today’s piece in a dedication, with love, with compassion, and with inspiration to all the children and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

On a holiday note: All of us at the Fairfield Writer’s Blog wish you a peaceful season and a New Year filled with hope.

Until next time, keep on writing.

The Versatile Blogger Award Winner: Thank You!

Hello to all you writers out there, this is Adair Heitmann writing to you on this steamy summer day. Did you hear the bells and whistles? The Fairfield Writer’s Blog just received The Versatile Blogger Award! This is awarded to blogs that are considered helpful and excellent. Aw shucks. Both my colleague and fellow writing workshop leader, Alex McNab, and I currently keep The Fairfield Writer’s Blog going (along with our invited guest authors). We strive to be informative and always bring the blog back to its core mission of “literary connections.”

As writers we constantly hear about building our writing platforms. Part of building your platform includes creating and maintaining an online presence. Blogs are a great way to do that, and commenting on other people’s blogs can be invaluable. (See more about this in the list below.)

The Versatile Blogger Award was a connection that came put of the blue, thanks to blog reader Brooke Ryter.  Part of being nominated for the award is to select and share 15 blogs/bloggers that have been recently discovered or that we follow regularly. Here’s Alex and my edited and combined list, sorry we couldn’t put every blogger we know on it. The list is in no particular order, but we attempted to include blogs that are good resources for writers. Please check them out.

Mary Carroll Moore writes all about the book writing and creative writing process.

Jane Friedman – Being human at electric speed: Exploring what it means to be a writer in the digital age.

Ollin Morales Courage 2 Create inspires writers to do just that . . . write!

Patrick Ross: Travels of a MFA student and prolific writer.

Gabi Coatsworth: writing about a writer’s life in Fairfield County, CT.

Kim Craft Fiction, Memoir, Creative Writing (from Top Ten Blogs for Writers list)

Christina Katz: The Prosperous Writer. Her handle sums up her niche.

Anne Kathryn Smith, writer at large. She recently commented on The Fairfield Writer’s Blog and I was drawn to a helpful link to her blog.

Larry Brooks is one of many storytelling gurus online. He revisits the basics of structure from time to time in helpful ways.

the millions.com
Publishing news, author Q&As, plus a lot of links to pieces of interest on other sites.

Galleycat is a publishing news place. On the parent media bistro site, there are periodic interviews with authors and editors, under the heading What Do You Do?

The focus here is on plotting your story.

A rotating group of book editors has something new up every weekday. There are a lot of helpful gems back in the archives.

Dystel & Goderich Literary Management posts essays and links from its agents. Again, lots of good stuff in the archives.

She spoke at the Library a few years ago, and is currently doing the mega media circuit.

Thank you again to The Versatile Blogger Award for helping us here at The Fairfield Writer’s Blog continue to be a valuable resource to writers everywhere.

Until next time, stay cool, and keep on writing!

Writers — Use What You Have

Hello to all you writers out there, this is Adair Heitmann writing to you on this cold, rainy day in Connecticut. Are you snug, dry, and creating? Recently I had an eye-opening experience. Last year I signed up for The Sketchbook Project 2012. It is this really cool, world tour of contemporary artists’ books. To enter you must choose a theme to use as a take-off point. Silly me, last summer I thought I had all the time in the world to meet the January 31, 2012 deadline. Luckily, when I entered the project my intuition whispered in my ear, “Choose the theme Writing on the Wall.”

Well, last Monday came around with me staring down the blank sketchbook. It was my one day off from work and I had a book to fill. Not letting a time crunch deter me, I remembered waking up in the middle of the previous night with the answer. I’ve been working on a series of haikus for about three years. When I’m inspired, usually by the intersection of mother nature and human nature, I write one. Working on the haikus, on and off, as time allowed, I shared the poems periodically with my writing critique group. I’d re-work them, and place them in my familiar manilla folder labeled “Haiku,” and then file them under “Poems” in my filing cabinet. There they sat until a few days ago.

I brought the folder down to my kitchen table, grouped them by the four seasons of the year, and created an outline for the book. Needing to round out the book I wrote a brand, spanking new haiku, on the spot, and included that too. So the book really was three years in the making, an hour for the outline, and two hours for the artistic crafting of the book. Like a cook who invents a delicious meal based on what is in the cupboard, I used what I had. I parboiled my words, sautéed the right ingredients, set the table, and lit the candles. I completed the book, and mailed it, meeting their deadline.

The Sketchbook Project is all about process, and it sure reminded me that you never know where your words will end up. You just have to trust and believe they will find a home. Before The Sketchbook Project I never thought of grouping my haikus by season and publishing them as a collection. Now I am.

Until next time, keep on writing!

A NaNoWriMo Virgin No More

Hello to all you writers out there, this is Adair Heitmann writing today about my NaNoWriMo experience. Last October’s blog shared information about November being National Novel Writing Month. The contest is billed as “Thirty Days and Nights of Literary Abandon.” It hosted 337,618 writers from 45 countries this year. The purpose of the challenge was to complete a new 50,000 word novel in one month.

Imagine all those writers feverishly writing within the same erudite community during the same month. How could anyone not be psyched? I certainly was. Becoming a member of this intergenerational writing society was so cool! As authors we are often alone at our kitchen tables writing longhand on yellow legal-size pads, as our dishwashers churn away. Or, with open laptops, sitting isolated in a busy coffee shop, hammering out our stories, while blends of French Roast fill the air. Being an active participant in the NaNoWriMo literary adventure helped me feel a part of something larger and greater than just me.

However, I knew from the start that I only had time to brush the surface with NaNoWriMo this year. With my other professional deadlines and personal responsibilities, writing a new novel 2-3 hours a day would be out of the question. But I still wanted to play. I figured, I may as well enter and see what NaNoWriMo was all about from the inside. I had a ball, and the memories from my month are keeping me all a-flutter.

The entry form asked for a genre, which made me pause and think. As a mostly non-fiction author, how did I want to spend my infinitesimal NaNoWriMo fiction prose time? It was a toss-up between Satire, Humor & Parody or Erotic Fiction. Going into this with an open mind and a cavalier attitude helped free me up to recognize that I had nothing to lose. I may as well stretch my creative muscles, and write something outside my comfort-zone.

As November progressed I straddled my world of by day being a mild-mannered literary consultant and by night flying wildly in free expression. This lack of inhibition, however, caused me to be confronted with literary questions that I don’t ordinarily have to face.
1. As an author of non-fiction, my articles, books, essays, and blogs don’t require a disclaimer. But as I wrote in my chosen NaNoWriMo genre I started to realize that I may want to change my name. You see, I need my day job and wasn’t sure if the genre of my fictional piece would jeopardize it. Entering “NaNoWriMo-Land” had really inspired me to let my hair down, I’d become downright reckless.
2. As a parent of a budding teenager, I wondered if what I was writing might be an embarrassment.  I can mortify my child very easily on my own without intentionally adding to it.

Then, through a Facebook connection I learned of a writing contest in one of my genres of choice. Hmmmmmmm, could I be published and paid very nicely for my new novel? I wondered that I might be able to pay for my child’s college education by writing with such freedom and frivolity.  November found me juiced up every time I sat down and wrote.  I didn’t even need an oven; the heat coming off my pages cooked the Thanksgiving turkey. Then I got to wondering, with all the time and effort I’ve spent building my writer’s platform with my real name, if I had a nom de plume for this new genre I’d have to start creating an entirely new writer’s platform for my pen name. Oh, when would I find the time?

My NaNoWriMo month ended as I finished fleshing out tantalizing characters, entwined with moments of dizzying delights. At the end of the contest, I leaned back, inhaled deeply, and smoked a cigarette. My month was like a good one-night-stand, filled with tantalizing memories, but I didn’t end up marrying the man. Will I date him in 2012? You bet I will. Delving into fun fiction was like stroking my hand along luxurious silk. Could I wear it every day in my active life? No. But would I put it on for certain occasions? Yes, oh yes.

As 2011 draws to a close, all of us at the Fairfield Writer’s Blog wish you a very happy holiday season. May Santa fill your stocking with your heart’s desires, and may the New Year bring you ecstatic hours of literary abandon.

Until next year, keep on writing!

Write a Novel in a Month

Hello to all you writers out there, this is Adair Heitmann writing to you about NaNoWriMo. “What?” Have I started speaking in baby-talk? No, I’m talking about the growing sensation of National Novel Writing Month which starts on November 1, 2011. To quote from their website it is “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon.” What’s not to like about that?

Forget preparing the house for Thanksgiving guests, let your friends eat from tarnished silverware. Have to cook every night after work? Let your family eat frozen dinners for a month. Clean clothes, who needs them? Rides to school? Let the kids walk, it’s healthier for them. Spend time at the gym? What are a few extra pounds anyway? Sit down, claim your inner writer and focus on writing a draft of your entire novel in a month. Don’t edit, just write. I’ll bet you come out a different person, filled with more joy and passion, and a better writer after just thirty days.

A colleague shared with me the storyfix.com website which offers on-going day-by-day encouragement, information, and support for all NaNoWriMo veterans. Here’s another resource to check out it’s called Primer and shares information on how to survive writing your novel in a month. Some local libraries are posting daily hints and tips on their Facebook pages. There is a groundswell of interest in Fairfield County about NaNoWriMo. Why not join in the fun?

NaNoWriMo has even recruited an all-star team of contemporary, leading-edge published authors to give you pep talks, all through the NaNoWriMo website. What could be better than that? I’ll leave you with one last thing before I go and stock up on frozen dinners for the month . . . this quote by Teresa Jordan, “If we don’t tell our stories, they will be told by people who do not understand them at all.”

Until next time, keep on writing!


Hello from Adair Heitmann. Are you finding ways to stay cool and focused this summer?

I’ll continue my ongoing blog about creating a writer’s website later in August, when I’ll post A Writer’s Website: Part Three. For now if you are new to this blog you can find parts one and two on June 3 and July 1, 2011.

For today’s post I’ll share a quote and let you know of some upcoming writing events.

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. ” -Helen Keller

I hope to see you on Tuesday night August 9 at 7pm at Darien Library where I’ll be presenting Create a Writer’s Platform: Why You Need One and How to Build It. The program is part of their Adult Reading You’re Connected series. We will have fun and I’ll share hints and tips on building your writing platform. You will walk away with clarity and useable information.

Then on November 1 and 8, (mark your calendars now!) I’ll be back at the Fairfield Public Library giving a two-part program, Write On! Hands-on Help in Building Your Writer’s Platform at 7pm both nights. Bring paper, pen (or your laptop) and an open mind, the programs will be part lecture, part inspiring writing exercises.

Until next time, stay cool, find new ways to connect with your readers, and keep on writing!

Published in: on July 27, 2011 at 4:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,