Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “quotes”

Writing Quotes

Usually I dedicate a chunk of time during the summer to writing projects: finishing, editing, revising, submitting. This summer writing has taken a back seat to my dealing with healing. Typing with my left hand, mainly my left thumb while my right hand passively observes, is not conducive to getting a lot of writing done. There is a deadline of 10 pages by August 21 I’m gamely trying to meet.

So–I get sidetracked. One of my more diverting diversions is looking up words on and I came across these quotes of encouragement. Hope one of them rings true for you:


From Super-size to Bite-size

With summer vacation officially starting for me I decided to attack my office and tidy up the mounds of paper that has been accumulating through the year. This is both a needed chore and also serves as a means of procrastination. I know I should be sitting down and actually getting back to those writing projects. Like that cow joke book…

Cows can wait momentarily, for I found treasures to share.

[Zits points out that literature, and I will extend this to quotes, is a matter of perspective] 

Every year in September I attend the local SCBWI (Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators) annual conference. My main goal is have a manuscript professionally critiqued by an editor or agent (who will be so delighted with my writing that I am offered a contract on the spot). Another goal is network and source gather. Both are conducive to bettering my writerly skills.

One workshop handout proved too fun to toss.The idea is to take a well-known quote and make it more relatable to teens by translating into more YAish language. Here is their example:

“When today fails to offer the justification for hope, tomorrow becomes the only grail worth pursuing.” Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman

Here’s their translation: “Some days it’s hard to see the point of it all, so you have to wait for tomorrow and hope by then there’ll be something worth waking up for.”

I don’t know about you, but I can see this opening up a YA book that will be full of angst, humor, a touch of romance, and maybe even a bit of defiance.

YA is one genre that I would like to get out there into the hands of readers. There must be room for another John Green. I’m working on getting my YA voice down, and that’s the point of this exercise. Tell you what, rate me on whether I’m even close.

Marcel Proust, In Search of Time
“We believe that we can change the things around us in accordance with our desires–we believe it because otherwise we can see no favourable outcome.”

C.Muse translation:
“If I can’t see the silver lining, I’m still gonna carry an umbrella.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them.”

C.Muse translation:
“The world wants to suck your joy, just like vampires, and vampires aren’t exactly EMTs.”

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”

C.Muse translation:
“Life is too short to be hanging on to bruises–get over it and go have a bagel.”

Quotes of great possibility I didn’t get to:

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”
Herman Melville, Moby Dick

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever know.” 
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

It was actually pretty entertaining to listen to everyone’s interpretation. As I recollect my vampire translation received a few polite guffaws. Does that mean it was perceived as a home runner or just a bummer?

I do have a couple of YA manuscripts I plan on revisiting and sending out on their “please-publish-me” tour.

Blue Skies and hope your summer is also off to a spiffy start.



Writerly Wisdom: Quotes on Setting

One reason I read books is because I dread ever so much to travel. I do like the “here I am” of arriving. It’s all that packing, squishing into miniscule airline seats, fretting about schedules, realizing I brought the entirely wrong things to wear, that make traveling drearisome. I do like the exploring, discovering, reveling that is part of going somewhere new. This is a big reason why I read novels. Reading, especially fiction, takes me places that doesn’t involve packing a bag. This month’s Writerly Wisdom set of quotes focuses on that aspect of writing involving place: setting. How does a writer put me in the “there” of their writing?

“The house smelled musty and damp, and a little sweet, as if it were haunted by the ghosts of long-dead cookies.”
Neil Gaiman, American Gods

“An author knows his landscape best; he can stand around, smell the wind, get a feel for his place.”
Tony Hillerman

Eudora Welty said, “Every story would be another story, and unrecognizable if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else… Fiction depends for its life on place. Place is the crossroads of circumstance, the proving ground of, What happened? Who’s here? Who’s coming?…”

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” –Anton Chekov

How important is setting for you when reading? Is it more important than visualizing the character? What memorable settings have you discovered in reading–which authors are able to transport you to that place in the writing?

Reading Challenge #37: Bird by Bird

Reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is a bit like listening to a marathon of Billy Crystal’s SNL routines as the complainer character: “Don’t you just hate it when…” His character’s kvetching is both comical and annoying, at least to me. And that’s where I stand with Lamott’s book on her approach to writing. Granted, she has reached a measure  of success, yet, the process seems to be so painful for her I wonder if she should try another line of work, one that doesn’t require copious amounts of emotional disarray and therapy. Then again, maybe she likes the worry, grief, angst, and drama that occurs when writing. Actually, if she didn’t have anything to complain about she wouldn’t have anything to write about. 

image: The story behind the title is a life lesson of taking a big task bit by bit.

For me the introduction resonated the best. The rest of the book was more of the same sardonic humor and illuminating bits of epiphanies. I did stick with the entirety and did find several take aways, ones that resonated with me in how I approach writing:

  • “I understood immediately the thrill of seeing oneself in print. It provides some sort of primal verification: you are in print; therefore you exist.” (introduction xiv))
  • “The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”(intro xxvi)
  • This one really got to me since I am a bovine believer: “Writing…is a little like milking a cow: the milk is so rich and delicious, ad the the cow is so glad you did it.” (intro xxxi)
  • “…putting an octopus to bed [is like the final draft]. You get a bunch of the octopus’s arms neatly tucked under the covers–that is, you’ve come up with a plot, resolved the conflict between the two main characters, gotten the tone down pat–but two arms are still flailing around…you finally get those arms under the sheets, too, and are about to turn off the lights when another long sucking arm breaks free.” (p. 94)
  • “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.” (p. 97)
  • “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.” (p. 177)

I do feel like the cheese sometimes. I notice stuff other people don’t and when I point these observations out to them they usually respond with that patronizing smile, you know, the one that indicates that you’re cute or crazy or annoying for noticing what seems mundane.* I also feel like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up sensory matters. Anne missed one analogy though–writers storing all that information are like the back room of an understaffed post office. The information is there but stored in a box, bag, or slot waiting patiently to be delivered.

One chapter I especially related to was “Calling Around.” For her it was tracking down the name of the wire thingy that is part of the champagne bottle. Wire thingy wasn’t working for her and she couldn’t move on in the story until she discovered the name. After calling around she learned it’s simply referred to as a metal hood. Kind of takes the romance out of the champagne experience. For me, I needed to know the name of the clothing ancient Chinese warriors wore. Should be an easy search–right? No. And no again. I wanted to show the character in my story that pants haven’t always been part of fighting garb (who can forget Mel in his Braveheart kilt?). After some searching around I came up with a possibility. I’m still confirming it. It’s not even that crucial to the story, yet I couldn’t move on either until I had put that flailing octopus to rest.

Overall, I was entertained while learning that writing and writers are definitely the cheesiest people around. We are on the outside, capturing how everyone feels on the inside. And that’s a good thing. It makes us a bit crazy but crazy is the new sane. Heigh ho, the dairy-oh….

*NOTE: A spider busily working its weaving web wonder is significant because it is oblivious that its achievement is going to be seen not as a marvel but as a mess needing to be swept away. My mind goes scampering towards metaphors and greater analysis. It’s not just a spider. Maybe that’s the title of a book I need to write about how writers write.

Writerly Wisdom: V

Scrolling through all my former posts, I rediscovered a forgotten series I started way back when I first began blogging: quotes from writers.

Here is a quote found in Marja Mills’ The Mockingbird Next Door, a biography on Harper Lee:

p. 80:

[referring to her lifetime habit of reading, which she traces to her family reading aloud to her when young]

Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books. Instant information is not for me. I prefer to search library stacks because when I work to learn something, I remember it.

This quote encapsulates my philosophy about the learning process. As a teacher, I encourage students to look up information so that they will better remember it. The brain is a muscle and it needs a workout to stay strong and viable. I use both technology and the library stacks, yet I prefer thumbing through books over scrolling screens any day.

Unexpected Bits of Wisdom

Lately I’ve been noticing more and more products are sporting bits of wisdom as part of the package.

Halls Defense Multi-Blend Supplement Drops, Harvest Cherry

The first notice came with my occasional binges on Dove Dark Chocolate Bites.  It took me a wrapper or two to realize pithy little “promises” hid within. For instance, “Encourage Your Sense of Daring” and “Smile Before Bed. You’ll Sleep Better” are two gems.  I started calling these my chocolate fortune cookies and began collecting them.  If you are trying to cut down on chocolate–I know I need to– *GaSp* did I really just say that?–you can unwrap a few calorie free promises at

Recently I discovered Honest Tea and upon popping open the cap I found some great quotes.  What I really like is the variety:

“Now I know the secret of making the best persons; it is grow in the open air and eat and sleep with the earth.”–Walt Whitman

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”–Albert Einstein

“The truth is a beautiful and terrible things, and should therefore be treated with caution.”–J.K. Rowling

“The world is moved along not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.”–Helen Keller

“A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”–Douglas Noel Adams

“In order to a realist you must believe in miracles.”–David Ben-Gurion

“You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt.” –Samuel Ullman

Finding bits of wisdom on drink caps probably isn’t too unusual, after all you can often find prizes and such depending on the drink.  But what really surprised me was finding “A Pep Talk in Every Drop” as I popped a cough drop.  I’m not much in the habit of caring about getting inspired when my throat’s scratchy. Although it probably isn’t so bad to make people feel good when they are feeling bad.  Would these words cheer you up once your cough in under control:

“March forward!”  “Keep your chin up.” “Now you get it in you.” “Elicit a few “wows” today.”

I think when I’m done teachering I will look into wrangling up a job for some company supplying these pity bits of wisdom.  Hmm, I wonder how I find that listing at Linked In–“Wisdom generator available–light and deep bits created upon request.”

Any other bits or promises hiding out there?







Neil Gaiman: Why We Need Libraries

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Neil Gaiman is one of those buzzword authors. Unfortunately, I have not harkened to becoming a reader of his works. I have tried, really I have. However, I do perk up when it comes to successful authors speaking up about reading, particularly about libraries. Last year, Gaiman spoke eloquently about the need for libraries and the lecture,  “Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming” was reprinted in The Guardian.  


The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.

Another excerpt:

Libraries are places that people go to for information. Books are only the tip of the information iceberg: they are there, and libraries can provide you freely and legally with books. More children are borrowing books from libraries than ever before – books of all kinds: paper and digital and audio. But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not have internet connections, can go online without paying anything: hugely important when the way you find out about jobs, apply for jobs or apply for benefits is increasingly migrating exclusively online. Librarians can help these people navigate that world.

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Check out the lecture. You will be cheering by the end of reading it. You might even feel like running down to your library and say to it, “Thanks for being here.” Don’t forget to hug and a librarian and say the same.

Why We Say: #5

“I tell you, George, my daughter is the cutest little thing.  I come home and she runs up and jumps into my arms. She wraps herself around me, gives me a big smooch and says, ‘Daddy!’ Makes me swell up with sheer happiness. She’s a precious blessing–she is the apple of my eye.”

Image: Morguefile


According to my reference book, sometime around in the 9th century people began to realize apples were fairly tasty  and  valued them.  Eyes, being valued, somehow drew the same worth as apples, and so, when something was valued it became the “apple of the eye.”


We have all kinds of expressions relaying our appreciation for things, such as”You’re the best!” “You’re one in a million!” Being the apple of someone’s eye? I guess that’s right up there with the “bees knees.”


My Thoughts

The book offers a really weak explanation. Apples have been a loooong time, and seeing as how they are fairly inexpensive and easy to obtain I’m having a tough time grasping that eyes and apples are on the same scale of value. I definitely think eyes are more precious than a Golden Delicous or even a Honey Crisp. However, I do see the connection between apples and eyes in that the pupil looks like an apple in shape.  I associate apples with knowledge (ahem, Eve) and seeing someone as being special means you have learned their value.

There must be a better explanation out there?  Anyone?


Why We Say: #3

Why We Say #3 looks at

Going against the grain or being rubbed the wrong way?

History: As long as there has been wood or furry animals there has been the need to go with the smooth side of things

A carpenter working with wood runs his hand along the board and immediately picks up a sliver or two because he has gone against the grain, likewise petting animals against the fur gets immediate snips, snaps, and scratches.

The saying “go with the flow” absolutely has solid connection. If we rub something or someone the wrong way we end up causing injury to both parties.

My Thoughts:
I have been guilty of not looking first and have often gone against the grain or sometimes out of ornerniness have gone ahead knowing the consequences. Be it splinters, growls, or causing friction with other people it is always wise to go with the grain to keep things going smoothlyin life.

Pondering Poetry

1848 Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe at 39, a...

1848 Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe at 39, a year before his death (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Poetry.  I sometimes hate to admit I love it.  It is misunderstood, mishandled, and would be missed should it ever be absent from our midst. As I teach AP I delve ever deeper in poetry and realize with some asperity I know nothing and have so much to learn.  Learning from the masters is a place to start.  May you also find solace and inspiration in these quotes found.

Poetry is serious business; literature is the apparatus through which the world tries to keep intact its important ideas and feelings.–Mary Oliver

I would define, in brief, the Poetry of words as the Rhythmical Creation of Beauty.
Its sole arbiter is Taste.
Edgar Allan Poe

A short poem need not be small.–Marvin Bell

A poem…begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a home-sickness, a love-sickness…It finds the thought and the thought finds the words.–Robert Frost

Robert Frost NYWTS.jpg



Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.–T.S. Eliot

For a man to become a poet…
he must be in love or miserable.
George Gordon, Lord Byron

I think like a poet, and behave like a poet.
Occasionally I need to sit in the corner for bad behavior.–Gary Soto

There is nothing wrong with a poetry that is entertaining and easy to understand.
Charles Bukowski

Poems reveal secrets when they are analyzed.
The poet’s pleasure in finding ingenious ways to enclose her secrets should be matched by the reader’s pleasure in unlocking and revealing secrets.
Diane Wakoski

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