Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “quotes”

A Quiver of Quotes

perusing through a recently acquired preview AP textbook, I couldn’t help but appreciate the assortment of writerly quotes sprinkled throughout the book.  A collector of words, I knew I had to gather them, and words, like arrows, fly straight, cleaving the mark true and fair when the marksman is skilled and the aim is practiced.  (ooh, maybe that will end up in a textbook someday…)

Never mistake motion for action–Ernest Hemingway


 It is not necessary to portray many characters. The center of gravity should be in two persons:  him and her. —Anton Chekov

Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov (Photo credit: blue_paper_cranium)

To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme.–Herman Melville

It is the writer’s privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.–William Faulkner

For me, fiction is life transformed and fueled by imagination.–Dagoberto Gilb

A ration of failures is built into the process of writing. The wastebasket has evolved for a reason.–Margaret Atwood

When I’m asked what made me into a writer, I point to the watershed experience of coming to this country. Not understanding the language, I had to pay close attention to each word–great training for a writer. —Julia Alvarez

English: Photo of Julia Alvarez from Interview...

English: Photo of Julia Alvarez from Interview with LaBloga. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not all things are to be discovered; many are better concealed.–Sophocles

Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.–Ezra Pound

You must write.  It’s not enough to start by thinking. You become a writer by writing.–R.K. Narayan

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
Seamus Heaney



Writerly Wisdom IV

WordPress has that playful Pavlovian side in that every time we post a blog we are rewarded with a quote.  I liken it to the prize earned in my Crackjacks box.  The way notable and the everyman combines words to create a noteworthy thought is one of my happies in life and keeps me posting.

Even prior to joining the ranks of WordPress bloggers, I have delighted in gathering words. I save them and savor them. Like with many things in life, I have learned that the best way to enjoy something even more fully is to share it.  And so here–I am sharing my latest gathering of  various quotes, with the emphasis on writing. I hope you also savor their impact, their resonance, their form of sustenance as I harvest them from my hiding places and shake them to send them skittering across the page.  Enjoy!


I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork. Peter De Vries

The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it.Benjamin Disraeli

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.W. Somerset Maugham


English: W. Somerset Maugham British writer

English: W. Somerset Maugham British writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I loved words. I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.Anne Rice


A plot is two dogs and one bone. Robert Newton Peck

Prose…words in their best order.

Poetry…the best words in the best order.

                                                Samuel Taylor Coleridge


 Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric;

Out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.

                                                                W.B. Yeats




A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.

                                                                Robert Frost

The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it. Leo Rosten

There is creative reading as well as creative writing.Ralph Waldo Emerson

Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.Jules Renard

The scariest moment is always just before you start.Stephen King

Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers. Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov Hails a Cab

Isaac Asimov Hails a Cab (Photo credit: zzazazz)


My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living. Anais Nin

The task of a writer consists of being able to make something out of an idea. Thomas Mann

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. Ben Franklin

The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new. Samuel Johnson

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader. Robert Frost

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

Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off.  Build your wings on the way down. Ray Bradbury

The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. Robert Cormier


 Nothing’s a better cure for writer’s block than to eat ice cream right out of the carton. Don Roff


image from members


What writerly quotes of wisdom inspire you? Oh, and what ice cream is your choice to thaw out writer’s block?

Happy Pages,



When Chick Lit Goes Bad: BB Week #2 entry

Cover of "The Awakening: And Other Storie...

Cover via Amazon

While Lady Chatterly’s Lover made the Banned list, Kate Chopin‘s The Awakening did not.  Both miffed, shocked, and outraged many a reader upon its respective appearance; but only Lady Chatterly’s wanderings provoked the censors to add D.H. Lawrence’s offering on venturing outside the lines of socially acceptable behavior of women of the 19th century.  Here’s Lady Cha Cha’s rap sheet according to

Banned by U.S. Customs (1929). Banned in Ireland (1932), Poland (1932), Australia (1959), Japan (1959), India (1959). Banned in Canada (1960) until 1962. Dissemination of Lawrence’s novel has been stopped in China (1987) because the book “will corrupt the minds of young people and is also against the Chinese tradition.”

Admittedly, it did have some naughty language, even for today’s standards, and some rather risqué scenes, which explains its appearance in a 1959 obscenity trial.  The book went on to fame and fortune, appearing in various forms, even a BBC 1993 mini-series with Sean Bean and Joley Richardson. Bad girls don’t go away, they continue to spice up literary history,

However, a point to consider is that D.H. Lawrence wrote the book from a man’s point of view.  Perhaps he should have borrowed the POV Gun from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Lawrence is a writer of merit and his works have lasted the fickleness of time and reader tastes, so I can’t fault him for his chick lit bad girl book.  But honestly how can a man know what a woman’s feelings are?

Enter Kate Chopin.  She wrote The Awakening with a woman’s point of view in mind.  Like they say, “It takes one to know one.”  If not familiar with her 1899 novel, here is the micro precis:

Edna Pontellier awakens out of her expected role of wife and mother and goes against the tide of conventionality and is last seen swimming somewhat unhappily ever after into the sunset.

If Chopin had put in the naughtiness, her novel certainly would have made the BB list.  Instead it was censored for its open depiction of a female protagonist exploring her wild side.  This chafed against expected 1899 norms of decent behavior.

Reactions to her novel ranged from hostile condemnation (“We are well-satisfied when [Edna Pontellier] drowns herself,” “Poison”) to critical lambasting (“It was not necessary for a writer of so great refinement and poetic grace to enter the over-worked field of sex-fiction,” (Chicago Times Herald), to lukewarm chastisement (“”next time I hope that Miss Chopin will devote that flexible, iridescent style of hers to a better cause.”–Willa Cather).

Some compared The Awakening to Flaubert’s 1856 Madame Bovary (another BB list member).

So even though Chopin did not include the naughty stuff, she still received censure for writing about how a woman had become dissatisfied and wanted to flap her wings a bit.  That was considered bad form.

The moral is here that Chopin never wrote another novel.  In fact, she didn’t publish much after The Awakening‘s disappointing reception.  The irony is that Chopin ushered the advent of many a literary foray into a woman’s point of view, including Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, Katherine Anne Porter, Henry James, and Tennessee Williams.

After recently finished Chopin’s novel I am saddened to not have the ability to continue reading more of her work.  The critics too well censored her without ever lifting their pen to add her name and novel to their list.

Enjoy a good book this week, even if others deem it bad–it’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

English: First ed title pg

English: First ed title pg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Openers and Closers (and a bit in between)

As I was site flicking the other night I came upon Style (UK version) and their collection of “100 best” concerning books.  Couldn’t resist browsing and came back with a shopping bag full of great book lines.  Here are the picks of best openers, middlers, and closers from books (well, in my opinion, of course):

Awesome Openers:

“Call me Ishmael.” Moby-Dick, Herman Melville

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.”
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

“This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.”
The Princess Bride, William Goldman


It was a pleasure to burn.” Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

Middle Memorables

“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me” Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“Your hair wants cutting.” Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

“All morons hate it when you call them a moron.” Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

“I could get you strung up in a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.”
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

“Fool: Cry you mercy, I took you for a join-stool” King Lear by William Shakespeare

Catchy Closers:

“He loved Big Brother.” 1984 George Orwell

“It’s funny. Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”
The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” A  Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

“Oh, my girls, however long you may live, I never can wish you a greater happiness than this.” Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

“‘From the Land of Oz,’ said Dorothy gravely. ‘And here is Toto, too. And oh, Aunt Em! I’m so glad to be at home again!'” The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum

“He was soon borne away 
by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.”
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

“And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea.” Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

“He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.” To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

What are you favorite lines?

Author Snapshot: Carson McCullers

Cover of "Heart Is A Lonely Hunter"

Cover of Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

As a writer and a reader I am curious about authors.  I like to poke, prod, and discover who they are to understand how they write. Some authors definitely have backgrounds which influence their writing.  One such author is Carson McCullers.

It was a bit of deja vu when I began reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I then realized I had read it so long ago that I couldn’t really recall the story, so it was similar to revisiting a place attached with faded memories.  After reading the book I looked up Carson McCullers and immediately became fascinated by her background. Amazingly enough Heart was her debut novel–at 23.  The book registers such emotions and craftsmanship it is  unbelievable it came from the pen of a woman so young.

If you aren’t familiar with Carson McCullers here is a snapshot of an author who produced some fine writing despite the setbacks in her life.  Then again, maybe her writing is a result of the impediments she encountered.

McCuller’s style focuses on the loneliness and isolation of individuals of the South employing imagery which pinpoints an emotion, a moment which simple, yet breathtaking accuracy. Her writing has a sense of musicality, due no doubt to her interest in it.  The words flow and swirl much like notes in a recital piece.  In fact, she once described The Member of the Wedding as a fugue, and it actually reads much like a fugue would be played out.
What have I gained from reading Carson McCuller?  It is this: a realization that it is discovering a sense of beauty even when we are living out our imperfections, and that we often gain the most growth through adversity.  McCullers has a way of peeling back the façade and intensely scrutinizing the individual beneath. Once there, a realization occurs—other people have the same thoughts and feelings as I do.  Then again, do they?  This admission is daunting since her explorations tend to leave an undefined rawness, a discomfort, a vulnerability. And this can be uncomfortable.
The Member of the Wedding (1946)
 Other Works
The Square Root of Wonderful (1958), a play
Sweet as a Pickle and Clean as a Pig (1964), a collection of poems
The Mortgaged Heart (1972), a posthumous collection of writings, edited by her sister Rita
 Passage from The Member of the Wedding
Yesterday, and all the twelve years of her life, she had only been Frankie. She was an I person who had to walk around and do things by herself.  All other people had a we to claim, all other except her…Now all this was suddenly over with and changed.  There was her brother and the bride, and it was as though when first she saw them something she had known inside of her: They are the we of me.
A couple of noted facts:
  • First novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter at age 23
  • Planned to study piano at Julliard, but lost tuition and worked instead
  • Became invalid due to illness
  • Friends with Tennessee Williams
  • died at age 50

Her works have been adapted into plays and movies, and though she is no longer with us, her writing definitely  continues to influence the literary world. She is a stellar definition of the Southern gothic genre.

Word Collecting

I collect words.  If possible I would display them in petite glass bell jars all about my house.  That would be cruel, though, since words are not meant to be imprisoned–they are meant to be freely used and must flap their serifs (I imagine them in Times Roman font) to be useful.

As I’ve collected words I’ve made use of them as a writer (you never know when defenestration will come in handy, eh, Eagle Eyed Editor?), as a reader (a wide vocabulary comes in handy when reading off the AP suggestion list), and as a teacher (“if I learned it, so can you”).  Words also help spice up conversations–yet, I must use them judiciously so as not to appear as a smarty-pants.

Fun stuff I’ve done with words:

Trivia Quiz: Words and Symbols


Poems, Stories, Puzzles, Interviews–Writing, Writing, Writing

Vocabulary Games–Question 3:

►What are the four words in the English language that end in “-dous”?

And I search off the Internet:

25 Everyday Words You Never Knew Had A Name


Don’t leave home without them.

Try ’em, you’ll like ’em.

Take your favorite word to lunch.

Have you hugged a word today?

Words have a power all their own

Words have a power all their own (Photo credit: Lynne Hand)

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Zora Neale Hurston, American author. Deutsch: ...

Zora Neale Hurston, American author. Deutsch: Zora Neale Hurston Español: Zora Neale Hurston (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cover of "Their Eyes Were Watching God"

Cover of Their Eyes Were Watching God

Tina Turner belts out a great 80’s tune about love and relationships and her personal point-of-view on the whole age-old matter of that interpersonal sparking that goes on between man and woman.  That tune kept running through my mind as I read Zora Neale Hurston‘s Their Eyes Were Watching God.  I think Janie and Tina would have been soul sisters or at least would have gone out for a girl chat at the local Starbucks.

TEWWG is not a title I would have picked up on my own.  I’m not a fan of dialect-heavy text, hence I don’t do a lot of Mark Twain either.  Simply tell me the person is Irish, Swedish, Southern, or illiterate Northern and I get the idea.  All the enhanced ‘taint so, hissa, and blimeys wear on my inner ear after awhile. Since Hurston’s book is on my list of AP Literature texts we will explore in class next year  I have plucked away at Janie’s vernacular and have come away an enriched reader. Why? Hurston’s writing style is mesmerizing.  I also came away with another plucky female protagonist to add to my list.  Janie is a survivor, and an admirable individual with or without a man in her life.  She’s got chutzpah. Janie is one of literature’s greatest philosopher’s concerning love:

“Love ain’t somethin’ lak uh grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore” (20.7).

We as readers witness how Janie experiences love in three different forms: an unwilling, immature teenager who’s ignited imaginings of love are reduced to serving as a farm hand; a trophy wife whose own needs become buried as her social position rises; and finally as the woman fulfilled in a marriage of choice.

Written in 1937 (literary wagging tongues say Hurston did so in seven weeks), Hurston’s novel covers many issues reflective of the times.  If we can set those aside and concentrate on Janie, I would comment on how Janie set a standard worth noting: marry for love, even if it cross grains tradition and common sense.

What does love have to do with marriage?  Everything, according to Janie.  Tina gave us her opinion about it in the eighties, but Janie had it hands-down in thirties. Let the love meet you on the shore of life.

Related articles

wikipedia image

P.S. Halle Berry presents an admirable Janie in the movie version of the book.  While the movie condenses the book greatly, Janie’s character is captured well by the beauteous Berry.


Chocolate Fortune Cookies

This week is one of celebrations: school is out for the year (Yay!); I celebrated a double-digit birthday of significance (Nice!); and the blog rolled out 3,000 hits, 70 followers, and 65 posts (Way Cool!).  This calls for dark chocolate.

My MEPA (most excellent personal assistant) spoils me by providing dark chocolate when I most need it: when I’m stressed and when I’m happy.  Not any dark chocolate, mind you, the best dark chocolate.  Bars are now in the past, lately my favorite brand comes out in bag style with individually wrapped morsels awaiting tasting and savoring.  The chocolate part is gratifying; however the best part is that each wrapper offers a profound, even witty saying–basically I’m partaking in chocolate fortune cookies.  Yummmm…

Here are my favorites so far:

  • Chocolate therapy is “Oh, so good.”
  • Stir your sense of pleasure
  • Be the first to hit the dance floor
  • Take time to notice the color of the leaves changing
  • Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.
  • Your smile is your best accessory.
  • Stop and enjoy the chocolate aroma.
  • Remember the simple pleasures in life.
  • All you really need is love, and a little chocolate doesn’t hurt!
  • The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.
  • Renew your sense of discovery.
  • It’s OK to be fabulous AND flawed!
  • Feel free to be yourself.
  • Chocolate speaks the international language of love.
  • Life is good.
An added bonus of this chocolate therapy is if I buy two more specially marked bags I will receive a movie ticket.  Dark chocolate and the movies–almost as good as a book and my hammock.

Rethinking Knowledge

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

Too Big To Know by David Weinberger certainly does give a person something to think about. If the book title doesn’t intrigue you, move on to the subtitle:

Rethinking Knowledge
Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts,
Experts Are Everywhere,
and the Smartest Person in the Room
Is the Room

 I think entire college course could be dedicated to the subtitle alone.

Speaking of colleges, specifically universities, it makes sense Weinberger is the person to write a book about how the Internet has impacted our knowledge since he is a Senior Researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for the Internet & Society.  He knows what he is talking about when it comes to the Internet and how it is shaping our thinking, and that’s what this book is all about: how  the Internet is reshaping our thinking.

From the inside book flap:

We used to know how to know.  We got our answers from books or experts.  We’d nail down the facts and move on.  But in the Internet age, knowledge has moved onto networks.  There’s more knowledge than ever, of course, but its different. (emphasis added)

It is different.  It’s instant.  And we all know from downing ramen, micro meals, and breakfast in a glass, that instant is not better–it’s quicker, yes, but overall it lacks something in the quality aspect of satisfaction.

Let’s wind up the Victrola, please….Back in my day (yada yada).  But it’s true, back in school, you know prior to the ’80s and desktop computers and Internet access, a student had to GO to the library and look up information in almanacs, encyclopedias, and in expert-crafted tomes of knowledge.  I don’t think our school library even owns an encyclopedia set anymore.  Librarian: Just go look it up on the computer.  In fact, I think the school library has become a computer lab adorned with fiction, since the non-fiction is ignored and passed over for the Internet click instead.

After reading Weinberger’s book I feel my long held opinion is validated: we are becoming stupider. I tell my students all the time how our brain is a muscle.  If we don’t exercise our muscles they atrophy.  I know my brain is getting flabby.  One example is my lack of data bank of memorized phone numbers.  Why should I when I can speed dial?  Yet, before I rant about the overkill of technology and how it is breeding a stupider instead of brainer society let me let Weinberger point out his thoughts:

page xii (even before he starts the book)
The Internet is an unedited mash of rumor, gossips, and lies.  It splinters our attention and spells the end of reflective, long-form thought…Everyone with any stupid idea has a megaphone as big as that of educated, trained people. We form “echo chambers” online and actually encounter fewer challenges to our thinking than we did during the broadcast era.  Google is degrading our memories.  Google is making us stupid.  The Internet loves fervid, cult-driven amateurs and drives professionals out of business.

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

Before we pack up our Macs, trade in our iPhones, and blast Microsoft and totally castigate technology, let’s step back, take a breath and rethink knowledge. Here is the big question: how much do we need to know?  This is what Weinberger explores throughout his book.

In Chapter Nine he brings up the million dollar question: Are the changes in knowledge good or bad?  I dunno–are they?  All I know is what I learned and most of my learning has come from reading, not from zipping and schlipping and sedgwaying my way across the knowledge-littered frontier of cyber space.  I feel drained and mentally fatigued after I have spent an hour kibitzing on the computer.  Kind of like eating a bag of Cheetos when I should have been eating a salad but didn’t want to take the time to create something nutritious.  The analogy tie is that although Cheetos could be considered food it doesn’t have a lasting effect when it comes to nourishment; it’s not at all like savoring a lovely garden salad laden with veggies and topped with sunflower seeds.  Seeking information via the Internet for me, most of the time, is eating a bag of Cheetos.  I keep eating, but I’m still hungry even after the bag is done.  Books are salad in that the bulk goes down and stays down and feeds the body (lettuce and pages–it works).

All I can say is the whole “Is the Internet enlivening or depriving our brains” question brings me back to the short story By the Waters of Babylon”  Do you know the passage I’m alluding to? The one where the protagonist looks around at the remains of the once great society and wonders, “Did they eat their knowledge too fast?”

It makes me wonder–are we eating our knowledge too fast?


Nifty Fifty

Ta-dah! This marks my fiftieth post and to commemorate the event here are some random fifty trivia bits.

1.  This weekend my community celebrates Lost in the Fifties.  It’s a weekend where people dress up in poodle skirts and 501’s and saddle shoes and watch a parade of old-time cars go by.  There’s a street dance and a big dance at the fairgrounds with bands that are mock-fifty era sounding.  Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a biggie for tourist bucks.  We even showed American Graffiti at the local stage theatre.

2.  Of the fifty United States I’ve only been to about seven.  Does airport transfers count?  Then make it about a dozen.

Image Detail

3.  I don’t like weather colder than the fifties.  Forty-five is pushing my comfort zone.

4.  If I could name my top favorite fifty books I would have to say To Kill a Mockingbird remains close to the top as my favorite reread.  Which is saying something since I teach just about every year to ninth graders.

5.  Should I set out to gather fifty quotes about reading, writing, and books I would include these gems:

  • The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. Agatha Christie
  • The desire to write grows with writing. Desiderius Erasmus
  •  My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living. Anais Nin
  •  If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.Tennessee Williams
  •  The first step in blogging is not writing them but reading them. Jeff Jarvis
  •  I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done. Steven Wright
  •  Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.Marsha Norman
  •  Be obscure clearly.E.B. White
  • The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.Gustave Flaubert
  •  Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers. Isaac Asimov

6.  Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover is one of Paul Simon’s songs that tends to loop in my brain now and then.Image Detail
7.  I figure I read over fifty books a year, between reviewing them, teaching them, and pleasure-reading them.  I dunno–is that average for a Book Booster?
Oh, hey–this also counts for my seven facts about me as part of the Versatile Blogger Award requirements.  Thanks Literary Tiger!
And a thanks also to for the One Lovely Blog Award.  Who knew turning Fifty could be so fulfilling?

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