Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Poem

Robert Southey. 1774–1843

His Books

MY days among the Dead are past;
Around me I behold,
Where'er these casual eyes are cast,
The mighty minds of old:

My never-failing friends are they,
With whom I converse day by day.
With them I take delight in weal
And seek relief in woe;

And while I understand and feel
How much to them I owe,
My cheeks have often been bedew'd
With tears of thoughtful gratitude.

My thoughts are with the Dead; with them
I live in long-past years,
Their virtues love, their faults condemn,
Partake their hopes and fears;

And from their lessons seek and find
Instruction with an humble mind.
My hopes are with the Dead; anon
My place with them will be,

And I with them shall travel on
Through all Futurity;
Yet leaving here a name, I trust,
That will not perish in the dust.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Travel Books

Lately I have been reading some travel books by Paul Theroux. If one can overlook his occasional negative comments about America (and he is an American) and his cynical views of a number of the places he visits, they are interesting books. I have to say, they have put me off of doing any traveling other than armchair traveling, but then he travels alone and wings it as far as finding accomodations and transportation--something most of us wouldn't attempt. His preferred mode of travel is the train, which is why I have persisted in reading his books. Train travel fascinates me, as does learning something about different countries and the people in them.

The books cover more than 30 years, so they are not up-to-date, but are interesting nevertheless, if you keep in mind when Mr. Theroux was making the trip he is writing about.

The four books I've read are The Great Railway Bazaar, Riding the Iron Rooster, The Old Patagonian Express, and Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (a revisiting of The Great Railway Bazaar trip 30+ years later).

In the first and last books mentioned, Mr. Theroux travels from London, through Europe, on to Central and Southern Asia, Japan, and across Russia and back to England. Riding the Iron Rooster covers travel throughout China, and The Old Patagonian Express follows a trip from Boston through Mexico and Central and South America to Patagonia.

If you like the idea of train travel and of seeing the world, you might check one of these books out from the library and see if you like them. You can also read the descriptions and customer reviews at Amazon, linked above.

Do you know of other authors who've written about train travel? If so, please share! I'd love to hear of some different books to try.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Fresh New Year

It's a fresh new year for all of us writers! Take a little time to make some plans and set some goals for your writing in 2009.

One thing you can do is write every day. Write in a journal, work on a story or essay, try different types of poetry.

Another thing is to read every day. Read widely, not just in the genre you want to write in. The more you learn, the more ideas will be floating around in your brain to draw upon. You might stumble across a historical incident that you could base a short story on, or read an essay that sparks an idea for a novel.

A third thing is to practice observing life around you. Whatever your circumstances, you can improve your observations about people, places, and things. Practice writing descriptions of what you observe.

You also might want to set a goal of submitting a short story, poem, or essay to a magazine (mainstream or literary). Read up on submission guidelines for the places you want to submit. Read sample issues (often you can read some samples of what the publication uses online or read sample issues at the library, thus doing your research for free).

You'll be able to think of other things you can do to further your writing. Make it a productive year!