Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Para el amor de palabras (For the Love of Words)

"An Itty Bitty Column on Writing" by Mindy Phillips Lawrence
From Sharing with Writers (Carolyn Howard-Johnson)
March 25, 2009

When I was in college (the first time), I swore what I considered an everlasting oath to study American literature and authors only. My upbringing had a hand in this decision along with the fact that my English professor who was so instrumental in my development taught American lit at that time. What I didn’t realize was that decision locked me into study of a certain range of thought, excluding other ideas from a more expansive world. I had narrowed myself. It has taken me decades to see where reading from a greater world of literature, writing and philosophy can expand what I know in a beautiful way.

I began to study languages in 1995, taking two years of Spanish, a year of Italian and began Portuguese when, unfortunately, my professor died mid-semester with no replacement (neither as an instructor nor as a person). I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, in Spanish. I picked up Lorca, Paz and others and begin to learn about their work.

Now I have branched out to other countries. I am reading Salman Rushdie, V.I. Naipaul. Doris Lessing, J.M. Coetzee, and Arundhati Roy. I plan to expand even more.

What has this done for my writing? It has enhanced my ability with words immeasurably. The beautiful phrasing and description in Naipaul’s work has seized my soul. It SAYS something. Everything connects to some larger truth. It’s where I want to go with my work. Plain and simple, I want to write with a purpose. Reading current world literature has expanded my ability to write about that purpose as well as defining the purpose itself.

I want to encourage you to step outside your reading and writing box and EXPAND what you know. Grasp ideas from other cultures, faiths and philosophies. You don’t have to agree with them. Not at all. What you have to do is learn from them in order to deepen your base of ideas and, therefore, your writing.

I have mentioned only a few writers from a limited number of countries in the links below. Go to the Internet, your local library or a good bookstore and expand this list of authors to begin your adventure. Drink deeply and often. Your writing will deepen as your thoughts do.


World Literature

V.I. Naipaul

Salman Rushdie

Arundhati Roy

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Doris Lessing

J.M. Coetzee

Amy Tan

Umberto Eco


"An Itty Bitty Column on Writing" by Mindy Phillips Lawrence
From Sharing with Writers (Carolyn Howard-Johnson)
March 25, 2009

Many of us work on articles, novels and other forms of writing for which we much do research. Thanks to the Internet, the job is much simpler than it used to be. However, sometimes it is still daunting.

Recently, my goal was to make a connection between Ireland and Germany in the years leading up to World War II, particularly in 1938. I didn’t know if there was an association but, thanks to Google, I found what I wanted.

If you do non-fiction writing or have a business helping others do research, you know how indispensible it is to know how to do good literary detective work. Google is not the only source.

I am fortunate to have a large public library system where I live and very good personnel there who will help me find what I need. They also allow me to interlibrary loan resources that they don’t have in house. Because of this, I have books from several far-flung college libraries in my stack at home.

Also, if there are colleges and universities in your city, or nearby, you can usually join them for a small amount annually and have access to their works. I am a member of the Missouri State Library System, Mineral Area College Library in Park Hills, MO and the Magale Library at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, Arkansas where I graduated. I will soon add the Missouri State University Library System here in Springfield.

University Faculty
Your local college or university often has faculty personnel willing to help you with research questions. Even if you are trying to figure out a computer problem, you can often call a community college or university and get someone to help you. If you are doing research in a particular field, you might call that department and find a faculty member who will answer your questions.

Experienced Individuals
By use of the Internet and through referrals, you can often find those who have direct experience in the topic you are researching. For instance, if you need to figure out a police procedure, you could call the non-emergency number of your local police department, or make a trip there in person, and find someone willing to speak with you about what you want to know.
The Internet has many lists of those who are professionals who are willing to answer your questions so get out there and find your answers.


University of Wisconsin Expert Database

California State University Expert Database

Monmouth University Expert Database

Washington University (St. Louis) Expert Database

University of Virginia Expert Database

University of Arkansas Expert Database

Louisiana Tech University Expert Database

Penn State Expert Database – Criminal Justice and Race