Friday Five

1. Reggie and Me. 

Reggie and Me

2. A Room of One’s Own.  One of the daily prompts this week just made my heart go pitter patter: A genie has granted your wish to build your perfect space for reading and writing. What’s it like?

My apartment is so small that the idea of having a special space reserved for reading and writing is a fantasy on par with George Clooney feeding me peeled grapes at his Italian villa on Lake Como………………………………

Where was I?

Oh, yes. A writing space.

When I write I’m either on the computer at my dining room table. Sometimes, for a change of scenery, I walk three paces to my couch and write there. My perfect writing space would consist of a desk and a nice view. That’s it really. It doesn’t have to be a fancy desk like this:

fancy desk

Or this:

BIG desk

It could be a desk like this:

Ernest Hemingway's desk

Ernest Hemingway’s desk in Key West

Or this:

Virginia Woolf's Writing Desk via The Guardian

Virginia Woolf’s Writing Desk via The Guardian


Do you have a special place to read and write? What would be in your dream space?

To Sell Is Human3. Do you sell stuff? According to Daniel Pink’s new book, To Sell Is Human: the Surprising Truth about Moving Others, we’re all in sales, no matter what career path we’ve chosen. Whether you’re a graphic designer, a stay-at-home mom or a waiter, we’re all trying to persuade others to see our side of things or to get them to do something on our behalf.

I realize how true this is for writers, and how hard it is to make pitches. (Me! Me!) That’s why I’m a writer and not in sales, I often whine. But the fact is that I need to get more comfortable tooting my own horn, as it were, so I’ve read a lot of web advice about formulating a good pitch whether to a literary agent or a boardroom, but Daniel Pink’s strategies feel easier to follow because they don’t feel like “selling.”

Here are his six strategies for making a great pitch:

*The one-word pitch. Distill your ideas down to just one short word. Think: “Priceless” or “Search.” My one-word pitch to myself this year is “balance.”

*The question pitch. By asking a question, you invite others to come up with their own reasons for agreeing. (Note: this strategy only works if underlying arguments are strong.) For example: “Can you make a salad with 5 veggies tonight?” (As seen on a bus stop advertisement)

*The rhyming pitch. People embrace ideas more easily when they’re expressed in rhyme. “Thanks for pitching in to the right bin!” (A recycling sign in an airport)

*The subject-line pitch. We all want to have our emails read! Utility, curiosity, and specificity are keys to making subject lines more effective. “3 simple but proven ways to get your e-mail opened” or “Some weird things I just learned about e-mail.”

*Twitter pitch. Say it in 140 characters or less.

*The Pixar pitch. This is the one that taps in to my writerly sensibilities. Express your idea in the Pixar story sequence: “Once upon a time _____. Every day, _____. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.”

Are you comfortable making pitches? Have you used any of these strategies?

4. Happy Birthday, Elizabeth Bishop. I was only introduced to Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry recently by way of a friend who loves her work. Noted for “precise descriptions of the physical world and an air of poetic serenity,” she most often wrote about the struggle to find a sense of belonging. Her popularity seems to be on the rise, 30 years after her death. The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet was born today in 1911 in Worcester, Mass.

Here is an excerpt of her popular poem, “At the Fishhouses.” I love this poem because it is so strongly rooted in the location, in this case Nova Scotia where she spent a good deal of her youth.  My goodness, you can almost smell the fish.

At the Fishhouses

Although it is a cold evening,
down by one of the fishhouses
an old man sits netting,
his net, in the gloaming almost invisible,
a dark purple-brown,
and his shuttle worn and polished.
The air smells so strong of codfish
it makes one’s nose run and one’s eyes water.
The five fishhouses have steeply peaked roofs
and narrow, cleated gangplanks slant up
to storerooms in the gables
for the wheelbarrows to be pushed up and down on.
All is silver: the heavy surface of the sea,
swelling slowly as if considering spilling over,
is opaque, but the silver of the benches,
the lobster pots, and masts, scattered
among the wild jagged rocks,
is of an apparent translucence
like the small old buildings with an emerald moss
growing on their shoreward walls.
The big fish tubs are completely lined
with layers of beautiful herring scales
and the wheelbarrows are similarly plastered
with creamy iridescent coats of mail,
with small iridescent flies crawling on them.
Up on the little slope behind the houses,
set in the sparse bright sprinkle of grass,
is an ancient wooden capstan,
cracked, with two long bleached handles
and some melancholy stains, like dried blood,
where the ironwork has rusted.
The old man accepts a Lucky Strike.
He was a friend of my grandfather.
We talk of the decline in the population
and of codfish and herring
while he waits for a herring boat to come in.
There are sequins on his vest and on his thumb.
He has scraped the scales, the principal beauty,
from unnumbered fish with that black old knife,
the blade of which is almost worn away.

Read the full text here and listen to an audio clip of Ms. Bishop reading the poem.

Have you read any of Elizabeth Bishop’s poems? Which one is your favorite? 

5. Carpe Diem. Reggie and I were on his early morning walk and came across this note left after a brief snowfall. Sounds like good advice.

Carpe Diem

How will you carpe the diem?

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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18 comments

  1. Oh Jackie–stay safe, you and Reggie. This one will pack a punch, they are saying, and you all have been through so much. Carpe Diem in the face of a big ole blizzard usually means doubling down with a big box of italian pastries from somewhere on Court Street (that’s what I remember doing when Brooklyn was hit with that biggie in, what was it? ’95, ’96? It helped, for sure;))

    Hugs!

    Like

    1. So far, it’s been mostly rain, but we expect it to change over to snow later today. Of course we’re at work. Business as usual in NYC!
      I love your idea of getting a box of Italian pasteries. I think I will resume your tradition on the way home. 🙂

      Like

  2. The Hemingway House tour in Key West is very worth it if you ever get down that way. He had the top floor of a guest house to write in. I’m not sure there’s a bad place to write in in Key West.

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  3. I’m fortunate in that I have a room in my home to use as an office. And it looks out on my backyard, which isn’t a bad view, no matter the season. But: I do run another business out of it, so it’s not exclusively a writing place. It’s crowded with a huge lateral file, and all the paraphernalia of my other work. Still, I’m grateful for that space, as I used to write in my kitchen before the kids woke up and made quiet thought impossible. In a perfect world, my office would be decluttered of anything except that which has to do with writing and reading. A bookshelf would overflow with all the authors I love, friends’ novels, and books on craft, and the room would be painted some shade of soothing sea-green.

    “creamy iridescent coats of mail” Gosh, that poem’s beautiful. No, I’ve never read any of Ms. Bishop’s work, thanks for pointing her out. That poem made me think of so many things…the decline in the fish populations from over fishing, among them. It must be set in Maine, I’m guessing, (or north of there), the way she describes the coldness of the ocean.
    Carpe the weekend, friend!

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    1. Your writing space (current and imagined) sounds lovely. For me having an clean space is important to the creative process. Too much clutter around me makes me feel like my brain is cluttered. 🙂

      Close — that Elizabeth Bishop poem is set in Nova Scotia. She lived there for years as a child.

      Have a great weekend!

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  4. Did I already say I love the new blog look? I love it! I have an office, and it’s pretty nice, although not nearly enough desk or table space — is there ever enough? — so I work at the dining room table where I can spread out. No, I still don’t have enough space. I guess I’m a sprawler. I love the pic of you and Reggie! And the car-snow sign is great. I assume you have much more snow now? We’re heading for upwards of 30 inches, apparently, so I’m seizing the day by editing 🙂

    Like

    1. Thank you very much. I’ve been tinkering around with different looks. And – stand back – I may learn CSS to be able to customize even more!

      It would be heaven to have a dedicated office space with a desk and a comfy chair, but of course we don’t really need all that to write, do we? I often write on the subway while commuting to and from work. Still, a nice view like the one Virginia Woolf had would be lovely.

      Hope you’ve weathered the storm all right.

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  5. I meant to tell you before that I like the new blog design!

    I have a nice little home office, but I would love to have something like Erica’s office in Something’s Gotta Give. Complete with French music playing in the background. 🙂

    Hope you stay warm with the looming blizzard, Jackie.

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    1. I’ve been tinkering with the blog layout and header. Still not exactly what I have in mind, so you may see a few more changes around here. 🙂

      So funny you mentioned that movie – it was on tv a few weeks ago and I remember seeing her office and thinking: I would love to work there! 🙂

      Like

    1. I went there some years ago and it was such a thrill for me. The desk is elevated – about waist height. Apparently he often stood while typing because he had a hip injury from the Spanish Civil War that made it hard for him to sit for very long periods.
      And there are plenty of those 6-toed cats still hanging around. 🙂

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  6. I love the portrait, Ms. C (wow – you are sooo tall 😉 )
    I really shouldn’t complain about space (because we have SO much more of it now than we did in our last apartment)… but it would be pretty awesome to have a studio space. I’m really not a big fan of clutter… and at the moment there’s art stuff EVERYWHERE. It would be pretty nice to keep all that stuff in it’s own room… with enough shelving so we weren’t always digging for stuff… and where we could just close the door on the mess!
    I’ve always really struggled with making pitches / promotion / etc. It’s pretty awful. Which is unfortunate.
    🙂

    Like

    1. Fe Fi Fo Fum! At least my shadow knows what it is like to be a giant!

      I imagine that for an artist like you, a separate space would be so wonderful because you have a lot of materials. As a writer, it’s just me and my laptop. 🙂

      Like

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