10 Great Quotes from John Steinbeck

Interesting Literature

10 witty and inspiring quotes from the author of Of Mice and Men

An interviewer once asked John Steinbeck, ‘How do you go about writing?’ Steinbeck reportedly replied, ‘With a pencil.’ Elsewhere, thankfully, he was more forthcoming about the nature of writing, whether his own, or literature in general. In this post we’ve gathered up ten of the best John Steinbeck quotes, on topics ranging from the nature of ideas to the odd ‘fan’ mail Steinbeck received.

The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty. – ‘In Awe of Words’, The Exonian, 1930

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen. – Interview with Robert van Gelder, April 1947; quoted in Jay Parini, John Steinbeck : A Biography

John SteinbeckWhen a man says he does not want to speak of something he usually means he…

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Spring Has Sprung

Every year, my mother celebrated the first day of spring by reciting her repertoire of spring poems. “O, To Be In England”, Wordsworth’ s daffodils poem, and “Loveliest of trees, the cherry now…” . This was the only annual ritual she enjoyed even more when I no longer lived at home– she thought it was extremely funny to call at the crack of dawn and burst into verse as soon as I sleepily (not to say grumpily) answered the phone.  Bonus points if she woke a roommate or husband, too.

She knew a lot of poetry by heart, which she ascribed to having been raised In a time when rote memorization of poems was expected of schoolchildren. Her even vaster repertoire of funny songs, many from musicals with an emphasis on Cole Porter, couldn’t be blamed on her elementary school teachers, though.

I never learned as many poems by heart, just “Jenny kissed me” and “If thou of fortune be bereft”. And the cherry tree poem. I really should have woken Hannah with that one and its fancy rhyming math yesterday. Maybe next year….

Writing for Riches

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Sometimes the gift you get isn’t the gift you were hoping for.

I’m sure every writer dreams of fame and fortune. The three-book deals, the book tours (although it’s just as well I haven’t gotten those, as I am a lousy traveler), the general Stephen King/Barbara Cartland wealth and riches of it all. Back in the day, that dream typically included Oprah’s Book Club, until a couple of writers burned her and wrecked it for the rest of it. In my daydream, I am convinced that, if not for those writers (you know who you are!), The Caregiver would certainly have been chosen, and I would have had to go through all the stress and bother of figuring out what to wear on TV and how not to melt under those lights, which I hear are quite hot and probably not kind to ladies of middle years who tend to be hot a good bit of the time anyway. Phew.

As you can probably tell, this didn’t happen, and I don’t just mean Oprah (although I haven’t completely given up hope and would like to point out that the film rights are still available and there are four meaty parts for actresses, one elderly, two middle aged, one teen—Angelina, Drew, Meryl, are you paying attention here?). The lovely (and horribly expensive) trips to writing conferences somehow failed to result in any famous authors wresting my manuscript from my hands and insisting on sending it to their agents.

Agents, generally, are quite unresponsive, making me nostalgic for the days when I submitted short stories to literary journals and could count on reaping a reliable harvest of polite, although preprinted, rejection letters. Agents pretty much just ignore you, or they ask for more pages and then ignore you, or they ask for the whole thing and several months later send you a lengthy email explaining that they love everything about your book except the title, plot and main character, but if you’d like to take the book apart and write a different one entirely, they would be happy to look at it with, of course, no guarantees.

My writing career hasn’t been without benefits, though. Thus far it has not resulted in a lot of the kinds of tangible outcomes that just lead to the trouble and expense of hiring fancy tax accountants. The famous authors, who have mostly all been very nice, seem content to let my manuscript take its chances in the wide word without any interference from them.  But the writers, and now the readers, have been the icing on the cake. The whole cake, really. I’ve posted before about my writing groups. Many of my best friends, including my husband, were found in my writing groups over the years. I have traveled to some gorgeous places, and made wonderful friends. I have found writers to be wonderful, generous people, with inexhaustible supplies of great stories and magnificent sense of humor.

Now that The Caregiver is out, I have met lots of readers at book clubs and other venues. They too are unfailingly generous and supportive. One person attending an event, who hadn’t even read the book yet, got a steely look in her eye when I mentioned my struggles to donate my book to libraries. “I’m a volunteer at my library,” she said. “And I’m going to make them BUY it!” Readers invite me into their homes, tell their friends about the book, and post reviews on line (about which I have been known to be just the tiniest bit naggy). Their warmth and kindness, thei questions they ask about the characters and their insights into the book astonish me.

I’ve learned about my community: a vibrant place, full of groups of friends who look out for each other; who meet to work, play, laugh, share goodies and explore the world. I was interviewed on the air, in an actual radio station! The fact that it was exactly like the ones on TV and in the movies (except maybe a smidge smaller) in no way detracted from the coolness of the experience. I was actually there. Incidentally, I’ve learned that people really do read the free weekly local paper, about which I promise to be much more diligent henceforth, even when I’m not looking for a housepainter or a day camp.

Sometimes the gift you get isn’t the gift you were hoping for. Sometimes it’s better than you could have imagined.

Seven Things About Me– Writing Division

A companion piece to “Seven Things About Me–Reading Division.”

1.  I write from the beginning of whatever I’m working on to somewhere in the middle, then I write the end. Then I go back and write the rest if the middle one I can see where I’m going to end up.

2.  I’m a sucker for pretty notebooks.

3. And even more so for great, fine point pens, black ink only.

4.  I have to be careful what I read when I’m writing. Ever picked up a nasty style bug from, say, the highly contagious Henry James? Then you know what I mean.

5. I always put something I really love into a piece: a name, a flower, something I noticed years ago but never wrote down.

6.    I go over and over scenes in my head until I can actually see them, like watching TV. Then I watch them and write down what’s happening.

7.    I love commas and semicolons and hate quotation marks.

Keep Moving Forward Challenge

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I really like this challenge because it makes me,stop and think about what I did this week, instead of only focusing on the ever-growing to do list.

I find it especially hard to do anything in this weather. The snow, the cold (plus an extra-large serving of work stress) left me wanting to go home and curl up into a ball most nights, but I made it to my Wednesday writing group. I put together another 30 pages for my other writing group to critique, and I wrote a pivotal scene for that section.

I also took a day off during the week and wrote a blog post that I liked so much (and it was so long!) That I decided it was a personal essay and finished and submitted it. I wrote another scene for the book and got it about half typed up, as well.

Not too bad for someone who would really rather be hibernating!

#keepmovingforward

 

The great thing about life is that every day is a story…

The story of my latest adventures in Camden! Marguerite’s right– I know believe the people of Camden to be almost unnaturally polite and chivalrous….

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Dear Readers,

I know all of you are big readers–if not, you wouldn’t be reading this blog.  Maybe some of you are writers or storytellers.   Sometimes when something happens, I think–this is a story…  Every day something happens, so….wow!  stories every day.  Some better than others.  But, you know what I mean.

Yesterday my friend, Maria Casales, took the Riverline from Trenton to Camden, hoping to get off at the 36th and River Road Station, verrrrrrrrrrry close to my house.  I was excited because Maria is a great writer, author of The Caregiver, and she had consented to talk to my writing workshop, Woodland Writers.  When she didn’t get off, I phoned her and she answered immediately, “Yes, I missed my stop.”

Being a Camden native, I knew how to pick her up at the Walter Rand Transportation Center, the next stop and there she was.  Maria said that…

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The Joys of Reading in Winter

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Every season holds special delights for readers, and here are some favorites for snowy days or long, dark nights.  Make a cup of tea, (or the Bookworm snow day fave, hot chocolate) grab something fleecy and your woolliest, silliest socks, and try one of these.

The Lymond Chronicles: Six volumes of Renaissance wit, intrigue, swashbuckling, poetry, magic and romance with chess-themed titles. A marvelously complex hero and a huge cast of fascinating characters including the toddler Mary Queen of Scots. Volume one is good. By two chapters into volume two, I was laughing out loud at the best trick an author has ever played on me, and irrevocably hooked.  There’s enough here to savor until spring (if Phil is right).

Zenna Henderson: I have the big Zenna Henderson omnibus reader, as well as those of my paperbacks that have survived the years, moves and lending. Henderson wrote wonderful interrelated stories of good aliens, called The People, who leave their dying planet and come in small lifecraft to the American Southwest. Their stories of reunion, survival and coming of age are completely unique and deserve to be more widely known.  Many of Henderson’s stories take place in old mining towns and schoolteachers are often the narrators. One unrelated story is the creepiest tale of OCD ever. Check her out.

Tana French’ s tales of the Dublin murder squad are again loosely interrelated, with a different detective narrating each one, so you can start anywhere. I’m planning to read them in order again, very slowly, and hope that by the time I get to the end there’s a new one!

Garden books: There is a special happiness to be found in reading and dreaming of gardens at a time when no one can possibly expect you to go out and, well, actually work in one.  Curl up with a pile of your favorite catalogues. I especially like to pick out all the old roses and peonies that will never make it in my shady yard–in my winter dream graden they thrive! Check out Onward and Upward in the Garden, by Katherine White. Besides being an editor at the New Yorker for many years, and marrying E.B. White, White wrote about gardening and about her garden in Maine. If you can find a copy, Celia Thaxter’s An Island Garden with Childe Hassam’s color illustrations is a wonderful way to pass a winter afternoon.

Happy reading!

 

Seven Things About Me–Reading Division

Trying my hand at the current challenge of posting 7 things about yourself–but making it my reading self (which is after all one of the most important!) Many thanks to Marguerite Ferra for the idea!

1.  Sometimes (rarely) I break down and skip to the end to see what happens/whodunit/if my favorite characters survived or got together.  And yes, The Deathly Hallows was one of those (rare, I swear!) times.

2.  I am hard on books. I try to read during other, incompatible activities like taking baths, doing dishes, cooking and eating ice cream cones. This results in a lot of puffy, ruffly-paged paperbacks. I usually refrain from reading while driving, though.

3. Some of my favorite writers are men, but I am much more likely to buy books by women.

4.  I still have all my children’s books from when I was a kid. I still read them. Sometimes I buy them. For myself.

5. I can’t fall asleep without reading first. This seems to be hereditary–my mom couldn’t, my daughter can’t…I picture my long-ago maternal ancestors staring at the cave wall and complaining,”I just feel like there’s something else I should be doing before I fall asleep.” (Stares disconsolately at empty primordial hands).

6.  I re-read books over and over again. There are some I read every winter or every summer. Others I read even more often than that.

7.  I have been told I “inflict books on people.” (I believe the person who said this was staggering from my house with a pile of my books and fending me off as I tried to add more. Hey, people have different hospitality styles).

The bookwormrrriot blog was an effort to channel #7 into a socially acceptable channel. What are your reading characteristics?