The Writing Life: reflections by a working writer. The Writing Life

Reflections of a working writer, a university screenwriting professor, and the editor of Oregon Literary Review.

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Charles Deemer

Oregon Literary Review

MFA, Playwriting, University of Oregon

Writing faculty, Portland State University (part-time)

Retired playwright and screenwriter.
Active novelist, librettist and teacher.

Email: cdeemer(at)yahoo(dot)com

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"Can We Talk About Me For A Change?"
Playwright Debra Neff Nathans

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Ron Silliman, contemporary poetry and poetics

Maud Newton
literary links, amusements, politics, rants

Darren Barefoot
Technical and creative writing, theatre, Dublin

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Journey of a struggling writer.

Mad, Mad World
Cara Swann, fiction writer, journalist, "reflections on humanity, random news & my life."

Random musings on a writer's life and times.

Barbara Flaska's compilation of the best online articles about music and culture.

Write Of Way
Samantha Blackmon's written musings on writing (composition and rhetoric).

Alexander b. Craghead: blog
Writing, photography, and watercolors.

Rodney's Painted Pen
Rodney Bohen's daily commentary "on the wondrous two legged beast we fondly refer to as mankind." His pen runneth over.

Frustrated Writer
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scribble, scribble, scribble
Journalist Dale Keiger teaches nonfiction scribbling to undergraduate and graduate students at Johns Hopkins University.

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The official blog of science fiction / horror author Terence West.

William Gibson Blog
Famed author of Neuromancer and Johnny Mnemonic: The Screenplay.

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Joe Clifford Faust's "blog of a working writer: tracking writing projects, musings on the creative process, occasional side trips into music, media, politics, religion, etc."

A Writer's Diary
By Cynthia Harrison, who has the good sense to quote Virginia Woolf: "The truth is that writing is the profound pleasure and being read the superficial."

Bow. James Bow.
The journal of James Bow and his writing.

Michael Montoure's weblog about writing, primarily horror and speculative fiction.

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Modem Noise
By Adrian Bedford, a "fledgling Pro SF Writer, living in Perth, Australia."

"A wry writerly blog named in honour of a minor character in a minor Shirley Temple film."

Real Writers Bounce
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2020 Hindsight
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downWrite creative
Phil Houtz's notes on the writing life.

Vivid: pieces from a writer's notebook
Blog of Canadian poet Erin Noteboom.

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Rabbit Blog
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This Girl's Calendar
Momoka writes short stories.

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Musings by writer Michael Gates.

Plays and Musicals -- A Writer's Introspective
A blog by John D. Nugent - Composer, Playwright, and Artistic Director of the Johnson City Independent Theatre Company

The American Sentimentalist
"Never has any people endured its own tragedy with so little sense of the tragic." Essays by Mark W. Anderson.

Screenwriting By Blog
David C. Daniel writes a screenplay online. "I've decided to publish the process as a way to push myself through it. From concept to completion, it'll be here."
Official site of occult fiction author Sean-Alonzo, exploring symbolism, alternative history, philosophy, secret societies and other areas of the esoteric tradition.

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'Plaint of the Playwright
Rob Matsushita, a playwright from Wisconsin, "whines a lot."

I Pity Da Fool!
Glenn's adventures in screenwriting.

Time In Tel-Aviv
Hebrew modern literature at its best, by Corinna Hasofferett.

Big Window
Robin Reagler's poetry blog.

John Baker's Blog
Author of the Sam Turner and Stone Lewis novels.

The Writing Life With Dorothy Thompson
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Barry's Personal Blog
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Maintained by Bonnie Burton of

Writer's Blog.
By easywriter. "From the walls of caves to cyberspace."

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Man Bytes Hollywood
Sharing tools, strategies and resources for the screenwriter's journey.

Mad for the smell of paper
A writing journal.

The Writing Life
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It Beats Working 9-5
A screenwriting blog by a young Canadian screenwriter.

Stealing Heaven From The Lips Of God
Writer & Artist, Dee Rimbaud reflects upon politics, religion, art, poetry, the meaning of life, the nature of God and why toast always lands butter side down on carpets.

Robert Peake
Heart and Mind, Fully Engage ... a poet's website.

Sidestepping Real
By Ren Powell, poet, children’s writer, essayist and editor.

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The Writing Life...
"An artist's only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else's."
J.D. Salinger

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A friend over beer, Berkeley, winter, 1959

"And it came to pass that all the stars in the firmament had ceased to shine. But how was anyone to know?"
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After October 31, 2006,
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The Writing Life II

(Posts archived here are from 01/10/03 - 10/31/06)

Saturday, April 26, 2003  
California Institute of Technology
[from a memoir in progress]
Before starting our freshman year at Cal. Tech., Matt, I and the other 98 entering freshmen spent a required long weekend camping in the San Gabriel Mountains with selected upperclassmen and faculty, an orientation to the special world of the Cal. Tech. community. We felt special indeed. Here we were, still in our teens, hobnobbing with past or future Nobel Prize winners like Linus Pauling. In the campground setting, all sense of intellectual class disappeared, and somehow it seemed as if the only thing separating us, the freshman class, from the top minds in the country (our faculty) were a few years, that soon enough it would be us getting the grant money, making the profound new discoveries, winning the Nobels.

The orientation weekend was casual and largely unorganized. Many activities were available at the campsite, and one afternoon I found myself playing quarterback in a spontaneous touch football game. Afterwards a balding man approached me and complimented me on my passing ability. He identified himself as the coach of the freshman football team. Had I thought of trying out for the team? Of course not. I wasn’t even aware that Cal. Tech. had a football team. The coach pointed out certain advantages to playing team sports at Tech., such as being excused from afternoon lab schedules and not being required to take any other gym classes. I told him I’d give it some thought.

We left the mountain to start classes. Or so we thought. The casual sense of the weekend, in which entering freshmen felt equal to faculty, changed dramatically as soon as we returned to campus. Before starting classes – and at Cal. Tech. the entire first term for freshmen was required, without electives – we found ourselves taking a battery of tests. But we’d already done brilliantly on our college boards, which had helped us get admitted in the first place. Why more tests?

These tests weren’t graded, they were ranked – from 1 to 100. In other words, on each test, in each specialized area of mathematics or science, you would know how many entering freshmen scored better than you. On each test, someone – no doubt still full of self-congratulation and confidence, if not downright arrogance, from being accepted into one of the toughest schools in the country – was going to finish dead last and was going to know about it.

Fortunately I didn’t finish dead last, or even in the bottom third, on any of the tests. In a couple areas of mathematics I finished in the top quarter. But mostly I finished where my total score placed me, just a tad above the middle. I’d had a straight-A average in high school and was the Salutatorian of my class, but at Cal. Tech. I was decidedly average. This was the first moment in the greatest lesson the college was going to teach me.

Suitably humbled, we began our freshmen year in earnest. I soon learned what my strengths and weaknesses were in the sciences, reinforcing what I’d begun to learn in high school. I shined in the areas of mathematics that derived from algebra but had difficulty in areas deriving from geometry. I was strong in theory classes in chemistry and physics but weak in laboratory work. In mechanical drawing, which was required, I was so atrocious I got the only D I ever received in a college course.

Classes at Cal. Tech. were small. Since you found yourself moving from required class to required class with many of the same group of guys (no girls admitted), friendships came quickly. These friendships also were influenced by whether you lived on campus in a dormitory or not. A surprisingly large number of the freshman class of 100, perhaps 20, lived in Southern California and commuted. I was still living at home in Pasadena, though I now had my own bedroom, and joined the subclass of commuters. We missed out on a lot of campus life, of course, by going home every day, but we tried to make up for it by hanging around together and creating our own sense of camaraderie and fraternity. All of us really wanted to be living on campus with the majority of the students.

Early on I found myself making friends with a commuting student from Glendale named Quentin, who was another “just average” Cal. Tech. freshman. Quentin and I also shared a passion for sports, which defined another way in which Cal. Tech. students defined their class structure: there were those who liked to participate in sports and those who didn’t. So I quickly found my place on campus as a commuter and a jock.

Indeed, in such a focused environment of mathematics, science and technology, with stiff intellectual competition all around you, sports became more important to me than ever as a kind of escape valve by which to forget studies and recharge the mind. It became clear to me right away that I needed some kind of structured diversion to keep sane, and to find it I decided to take the coach up on his offer and try out for the freshman football team.

4/26/2003 07:04:00 AM | 0 comments

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