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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Finalist, Oregon Book Award

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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

Rob's Writing Pains
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
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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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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
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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

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'Plaint of the Playwright
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Glenn's adventures in screenwriting.

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Robin Reagler's poetry blog.

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It Beats Working 9-5
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Stealing Heaven From The Lips Of God
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Robert Peake
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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."
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"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)

Thursday, April 07, 2005  
Getting reviewed
I've been reviewed a lot in my long career. I've received positive reviews and negative reviews (almost always for the same material, by the way). Some people (like two "critics" at the weekly here) review me negatively no matter what I do. It all goes with the territory.

Early in my career, negative reviews hurt. No one likes to be called names in public. However, early in my career I also wrote some negative reviews myself -- ironically enough, some of these were in the same weekly when I was their drama critic twenty years ago. Why did I write negative reviews? Because I didn't like something -- that would seem to be the answer. However, there's much more to it than that. Just as it is easier to write drama about bad guys (conflict) than good guys, it is easier to sound intelligent writing a negative review than a positive review. One sets oneself up as being superior when one puts something down. The anthology, for example, has received positive reviews universally. Now the weekly can say, in effect, forget all these ignorant dailies and magazines that liked this book, we are here to tell you it's a piece of shit. That's why we're a better publication than they are, we're not hoodwinked by this crap.

I forever regret a negative review I wrote of Brigadoon many years ago. The truth is, I don't like this musical -- and there is no imaginable production of the show that could change this. So what the hell am I doing reviewing it in the first place? It was a long review, too, full of my put downs, rather like the review in the weekly. When a negative review is long, rather than short, something else is at work. Why waste so much space on something you loathe -- unless it's really to say something else? Which is, I know more than you do. My tastes are superior to yours.

You learn to take these in stride. You also learn that positive reviews are as "dangerous" as negative reviews! Because just as you shouldn't get depressed by negative reviews, you shouldn't gloat about positive reviews. If a review calls you an idiot, it's easy to dismiss it. If a review calls you a genius, it's not so easy. Everybody loves praise. The problem with good reviews, especially for young writers, is that they can go to your head. They went to mine early in my career.

Reviews always have more to say about the reviewer than about the writer or the material. The same with contests. Contests are about judges. I've been a judge in literary contests -- a different judge would make different choices than I made. What does this fact say about the writers and writing in the contest? That it's not actually about that. It's about the judge and the particular tastes of the particular judge at the particular time. In other words, it's a crap shoot.

Serious writers learn to be their own best/worst critics, knowing their strengths and weaknesses better than anyone. All the rest is cultural politics.

4/07/2005 06:52:00 AM | 0 comments

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