Author Archives: crowechris

About crowechris

I'm a writer and a teacher.

Fading Away . . .

Most writers I know believe that, for some inexplicable reason, it’s easy for other writers to get their writing done. I certainly believe this.

For example, I know that it’s easy for Carol to knock out a book in a few days, tinker with it for a day or two after that, and then ship it off to her agent. She’s publishing on a pace slightly more than a book a year, so that means she’s got about 50 weeks of free time in any given year.

Andy is cut from the cloth. She’s so disciplined and efficient that she can write a complete chapter between labor pains. She now has three boys and a house to take care of—no problem. Books appear in her head, fully-formed, and she just needs to find a few minutes each night to sit at a keyboard and download it all. Kind of like taking dictation.

Anyway, like Carol, Andy is awash in energy, creativity, and free time.

In contrast, I am a tortoise, and not the plodding, successful type featured in the time-worn fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare.” I am a prehistoric tortoise, one slowed not only by the weighty and cumbersome shell but also by the ravages of age. In the time it takes me to write a page, Carol and Andy will have popped out four or five polished chapters, baked an apple pie for their neighbors, watched three episodes of “Jersey Shores” and bossed around their yard boys for not keeping their lawns and sideburns tidy enough. In the time it takes me to finish a book, glaciers will have moved a mile closer to the sea. And it’s likely that my oldest granddaughter will be a graduate student by the time I can conceive and finish a new book.

I’m telling both of you this because I am officially retiring from throwing up words—and from writing blogs. To steal and morph a line from “His Coy Mistress,” “Had I words enough and time” I would be able to write a blog, teach my classes, grade my papers, and work on my own writing. But I’m not Speedy Gonzales or the Roadrunner when it comes to putting words together, so it’s time to conserve what feeble writing energy I have for writing a book project, not a blog.

So I’m going to fade away, to melt into the floor like Oz’s Wicked Witch, to ride off into the sunset, to crawl into a rocking chair with a 2-liter bottle of Geritol, to use what few lucid moments my brain can spare on writing books—and maybe playing with the grandkids.

Carol, Andy, and Kyra may soon be advertising for a replacement Junior Assistant Co-blogger for Throwing Up Words, and I’m sure they’ll have many fine, talented applicants.

Be warned, though, the pay sucks.


Filed under Chris

Finding Yourself in Fiction

I just received an advance copy of Carol Lunch Williams forthcoming (May 1, 2012) novel titled Waiting.    It’s intense, of course, and packed with emotion and interesting characters doing interesting things.

One character, however, stood out above all the others:  Mr. Crowe.

Now this is not the first time an author has based a character on me (see last week’s post about Edward, Xander, and the gang).  The first such instance was in Louise Plummer’s delightful first novel, The Romantic Obsessions and Humiliations of Annie Sehlmeier (1987).  In that novel a charming, sensitive teacher is named Mr. Crowe.  The conncection is obvious.

Here’s a section from Carol Lunch Williams’ newest novel:

I tap on the glass again, and Mr. Crowe strides over and swings the door open.  “Yes, London?”

How did he know my name?

I’m mute.

Now, it’s a good thing this is only an advance copy because, as both of you have noticed, Carol needs to rewrite this scene—or more likely, to re-insert the material that certainly was there in an earlier draft.

Here’s how it should read.

My hand trembles when I tap on the glass, hoping for a glimpse of Mr. Crowe, the Adonis of my Florida high school.  Though my heart is pounding with anticipation, I know that it’s unlikely that he’ll notice me.  His students hang on his every word, scribbling notes furiously and pausing only to snatch glimpes of the man they idolize.

By some sort of miracle, though, he does notice, and he glides over, looking every bit like Mr. Darcy, and with a flourish, swings open the door.  My hands have turned cold and clammy.  I’ve never been this close to anyone as kind, generous, and stunning as Mr. Crowe, and I have to place my hand on the doorjamb to steady myself when he says, in that melodious baritone, “Yes, London?”

I am mute, completely overpowered by the magnificent man standing before me.

I’m confident Carol will make these changes.

So here’s a reading-writing challenge for you.  Find your name in a novel or short story, select a scene that has your namesake in it, and rewrite that scene in a way that portrays you in the properly positive light.

It’s good practice for characterization, and it’s fun to find yourself in someone else’s fiction.


Filed under Chris, Uncategorized

Embarrassing Confessions

OK, not everyone can be Carol Lunch Williams or Andy Ellis.  I know I can’t be, and believe me, I’ve tried.  These two are a special breed of writer, the kind that can write regardless of life circumstances,  Nothing seems to slow them down when it comes to their writing.  They’ve proven they can be productive no matter what.

I am quite a different breed of writer, the kind who’s blown about by every wind of distraction.  The biggest distraction, of course, is my job.  I am deeply grateful to have a steady job, and I’m deeperly grateful that it’s a job I love.  The downside, of course, is that it’s a full-time job, and it gobbles up lots of my time.  The upside, in addition to a regular paycheck, is that I get to work with some terrific people on a regular basis.

But it’s not just my job that gives me an excuse not to write.  I have children and grandchildren, a house and yard, leaky faucets, plugged gutters, a TV, an appetite, and a lovely wife, and all of these provide wonderful reasons to find something other than writing to do.

But I do, from time to time, manage to pull myself away from the distractions and head down to my windowless, internetless, soundproof room in the belly of the BYU library to write.  And I have to admit, I’ve gotten a lot of writing done in that writing dungeon.  But even down in my dungeon, distractions exist.  And I’m ashamed to admit this, but here it is: solitaire  I realize that I am perhaps the only writer in America who has to overcome the pernicious attraction to Microsoft solitaire.  I’ve tried to convince myself that it’s a prewriting device, a problem-solving device, a brainstorming device, but it’s really just a plain old time-wasting device.  Fortunately, help is available, but I’m yet to the point that requires a 12-step program to Solitaire.

Other than sitting at my writing desk and staring at my computer screen until words start to appear, I have found one Pavlovian method that helps me get the writing done, even when I don’t feel like it.  When I’m up against a deadline or in a deep funk, I use a token reward system to motivate myself.  Butter toffee peanuts are the token,   Every time I finish a page, I allow myself ten sweet crunchy toffee-covered peanuts.  Unfortunately, this method has serious and visible side effects that are only exacerbated by the sedentary writer’s lifestyle.

So, dear reader (I know there’s now only one of you), unless you’re a Carol or Andy clone, what do you do to motivate yourself to write?  And what are the side effects of your method?  I welcome your suggestions.


Filed under Chris, Uncategorized



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by | February 15, 2012 · 12:32 pm