Sunday, October 31, 2010

An Author's Reflections

I was so impressed with an interview ( I read this morning featuring Juneau author Lynn Schooler, I just had to blog about it.  He is a great writer, his words flow like poetry and they are so pleasurable to read.  He writes mostly about Alaska as well and I love Alaska based books.  They are thrilling, informative and descriptive.  His first two books, The Blue Bear and Walking Home are non-fiction but he has a work of fiction that is coming out soon.  It centers around the Gold Rush of 1998 which I find fascinating in part because I have hiked the Chilkoot Trail that the stampeders travelled.  So, although the book is fiction it required alot of research to make it historically accurate and that presented it's own challenges. He speaks of the era of "yellow journalism" of that time which some would argue is still prevalent today.

One of my favorite quotes from the interview is this: "I love language. Words are brush strokes, each one filling in a small space to create an image across a broader canvas, and I always try to bear in mind the prophet Mark Twain’s admonition to budding writers that 'the difference between a good word and the RIGHT word is the difference between the lightning bug and lightning.'”   He articulated EXACTLY the way I feel.  I love words.  I am constantly looking up words I'm unfamiliar with and I used to keep an ongoing electronic list of words I wanted to keep track of.  It's one of the great features of electronic books, just hovering over a word produces the meaning.  The problem I have more and more these days is lack of recall of these words when I need them.  I have developed a little game I play to remember some.  For instance, I can never recall the word "patronize" when I want to, to I have trained myself to think of A&P grocery store, and then I ask myself why and eventually I realize I am a patron there and then I get to patronize.  There is a decorative evergreen I can never remember the name so I think of Michigan (and sometimes this process takes a few minutes) but then I get to Ann Arbor and then I remember Arbor Vitae. 

As important as words are, sometimes less is more.  My next favorite quote of his reads "to accurately describe it in words requires not the use of a verbose, purple pen overflowing with florid adjectives, but a scalpel with which to slice away everything but what truly is."  He is often describing the landscape of Alaska, or amazing wildlife scenes and he does it feel like you are standing there witnessing the scene alongside him.

Although I thought about this post all day somehow it isn't translating to paper the way I hoped so I guess I better go read more Lynn Schooler and learn from the master.


  1. Ha! I use that same name/word association to remember people's names. I'm finding the older I get, I'm losing words too. But, the good news is that reading more has been helpful and I also realize I'm not the only one in the boat on this.

    So, I'm curious about your "pen name" ... how'd you get that name, Dumb Mama?

  2. hahaha it's kind of a term of endearment around here, Chris always calls me that when he is talking for the animals. I decided I wasn't ready to have just anyone read this and didn't want my name to come up on a google search so I had to come up with something else to call myself and since this one already existed......