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The Liberty of Blogging

As I set about creating the second blog of my life, I am thinking about the liberty of the blogger. The writer enjoys various degrees of liberty in the different kinds of things they write. In a diary or journal you may safely say almost anything, as long as you leave instructions in your will that all your private papers should be burned unread. (Recommended.) In a letter to a friend, colleague, editor, reader, etc. you have to be a little more circumspect, but your audience is still small.

Grand Tour 4: Memorializing Corporals, not Generals

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Grand Tour

May 2, 2018. St. Louis to Springfield MO

We head out of St. Louis toward Springfield, Missouri on a route that takes us through the Ozarks.  Themes for the  day: thousands of tiny attractions, bridges that memorialize corporals rather than generals, and wonky navigation units. St. Louis to Springfield MO

The Garmin, which served us so well in Chicago, decides to ignore all my painstakingly set shaping points for leaving St Louis by the old road and dumps us onto the freeway. The freeways of St. Louis are a particularly unpleasant place to be at 7 am on a weekday. We pass one Route 66 historic byway sign, but far too late to jump across lanes to the exit. We eventually get off and find a parking lot where it takes me 20 minutes to beat the Garmin into submission. Then five more minutes to persuade it that we don’t want to go back downtown and start over.

Grand Tour 3: The Road as a Museum to Ordinary Eccentricity

This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series Grand Tour

Monday, April 30, 2018 Springfield to St Louis

I resume the long-delayed transcribing of my Grand Tour travel diary in the midst of a pandemic which has meant, among other inconveniences, that I am at home on my laptop instead of somewhere in Utah, as originally planned for this October. Some say that the purpose of travel is to accumulate memories. If so, revisiting these diaries ought to be better than actually travelling. In some sense it is. Memory leaves out the tedious bits, the inconveniences, the frustrations and delays. Hopefully this account leaves them out too. Still, I’d rather be on the road right now. But here I sit and reminisce.

Route Map Springfield to St. Louis

On this day, May 1, 2018, we take a fairly short drive from Springfield to St. Louis, leaving time for various detours and bits of sight seeing.

While Route 66 is a 2500 mile open air museum, a Beamish Museum / Upper Canada Village / Colonial Williamsburg, right down to the original section of red brick pavement or the concrete section with the turkey tracks, both of which we drive today, it is less “authentic” than those sites in the sense that the old bits are scattered among all the new bits.

Terms of the Trade: Active and Passive Voice

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Terms of the Trade

One should always prefer the active voice over the passive, they tell us. Baloney. Active and passive are technical grammatical terms that have nothing to do with how active or passive your writing is. The distinction between the two forms actually has to do with whether the focus of your statement is the actor or the recipient of the action, the doer or the done-to. Sometimes the doer is more important than the done-to. Sometimes it is the other way round.

Terms of the Trade: Past and Present Tense Narratives

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Terms of the Trade

I am puzzled by how imprecise writers sometimes are when they talk about their craft. If any craft should be precise and lucid in the description of what it does, it should be writing. But it’s not. A case in point: the distinction between “present tense” and “past tense” narratives.

On the Value of Close Reading for Writers

The practice of close reading a text is an interesting one. It implies that normal reading is less close. So what is the point of reading a text more closely than normal? Does it yield a better reading experience? Does it provide a window into the soul, or at least the technique of a writer? And did the writer actually compose with as close an attention to detail as the reader brings to the text when they do a close reading? Was every scintilla of meaning and technique that the close reading uncovers placed there by the writer with deliberate and conscious intent, or does the close reading uncover the tacit process of composition? Or is it in fact an imposition on the text, an invention rather than a discovery?

Stories All the Way Down

The name of this blog, Stories All the Way Down, comes from a presentation I gave back in my days in corporate and technical communication. There is a tendency in those fields to debate if storytelling is a relevant or useful tool for business and technical communication. My contention was, and is, that all communication is stories, and that it is stories all the way down. Stories are made up of stories and references to stories. Language itself is made up of stories and references to stories.

The formulation “stories all the way down” is a reference to that well known story whose punchline is “It’s turtles all the way down.” — as in the world stands on the back of a turtle, which stands on the back of another turtle, and so on all the way down.

On the Presumption of Writer Blogs

Hi. I’m a novelist. You’ve never heard of me. Read my blog.

Because that’s the game here, isn’t it. Writers set up blogs because we are told we need a platform. We need followers We need to be someone. It’s the same Catch-22 as looking for your first job. You need experience to get a job. You need a job to get experience. A writer needs readers to get published, and they need to be published to get readers.

Grand Tour 2: The Lincoln Museum as Shrine and Reliquary

This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series Grand Tour

This post originally appeared on my other blog, Every Page is Page One. The series on our Grand Tour will continue here.

Monday, April 30, 2018, Bloomington to Springfield, Il.

The second day of our Grand Tour, Monday, April 30, 2018, covered only 100 km from Bloomington to Springfield Illinois. The day was really about all things Lincoln.

The route here is simple enough. The old road runs parallel to the Interstate, going through towns rather than around them. Actually, at some point in its history, Route 66 was given a semi-circular bypass around some of the towns, some of which have since expanded around the bypass, so on the map you can see both the old and new bypass routes, one wrapped around the other. This also means that there is a choice of Route 66 routes through these towns, one going through downtown and one on the old bypass route. The landscape is mostly farmland, pleasant but unremarkable. Given the early hour and the fact that the Interstate attracts all the through traffic, the road is quiet.

Tension, texture, and tenderness

This post originally appeared on my other blog, Every Page is Page One.

I’d like to float the notion that the essential ingredients of drama are tension, texture, and tenderness. I’m not advancing this as a robust theory of story or anything like that. Nor am I suggesting that there is some brilliant new insight here. Drama is a complex thing and like any complex thing it can be analyzed a hundred ways with equal validity. But this notion of tension, texture, and tenderness has been bouncing around in my head for a while and I find I like it. So here is the beginning an an exploration of the idea.

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