Inspiration

My Desk

A short, true story, by author Helen Pugsley.

 

I had the stupendous and rare fortune of purchasing my mentor’s home, The Nest, as she named it. June Wilson Read and I shared the only town I want to live in all through my childhood. She has helped me in all things writing since I began. Being in her 80’s she wanted to move closer to family. With her home came her desk. A door laid across two wooden filing cabinets.

“I’m so happy you’re the one getting my house!” she said, “And my writing desk!”

I grinned through that last part. I was and am madly in love with the sun-drenched cottage but as soon as a replacement could be found I had every intention of throwing the door down a ditch and stacking the filing cabinets on top of each other to save on floor space. I could use one of the nice metal desks my family keeps in the garage until I got the guts and finances to purchase an antique roll-top!

But winter came…

First, my mother said, “You’re going to trade wood and good memories for cold steel?!”

Being porous, wood absorbs a lot of things. That’s why I won’t use wooden cutting boards. As well as beef blood I hope wood sops up talent! “Ack! Fine. I don’t feel like moving the heavy summagun anyway,” I reasoned to her.

Next, there was going to be a washer dryer set there, right in my dining room.

“But Dad! Actually having a desk will keep me from writing in bed!” A terrible habit. Guess where I penned this?

“You should really quit doing that! But find somewhere else. The washer and dryer will go here.” You can’t argue too much when someone is financing the labor and the appliances.

However, the contractor inadvertently took my side. “A water line on an exterior wall? Are you crazy?!” The huge, rectangular window is amazing for gleaning enough natural light to write by until twilight. It is not so great for keeping water lines above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. A stackable apartment sized washer/dryer will now set next to my oven.

When she left she handed me a pile of pelts. June was truly a Wyoming woman. Not knowing what else to do with them, I set them in one corner of the desk in a neat pile with an axe. Later, the axe got moved to my bedside.

A short while ago a neighbor of mine wanted some kittens. In a week she discovered she was horribly allergic. So now Iris and Wilhelm live with me. When they’re not in their heated bed they like to sleep in the pelt pile on my desk. I like to think of it as the kitten annex.

Even newer than the kittens is a kitchen chair I picked up at a second-hand shop for under $10. The silk seat is perfect for resting my feet on when I’m feeling rebellious. I sit with my tooshy on the desk and a notebook in my lap.

One day my mother and I got to looking at the door-desk very carefully and realized it’s probably my closet door. It is literally a part of my home. I can’t just throw it down a ditch! Not when the empty door knob socket is perfect for stringing a laptop cord through! And how could I when that desk is where June Wilson Read penned most of her book, Frontier Madam?! Maybe parts of Whistle Creek and Other Wyoming Tales. Also a score of unpublished works she tells me she keeps in a trunk. How could I throw it down a ditch?! That’s my desk!

 

About Helen

Helen M. PugsleyHelen comes from a small town of twenty in eastern Wyoming. She has been passionate about writing since she was small. Helen enjoys traveling and is always thrilled to excite friends with tales of playing music on the streets for money, conversing with the drunks who frequent gutters, and the epic struggle of finding a decent bath when living in a car. Visit her on Facebook‘s War and Chess page!

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Q and A with Alec Arbogast!

Inksmith Publishing would like to offer a warm welcome to our new author Alec Arbogast, author of The Last Odinian! Below are some questions he has answered for us to help get to know him better!

Message from Alec: Hello! It’s nice to meet you. Thank you for reading, and let us share in our love of storytelling together.

Q: What is your favorite book?

A: Even though they aren’t single stories, my favorites would be The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe, and also The Great American Short Story Collection. They have both had a great impact on me. Regarding single, full-length stories, I first read The Shining by Stephen King when I was a teenager. It became a sort of catalyst for my creative mind, introducing me to the immense world of storytelling, the concept of tasteful, imaginative horror. It made me aware and reflect on the struggle between good and evil, and the grey area between the two.

Q: What is your favorite food? Favorite color?

A: My favorite color is blue, and I love Thai food.

Q: What/whom is your favorite mythical creature?

A: This is a hard answer to narrow down. Recently, I’ve been drawn to Slavic and Norse mythology. However, Medusa from Greek mythology is my overall favorite. She’s a singular, terrifying creature, who can make quick work of almost anything or anyone- even the Titans.

Q: Can you share a little of any of your current work(s) with us?

A: I have three writing projects I’m currently working on. One is an action-adventure novel revolving around an elite group of soldiers; one is a story that blends elements of time travel, mystery, and horror; and the other is a gangster drama set in post-Civil War America.

Q: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

A:  I find quite a few aspects of writing challenging, but it’s always a good challenge. I’m drawn to historical fiction, and in these stories it’s a challenge to make sure I’m accurately representing the event while also molding it to fit my narrative. Pacing is another struggle as well, as I find it tends to do one of two things: the narrative flow develops naturally or can be hard to keep on track. Almost like an intractable horse, I feel like sometimes I have to nudge it in the right direction while it wanders off.

Q: Did you learn anything from your book(s)?

A: I learned the forbearance and discipline it takes to finish a full-length book, which can be equally an exhilarating and daunting process. I stretched myself intellectually at the same time as discovering who I was as an artist and what message I’d like to be sending. I also learned the worlds you create are a tenable space in your mind and can leave a mark on your soul.

Q: What inspired you to write your first book?

A: The Last Odinian originally came to me on a whim, to be honest. I started writing it knowing the setting and atmosphere I wanted—the haunting forests of the Pacific Northwest–and developed a narrative around that (almost similar to The Twilight Zone).

Q: Do you remember how your interest in writing began?

A:  I’ve always been interested in the function of stories, and produced some short films in school with a few friends. I didn’t discover the writing form of stories until a few years ago.

Q: Do you have a specific writing style?

A: My style varies from story to story, actually. I try to find a voice that feels right with each individual story, and the characters within. I think my prose tends to have a grounding in the contemporary style while borrowing from romanticism and transcendentalism.

Q: Who is your favorite author? What really strikes you about their work?

A: I have many favorites, but I’ll try and narrow it down. On the classic side, I admire Edgar Allan Poe’s complex prose. He tackles haunting subjects, like the inescapable reality of death, in a truly singular way. Edith Wharton made me a lifetime fan based on just one of her short stories, Afterward, due to her unique style. On the contemporary side, Stephen King has influenced me with his unending creativity, and I respect his voracious need to tell stories. His characters are always vivid and three-dimensional, and he has a pragmatic approach I admire. Craig Johnson has a sort of straight-forward and laconic approach to his prose, but it’s riddled with sardonic insight.

Q: Do you have any advice for other writers?

A: Find a writing process that speaks to you. Some people prefer a meticulous preparation: a diligent outline, layers of notes detailing each character, the narrative mapped out beforehand, etc. Others prefer a more organic process wherein the narrative, characters, subplot, and all the other details just flow naturally. And these are just two examples of the compositional process- everyone develops their own process. Another tip is to be true to your story. Don’t let your own moral standards and ideologies overly influence your characters or narrative. It’s important to realize the difference between who you are and what you create within your writing. On a similar note, don’t be too concerned with your audience or their opinion of you based on your writing. Write how you want and what you want, and your creations will be truer. Finally, your final story will likely be quite different from how you originally wanted it to be, and that’s okay.

 

An Excerpt from The Last Odinian

 Seeing him in plain sight was an abhorrently different experience than through the peephole of his hotel room. Light and shadow played across Kendric’s mutilated face like a symphony of horror as he stood under the bar lights. Koenig forced the coffee down his throat and exhaled. Like a boxer caught off guard, he didn’t know whether to swing a punch or duck for cover. For a moment he just stared at the decrepit man, and the man stared right back, his one working eye fixed on Koenig. Words came to him at last, and he steadied his voice… “Any final thoughts?”

Tips to Beat Writer’s Block

I’ve been struggling with writer’s block for the past few weeks, and it is very frustrating. I go to write and I have nothing, but once I am busy and cannot write, all of my ideas starting coming in. It’s a difficult cycle, but here are a few things that helped me along the way.

1. Give Yourself a Break…Literally!

Unfortunately, the more you try, the harder it is going to be to find the inspiration. Just like when you’re working on a puzzle (jigsaw or crossword) and you’re stuck, taking a break and going back to it with a clear mind helps immensely! Taking 15-20 minutes to regroup and come back has helped me so much. Whether I go for a walk, watch one episode of something on Netflix (The Office or Parks and Rec are my favorites!), take a nap, or even just scroll through my phone—not thinking about the article/post/whatever I’m trying to get done actually helps me more after a rest.

2. Read through old material.

Sometimes, when I’m trying to write a blog post on my personal blog, I don’t feel motivated. I feel like I’m just writing into the abyss of the internet and it’s just a waste of time. And then, (because I’m trying to prove myself right), I read through old posts. Seeing what I’ve already done inspires me to write more because I’m perfecting my craft, and even through this short comparison between older pieces and newer, I see how much I’ve improved. So even if you’re trying to write a sports piece and you’re reading through an old screenplay you wrote five years ago, it still gets the gears turning in your head and helps bring the motivation back.

3. Meditate.

About a solid 65% of my writer’s block is pure anxiety. “I can’t write now, I have laundry and dishes and FILL IN THE BLANK”…and then I never actually get to writing. Or the dreaded procrastination bug: “Ah, this isn’t due for awhile, I still have time,” and then it’s the night before (or the day of) and I haven’t even opened up Word yet. Since I deal with anxiety about most things (thanks to a generalized anxiety disorder), I’ve learned to combat these thoughts. I take a few deep breaths, and I tell myself that I’m too frazzled to do anything right now, so I might as well meditate. I like TheHonestGuys channel, and I just do one of their shorter ones to refresh my mind. After doing so, I feel relaxed and don’t feel the pressure from earlier to get everything done right now, and it’s easier to write because I don’t feel as rushed or pressured.

4. Try Not to Psyche Yourself Out…or Should You?

Whenever I’m writing for myself and don’t care about my audience, I’m more comfortable and therefore it’s easier to write. I don’t worry about format or grammar. I just write. However, whenever I have to write for a purpose like a school assignment or something for work, etc.,  I find myself so caught up with everything being perfect that I forget that I am good at this. What I have found is if I tell myself that this is just for fun and only content matters, my thoughts and ideas flow more freely. I then take a break (more often than not I get a snack!) and then go back and edit. This helps keep me at ease and keep my mind thinking outside the box, not just what I think my audience will want to hear. And then once I edit, I can always make sure it meets the expectation.

5. Read Other Authors.

There are a few authors I follow on Instagram, and seeing their pieces throughout the day keeps me motivated to always be ready to write. And sometimes, when I feel particularly unmotivated, I read chapters from my favorite books or a few of my favorite poems.

These are just a few of my tricks to help me beat my writer’s block. And sometimes they don’t work, but that’s okay. As long as there is a will, and ink, there’s a way.

 

Meet Jenna LaBollita!

Jenna’s passion for writing started very young, even winning her a Young Author Award in elementary school. Since then, she has written for The Odyssey and Puckermob, and has read countless books in many genres.

Her love for writing is unmatched, and she hopes to become a published author herself one day. Jenna holds an associate degree in Liberal Arts from Ocean County College in Toms River, New Jersey.

Inspiration from Iceland

Inspiration comes from a lot of different places. Each place you visit, live or pass through has quite a bit of history. History is a great place to start a story.

Think about every book you have ever read. Every non-fiction piece: history. Every fiction piece has history. It’s the path in which the story took to arrive at the end of the journey.

Reykjavík, Iceland

Reykjavík, Iceland

This week I’ve been in Iceland. I had never really thought about Iceland’s “story” other than the fact that there were Vikings involved, they have a cold, relatively dark winter, and 24-hours of daylight during the summer months.

During our excursion one night to find the Northern Lights, the guide told us a story. It was Búkolla the Magic Cow. Our guide sat at the front, her Icelandic accent transporting us to a farm where a boy and his family lived.

Reykjavík, Iceland

Reykjavík, Iceland

“Once upon a time,” she began. The story was short and sweet, detailing the trials of a young boy and his cow against the might of trolls.

Everyone associates Ireland with the fae folk, the little people, fairy tales. At least, everyone I know. But I never thought to think of Iceland having stories riddled with creatures, trolls particularly. It was a new experience for me, and immediately my head was spinning with new tales that I could weave based upon the stories from Iceland.

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Aside from the stories we heard, the land is fickle and beautiful. Snowstorms can crop up out of nowhere, rage for a few moments and disappear as if they were never there. The mountains are breathtaking, the Northern Lights sought after by every tourist, the Blue Lagoon a warm-water paradise, waterfalls, geysers, glaciers, even the snow sprinkled streets.

Statue of Leif Erikson, Reykjavík, Iceland

Statue of Leif Erikson, Reykjavík, Iceland

 

And let’s not forget the real history! Vikings settled this land and statues of these settlers and other famed people dot the city. There are tales here, both already told and asking to be written—a story in every aspect of the land.

This goes for any location. But I know, that after my visit here (even during) I will be writing stories and poems with Iceland at their hearts.

 

 

About Corinne

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Connect with me
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@AndersonCorinne

Corinne has her MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University. She has been an editor at Ink Smith Publishing and Native Ink Press since 2013. Since her first trip to the library when she was a toddler, Corinne has been collecting books, recommending her favorites and providing commentary on the less-than-stellar. Her belief is that if you have a problem, it’s nothing that a good book can’t solve. Currently, she is pursuing her MPS in Publishing at George Washington University, editing for Ink Smith Publishing and hoping that her blog posts here will help writers improve and publish their work.