1weird_thesecretMany people struggle to be creative. We see creative people and their work around us and compare ourselves. We don’t know how to be creative, or worse, we did once, and now we’re feeling blocked, bored or unsure. Tired of this happening to you?

Hi. I’m Adam J. Kurtz, and my new journal, 1 Page at a Time, can help. A daily creative companion, this book will assist in the journey back to your creative self. Through exercises and challenges “proven” to help, you too can harness your mind. You too can feel the guiding light of creativity as it pushes you to accomplish incredible feats of “ART” in the workplace, and in your personal life. You’ll write! You’ll cry!

For a limited time, all this is available for only — say it with me: 1! PAGE! AT A TIME!

The Endless Journey

The Endless Journey

If only it were that easy. A single book that could change everything, a quick fix, a ten-step program that could make the difference. The bad news is that creativity, like most things, is a journey. The good news? You’ve already started. As a living, breathing human being you are already creative. Congratulations! Simply processing the world around you is a creative feat. Getting dressed. Choosing lunch. Everything is creativity, everything is art, and you have everything you need. Your way of looking at things, the way you consume and digest all play a role.

When we think of creative accomplishments, we tend to think of the end result. The completed manuscript, mastered files, or framed piece. We get so caught up in that tangible end goal that we might not even see the creativity itself: the emotions, thinking, sketches and planning that led to that final output.

Creative Switch

Creative Switch

There’s no quick fix because there can’t be. There’s no switch to flip because your creativity is constantly flowing, you just might be letting it slip by. So instead of rushing forward, slow down. Take a deep breath. What are you thinking right now? What is the root of that emotion? Let’s talk about something else. Where have you traveled before? What would you write in a letter to a seven-year-old? Get up and walk away. Staring a problem in the face isn’t going to solve anything. Staring yourself in the face might. Write everything down and look at it. Make a couple of lists. Have some water, swish it around your mouth until it’s lukewarm, then swallow it. Okay, where were we, and where do we stand now?

Harness a small bit of yourself every day. A tiny piece. Something that feels irrelevant or useless. Put it to paper, then come back tomorrow. Our goals can be so daunting that we forget all the good advice we already know. “Rome wasn’t built in a day!” “Slow and steady wins the race!” Take small steps to accomplish your larger tasks. Follow your gut or your heart or whichever parts make your decisions. Remember that nothing really matters, no matter how important it might seem right now. Life moves on. The universe does what it wants. Have a little faith or take the whole leap. Your only job is to keep moving on. That’s creativity. It’s not a painting, it’s continuing to process, progress, and enjoy your life as you make it through.

Build Slowly

Build Slowly

But what do I know? I’m just some guy on the internet.

1 Page at a Time is a lot of things. It’s a diary. It’s a sketchbook. It’s a rulebook, a guidebook, a playbook and a yearbook. It’s whatever you want, with a healthy dose of optimism. And cynicism. It’s human. And it’s going to push you along your creative journey in the same way it helped me on mine.

Photo Credit: Ryan Pfluger

 

Adam J. Kurtz is a graphic designer, artist, and serious person. He is primarily concerned with creating honest, accessible work, including a range of small products and the self-published “unsolicited advice” calendar series. He is the author of no other books.

He currently lives in New York City. Visit AdamJK.com, @AdamJK, & jkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkjk.com (or don’t!).


TheLostWifeWhen writing novels, one never knows where inspiration will strike.   A few years ago, I was well into my research for a book on the ways that Jewish artists managed to create art during the Holocaust, when I overheard a story at the local hair salon about a couple who were separated at the beginning of the war with each of them being told that the other had perished. Sixty years later, they miraculously were reunited at the wedding of their respective grandchildren.  When I overheard that story, I felt like I had been struck by lightning.  My mind was filled with so many questions: why had this couple each believed the other had died? What was their initial love story? What were their second love stories that produced the children who were now the parents of the grandchildren getting married?  And most importantly, how did they each survive World War II?

This story would end up being the bookends for my novel The Lost Wife, into which I invented the lovers’ histories both before and after their separation.

I wanted to draw in my readers by evoking the same questions that I had after initially hearing that story.  I wanted those questions to propel them into the same journey I too would undertake while crafting the body of the novel.

TheGardenofLettersThe inspiration for my new novel The Garden of Letters, also began after hearing a story that ignited my curiosity.  While at a dinner party, a friend shared with me the details about how her father had escaped from Hungry through Italy during WWII with forged papers that their family had spent their entire life savings on.  When my friend’s father arrived in Portofino, German guards were scrutinizing everyone’s papers so carefully that he was sure he was going to be arrested.

Suddenly, out from the crowd, a big barrel-chested Italian man cried: “Cousin, cousin, I’ve been waiting for you all week.  Thank heaven’s you’ve come!”

He was able to whisk my friend’s father away and take him back to his home on the cliffs of Portofino.

When my friend’s father asked this man why he had saved him, for clearly he wasn’t his cousin, the man replied:  “I try to come to the port every month.  I try to save the person who looks the most afraid.”

When I heard that story I immediately thought it would make an amazing beginning to a novel.  I imagined the two people whose lives intersect at this occupied Italian port.    One fleeing and in need of shelter.  The other a person who sees that fear and sets upon helping him.   “The Garden of Letters” opens with my young heroine being saved from the Germans at the Portofino port by a doctor.

As in all my novels, I wanted my main character to possess a creative gift.  With The Lost Wife, I explored how art could be used as a form of Resistance against the Nazis.  In The Garden of Letters, I explore how music could be used.

My main character Elodie, is a young cellist who sends coded messages for the Italian Resistance through her performances And the book explores the many creative ways essential information was transmitted during the war.

When I traveled to Italy to meet with partisans and female messengers who were involved in the Resistance, I was introduced to a person who shared with me another unusual way information was sent during the war.  Giovanni Pellizzato, whose grandfather was both a bookseller and an active member of the Italian Resistance, described how codes were cleverly hidden throughout the pages of a book, and how within the back shelves of his father’s bookstore many of the books had their paper carved out to create a space where pistols were stored inside.  This information was so intriguing to me, it inspired the character of the bookseller, Luca, in The Garden of Letters.

As storytellers, we’re responsible for crafting narratives that bring our readers into a world that transport and hopefully inform.  As writers, however, we must also be open to all the stories that surround us, for everyone has a unique history to share.


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At BEA I sat down with Liane Moriarty, author of the newly released Big Little Lies. Liane is also the author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers, The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot. She lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and two small, noisy children.

 

 

How did you get started as an author?
About ten years ago, I got a phone call that would change my life. It was my sister calling to tell me that her YA novel, Feeling Sorry For Celia, had been accepted for publication. My sister and I had always wanted to be authors. When we were children, our Dad would commission us to write novels for him. At the time of my sister’s phone call, I was working as a freelance advertising copywriter, writing everything from websites to TV commercials. Although I occasionally wrote short stories and first chapters of novels that didn’t go any further, I’d let my childhood dream slide. My sister’s news was the inspiration I needed to get me back to the keyboard.  In a fever of sibling rivalry I wrote a children’s book which was enthusiastically rejected by every publisher in Australia. I calmed down, and two years later, my first novel, Three Wishes was published around the world.

Do you have a sibling rivalry continuing on, now that you’re successful as well?
No, now we’re both published writers (as is my younger sister) we’re all just happy for each other. Although we do become quite competitive about material. For example, when one sister uses an old family story.

All writing materials aside, what material items in life could you not live without?
Well I couldn’t live without one cup of coffee a day, and without books – does that go without saying (laughs). And chocolate and champagne. Is that enough? And if I had all those things together then I wouldn’t need anything else.

How do you get into the writing mood? Do you have a particular place you like to write, do you listen to special music?
I have two small children so I only have a very limited time to write, so I don’t really have the luxury anymore of ‘getting into the writing mood.’ I just have to sit down and write.

Would you say that would be your top writing advice for aspiring writers, just sit down and write?
Yes, you can spend too much time asking questions about writing and wondering about writing and thinking about writing. In the end you just have to write.

If you were going to pick any country in the world or any city to live in which one would it be? (If you couldn’t live in Sydney.)
I’d live in a mountaintop castle near my family and the beach, where I could ski from my castle door and have a swim before breakfast at the beach. It’s a fantasy question so I’m allowed a fantasy answer!

What skills or talents do you admire most in other people?
I admire all those skills and talents I lack – the  ability to sing, to act, to sew, to speak other languages fluently, to cook gourmet meal without making a mess etcetera, etcetera!

Your books focus a lot around personal relationships and family dynamics. Do you find a lot of your personal life transitioning and spilling over into your writing, or do you like to keep the two separate?
Little bits and pieces of my personal life certainly seep into my writing. And that’s why I find that my characters are getting older as I get older, they’re aging along with me. So I’m sure one day I’ll be writing a book set in a retirement village.

If you were to describe why you think reading is important in one sentence, what would you say?
Reading is important because its one of life’s greatest pleasures. However, I also think that if its not a pleasure for you, that’s OK. For some people life’s greatest pleasure is music or art or scuba diving. I just think its important to find time for what makes you happy.

What are your other hobbies or pleasures?
I love snow skiing and bushwalking, and spending time with my children.

What is your favorite place in the U.S. that you’ve visited? Have you done much travel in the US?
I had a skiing holiday in Aspen once, many years ago, and loved it.

BigLittleLies_LianeMoriarty

 

Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal.

A murder…a tragic accident…or just parents behaving badly

What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.

But who did what?

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads. This is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.




celestengHow would you recommend creating and getting to know your characters?

The same way you’d get to know a friend. Hang out with them: plop them into an intriguing scenarioand see what happens. Or just listen to them talk: freewrite in their voice or from their point of view, and odds are, you’ll find them sharing their opinions, voicing their dreams, and confessing their secrets. None of it may make it into your project, but it will help you get to know your characters and understand their personalities—and the stories they have to tell.

After developing an idea, what is the first action you take when beginning to write?

I try to get the first line down—that sets the voice, tone, and scope of the story. Nine times out of ten, the first line I start with is the first line of the final piece. I also have an ending line in mind, so I have something to write towards—that sometimes shifts as the story develops, but I’m surprised how early that falls into place, too. Filling in the middle is the hard part.

Is there something you do to get into a writing mood? Somewhere you go or something you do to get thinking?

My magic formula changes: for a while, I needed Cherry Coke and Swedish Fish to get started; in another period, a cup of Earl Grey seemed to be the key. The most foolproof thing I’ve found—so far—is that when I’m having trouble writing, I turn to my favorite cafes—Darwin’s in Harvard Square or Café Zing, inside my local indie bookstore, Porter Square Books. Something about being in a new space, and the coffee shop noise, gets me working.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you have received?

Something Ann Patchett said in her keynote address at the Muse and the Marketplace conference in Boston a few years ago: “The muse is bullshit. Get your work done.” It’s a typically Patchettian, no-nonsense reminder to stop being precious about being inspired, or having the right pen or view or snack (see above)—sometimes, you just need to sit down and write.

What clichés or bad habits would you tell aspiring writers to avoid? Do you still experience them yourself?

My characters always seem to be standing in doorways, holding cups of coffee, and feeling things in their chests or throats at moments of strong emotion. And in my (almost) final draft, my agent pointed out that I started a lot of sentences with “But”—two or three times per page! Those are my nervous tics, and it’s a constant struggle to edit them out. Your bad habits will be individual to you—that’s part of developing your own voice—so figure out what words, phrases, and gestures you overuse, and practice weeding them out.

 

Everything I Never Told You is on sale Thursday, June 26th.


Laura

Laura Perciasepe is an Editor at Riverhead Books. She acquires and edits a wide range of literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, and works in translation. Originally from Baltimore, she now lives in Brooklyn.

 

 

 

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, by Mohsin Hamid

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, by Mohsin Hamid

I cried at the end of this book so you know it’s good. This is Gatsby-ish in its scope; the tale of a young impoverished boy in an unnamed Asian city, on the rise, of course. There’s a love story, a story of success and failure, a family story, all bound up in this remarkable journey, both intimate and universal. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s short yet packs an unbelievable punch.

 

 

 

 

The Sound of Things Falling, by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

The Sound of Things Falling, by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

I know this word is over-used in describing good books, but this book is truly stunning. A work in translation that has won accolades across the globe, this novel begins with a hippo escaped from a Colombian drug lord’s derelict zoo and doesn’t let up from there. It’s a page turner, a monumental story of politics and family, love and violence.

 

 

 

 

Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby

Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby

I love all of Nick Hornby’s books but this recent one has a special place in my heart. It’s classic Hornby, full of complicated relationships, humor, sweetness and sadness, and music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Vacationers, by Emma Straub

The Vacationers, by Emma Straub

This is the book I’ll be recommending all summer and I only regret that I read it myself before beach season! Emma Straub takes us on a trip to Mallorjca with a New York family that feels very familiar in its dysfunctions and in its bonds. It’s a keenly observed story with heart (that also looks great on your Instagram with its vibrant cover).

 

 

 

 

Margot, by Jillian Cantor

Margot, by Jillian Cantor

This is a what-if story about Anne Frank’s sister Margot, if she had escaped the war and come to America, living here in the 1950s as her sister became a cultural icon of hope. A psychologically sophisticated novel about sisters, memory, and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive – this book became a house favorite at Penguin and it’s un-put-downable (that’s a real book publishing term, promise!).

 

 

 

 

The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paolo Giordano

The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paolo Giordano

This is another book in translation that I couldn’t recommend more – a completely unique voice and love story that transfixed me when I read it and has stayed with me long after. It’s about two Italian teenage misfits, the mathematics of humanity, recovery from trauma, and love.

 

 

 

 

 

Find more books on the Literary Fiction page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


mistakesFirst, open a Twitter account.  Sit on a chair outside of your daughter’s room at night, because she insists.  This lack of personal freedom is the reason that you were able to complete an entire book in nine months.  Now she’s asleep but you stay there, hands hovering over the keyboard.  Know that you MUST TWEET.  The pressure is overwhelming.  No witty quip will be witty enough, so decide to write about politics. Think about politics and draw a blank.  Close Twitter and open the NY Times. Go to “most emailed articles,” where number eight is a piece on making green smoothies. Become deeply absorbed.

Your sister-in-law has generously, patiently followed you around with her fancy camera, taking photos against backgrounds that might make you look like an author.  The pillars of Smith College; a lovely tree beside an academic building that – when you check the camera’s small bright screen – looks like it’s growing out of your head. Finally, you lead your sister-in-law back to your own office and stand against the bright red wall that makes everyone look good.  Click.  The picture pops up over and over when you post media interviews with YOU on Facebook.  Finally, a guy in Florida messages you saying he likes the way you look. “Ick,” says your husband. “Erase it.” Feel put-off and quite flattered.  Wonder if this is what it would be like to online date.  Refresh Facebook every ten minutes to see all of the likes. Smile.

The night before your book is actually published, leave your phone by your bed.  Check email at 1:00 am, 3:00 am and 5:00 am. Imagine bookstore owners around the country tearing into brown cardboard boxes filled with copies of your book, lifting those copies to the light and air.  Cue religious music – you’re Jewish, but this is Christian music, sweet voices of altar boys echoing in a cathedral where the windows are your book cover design made out of stained glass.  No reviews have come in by 5:00, so you rise and eat a nice bowl of pub day oatmeal.

Get your hair streaked with gold.  Wear bright red pants.  It’s the day of your son’s flute recital and so you walk over to the concert hall in this get-up.  This is a small town filled with students who wear pajamas to class and out into the street; this is a town where everyone knows you didn’t have gold streaks before you wrote a book; everyone knows you didn’t own red pants.  Decide not to care. Put on sunglasses to complete the look.  Feel like a show-off.

Wear your show-off outfit to the local bookstore, which has sold-out of the one copy of your book it had in stock – purchased by your colleague.  Talk to one of the booksellers, a tall, placid man with gray hair and the furrowed brow of a serious reader. Imagine that your book isn’t serious enough for him. Follow him around as he shelves novels written by other people, and offer phrases like, “I’m wondering,” and  “it would be great” and “I’d be happy to.”  Finally, he will turn to you and make eye contact, saying a box of your books is due in soon. Refrain from making yourself a total fool by asking – as he turns from you and continues shelving – if he’d like you come back and sign them.  Leave feeling like you have done well because you didn’t jump onto the counter and cry, “Am I not a local author? If you prick me, do I not bleed?”

When your publisher asks you to write for the new Penguin blog, consider the assignment and realize that writing about “anything” is hard. Does this mean you’re not a real writer? Maybe. Open Twitter, and notice that several male crime novelists are now following you. Wonder if this is creepy or nice.  Check Facebook again.  Realize that you’re hungry. You will need something, maybe green smoothie, before starting to do any real work.


jessicabacalI’ve lied to the people who ask, “How did you write a book while having a full-time job? And young children?”

“Fear,” is what I’ve told them, “fear of not getting it done, once I had a contract.”

It’s a nicely self-deprecating answer – better than, “I got it written because I’m AWESOME,” which might be slightly off-putting.  And actually there was some fear motivating me.  Now that the book is done, there is also some feeling of awesomeness, of pride in having finished . . . but the REAL answer to the question, “How did you write a book?” is this: “I was collaborating with a great team.”

Lindsay Edgecombe is my agent; she’s on the right in the photo.  She loved my book idea, and gave me guidance on developing the proposal. Then it was up to me to actually do the work, and the half-done proposal languished on my desk for many months.  Ironically, Mistakes was aimed at encouraging women to take risks, but I wasn’t sure if I was up for the risk of writing a book.  It just seemed SO big – and what if I didn’t finish it?  Also, the original idea for the book was that it would consist of essays I’d have to gather – and what if I couldn’t gather enough?

Luckily, along came Plume’s Kate Napolitano.  She’s my editor, and is just to my left in the photo.  After Lindsay said, “Let’s get this proposal finished” and pushed me to wrap it up, she sent it to several editors.  Kate is one of the editors who then talked to me over the phone, and I could tell that she was full of energy and excitement about the project, that she really “got” it. When Plume came back with an offer, things took a turn for the better.  Kate said, “People at Plume are wondering if you’d like to do the book as interviews rather than essays.” This would mean I’d actually TALK to each of the contributors about their mistakes, interviewing the women myself. I loved it.

Guidance from Lindsay and Kate didn’t end there. Kate had the wisdom to invite me to send her my first completed, written-up interview– and she had a lot to say about it.  Honestly, I wasn’t doing it right, wasn’t crafting the transcript into a story.  But I paid attention to Kate’s feedback and to Lindsay’s, and did better with the next interview, then even better.

When the book was finished and ready to go into the world, along came Milena Brown – that’s Milena on Kate’s left.  Milena is excellent at what she does, which means that she creates publicity fireworks in the most low-key way.  Somehow, she knows exactly who might take an interest in my book, and gets it into that person’s hands.  I imagine that she’s doing this for tens of authors (more?) but she manages to make me feel like she’s got this down, easy.  Even my friends on Facebook have started commenting, “Wow, you lucked-out with your publicist.”

Yes, there was some fear involved, but more importantly, there were these women: Lindsay, Kate and Milena.  They are AWESOME.

Check back Thursday, 5/22 for the next post in this series.


I Never Knew That About New York, By Christopher WinnThe first and only city I have written about prior to writing about New York is my home town of London, and what struck me quite forcibly as I was doing my preliminary research is how many similarities there are between these two great world cities that sit facing each other across the Atlantic Ocean.

Both began life as ports and grew prosperous on international trade. As a result both have attracted people from all across the globe, with the result that New York and London are now the two most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Both have English as their official language although scores of different languages can be heard on the streets, while both cities enjoy culture and cuisine from every corner of the globe.

They are also by far and away their nation’s largest cities in terms of population, with New York and London each having a population of something over 8 million people.

Both have grown into leading international financial centers with financial institutions that sprang from humble beginnings in coffee shops, Tontine’s Coffee House on the corner of Wall Street and Water Street in New York, Jonathan’s Coffee House in Change Alley in the City of London.

Both have suffered devastating fires which changed the face of the city, London with the Great Fire of London in 1666, New York with the Great Fire of 1835.

Both New York and London are cultural capitals, boasting the best theater in the world, with the world’s top two theater districts, Broadway in New York and the West End in London, and are home to their respective nation’s best museums and art galleries, the Met, the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the British Museum, Victoria and Albert, Tate Galleries in London, as well as premier music and concert venues, the Lincoln Center and Madison Square Gardens in New York, the Royal Opera House, Barbican and South Bank Center in London.

New York and London possess two of the world’s most luxurious shopping streets, Fifth Avenue in New York being the most expensive in the world, Bond Street in London the second most expensive.

New York and London share many of the same place names too, Chelsea, Greenwich, Soho. In New York, the name SoHo is derived from South of Houston, while in London, Soho was an old hunting cry. There is even a Downing Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, named after the same Sir George Downing who gave his name to the famous London street where the British Prime Minister lives, at No 10. He was responsible for arranging the handover of New Amsterdam from the Dutch to the British in 1664.

Perhaps it is these similarities that help explain why someone who feels comfortable on the streets of New York will probably also feel comfortable on the streets of London and vice versa. Certainly, New York and London are the two cities I love the most – if I could live six months of the year in each how great would that be?