"Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook" by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter


Think about what you’re doing right this second.  You’re reading Spilling Ink.  Why?  Maybe it’s because you want to kill some time before you go to soccer practice.  Maybe it’s because your aunt gave you this book for your birthday and you’re going to see her this Saturday and you know that she’s going to ask you how you liked it.  Or maybe it’s because you really, really want to be an author.  Whatever the reason, you are reading this book because you want something.  In fact, if you think about nearly everything that you do in a day, you can trace it back to a “want”.  The same goes for your character.  As you write your story, always try to think about what your character wants, from the tiniest want to the heart’s desire. — from “Spilling Ink”

We meet many writers on OFF THE PAGE and speak about the stories they tell us, the ideas they present, even about how they found a publisher.  And from time to time we get into a discussion of work habits: how the writer finds and develops ideas, whether the words flow fast or slow, if they prefer pencil and paper to the word processor.  The answers to these questions vary as much as the books themselves.  But just as a person’s handwriting will be influenced by the method that he or she was taught as a child, writing habits and even a sense of literary style can be nurtured at a young age. “Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook” is a chatty, well organized how-to book by a pair of authors with dozens of titles in their credits.  Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter are both from Ithaca and both specialize in fiction for young people.  “Spilling Ink” is their first collaboration, and is written with individual bylines.  It concludes with Anne and Ellen interviewing each other about literary interests and working habits. Anne’s work includes “The Salamander Room” (1991), a “Reading Rainbow” Feature Selection.  For Scholastic Inc. she’s penned over forty books in the “Sister Magic” and “The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes” series. Ellen is creator of the Olivia Kidney books, also “Pish Posh” (2006), “SLOB”.  Her newest novel is “The Kneebone Boy”, which will have its official release on the same day that our OFF THE PAGE program is broadcast. Both authors regularly speak to school classes and workshops. Joining them on OFF THE PAGE will be Mary O’Neill and Matt Fiato, fifth grade students at the MacArthur School in Binghamton. “Spilling Ink” is filled with useful exercises (Anne and Ellen call them “dares”) to get people writing and polishing their work.  “Take any story idea and write a first sentence for it.  Now try another first sentence…” “Write a scene about a circus, but make the mood dark and grim.”  For their visit to OFF THE PAGE they’ve asked Mary and Matt and everyone listening to write a story based on this premise:
A panicked man runs up to [your character] and hands him/her a box.  “Take good care of this for me!”

Hank Roberts & Eric Aceto

Hank Roberts created an extensive body of music as a composer and recording artist, and also as one who collaborates with world class artists such as Bill Frisell, Hal Willner, Tim Berne, Andy Summers, Dave King and Ethan Iverson from “The Bad Plus”, Donna the Buffalo, Sim Redmond Band, Kevin Kinsella, Wingnut, and Ti Ti Chickapea. Immersed in the traditions of jazz, acoustic folk and blues, electrified rock and experimental music, Eric Aceto has been active as a session player, touring musician and designer of musical instruments for over 30 years. While playing music during his college years, his dissatisfaction with the amplified violins of the time led him to experiment with the design and construction of his own instruments. Years of development and evolution have allowed Eric to produce instruments of exceptional quality. His violins, mandolins and guitars are today in increasing demand by discerning musicians around the world, artists such as Jean Luc Ponty, Darol Anger, Matt Glaser, Tommy Malone , Jerry Goodman, Ritchie Havens, Irene Sazer, Ruben Blades, David Torn and many many others.

"Digging Up the Dead" by Michael Kammen

As stated in nearly every eulogy, because a person has passed away it does not signify the end of his or her influence on loved ones, or on the community and society.  It is hoped that memory of the deceased will be an influence for good.  But sometimes death is only the beginning of trouble, the cause of conflict or at least an inconvenience among those left behind.  On rare but noteworthy occassions the corpse or gravesite itself may come into contention, and these incidents of exhumation, grave-robbing and reinterment can cast a final light back on the life of the departed as well as illuminate the unsettled issues of the present. Now one of America’s eminent historians has examined this phenomenon in “Digging Up the Dead: A History of Notable American Reburials”. Dr. Michael Kammen is Newton C. Farr Professor of American History and Culture emeritus at Cornell University.  His earlier books include “Visual Shock: A History of Art Controversies in American Culture” (2006), ” A Machine That Would Go of Itself: The Constitution in American Culture” (1986) and ” People of Paradox: An Inquiry Concerning the Origins of American Civilization”, which won the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for History.  He is a former president of the Organization of American Historians and in 2009 received the American Historical Association Award for Scholarly Distinction.  And in the midst of his research over the years, Dr. Kammen kept coming upon reports of historical figures who’d been buried more than once. “Digging Up the Dead” opens with the reburial of Jefferson Davis.  In 1893 — four years after the president of the Confederate States of America died and was buried in New Orleans — his body was moved with great care and pageantry to the Confederate capital of Richmond.  Kammen refers to this as “the resurrection of reputation, at least for a while.”  Davis’s Union counterpart also had multiple funerals.  There was a thwarted attempt to steal  Abraham Lincoln’s body from its original resting place in Springfield, Ill.  Lincoln was later reburied within the impressive monument at Springfield in 1901 in a steel coffin covered in concrete. Among other notable persons in “Digging Up the Dead” are naval hero John Paul Jones, frontiersman Daniel Boone (whose remains were the subject of an interstate conflict between Kentucky and Missouri) and Lakota Chief Sitting Bull.   Kammen points to “a fairly distinctive change in practices that piques the historian’s interest in patterns of sociocultural ebb and flow.  Reburials become increasingly common during but especially after the second quarter of the nineteenth century, a little-noticed trend…

"With the Tide" by Mary Bright Carr


“Jon had lived in a country village as a child, and knew the garden: her aunt’s position could certainly be defended.  But until now the malice of the natural world had seemed remote.  You don’t mind about things not making sense until the lack of meaning was directed against you. She saw a soft bag, almost like the skin of a jellyfish, a stain of soapy liquid escaping.  That was the thing: you didn’t really mind waste until you were its object.” — from “With the Tide”

Memory is always at work: collecting impressions, recording conversations, following directions.  It’s one of the things that makes us human.  It can be a protective power in times of confusion or during moments of boredom, but it can also be a selective trait.  Memory is known to play tricks.  Sometimes an understanding of the present is cloaked by a distortion of the past, or the seeming disappearance of a memory.  That is the disquieting condition in the new novel “With the Tide” by Mary Bright Carr.  The novel reads the way the mind sometimes works, jumping between past and present, from the 1960s to the 90s.  Jonquil “Jon” Thayer is a young Englishwoman, a single mother, living in upstate New York, whose past is crowding in as harsh and inescapable as the winter weather.  She is suffering from tonsillitis and worried that surgery for this normally-childhood illness will separate her from her 12-year old daughter Tracy, confine her dog to a kennel and leave her debilitated.  At the same time she receives a card from ex-husband Clay Howard, who she believed she’d never hear from again.  This triggers a string of memories and Jon’s life passes before her, and our, eyes.  She takes us back to her college days at Trinity College in Dublin, the difficulties of both academic and personal life, family crises and a parade of personal friends.  “With the Tide” has a large cast of characters. The book is an excursion through the life and memory of a fictional person, but was created by a noted expert on memory.  Mary Bright Carr is the maiden name and nom de plume of Mary B. Howes, professor emeritus of psychology at SUNY Oneonta. She was born in New York but, like Jon, grew up in Britain and attended Trinity College.  She received a Masters and Ph.D. in psychology from New York University.