Backstory, Advice, Flâneurs, Triathlon, Poetry

Weekly musings on writers and writing, from Conked


Update from Rand

This week I have had some health and pain issues to deal with, so I thought I would share with you something from an upcoming project I have been working on.

Following is a poem from F*CK EVERYTHING, a poetry collection which is a collaboration between myself, as poet, and Yvonne Burgess, a Californian illustrator.

The poems can be read as punchy standalones or as one long poem. The Picasso-style line drawings which will be in the final book are meant to enhance the interpretation of select poems. The wildly successful Rupi Kaur, who has sold millions of copies of her poetry+illustration books, is an inspiration for this project.

The premise is that the world of, particularly twenty-somethings, has been turned around from a position where they were just getting settled into life, when wham! they get a face punch and everything goes to mush. As Mike Tyson says, "We've all got a plan, until we are punched in the face." The book begins commiserating with such an audience, but then shifts into providing inspiration.

This is poem 9 from the collection:

addicted to the new

to the shiny

constantly on the move

i was flitting my attention

this way

and that

while trying to drown out an

ever-louder cacophony of negative voices

a growing sense of dread

and an overwhelming sense of fear

Do let me know if the poem resonates with you?

The Making of Meaningful Backstory (Part II)

Angie Hodapp | Nelson Literary Agency | 30 APRIL 2021

Director of Literary Development at Nelson Literary Agency, Angie Hodapp knows what makes a great manuscript. Here she shares her pro-tips on how to "strike a masterful balance between What Came Before and What Will Happen Now." They include how much "page-space" you devote to the backstory; wound events vs inciting incidents (and what they actually are); prologues (or flashbacks or dialogue) and how they relate to those events. Her advice is "the writer should write the wound event—not necessarily to include in the novel, but so that she can stand beside her protagonist as he endures that event." Brilliant advice. (1,219 words)

“Write as if you were dying.” Read Annie Dillard’s greatest writing advice

Walker Caplan | Literary Hub | 30 APRIL 2021

Annie Dillard is an amazing writer and one of the best teachers. We hear this from her students and readers and this article in celebration of her 76th birthday summarises some of the best writing advice from Dillard to be found. It is worth reading the full article to be inspired, but in summary, some points follow. Write to your own idiosyncratic interests - "Write as if you were dying." and "You are the only one of you...". Find inspiration through reading others - "Write books you'd like to read." In writing, action is everything, "Don’t use passive verb constructions." Read the article for so much more. (2,205 words)

Redefining the Modern Flâneuse: A Reading List

Kavita Bedford | Literary Hub | 03 MAY 2021

The flâneur novel is one where a protagonist strolls or walks observing society and, in this article, Australian-Indian writer Kavita Bedford explains she wanted to "emulate those long walks from literature, but in the landscape of the suburbs of my home city, Sydney...". She also realised that many novels featured male white flâneurs and wanted different viewpoints, so has provided a list with "new perspectives". They include her thoughts on Lot by Bryan Washington, Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli, Monkey Grip by Helen Garner, The Lonely City by Olivia Laing, Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodriguez Fowler, Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, and Open City by Teju Cole. Worth reading the article for her thoughtful observations. (882 words)

What Triathlons Taught Me About Writing

Miffie Seideman | Writers in the Storm | 03 MAY 2021

Training for triathlons and writing may seem diametrically opposed - but are they really? Writer and pharmacist Miffie Seideman explains how with both she spends "countless hours working towards a single goal" that she may not win or finish and they have strong parallels. Read the article for her worthwhile comparisons, but we have summarised some for you here. They include they both require at times you to 'shift efficiently' - whether it be gears or writing schedules. Set goals for yourself so you are not writing and editing endlessly. Do get exercise! It assists with creativity blocks. And rest and recover - it helps you reset and recharge. (1,065 words)

Today’s nice internet news: a 92-year-old’s first self-published poetry book is now a best-seller

Jessie Gaynor | Literary Hub | 04 MAY 2021

If, as an older writer, you feel like you have missed the boat to be published (or self-publish) then this story should warm your heart! 96-year-old Scottish grandfather Gordon McCullough recently self-published his collection, 101 Poems, and it became a huge seller on Amazon. It probably helps that his Twitter-savvy granddaughter posted about it to her moderate following, and it got nearly 50K retweets and the next day was the #1 best-selling poetry anthology on Amazon UK. It is still sitting at #14 overall and #9 in the US, thanks to his granddaughter's promotional efforts. Well done, Gordon and granddaughter Jessica!  (252 words)


“Don’t use any extra words. A sentence is a machine; it has a job to do. An extra word in a sentence is like a sock in a machine . . .”

Annie Dillards, Image Journal

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Rand Leeb-du Toit, Conkerer

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