Great Writers (and me) on Writing

Tony - Writing

I have some great news for which I am very thankful.  I have accepted a position as a writing instructor at a local community college.  The course is called “Introduction to Academic Writing” and it is primarily designed to teach beginning students to construct well written, persuasive essays.

To make the most of this educational opportunity, however, I want to share my passion for writing as well as the mechanics of how to do it well.  To prepare, I have pulled out part of a post (below) I wrote on writing.

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song. ― Maya Angelou

The primary purpose of good writing is not to fix a problem, but to make it more meaningful and beautiful to live in a world filled with problems.  This is one reason I don’t read more Charles Dickens and why I haven’t even started Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.  I’m thinking more of fiction here, but even good non-fiction should steer clear of one-dimensional moralism if it is to be effective.  The song must be sung, not explained or advocated or shouted out.  Which leads to my next quote –

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. Anton Chekhov

Again, while this is true for any writing, I find it especially true for songs and poems.  Don’t say you’re depressed because your girlfriend broke up with you and then go on for 500 words telling me the symptoms of your depression.  Pay a therapist to do that.  Instead,  paint a picture of your sadness, like John Prine in the chorus of  “The Blue Umbrella” –

Blue umbrella
rest upon my shoulder
hide the pain
while the rain
makes up my mind
well, my feet are wet
from thinking this thing over
and it’s been so long
since I felt the warm sunshine
just give me one good reason
and I promise I won’t ask you any more
just give me one extra season
so I can figure out the other four.

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. ― Mark TwainThe Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain

Here is where I’m going to put in a plug for self-editing. I read a lot of blogs about writing and I notice that many writers mark their progress by their word count.  Some even set goals of writing 1,000 or 2,000 words a day (or some such amount).  I believe if your goal is good writing, you should lo0k instead at how many words you delete.  I knew of a college professor who set page limits to essays.  If you exceeded the number, he would rip off the extra pages, throw them away and write across the paper, “It seemed a little incomplete.  Try again.”  One right word yields far greater power than two (or three, or one hundred) wrong ones.

One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple. ― Jack KerouacThe Dharma Bums

I like this quote both for its humility and wisdom.  The truth is, we never really get it “right” in this writing life.  Becoming better writers should always be our goal for some distant “one day.”  The direction we should be headed to get there, however, clearly should not involve complex formulas but simple methods of telling it like it is better than we told it the last time, possibly even better than anyone has told it before

Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days. ― Flannery O’Connor

In terms of writing material, we have a lot within us into which we often fail to tap.  It’s true if you are writing on any subject, you should do good research and not just sit back in your writing chair (mine is a recliner) and write what is on your mind.  Still, if we just pay enough attention to our lives (and the world around us), we will have plenty to start writing every time.

In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody. ― Oscar Wilde

What may have been witty hyperbole in Wilde’s day has become almost literal truth today.  I visit many blogs that have few (if any hits).  E-books are being published that sell almost no copies.  You can’t even give them away.  We could debate what is worthy to be read, but I believe three of my primary obligations as a writer are to read, read, read.  Read what others are writing on their blogs.  Read new books being published by known and unknown authors.  And then, to relax before bed, read (or listen to) the classics (including the Bible) to let my mind be refreshed by the gifted wordsmiths of days gone by.

What are your thoughts on writing?  What quote sums up what you believe most true for you as a writer?

Building Community by Featuring Followers IV

Time for a Stat-ervention? Checking you blog stats can become addicting. I challenge you to walk away for the month of Oct and see if you can refocus on the joy of blogging.

The statisticians here at “A Way With Words” have advised me some time to put out only one post a day, saying –

Your optimum visits-per-post ratio can best be achieved with a single, targeted daily post. 

I say,

Get a social life.

Tonight I’m in the mood to “share the love” and feature more of my followers, hoping to further build community and simply sow seeds of gratitude for having faithful readers.

To read more, visit my new blog address by clicking on the title below —

“Building Community by Featuring Followers IV”

Building Community by Featuring Followers III

 It’s Sunday afternoon.  Morning worship is over.  The Colts have the game well in hand. Over two hours before evening worship.  It’s time to fire up the virtual grill and welcome a few more followers over, carrying casserole dishes of flash fiction, bags of poetry, and coolers of life reflections.  A good time will be had by all.  To join in the fun, simply visit any of the sites or featured posts and tell them Tony, who has “A Way With Words” sent you.

To read more, visit my new blog address by clicking on the title below —

“Building Community by Featuring Followers III”

Bon Apetit!

the planet blue potluck!

Building Blogging Community by Featuring Followers II

I had so much fun and have received such a good early response to my previous post featuring seven of my blog followers, that I thought I’d feature seven more.  If the first post was a pot-luck, this is like going back for seconds.

To read more, visit my new blog address by clicking on the link below —

“Building Blogging Community by Featuring Followers II”


Building Community by Featuring Followers

Today, I was drawn back to my followers and decided to  feature some of them in a series of posts, both as a way to express gratitude for their following and build more community — sort of like an “A Way With Words” pot-luck.  I’ve included links to seven of these blogs, as well as to recent posts I find indicative of their work.  I hope you will be led to visit their sites and that you might mention you found them here.

To read more, visit my new blog address by clicking on the title below —

“Building Blogging Community: Featured Followers”

cute blogging notepad!

 from Katie Whalen Krysh

What’s New @ “A Way With Words”

View album

I just added the photo above to my “Who Am I” page, along with a link to my emerging website – Tony Roberts, Writer and Editor and a new e-mail address: .  I am in the process of moving this blog to a new, hip web address (to be unveiled soon).  Below, is a picture of my new socks and shoes…

View album

Now, as my buddy Steve Franz would say, “All the women will be falling at my feet.”

Blog for Mental Health – 2013

Like the Apostle Paul,  A Way With Words has been many things to many people (so that some may be saved).

It actually started as Will Write for Food (and maybe dental), a way to present a portfolio of my writing for prospective employers.

As it became A Way With Words, the focus expanded to creative work – essays, reviews, poems, and short stories.

As I move toward the completion of a working draft of my spiritual memoir – Delight in Disorder: Meditations from a Bipolar Mind, it has become a way for me to reach out to others with mental illnesses (as well as address mental health issues in the broader public).

This past week, I’ve made a good many new blogging friends.  One of these, Bradley of How Is Bradley has inspired me to join the growing movement of bloggers promoting mental health.  To this end, I place my right hand on my Grandmother’s Bible and say –

I pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project.  I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others.  By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health.  I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

A Canvas of the Minds tells the story of the launching of the movement – here.  There, she explains the terms –

1) Take the pledge by copying and pasting the following into a post featuring “Blog for Mental Health 2013″. (quote above)

2) Link back to the person who pledged you.  (see Bradley above)

3) Write a short biography of your mental health, and what this means to you. (below)

4) Pledge five others, and be sure to let them know! (bottom)

Short bio:

I was born crazier than a loon.  I come by it honestly.  There are many loony limbs in my family tree. 

I started self-medication at an early age, with the help of my parents’ friends who put beer in my bottle and laughed at the two-year old toddling tipsy to the turf.

I was able to escape the loud voices in my mind (and coming from my parents’ bedroom) by playing basketball and reading books.  I was driven to succeed in sports and studies which helped carry me through my sophomore year of college, when I turned to various illicit drugs to produce a chemical composition in my brain with which I could live.

After college, I began a journey of recovery (dispensing with one drug at a time) until I was left to face my demons alone.  That’s when all hell broke loose.

I was treated with second-generation anti-depressants until one of them induced a psychotic episode and I was, more appropriately, diagnosed with Bipolar.

With the aid of various psychotropics, counseling, much prayer, and a loving family, I was able to not only survive but thrive, functioning 18 years as a parish pastor.  Recently, however, I have gone on disability and separated from my wife.  I am now pursuing a second career as a writer and educator.

Blogging is itself an exercise toward mental health for me and writing about my life, I often touch on mental health issues.  This does not mean I will use my readers as my therapists (I can’t afford more), but I will hopefully build more positive relations with folks like me who struggle with mental illness and give folks who don’t a better glimpse of what we can be.

Pledge five others (5 bloggers I follow you should check out)

timEbush : Art. Life. Writing. Channeled messages.

TeaTart : Loving, Laughing, Crying – and Writing About It All.

Mercurial Runner

Unexpected Midlife Freedom! : Lover of books, reading, writing, and the pursuit of dreams.

Alexis Stone : Seeing in the dark.

For a list of bloggers participating in the movement, click – here.

The Liebster Lives On


C.p. Singleton of The Musings of C.p. Singleton’s Mind has nominated me for a Liebster Award.  Technically, nominations are reserved for blogs with 200 followers (or less) – which I’ve been blessed to exceed – but with gratitude for the nomination and to follow the spirit of the Liebster, I want to highlight some up-and-coming bloggers.  Here are the 4 terms of accepting a nomination (from C.p.’s nomination post) –

1. Thank the Liebster Blog presenter who nominated you and link back to their blog (above).
2. Post 11 facts about yourself, answer the 11 questions you were asked and create 11 questions for your nominees (below)
3. Nominate 11 blogs who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen (bottom)
4. Display the Liebster Award logo (top).

11 Facts About Myself

1.  I’m wearing pajama bottoms right now with a vivid pattern of chickens and eggs displayed vertically.

2. I’m listening to “Artist Radio Based on Iris Dement” on Spotify.  A woman named Mary Gauthier is singing, “A Long Way to Fall”.

3.  Yesterday, I completed the second draft of “The Family Room” section of my spiritual memoir Delight in Disorder: Meditations from a Bipolar Mind.

4.  I’ve been watching (and greatly enjoying) episodes from Season 2 of the TV show, “Numb3rs”.

5.  I had Kentucky Fried Chicken for lunch.  In addition to chicken, I had cole slaw, mashed potatoes with gravy, and a dinner roll.

6.  I plan to go to an open mike night at Joey G’s in Madison, Indiana on May 8, to see my college roommate and hear his son perform.

7.  I once worked at the Kentucky Derby supervising college student ticket takers to make sure they didn’t accept bribes.

8.  My water jug says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”  (John 7:37)

9.  My cousin Cam Baxter’s son Ian Jackson is having a graduation party tonight.

10.  I’m looking for a driver for a road trip from Columbus, Indiana to Austin, Texas to see Zoe Muth at The White Horse on May 19.   I will  pay for the gas and buy you 1 beer the night of the performance (as long as I can drive afterwards until you sober up).

11.  It’s now time to eat.  I’m having a chicken pasta salad.  Care to join me?

Answers to 11 Questions

1) Why do you blog?

I blog to have a creative outlet, to make new virtual friends, to gain readership, and (hopefully) give glory to God.

2) Are you paper published?

In a manner of speaking, I am.  I published some poems and short stories in my college literary journal Kennings.  I have published meditations in the devotional magazines These Days and Upper Room.  I published sermon reviews in Lectionary Homiletics and a book review in The Presbyterian Survey.

3) Why does the Easter Bunny deliver chocolate eggs and is the chocolate hen ok with that?

The Easter Bunny delivers plastic eggs with money in them at my Grandma’s house.  The next time I see a plastic hen, I’ll ask how she feels about it.

4) Are you comfortable working to a genre?

I’m wrestling to narrowly define my two works-in-progress within a genre.  I would like them to be “bridge-builders”.  I’d like people who have a mental illness to read Delight in Disorder to find faith there.  I’d like church folks to read it to better understand the mind of a person with Bipolar.  Also, with my short story trilogy – Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, I would like to bring together orthodox Christians and secular atheists to discuss these stories that reveal value and consequences (hopefully in an engaging way).

5) Skirt or trousers?

Trousers, I suppose (though I call them “pants”)

(6) Favourite children’s book?

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

7) First record bought?

Hotel California by The Eagles.

8) Tony the Tiger or The Milky Bar Kid to win a Rap battle and why?

I’m old school.  Tony the Tiger rules.  He’s way cool.

9) Place where your soul is forever kept?

As an orthodox Christian, I do not believe in a disembodied soul.  My soul is who I am – body, mind, spirit.  It is tenaciously kept by the Holy Spirit until death (or Christ comes), at which time I will be blessed with a transformed identity, a “spiritual body” (hopefully, one with hair).

10) Ever seen a ghost?

Seen?  No.  Felt a strong otherworldly presence?  Yes.

11) which super power would you like?

I would like to be faster than a speeding bullet so I could run to Austin, Texas for Zoe Muth’s next performance and be back by bedtime.

11 Questions for Nominees

1.  Who would you most want to be compared to as a writer?

2.  If you could drive in a Nascar race or jockey in the Kentucky Derby, which would you choose, and why?

3.  Who/what do you count as your muse?

4.  If you could name a brand of coffee (or tea) you’d like to drink, what would it be?

5.  If you were part of a group starting a new church (or “ethical club”), what would you call it?

6.  Who (or what) motivated you to start blogging?

7.  Name 3 (or more) songs you would like in the soundtrack of your life story.

8.  What vocation/career did/do your parents want your parents want you to pursue?

9.  What is your favorite unhealthy meal?

10.  Have you ever gone on a blind date?  If so, how was it?

11.  Name a teacher or coach who most motivated you to learn in your life.

11 Nominees (in no particular order)

{The Book Musings}

One Imperfect Life

Counting. Steps. Forward.


wendyenberg’s Blog

all about me and my black dog

Bipolar on Fire


The Magic Black Book

empty lithium bottles in a giant jar

Faceless OCD

Upcoming Publication to be Released May 10, 2013 at Amazon

I just received word that a piece of Flash Fiction I wrote (“The Distant Mountain and the Barren Tree“) will soon appear in an e-book anthology (cover above). The publication date is scheduled for May 10th on Amazon. The e-book will be free. After 90 days, the plan is to publish it through Smashwords.

I feel quite blessed to be included in this collection, as a relative novice to the weekly “Wednesday Writer Blog Hop” from which the stories come.  A special thanks to Carrie K. Sorenson and Nicole Pyles, co-editors of the anthology.  I also want to acknowledge the writers of stories included in the e-book –

Carrie K Sorensen – (WWBH co-host, co-editor)
Emily Jean Roche –
George Beckingham –
Krystal Wade –
Leanne Sype – (WWBH co-host)
Nicole Pyles – (WWBH founder and co-host, co-editor)
Randy Lindsay –
Roman Taylor (Scott’s son)
Sydney Aaliyah –
Tena Carr – (WWBH co-host)
Yolanda Tong –
I look forward to the big release.  If I receive word about any virtual parties or book signings, I’ll let you know.

Shining Through Recovery

2013 shine_on from Eye Dancer

Being the official scribe for the matticuskingdom carries with it grave responsibilities which I do not take lightly.  One of these is to be at the beck-and-call of the Jester whenever he puts out word for guest posts.  Another is to gladly accept and faithfully respond to award nominations.  The Jester nominated me for a “Shine On” award on April 18, and though it’s taken me some time to share the love, better late than never.

These the rules, as detailed by TwinDaddy:

“This award is for the blogs that shine, make you feel good and are inspiring to the reader.”

  • Link back to the blogger who nominated you (above)
  • Share some facts about yourself or answer questions given to you.  (below)
  • Nominate fifteen bloggers who shine a little light in your day and be sure to notify them. (below facts)

Some facts about myself (7, in fact, since 7 is a complete number) –

1)  I am applying for a position as an adjunct professor of “communication”.  (As my dad would say, “Not bad for an  ‘ole Kentuckian with a six-grade education”)

2)  One of my stories – “The Distant Mountain and the Barren Tree” is being published in an on-line collection of blog hop stories.

3)  I just finished listening to an audio version of N.T. Wright’s  Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters and liked it so much I borrowed the kindle version to read.

4)  As I write, I am listening to “White Lightnin'” as part of a George Jones marathon on Spotify (to celebrate his life and music).

5)  The Sunday morning message at church today was on Isaiah 17:1-14 and it was entitled, “Forgetting the God You Grew Up With”.

6)  I just applied for a library card at the Bartholomew County Public Library.  This makes 3 libraries where I can access material (and I think as a property owner in New York, I also have privileges at the New York Public Library – I’ll have to check this out.)

7)  I am planning a “writer’s retreat” the end of June.  My aunt and uncle are offering me their condo that sits on an island on the Gulf Coast.

For the nominees, I’ve decided to do a WordPress tag search for “recovery” and highlight 15 bloggers who have written something inspiring on a topic heavily on my mind right now.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to [the Lord’s] glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy…

[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.          

(Colossians 1:11,13-14; English Standard Version)

And the nominees are (in no particular order)…

Kahrman Blog – “Goodbye My Sponsor”

Recovering by Grace – “Running, Walking, or Swimming”

SarahWriteNow – “Reflection of Me (Written 2011)”

Soberistas – “Believe in the Power of Fear”

Hungry Running Girl – “We Live and Learn”

Human in Recovery – “Hypomania is Breaking my Brain”

A Path to Recovery – “When Life Gives You Lemons”

Life Uninterrupted – “What an inpatient stint taught me about recovery – Hint! It’s not what you think.”

enduring and after – “when I fear I have lost my flavor”

Believe – “When Does ‘Recovering’ Become ‘Recovered’?”

bipolarblogging – “It can happen to you…”

The Running Father Blog – A Full Moon, the Bi-Polar crazies, and Taking Care of First Principals.

themiracleisaroundthecorner – “The Twelve Steps in Everyday Living: Part Three

the wunder year – “day 115. the driver’s seat.

In Love With The Lord Poetry and Prose – “The Blessing of Being Hurt”