Philip Pullman

All Writing is Difficult

“All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?”

Philip Pullman


Confession time: the latter half of the summer was slow for me productivity-wise. As difficult as it can be to read a quote like this I always appreciate the solid kick in the ass that it brings. Writer’s block is a myth, an easy excuse for the struggle that comes with the work. No one says writing will be easy. No one says writing will be fun. But when it’s all over there is no denying how rewarding it can be.

#My5 - Influences, Inspirations, Ideas

Introducing: #My5

Attend any convention, sit in on a reading, or visit panel and during open Q&A, and you’ll hear a common question asked by someone in attendance. It’s a query every author gets. I’ve seen Neil Gaiman blog about it, Stephen King speak about it, and Ursula K. Le Guin write about it. It comes down to this:

“Where do you get your ideas?”

I think people assume that there is some hidden mystery or a big secret in being a writer. However, the truth is that inspiration comes from everywhere and anywhere; the smallest thing can spark a multitude of ideas, and it’s different for every author. For me, I can imagine several key instances that have triggered something in my mind, ideas that have taken root and helped construct the world of The Bell Forging Cycle. I want to share those ideas, and I know others do as well, so I am introducing #My5, a new project I’m starting, focusing on inspiration and ideas. The goal is to create a familiar and straightforward format allowing published authors (indie or traditional) from any and all genres to share some of their inspirations for specific projects with their fans and peers. In these posts, writers will list five sources that influenced one of their projects and they’ll link to the blogs of others authors who are doing the same thing. There’s no rule on what you can find inspiring, be it music, television, books, speeches, landscapes, travel, or whatever; it’s all open. The key is that you can only pick five, no more, no less.

So, if you’re a published author who regularly blogs, you’re invited to participate! Just shoot me an email at hello at kmalexander.com and let me know you’re participating. Write your post, publish it, and link to others who have done the same. The goal is to create a network of ideas so we can share our inspirations together. You can download the #My5 Logo using any of the links below.


Download the #My5 Logo600×600 PNG: White | Black
1200×1200 PNGs: White | Black
(Vector version available upon request.)


The first round of #My5 entries are coming really soon. So watch this space and follow me on Twitter! I’ll be posting my own and linking to others. Even the simplest thing can often spark amazing stories and complex worlds; inspiration abounds, let’s explore it.

Where in the World is K. M. Alexander

Exploring Tahoma & Sun-a-do

This past weekend the United States celebrated the 100th birthday of the National Parks Service, one of our greatest inventions. (Ken Burns agrees.) To commemorate the occasion Kari-Lise, myself, some friends and family explored trails in Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Park. As before, I figured I’d share a few pics. Click to view them larger.

Everything here was shot with my iPhone 6S and processed with VSCO.

Art Happened

Art Happened

It was a busy weekend in the Alexander household, but a fun one. In a wild convergence of entertainment, an enormous collection of events happened in Seattle. Griffey’s number was retired (24EVER!), Seafair—the annual hydroplane races and Blue Angels air show—were going on right outside my backdoor, and art was happening, a lot of art.

Longtime readers know that my amazing wife and partner in this life, Kari-Lise Alexander, is a painter, so art and art-related things were on our agenda for most of the weekend. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw my Instagram Stories over the weekend. But, I am a writer, not a photographer, and I wanted to expand on everything a bit more.


THURSDAY

Stars on Her Eyes - Kari-Lise Alexander, 2016
Stars on Her Eyes – Kari-Lise Alexander

It was the first Thursday of August, which meant it was also the First Thursday Art Walk. Kari-Lise had a piece in the Seattle Squared show (this one) at a gallery called Axis. It was a fun little event. It was a good start to our art weekend, and it’s nice to see the neighborhood buzzing with life. I went and hit up another show across the street at a relatively new gallery, and then we bopped over to check out The Drawnk Show. I ended up hanging out with folks until late and arguing why Mad Max was one of the best movies ever made.

 


FRIDAY

The second Seattle Art Fair was taking place, and we made it a point to attend. This year’s event was even better than the last. A ton of amazing work ranging from sculpture to installation was displayed. Choosing a favorite piece was tough, but I think the highlight for me was Hew Locke‘s The Wine Dark Sea, Group 4. What I saw was just a small selection of his full series, but the works were fascinating, intricate, and carried a lot of meaning. There was a lot to unpack.

Hew Locke, The Wine Dark Sea
The Wine Dark Sea, Group 4 – Hew Locke

After spending three hours browsing the fair, we checked out Juxtapoz x Superflat, curated by Takashi Murakami. It was incredible. It was nice to see a new venue in Seattle focusing on new contemporary and pop-surrealist artists. The artists participating are all well established names and it was good to see another presence like that in Seattle.

superflat
Left to right: Selected Sculpture – Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor, Daybreak – Paco Poment

SATURDAY

DeathandtheMaiden
Left to Right: The Arsenic Waltz (Detail) – Redd Walitzki, Abby’s Ghost (Detail) – Travis Louie, Nosto (Detail) – Syd Bee

Roq La Rue has been a mainstay of the Seattle art scene for a long time, and it has become a keystone in the low-brow and pop-surrealism movements. It was the first gallery I ever visited when I moved to Seattle, and I’ve been hitting its events regularly for the last eight years.

PickingthePerfectPoison
Picking the Perfect Poison – Kari-Lise Alexander

Saturday was the launch party for its final show, Death and the Maiden 2. Kari-Lise had a piece in that show as well. Picking the Perfect Poison (pictured right) is one of my favorites and lucky for you prints are available. We spent a majority of the evening at the gallery hanging out with everyone who came out to see the show. It was great to see such a wide selection of Seattle artists represented.

It was also bittersweet. After the pieces come down, Roq La Rue is going away. It closes its doors this September. During the show and at the afterparty, a lot of locals—artists and fans alike—were sharing memories of the gallery and reflecting on how it had impacted our lives. It’s been a focal point of art walks for both Kari-Lise and me, and its exodus will be felt.


So, yeah, art happened and it was amazing. There were a few shows I missed, in particular, the Out of Sight show, which I regret. Our Sunday ended up being much quieter. We didn’t go to any galleries. I did some reading and spent a little time researching. I couldn’t get my brain in a space to write properly (despite my grand intent earlier in the week). Seafair was winding down. The Olympics were on. The Mariners swept the Angels.

It was a good weekend.

Influence my 2017 Convention Schedule

Help Influence my 2017 Convention Schedule

We’re smack dab in the middle of 2016, so it probably seems odd that I’m posting about conventions for next year. But, here we are, time waits for no author. It’s that time of year when I begin to look into my schedule for 2017, and I need your help. Currently, I’m looking at attending the following conventions:

What I want to know from you is what I am missing? What convention would you like to see me attend? Where should I go? What should I check out? Help me out! You can make suggestions one of two ways. The first is to leave a comment below. The other option is to shoot me an email at hello@kmalexander.com.

I’m open to any and all suggestions! One caveat, if it’s out of range for me driving-wise, I probably won’t run a table (logistically it becomes too difficult/annoying for me to haul books around), but I’d seriously consider panelist participation anywhere and everywhere.

Leave a suggestion!

riot

Yes, It’s Happening in Books

For a while now, in light of the recent string of tragedies we’ve seen in the world, I’ve watched fellow authors make a particular comment. (Most of the time on social media.) It can be paraphrased as such:

“None of the things happening in the world right now are happening in books.”

Okay, I can understand where they are coming from, but such a blanket statement feels a touch fantastical. Yes, the violence, destruction, hatred, and bigotry in books have little impact on the real-life lives of people, and yes, there is a solace there. But, to say those things don’t happen in the pages of fiction feels a little naive. Fiction deals with challenging topics all the time. Look at many popular book series on the market today; nothing is off-limits.

Take J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which began as a children’s book; it danced with bullying, bigotry, racism, and the aftereffects of murder. Harry Potter himself suffers, at the very least, mental abuse at the hands of his aunt and uncle (you could probably argue physical abuse as well.)

The world of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, a darling of the YA genre, is horrific. The children of an enslaved populace are forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of a wealthy, hedonistic society and its corrupt government. It’s not a pleasant place.

George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, which is the most mature of these examples, deals with the consequences following a myriad of tragedies. You name it, and it’s there: violence, rape, murder, torture, war, slavery, incest, rebellion, terrorism, bigotry, regicide, patricide and on and on and on and on. The novels are laden with grim events.

That is how it should be. It is what makes fiction so great. Fiction is a safe space that lets us confront those problems; fiction lets us experience both the beautiful and the terrible. It allows us to see different perspectives that we may never face in our daily lives. That kind of intellectual experience hones us as people. It makes it possible for us to build up generous amounts of empathy, so when real-world problems confront us (and they will, believe me), we will have the tools to face them. As Neil Gaiman so eloquently explained in his essay Little Triggers,

“There are still things that profoundly upset me when I encounter them, whether it’s on the Web or the word or in the world. They never get easier, never stop my heart from trip-trapping, never let me escape, this time, unscathed. But they teach me things, and they open my eyes, and if they hurt, they hurt in ways that make me think and grow and change.”

It does a great disservice to hand-wave away the terrible and sometimes disturbing themes of fiction. If anything, I believe that they should be celebrated. The personal value brought on by these perspectives is unmeasurable to us as a society, and thankfully—unlike real life—if a book ever gets to be too much, we can always close it for a little while.