July BookEnds and Dog Agility Story

August 7, 2017

My review of The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll can be found on page 6 and an article on my experience competing at CPE agility nationals with my dog, Bailey, can be found on page 14.

 

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BookEnds Column – Handmaid’s Tale and Rattlesnake Dos and Don’ts Article

June 2, 2017

My BookEnds column review of Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale can be found on page 6, my article on rattlesnakes is on page 15.
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Meet Tim J. Myers: Poet, Children’s Book Author and Songwriter

April 10, 2017

 

  1. In one paragraph, can you give us some highlights from the favorite book you’ve written.

I find it interesting that my favorite children’s manuscript hasn’t been published, though I’ve submitted it a number of times. Maybe this is because, as some say, artists are generally poor judges of the quality of their own work. But maybe it’s because it’s actually a very good manuscript and just needs someone to take a chance on it. In any case, it makes me think about something basic to a writer’s life. If you write only for yourself, your life as an artist will be relatively uncomplicated. But if you offer your writing to other people, you have to be ready for all the natural complications involved. If only it was as straightforward as “Write something good”! My The Great Snail Race relies on the simple humor of such slow animals in a race, the racers seeing themselves as amazingly swift. That cracks me up, and I loved developing the idea. So I keep submitting it.

  1. How important do you think it is to incorporate personal experiences in writing?

This is one of those classic bits of writer advice, isn’t it? “Write what you know.” Like a lot of such advice, it’s profound, but it doesn’t always apply. Again, things aren’t always that simple. Some of the best writing comes from people who know, for example, a certain job or field really well, and who present that in their writing in a powerful way. Richard Russo’s Straight Man is set in a college English department, and Russo clearly writes about that world from the inside; he himself taught in a similar department. This profoundly enriches the book (and is, by the way, the source of a lot of its comedy). On the other hand, a book like Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow is science-fiction; it describes a trip to another planet, something Russell obviously hasn’t experienced herself. But each of these books is powerful, each is believable, and each captured me, sucked me into its world. So writing what you don’t know can work too.

On the other hand, it’s probably impossible NOT to include personal experience in some form or another. It leaches into your art whether you want it to or not. Russell, for example, left the Catholic Church at age 15, but The Sparrow is, for all its spiritual questioning, a very Catholic book.

  1. Describe your path to publication.

What continually surprises me about my path was how unconscious it was. I started writing in sixth grade (due to the encouragement of a teacher, to whom I’m deeply grateful), and pretty much kept writing from that point on. But I never thought of myself as a writer, and even through early adulthood never even considered submitting my work; publication just wasn’t part of my thinking. I feel very blessed in that obliviousness, since it allowed me to develop as an artist in a pretty “pure” way; I followed my own nose. To me, writing wasn’t different from living, any more than eating or singing or seeking romantic love were. It was as if I was an apple on a branch, ripening at no other pace but the slow pace of summer itself. In time I began to feel—again, very naturally and almost unconsciously—a desire to have readers. So I began to submit. During a trip to Hawaii I learned about two Hawaiian fish with very long names and, thoroughly charmed by those syllables, asked myself: If the humuhumunukunukuapua’a married the lauwiliwilinukunukuoioi, what would they ever name their child? That led to Let’s Call Him Lauwiliwilihumuhumunukunukunukunukuapua’aoioi!, my first book, published in 1990.

  1. How did being the oldest in a family of eleven children influence your writing?

What a wonderful question—I haven’t really thought about that before! It would seem that my writing for children was a direct result of that. I basically write for adults; I didn’t become a children’s writer till I began telling stories to my own kids. But the oldest of 11 is in something of a parental relationship to younger siblings, and that happened to me. I loved thinking about this question—it gave me one more example of how a writer is given so much simply by life itself, if he or she pays enough attention to such gifts.

  1. Poetry and children’s books seem like the require very different skills. Are there similarities in your writing process for both genres?

Interestingly, writing a poem and writing a picture book, at least, are quite similar. In each case you’re working with a lower word count, working with compression of language, and every word counts in a big way. Of course every word counts in all writing—but a novel, for example, doesn’t pressure you with the same intense focus as a shorter work usually does. I began writing as a poet, wrote almost nothing but poetry for a long time, and have three books of adult poetry out; I found that that was excellent preparation for writing picture books.

  1. And you writes songs too! How does that fit in to your writing journey?

This is a perfect question to follow #5, since the answer is a variation on that theme. Of course there are plenty of longer music formats, but I mostly write individual songs, three or four minutes long. This makes a song lyric very much like a lyric poem, and in a number of ways. Again, every word is critical, and saying a lot with a little is the name of the game. And, of course, working effectively with language rhythms is essential to both a poem and a song lyric.

There are two main differences, though. Some songs, like ballads, have very normal and predictable line rhythms in their lyrics, which are easier to write. But some melodies jump all over the place, which means the lyricist is, essentially, writing a new poetic form for each song of this kind. It can get very tricky rhythmically, and you not only have to make your lines flow naturally with the beat—you also want to them to sparkle, to forcefully pull listeners in, and then to work in all the ways good poetry does.

The other difference, though, is an astonishing advantage, and it’s a huge part of why I can’t resist songwriting. Music is to a song lyric as a score is to a movie. Whatever I’m trying to say in the lyric, if the music is right it lifts and empowers the words in a way that constantly surprises and delights me. When you get it right, music and lyrics seem to combust together, making magic. So, again, just as writing picture books goes hand in hand with writing poetry, so does songwriting.

  1. What tools do you use when you are choosing words for your poetry?

I love this question. I love it because it’s at the heart of my life as a writer, an artist of language. I choose words for all my writing with a passion and attention that come from knowing how utterly important those choices are.

The great English painter JMW Turner, like many painters, was constantly experimenting with new colors and developing his palette. As one expert says, “Pigments found within his water colours include Gamboge, Quercitron Yellow, Vermilion, various iron oxides including Ochres, Umbers and Siennas, Indian Yellow, ‘Green Lake’, Prussian Blue, Indigo, Cobalt Blue, Blue Verditer, Rose Madder, other red lake pigments possibly Carmine, Bone Black, and Mercuric Iodide (genuine scarlet).” I love the names of those colors—because a writer loves words like a painter loves colors. Part of my word choice is intellectual. But a lot of it is from the heart, and from that strange but powerful sense we all have, to whatever degree, of beauty. I don’t mean that all word choices should be “beautiful” in the usual sense, but that all must have the force that comes not only from an exact choice but also from an inspired one.

           

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Tim J. Myers. To learn more visit his website: http://www.timmyersstorysong.com/TM_Website/Homepage.html. He’s also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TimJMyers1 and Twitter @TmyersStorySong.

 

 

 

 

 

 


July BookEnds: Review of Americanah

July 12, 2016

My column can be found on page 8 of the July issue.

 


BookEnds Column: A Review of The Life We Bury

June 3, 2016

Please see page 7 of the June issue of The Diablo Gazette:

http://www.diablogazette.com/category/2016/


Rhino Poaching and a Book Review

May 6, 2016

I am happy to announce that my book review of Circling the Sun by Paula McClain is on page 7 and my article on rhino poaching appears on pages 19 and 20.


An Interview with Mir Tamim Ansary

March 20, 2016

 

 Bloggers Note: Tamim Ansary will be speaking on the topic of  Why Do We Write? at the April 9th 2016 meeting of the Mt. Diablo branch of the California Writers Club.  The meeting will be at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant at 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill.  Cost is $25 members and $30 for guests. Paypal and credit card requires additional fees.  Sign-in is at 11:15 am–12 pm, luncheon at 12–12:45, and program at 1:00 –2:00 pm. Reservations required.  RSVP to Robin at cwcrobin.gigoux@yahoo.com.

  1. In one paragraph, can you give us some highlights from Games Without Rules

Games Without Rules is a narrative history of Afghanistan, the story of a hodgepodge of people trying to coalesce as a country, despite interruptions by global powers who have invaded the country five times in the last two centuries. In the standard narrative, Afghanistan is a static land filled with intractable bearded fanatics who are hard to conquer. Games Without Rules delivers a more nuanced view, the one from the inside looking out. In this version, a country that began to form at just about the same time as the United States, has an epic, tragic, and yes sometimes humorous story of its own, peopled by characters that Dickens would have been proud to invent—a story that has, however, been interrupted every 40 to 50 years by a Great Power invasion, which has—curiously enough—failed in exactly the same way every time.

2. Describe your most memorable moment as an author.

I’ve been writing all my life but in the wake of the events of 9/11, I was suddenly redefined as “an author.” Why? Because I was an articulate English-speaker from Afghanistan and because, on 9/12 I wrote an email setting forth my view of what had just happened. I sent it to about 20 of my friends, who sent it to their friends who sent it to their friends, and it went viral. It was the first viral phenomenon on the Internet. Within two days it had spread around the world and been read by tens of millions of people. I was getting phone calls from strangers in Argentina and South Africa and from people I hadn’t seen in 40 years. Within three days, I was on TV in conversation with Bill Moyer while my agent was trying to reach me by phone to tell me I should forget about the novel she was peddling for me and propose a nonfiction book instead—“anything,” she pleaded. “Just write one page. Anything!” It was the oddest thing that every happened to me—but maybe not the most “memorable”, now that I think about it, because those few months were so crowded and crazy I hardly remember a thing about them.

  1. What authors have most influenced your writing?

I really have no idea what authors have most influenced my writing (in which I dare say I’m pretty much like every author) because when I write I’m not conscious of trying to write like someone else, or even “like myself.” I’m only conscious of straining to net with words that elusive thing out there, that vague shape I see, that meaning that, goddamn it, I can’t seem to quite articulate, that story I can almost taste, almost feel, almost see but which–when I try to turn it solid with words—disperses like a school of minnows. Who’s influenced me? Damned if I know. I can tell you who I’ve liked: Yann Martell for his musings; Romain Rolland and Dostoevsky early on; Celine for Death on the Installment Plan, Michael Connolly ‘cuz he’s so solid, Michael Faber because who else could get away with writing a thousand-page novel entirely in the second person, and because I couldn’t shake The Book of Strange New Things out of my head—and there are others. Vikram Seth, especially Golden Gate. Peter Pan. I give up. There are too many.

  1. Describe your path to publication.

Long. Random. Arbitrary. Along the way it was hard to tell if I was published at each particular point. At the Scribe, a weekly newspaper in Portland, where everyone was a volunteer, no one was paid, and where I could write anything I pleased, no editor between me and my readers—was that publishing? Well, I had readers: five or six thousand people a week read what I wrote. Later, when I was a freelance writer in San Francisco, selling things like a profile of the 14-year-old girl who won the Grand Ole Opry, and the story of a drug bust for Stone Age Quarterly—did those things count? Was I published? The publication I cherished most was my first piece of fiction, “Crimes of Passion.” It was published in Prim International, a Canadian lit-mag. Did anyone read it, though? I don’t know. Later when I was a columnist for Encarta, they told me I was getting 80,000 hits each time I posted a new column. But it was a column. On the Internet. Did that count? Well, whatever. One way or another, I’ve got some fifty books out there, most of them nonfiction for children, all of which, as far as I know, are still in print.

  1. Did you find it difficult to write from a women’s point of view in your book, The Widow’s Husband?

Yes and no. I grew up among women. That’s how it was in Afghanistan. Everyone grows up among women and then the boys go out and become men. I didn’t go out and become an Afghan man, because at a crucial period in my life, my family moved to Laskhkargah, a town heavily populated with Americans, and then I moved to America. But I when I created Khadija, the widow of The Widow’s Husband, I didn’t take Western media reports as my point of departure, I started from my memories of the women in my family, the women in our village, the women I knew and knew about over there when I was growing up. I have to say, I don’t think anyone else writing fiction about Afghanistan has followed in my footsteps.

  1. Which of your books has been the most difficult book to write?

My three best-known books—West of Kabul; East of New York, Destiny Disrupted, and Games Without Rules were not hard to write at all. They just fell out. They were waiting to be written, I showed up and they seized control of my fingers and used me to get themselves into the public. The Widow’s Husband slipped right out too, but then I started editing it, and that took years. Two other books, a memoir called Road Trips and the novel Dreaming in Dari, have also taken years, and the real sign of that is: I’m not done with either of them yet.

  1. What do you think your life would look like if you hadn’t come to America in 1964?

I would have been drafted into the Afghan army just when the Communists seized power and the war started. I would have been in their army, following their orders to fight the Mujahedeen, and I doubt I would have survived. If I had not come to the United States in ’64, the chances are pretty good I’d be dead.

  1. Who is your idol?

To that extent I am a good Muslim. I have no idols.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Mir Tamim Ansary. To learn more, visit his website: www.mirtamimansary.com . Also, take a look at his blog, www.memoirpool.com , a site devoted to the art of telling the real life story.