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From du Maurier & Hitchcock to grudge-holding crows


Angry birds — and especially smart, angry birds — aren’t just the subject of my latest NYT Mag mini-column. Because my mom collected and bred parrots, they’re something I’ve spent far too much time pondering.
Did you know that crows develop grudges against individual people that they impart to their flocks? Or that African Greys are capable of labeling and counting objects and grasping the concept of zero? Or that birdsong appears to be in some sense grammatical? Often parrots use their powers for good, and not evil, of course. As far as we know.
Daphne du Maurier (above) said the idea for her avian-apocalypse novella, “The Birds,” came to her after she saw a farmer ploughing a field while seagulls dived above him, and she imagined the birds “becoming hostile and attacking.” Evidently she disapproved of Hitchcock’s also-harrowing, more famous adaptation.
Unfortunately, this BBC interview doesn’t seem to be viewable in the States these days. In it she talks about her life and work for almost 50 minutes. The clip opens at her typewriter, “the standard ‘the author at work’ establishing shot except for du Maurier’s super-strong finger-punching technique on the keys.”

"The writer probably knows what he meant when he wrote a book, but he should immediately forget what he meant when he's written it."
William Golding

Random picks

  • In fact, the ability to write a solid the essay is often what gets you most of your mark for any particular course unless of course it's a shop based course.
  • Catfish Creek is a national undergraduate literary journal from Loras College intended as a showcase for undergraduate writers both nationally and internationally. Catfish Creek is currently accepting submissions of fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction. Any student currently registered in an undergraduate program is eligible to submit. The reading period for Catfish Creek is Septermber 1 -
  • Fiction writing workshops come in many shapes and forms. Workshops may be informal gatherings for those interested in ongoing meetings. They may be leaderless, have a light-handed facilitator or organizer, or a more experienced leader. Workshops may last a single day, weekend, or week. They may go on for a summer embedded in the woods as if at a retreat. They can be found online, with many exchanges of e-mail scurrying back and forth amongst the participants. Or they may be more structured in the form of an MFA or MA program at a college or university offering a creative writing program...
  • To be concise is to know relevance and precision - it is not about the length or tone and depends on the publishing format as well.
  • I mentioned earlier that the members of my MiG Writers critique group have all posted their work goals for the coming year: here's the post. Thanks to Christy Farley (whose YA novel GILDED debuts this November) for putting this post together! One of the reasons I'm so looking forward to the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC later this month is because it'll be the first time that all the members of MiG Writers will be meeting in person! You can find out more about us on our blog: http://migwriters.blogspot.com.

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Fast fact about writing

In some languages, as in English and French, the modern freezing of spelling has removed the writing more and more from pronunciation and has resulted in the need to teach spelling and the growth of fallacies like the "silent" letter (a letter is really either the symbol of a sound or it is unnecessary).