By Catherine Hedge
Last week, Marie and I were reminiscing about writing for Leonard Bishop. We’d work all week to write a great scene, hoping he’d say something like, “That’s perfect! I can’t think of a single thing I’d change!” Getting to hear that from him would be like having the Pope tell you, “You can forget about Purgatory. Go straight to Heaven!”
Mr. Bishop would always have something positive to say about our works. Then he’d follow with pointed advice about what could be changed and why our writing would become more effective if we did so. We’d take notes diligently, all the while thinking, “He’s wrong! It’s much better the way I have it.”
In the following days, I’d hear his gruff voice as I wrote. I tried to ignore it, but by the third day, I’d usually grump out loud, “Dang! Leonard’s right!” Then I’d set about rewriting the scene. Marie did the same thing. So did Donna. He made us better writers and we loved him for it, but it sure wasn’t easy!
Along the way, we amassed notebooks full of Leonard quotes. I used to put stars by my favorites. On his 77th birthday, I gave him a list of seventy-seven of his quotes. He read some of them to the party and exclaimed, “Hey! These are really good!” He was right.
I think these would make terrific bumper stickers for writers…or placards to put above our desks. The only problem is he’ll still be in the background, pushing us to try something new. I still hear him every time I write, “Cathy…take off the girdle! Take some risks.”
Dang, Leonard. You’re right!
(Here are the first eleven. I’ll add more in future blogs!)
- The writer’s mind is a steel room with a bullet ricocheting inside. (2/15/98)
- Climb as high as you can and step one step higher. (2/13/97)
- Take risks or you give the reader the opportunity to skim. (3/24/94)
- The first thing that gets sacrificed in the interest of good writing is the truth. (2/26/98)
- Writing is creating a select assembly of details to create an impression of reality with Mundanity left out. (4/8)
- If you have one trick you can do a thousand ways, you have a thousand tricks. If you have 1,000 tricks you can use one way, then you have one trick. (1/28/98)
- Novels have changed lives because themes become transposed into experiences and have the dynamics of persuasion. (3/24/94)
- Every scene needs to be important while you’re writing it. (5/12/94)
- We are part of a heritage of knowledge. Writing techniques were invented before we were born. (8/8/96)
- Every book that has ever been written was written using certain techniques. We can learn these techniques to become better writers ourselves. (8/8/96)
- Lyrical writing comes when you have reached the border in your conscious abilities. Learn by using up everything you already know and find new combinations. (12/19/96)