Eschew Surplusage ~ A View From the Keyboard of Mark Twain

A few of Mark Twain’s rules for writing:

1. A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.

2. The episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help develop it.

3. The personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.

4. The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.

5. When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.

6. When the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.

7. When a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship’s Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a Negro minstrel at the end of it.

8. Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author or the people in the tale.

9. The personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.

10. The author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.

11. The characters in tale be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency.

12. The author should:

Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.

Use the right word, not its second cousin.

Eschew surplusage.

Not omit necessary details.

Avoid slovenliness of form.

Use good grammar.

Employ a simple, straightforward style.

 

→More View From the Keyboard contributions coming soon! Thanks for reading. -PMc.←

Shaking Things Up At Shake Rag Alley

William Burroughs, Franz Kafka, Sylvia Plath, Sylvia Plath, Maxine Hong Kingston, William Faulkner, Kara Walker, William Blake, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat. What do these writers and artists have in common? They all use both writing and drawing in their creative practices. And at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point, WI, August 8 – 11, 2011 writers and artists will join together to explore the possibilities of combining writing and drawing as a way to enhance their own work.

Philip Hartigan and I will be teaching our popular Journal and Sketchbook workshop in the mornings of that week, and Philip will teach Making Artists’ Books in the afternoon. These are separate workshops that can be taken individually or together. From the Shake Rag Alley catalogue:

Journal & Sketchbook and Making Artists’ Books are designed to complement one another so participants may take both. Taken together, these workshops will help you create your own artists’ books and discover and create content for them as well.

Journal & Sketchbook is geared toward writers and artists of all levels. Activities will help you use visual note taking, writing, and expressive mark making to help you record memories, observations, imaginings, stories, and visual narratives. This pairing and interplay of text and image is a time-honored artistic tradition, practiced by writers and artists from Mark Twain to Henri Matisse to Jean-Michel Basquiat, and is useful for all manner of creative expression. ens.

Making Artists’ Books is designed to meet each participant at his/her own skill and experience level. Learn how to make your own unique, one-of-a-kind artist’s books. The course shows you how to: select the right paper for your project; create your pages using printmaking (linocuts, monoprint), drawings, collage, paintings; make a variety of book formats such as accordion books, star books, map-fold books, and simple pamphlets; bind and collate your pages in a variety of stitching methods. You will also consider how to make an artist’s book out of found materials. Many materials will be provided, but participants are encouraged to bring photos, art supplies, and anything with a flat surface that might be used in book arts.

Evening activities during getaway include: Monday night artist presentation and talk by instructor Philip Hartigan; Tuesday evening reading and author conversation by instructor Patricia Ann McNair; Thursday evening closing reception, reading, and exhibition by workshop participants.

Class Schedule: Journal & Sketchbook, M-Th, 9-12; Making Artists’ Books, M-Th 1-4. Participants enrolled in just one workshop will have optional open and guided studio time.

To register for Journal and Sketchbook and/or Creating Artists’ Books, contact Shake Rag Alley Center for Arts & Crafts, 18 Shake Rag Street, Mineral Point, WI 53565; Telephone: (608) 987-3292 :: www.ShakeRagAlley.com :: info@shakeragalley.com

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More on the work we do in these workshops at The Writing Life” blog by Katey Schultz and Philip’s various posts on “Praeterita.” Writers: don’t be afraid; stick figures count. Artists: don’t be afraid; every word counts. Images above are scrambled collages of well-known writers/artists, participant work from past workshops, and Shake Rag Alley, respectively. -PMc←