What’s the best writing advice you ever received?

I was in a graduate fiction workshop at Virginia Commonwealth University and one of my pieces was up, and it hadn’t gone well. I was rope-a-doping my way through the post-mortem, resisting all suggestions to improve upon the clever perfection of my workshop gem, when some member of the workshop—I’m not sure who—said, “Get closer.”

That’s it.

And damn, if the bastard wasn’t right, and I could scarcely look at a single scene or sentence in the story without wanting to revise it, to strip away the cleverness and get closer to the sense, to the characters, to the heart of the matter, to whatever it was had me writing the story in the first place. Over and over again ever since, revising some new clever bit of boredom I’ve contrived, it’s the advice that keeps on giving: Get closer. Try it. Might work for you.

Free Art

Isn’t that nice? It seems a local artist has been giving his art away in public places, and of course this has the city upset. They claim it’s dangerous, that it might confuse motorists. Let’s step back and view the context:

Confused? I didn’t find it so terribly hard to interpret this, but I’m not talking on a cellphone.

Some argue this is defacing the public landscape, but I let you be the judge. Is the piece below defacing the public space?

Or is it an improvement on the public sculpture it graces?

I applaud the artist on his work and generosity and hope the city keeps its grubby mitts off of free art in the future.