Category Archives: Travels

QWERTY Has Moved

Yep, it’s true. QWERTY has moved to a brand new location. You can read QWERTY updates as part of my new website: 

Things are in transition right now. The moving truck has left the driveway, but there are boxes piled high and walls that need a coat of paint, not to mention pictures to hang and furniture to rearrange.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how things look, and what can be done to improve the site. Thanks for being part of it!


Family unloading boxes from moving truck (Stock Image 1785R-2584 © Kablonk)Family unloading boxes from moving truck (Stock Image 1785R-2584 © Kablonk)Family unloading boxes from moving truck (Stock Image 1785R-2584 © Kablonk)


Oxford C.S.Lewis Society

a glorious time in a glorious space

a glorious time in a glorious space

My sabatical travels have ranged far and wide. One of my best trips was a short visit to Oxford last February. While I was there, I spent most of my time at the Bodleian, studying Tolkien materials.  

I also presented a paper to the Oxford C. S. Lewis Society. Officers Brendan Wolfe and Judith Tonning offered a warm welcome.  It was really a lovely evening, and I was both enlightened and encouraged by this remarkable group.

I used the occasion to offer my first formal presentation of some new research on Warren Hamilton Lewis. Warnie stands in his brother’s shadow, and his legacy has been marred by his well-known struggles with alcohol. But there is so much more to know about this man: a fine writer, a gracious friend, a key member of the Inklings. I have been studying his letters and look forward to writing more about him.

If you are interested in C. S. Lewis, I urge you to support the work of this Society:

Mystery & Imagination Bookshop, Glendale, California

Catching up….

Andrew Lazo talks; Will Vaus and I listen

Andrew Lazo talks; Will Vaus and Diana Glyer listen

Josh Long (wearing glasses) and other notables crowded into the bookshop.

Josh Long, Mike Glyer, Lions, Tigers, and other notables crowded into the bookshop.







Back in October, Will Vaus and I were featured speakers at a book signing at the Mystery and Imagination Bookshop in Glendale, California. Local signings can be particularly energetic, and this event was no exception.

Josh Long, a Tolkien scholar and teacher at a near-by high school, had invited his class to attend the event, and he sweetened the deal by offering extra credit to his students if they came in Narnia costume. There is nothing quite like talking about C. S. Lewis with Prince Caspian, a White Witch, and a few assorted LIONS in the room!

Other not-so-fictional notables included Stan Mattson of the C. S. Lewis Foundation; Inklings scholar Andrew Lazo; authors Joseph Bentz and Tom Allbaugh; Hugo winner Mike Glyer; and musician Lynn Maudlin. (Lynn took all of the pictures featured in this post).

Will talked about The Professor of Narnia, I talked about The Company They Keep, and then we answered questions from the audience. Our hosts, Malcolm and Christine Bell, were an absolute pleasure to work with. They were well prepared, they communicated freely and frequently, they publicized well, and they provided a bright and spacious venue for a truly great evening. Kudos all around.

Takeaway: Local, special-interest bookshops provide an extremely important service when they connect readers with writers. It’s a great deal of fun, and everybody wins. Ask your local bookshop to provide time and space for authors and fans to connect face to face.


What I Do When I Should Be Writing

I participated in a panel at LOSCON called “What I Do When I Should Be Writing.” The confessions included the usual: blogging, emailing, eating, shopping, channel-flipping, furniture moving. One surprise: a lot of us find that washing the dishes (really) helps when we get stuck on a writing project. Warm soapy water, a pile of clean dishes, and all of a sudden, the phrase we were looking for or the concept that moves the plot along just floats up to the surface and is there for the taking.

One of the most important comments was the simple affirmation that everyone, and that means everyone, has a hard time committing to seat time, to actually getting into the chair and staying there long enough to actually produce text. The best advice? The last thing you do every writing day is to make sure that it is super easy to get started the next day.

One way to do that is to set it up so that you are twitchy to get back at it. Stop in the middle of a sentence. Deliberately typo a few words in the paragraph. Sketch out the scene in a quick draft so that all you are doing first thing next morning is siting down and filling in details.

For me, the key is to leave specific instructions for myself on a sticky note (“START HERE!”). To make sure that the first task of the day is small and easy. And to make sure that all of the materials I need (books, papers, calculator, sharp pencil, whatever) are set out at the writing desk.

When you know what the next task is, sliding into the writing day is like sliding into your comfy slippers. When all your materials are assembled, you are less likely to shatter the flow by rumaging around for some piece that you need.

Another good point that came out of the panel is that fiddling around (aka procrastination) can sometimes be good for a project. Instead of banging your head against the keyboard, it might be more productive to go for a walk, work in the garden, run an errand. The key seems to be to keep it short and also to avoid words: walking is good, tv is not; pulling weeds or taking a shower or organizing a closet is good; reading a magazine is not. Set it up so that the word-making part of your brain is still simmering on the project while your physical attention is turned to something else for a bit.

Just be sure that you are really clear about the difference between incubating an idea and avoiding one.

David Gerrold at Loscon

sierra-and-david-gerrold  I spent the weekend at Loscon, a local science fiction convention of a thousand or so members. One of the highlights was talking with David Gerrold, author of The Martian Child, The Man Who Folded Himself, and Star Trek: The Trouble With Tribbles.

I told David how much I enjoyed Martian Child, a novel that tells the story of how he adopted his son. As is so often the case, the recent movie version does not do justice to David’s book. I told him that I admired his writing because it is so powerful and effective. “I labor over every sentence to get it just right,” he said.

Craftsmanship. Relentless attention to craftsmanship. That’s what makes David Gerrold a great writer.