First, a recognition of the holiday season, and whether you celebrate or denigrate these observances, we at Orca hope you experience joy, camaraderie, or at least contentment during the coming weeks.
In my literary travels, I often come across bits of wisdom from writers and thinkers that resonate with me. I’ve been collecting these words for several years now, and I’d like to pass along some of the most profound. Some are about writing, and some are just about life. Separately they may occasionally sound contradictory, but each contains a little bit of truth, and together they help make some sense of an apparently senseless world.
“We live in a printing age,” which was no good thing, for “every rednosed rimester is an author, every drunken mans dreame is a booke.” Martine Mar-Sixtus (pseudonym), circa 1620
Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us. – Calvin (as written by Bill Watterson, creator of the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes)
Writers of fiction look for the bits that distort, and color, and qualify—that raise all sorts of questions where there were once answers. – Sabina Murray
I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing, but since I started so late I owe it to myself to continue, and when the words begin to falter and I must be helped up stairways and I can no longer tell a bluebird from a paperclip, I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I’m gone) how I’ve come through the murder and the mess and the moil, to at least a generous way to die. To not to have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself. – Charles Bukowski
Truth must dazzle gradually / Or every man be blind – Emily Dickinson
You will always be tempted to temper your vision by the reactions of the world around you, which celebrates mediocrity. As the years go by, it will become more and more difficult, this struggle to stick to your art, to your excellence. You will be set upon by mediocre people. Mediocre people support mediocre people, and they support mediocre objects. – Gordon Lish
The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less. – Annie Dillard
The limits of my language mean the limits of my world. – Ludwig Wittgenstein
Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself. – also Wittgenstein
A belief is like a guillotine, just as heavy, just as light. – Franz Kafka
It’s not that you should write what you know, you should write what you don’t know about what you know. – Grace Paley
In the United States, you look at the guy that lives in the mansion on the hill, and you think, “You know, one day, if I work really hard, I could live in that mansion.” In Ireland, people look up at the guy in the mansion on the hill and go, “One day, I’m going to get that bastard.” – Bono
If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special. – Jim Valvano
Reading these quotes can’t help but inspire one to try a hand at profundity. Although you didn’t ask, here are a few of mine:
Writing is the only profession that disproves the saying: “Do what you love and the money will follow.”
Good fiction lets readers experience the risks they would never dare take in their real lives.
The devil doesn’t know he’s the devil.
When the tradition becomes more important than its meaning, it’s time to abandon it.
It’s all in the search terms.
Never give up. No one who was ever successful gave up. Ever. Among journals and agents and editors, I’ve received thousands of rejections, brush offs and no responses. Don’t let the assholes and jerks and the cronyism of the writing business get to you. Just keep writing, because it’s not really about getting published (although that’s always nice), it’s about writing great fiction.
For a long time I thought that if I had to sum up the goal of human experience in one term I would have said, “self-interest.” But as I age I have learned the correct term is, “forgiveness,” and I am working on that.
– Joe Ponepinto
And finally this month, Orca is proud to announce our nominations for literary awards:
- Daughter of Cups, Kristin Dunnion, issue 1
- One Man Away, Siamak Vossoughi, issue 1
- The Broken Logic of the Universe, Will Cordeiro, issue 1
- Inside the Zone, Catherine Browder, issue 1
- Bridge of the Hallelujahs, Sean Marciniak, issue 2
Best Small Fictions
- Scientifically Mapping a Missed Attraction, Teffy Wrightson, issue 1
- Robin and the Pronoun They, Amanda Yskamp, issue 1
- The Raspberry Man, Melissa Juchniewicz, issue 1
- A Season’s End, Adam Stemple, issue 2
PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers
- Away Game in Monaco, Jacob van Berkum, issue 2