Condor Book Tours presents The Irish Soldiers of Mexico by Michael Hogan: Day One “On Writing”

On Writing: An Author Guest Post Series

Today we kick off our series “On Writing” with a guest post from award-winning author Michael Hogan.

This guest post also coincides with the first day of Condor Book Tours‘ The Irish Soldiers of Mexico by Michael Hogan virtual book tour.  We hope you’ll follow along with the virtual book tour to learn more about Michael Hogan and his book “The Irish Soldiers of Mexico” a history of the San Patricios, a predominantly Irish battalion that fought with Mexico against the US Invasion of the US-Mexico War.

Michael Hogan
On Writing
It comes from doing and doing.—Charles Bukowski.
It may well be that genius consists in something ordinary people
never guess at—obstinate persistence.
—StendhalFew readers would guess that a street poet like Bukowski would have much in common with a classic author such as Stendhal but they would be mistaken. Both were widely read, both were persistent, both had highly disciplined writing habits, both persisted even when their talent was not recognized, both loved classical music, and both were widely appreciated in Germany even though neither lived there (Bukowski lived in L.A. and Stendhal in Paris). But it is the wide reading, the persistence and the disciplined writing habits that I would like to talk about today.

READING
 Aldous Huxley once wrote that there is “no great writing without great reading.” Most successful writers tend to agree. Stephen King, for example, an author appealing to a middle brow audience nevertheless has many allusions to history, contemporary literature, poetry and even Shakespeare in his work. He is someone who reads widely and enthusiastically.  A love of language permeates his work. Successful poets such as W.S. Merwin, the Poet Laureate of the United States read the classics. Merwin also reads poetry in French and Spanish, as well as his American contemporaries just to “see what they’re up to.” He also reads biographies, histories, and science. Sometimes we get so involved with our own work and then the marketing of it that we forget this important factor. We need to re-charge the mind, we need to fill up the vocabulary basin, and widen our vision through the eyes of others. We need to read a little bit each day and then more widely on weekends and vacations.
PERSISTENCE 
I first began writing short essays in my journals as well as poetry. My first publications were in small literary magazines and campus publications. I have since gone on to publish 18 full length books in my lifetime, and my poetry, stories and articles have appeared in hundreds of magazines. My work has been translated into six languages. But I have written perhaps 3,000 poems over the past thirty years, over 500 articles and stories, and 36 full length manuscripts. So only about 15% of my writing has been published. That means that 85% of the work I sent out came back with rejection slips (or I received a notice of rejection by email). My conversations with other widely published writers suggest that 10%-15% of submitted work being published is about average. So, it is important to believe in yourself as a writer; to feel that you have something to say and to have the faith that sooner or later if you persist, an audience for your work will be found. In the meantime, you keep sharpening your skills, keep reading, and keep open to a wide range of interests.
HABIT OF WRITING
And of course, keep writing. What I have found is that only a small part of the time do I feel inspired, or fired up with a genuine desire to communicate something. Many days I just show up at my desk and work away at a project with each word  being drawn out with the same pain and difficultly as a reluctant tooth at the dentist’s office. However, even on those dull days I am learning discipline;  I am practicing my craft, and I will be ready with the words and the style when the inspiration comes as it always does sooner or later. I should also note that for most of my writing career I also worked as a teacher. So that meant correcting papers long into the night. Most of my “real” writing took place on weekends, Christmas vacation, spring break, and in the early morning.The best advice I ever had from a fellow writer was from the poet, William Stafford, and I will share that now. When I told him that sometimes I found it difficult to make time to write, that I was locked in by the demands of family and work, he said, “Get up when the house is quiet, before the day actually begins and do your work then. Most places you can still be free if you wake up before other people.”
So, in the early morning hours of each school day I would get up early, do a short meditation and then sketch out a few paragraphs in my journal, or a draft or a poem, or an idea for a story. This was my real freedom from the daily work or teaching and the other demands of the day as a parent. And, day by day, year by year, those pages added up to books. Now I have the time to work on my writing full time, thanks to William Stafford. “Most places you can still be free if you wake up before other people. “ How true, in so many ways.Michael Hogan
Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
*********
Learn more about Michael Hogan by visiting his website, facebook & The Irish Soldiers of Mexico Facebook page.
Learn more about Condor Book Tours by visiting our website & facebook page.
Condor Book Tours’ The Irish Soldiers of Mexico Book Tour Schedule:
Book Tour Schedule
Sunday August 21 5pm Eastern/2pm Pacific Author Livechat. View the instant replay at Condor’s Author Chat Salon!
Mon Aug 22 Musings (Author Guest Post)
Tues Aug 23 Latino Book Examiner (Author Q&A)
Wed Aug 24 Dulce Bread & Book Shop (Review)
Thurs Aug 25 Juan of Words ( Review)
Fri Aug 26 New Latina (Author Q&A)
Mon Aug 29 Vida de Oro (Author interview)
Tues Aug 30 La Bloga (Author Guest Post)
Wed Aug 31 Franky Benitez (Review)
Thurs Sep 1 Latina Book Club (Review)
Fri Sep 2 Chica Writer (Review)
Purchase your copy of The Irish Soldiers of Mexico from Condor’s BookStore & 100% commissions earned will be donated to the Isabel Allende Foundation.

22 thoughts on “Condor Book Tours presents The Irish Soldiers of Mexico by Michael Hogan: Day One “On Writing”

  1. Michael Hogan’s three-point commentary is on target. There is always time to write. The key is having the desire. Understanding why one writes expands that further. One might love to tell stories having little or no meaningful message, merely wishing to entertain. Or one might have a meaningful message they wish to convey through an entertaining story. The latter tales are the ones that truly count. Michael’s books fit into the meaningful message category. And what makes them so rich, the documentation. He writes about what he knows.

  2. Hi Waid, thanks for stopping by today. I have to agree with you that Hogan’s three points are right on target. I also agree with your statement “The Key is having the desire.” and I would add that although many of us writers have the desire, we lack the discipline which comes about only thru practicing what Hogan calls “Practice of Writing”.

  3. These are definitely the prime factors in being an accomplished and productive writer—and also in being a published writer. A number of editors have observed—myself included—that persistence in submitting is probably the main factor in the difference between men’s and women’s publication rates.

  4. Thanks, Waid, for the comment and thanks to Nilki as well. I might add that Waid’s police novels and his rich experience as a police detective for LAPD make interesting reading. I am looking forward to his foray into historical fiction.

  5. Well, only my debut novel is out, and that was after a faux pas wherein a draft with a temporary cover got online. To avoid reviewing the wrong title, check out the Kindle version.

    My next novel, Shades of Blue, will be out in the near future. Check out authorcloud.com.

  6. I think this is great advice for a writer or any creative soul

    PERSISTENCE
    I first began writing short essays in my journals as well as poetry. My first publications were in small literary magazines and campus publications. I have since gone on to publish 18 full length books in my lifetime, and my poetry, stories and articles have appeared in hundreds of magazines. My work has been translated into six languages. But I have written perhaps 3,000 poems over the past thirty years, over 500 articles and stories, and 36 full length manuscripts. So only about 15% of my writing has been published. That means that 85% of the work I sent out came back with rejection slips (or I received a notice of rejection by email). My conversations with other widely published writers suggest that 10%-15% of submitted work being published is about average. So, it is important to believe in yourself as a writer; to feel that you have something to say and to have the faith that sooner or later if you persist, an audience for your work will be found. In the meantime, you keep sharpening your skills, keep reading, and keep open to a wide range of interests.

  7. Thanks, Shaun.

    Silvio: I read the poetry of William Stafford often, as well as that of W.S. Merwin. In non-fiction I read Noam Chomsky but also Annie Dillard for style. In fiction I read widely (eight novels a month) but return often to the stories of Alice Monro, John Updike, and the novels of Hemingway and Cormac McCarthy. I have also re-read all the O’Brien seafaring novels and the Bernard Cornwell “Sharpe” novels.

    And F.J. Bergman. Thanks for the comment about persistence. I had not known that.

  8. Thanks to you Michael Hogan for giving me something worthwhile to read and to all of you writers that contribute to my
    net worth.

  9. Michael, I have a question I love to ask successful poets, because it’s something that for me, as a poet, is very intriguing:

    What makes poetry good (in your opinion)?

    What does a poem have to have, or do? What blows it in a poem for you? I realize this could be an entire guest post!

  10. Wow, that is a tough question. I guess for me, it has to capture a moment in time, while at the same time moving me. It is what Reg Saner, a Colorado poet, calls the M & M connection. Moment and Movement. Something simple like the famously short poem “Jenny Kissed Me” can do this for me. But so can T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. The other part of movement that I look for is that the poem is much mrore than the sum of its parts. Like Frost’s “Birches.” Yes, it is about birch trees and boys climbing them, but it is also about girls drying their hair, crystal shells, the suggestion that Heaven is not something after life, “Earth’s the right place for love/I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.”
    I like to feel when I read a poem that I have known or experienced something like this before but not quite in the same way. I also like it when there is some ambiguity, where something still remains just beyond my exact understanding but is clear to me emotionally.

  11. Michael,

    Today you’re among writing disciples, but I know that in Latin America you have the well-earned reputation of being the premier writing teacher of American schools. That said, what are the skills you tried to sharpen when teaching neophytes?

    Silvio

  12. For those who woudl like to read (and hear) some of my poems, you are welcome to go to my home page. There is a FREE audio section with a selection of my most popular anthologized poems. Sam Hamill, a fine editor, poet and critic and the founder of Poets Against the War is writing the introduction for my “Selected Poems 1975-2012” which should be out in January. This is a good preview.
    http://www.drmichaelhogan.com

  13. Great question. The great Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario once wrote that everything Jesus said could be summed up in two words: “Pay attention.” You can’t love your neighbor unless you pay attention to him or her, you can’t honor your parents unless you pay attention to them. I tell my students that the most important thing is to observe. I give them journal writing topic like this: “Write about your room when you are in a good mood. What is it like? How are the colors? Describe the light, etc. Then later, write about the same room when you are depressed. In each case, focus on the room and the specifics.” William Carlos Williams said, “No ideas but in things.” I try to teach my students that close observation reveals wonders but they have to learn the names of things, they have to learn terms, use dictionaries. learn to be precise. Not tree, but pine, maple, oak. Not flower, but marigold, frangipani, hibiscus.

    • Another great answer, Michael. Thank you so much for your generosity! I’m going to add that writing prompt to my routine!

      Here’s another question for you:

      Do you get in your character’s heads and see the world through their eyes to write your dialog, narration etc? If so, how do you “get” there? and What do you do when you’re stuck and that character won’t let you in?

  14. Yes, of course. Usually I have a complete inventory of the character, what he likes, what he eats, reads, his history, the animals he’s owned, his childhood, his parents, and one or two memorable incidents from his past life. If I have trouble getting into his head on a given day, I usually revert to the his back story. I have him remember a scene from his past and how it went wrong or right, how he acted then, and how this time in this situation he will act differently or similarly. If that doesn’t work, I go back and re-read what I’ve written about the character so far and see if I can find a clue there.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by today, Mike. Your comments regarding the craft of writing are really enlightening! I want to remind everyone that The Irish Soldiers of Mexico book tour continues every week day thru September 2–please make sure you stop by & learn a bit more about the book & author at each stop. And thanks to all the readers who stopped by today & shared your thoughts!

  15. Thanks, Nilki, and everybody who joined in. And thanks for all of you who stopped by Amazon today and ordered copies of my book. I noted the sales figures rising especially on Kindle!

    IRISH SOLDIERS OF MEXICO
    #5 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > History > Europe > Ireland
    #9 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > History > Americas > Mexico

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