Principles of Vision & See Earth Die Dec 12


The Principle of Vision
George Henry Lewes

The following is excerpted from “The Principles of Success in Literature,” first appearing in the Fortnightly Review in 1865. Through this series that revisits 19th century authors, BriteLites invites discussion of topics that remain important to WordSmiths today.

i. Value of Insight and Personal Experience

All good Literature rests primarily on insight. All bad Literature rests upon imperfect insight, or upon imitation, which may be defined as seeing at second-hand.

There are men of clear insight who never become authors: some, because no sufficient solicitation from internal or external impulses makes them bend their energies to the task of giving literary expression to their thoughts; and some, because they lack the adequate powers of literary expression. But no man, be his telicity and facility of expression what they may, ever produces good Literature unless he sees for himself, and sees clearly. It is the very claim and purpose of Literature to show others what they failed to see. Unless a man sees this clearly for himself, how can he show it to others?

Literature delivers tidings of the world within and the world without. It tells of the facts which have been witnessed, reproduces the emotions which have been felt. It places before the reader symbols which represent the absent facts, or the relations of these to others facts; and by the vivid presentation of the symbols of emotion kindles the motive sympathy of readers. The art of selecting the fitting symbols and kindling, distinguishes the great writer from the great thinker.

This excerpt contains several items that merit discussion.
• All bad Literature rests upon … seeing at second-hand.
• No man … produces good Literature unless he sees for himself.
• It is the very claim and purpose of Literature to show others what they failed to see

Your thoughts are welcomed.

PG Limerics on this topic invited.


When One Door Closes


The world is round and the place which may seem like the end
may also be only the beginning.
– Ivy Baker Priest

In 2004, I founded a Creative Writing Program at the Allegheny County (mega) Jail which houses 3,500 inmates. After their release, I’ve kept working with students.

Recently, one mentioned the challenges that people like him face in ending addiction and crime-based lifestyles. As we climbed a shady street lined with lush flowers, I couldn’t resist sharing a favorite Joseph Campbell saying – that the challenges we get are the ones we’re ready for, just like the heroes of our myths.

A key difference is that – while Jason and Hercules, Ulysses and Perseus didn’t seem much changed by their adventures – Campbell suggested that, in real life, tough stuff happens to force us from a cramped space to a larger place. Really?

The hero formula is pretty simple. We – the heroes of our own lives – must slay some dragon, free ourselves from some trap and otherwise close the door on an aspect of how we’ve lived so that some new, unexpected, even magnificent part of ourselves can be discovered. Woo!

And it seems that the process never stops … at least not until we leave the ride. Until then, round and around we go. Beginnings and endings, obstacles and openings, one opportunity after another to thrill ourselves.

See “Write For Life,”  Trailer About Sandra’s Writing Program  (6 minutes)

Life & Roller Coasters


Name this Brooklyn-based coaster. Prizes for 1st three correct answers.

Two weeks ago, on June 9, 2012, eighteen people dropped and whirled, rose and swirled all day on this Brooklyn, NY roller coaster with a view of the Atlantic Ocean. They were raising money for charities with $24,000 promised to the one who stayed aboard the longest.

In the late seventies, American Richard Rodriguez set the world record for roller coaster rides. Thirty years later, when his nine-day, twelve-hour record was beaten, Rodriguez tried again. The Guiness Book of Records allowed him to accumulate five minutes off for every full hour ridden to change clothes, shower, have a hot meal and transfer from the Pepsi Max Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach to the Big Dipper for night-time riding. Otherwise, Rodriguez had to eat, drink and sleep on the coaster. Sounds like hell to me.

And yet, when Rodriguez set a new record at midnight, August 6, 2007, he said, “It feels amazing to be the world record holder once again, but I’m not just going to give up now – I want to stay on for as long as possible and make my record a solid one.” He continued for another week, riding a total of 405 hours and 40 minutes, ending on August 13, 2007. Sounds like super-duper hell, but all through the non-stop riding, all through the long, hot days and all through the dark, lonely nights, Rodriguez kept going.

He kept going.

Can you name the wooden roller coaster in this week’s picture?  The 85-year-old coaster towers over a famous boardwalk.  When it first opened on June 26, 1927, a ride cost twenty-five cents.  Last year, a ride was $8.    The first three correct answers will win great prizes.  Post answers in the Comments Section (or write

Advice from Edgar Allen Poe


Did you ever wonder how Edgar Allen Poe made his endings work so effectively. Here he explains in this excerpt from an essay that first appearied in Graham’s Magazine.

Great WordSmith Gifts will be awarded to 3 Commentors

The Philosophy of Composition

Edgar Allen Poe

Nothing is more clear than that every plot, worth the name, must be elaborated to its denouement before anything be attempted with the pen. It is only with the denouement constantly in view that we can give a plot its indispensable air of consequence, or causation, by making the incidents, and especially the tone at all pints, tend to the development of the intention.

There is a radical error, I think, in the usual mode of constructing a story. Either history affords a thesis – or one is suggested by an incident of the day – or, at best the author sets himself to work in the combination of striking events to form merely the basis of his narrative – designing, generally, to fill in with description, dialogue, or autorial comment, whatever crevices of fact, or action, may, from page to page, render themselves apparent.

I prefer commencing with the consideration of an effect. Keeping originality always in view – for he is false to himself who ventures to dispense with so obvious and so easily attainable a source of interest – I say to myself, in the first place, “Of the innumerable effects, or impressions, of which the heart, the intellect, or (more generally) the soul is susceptible, what one shall I, on the present occasion select?”

Having chosen a novel, first, and secondly a vivid effect, I consider whether it can be best wrought by incident or tone – whether by ordinary incidents and peculiar tone, or the converse, or by peculiarity both of incident and tone – aftward looking about me (or rather within) for such combinations of event, or tone, as shall best aid me in the construction of the effect.

Great WordSmith Gifts will be awarded to 3 Commentors
Random Drawing – Winners Announced Next Week

Going Round – Part 1


Kennywood Amusement Park

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Albert Einstein