Link: The Atlantic’s ‘By Heart’ Series

“By Heart” asks authors share and discuss their all-time favorite passages in literature.

“Reading Lolita in Tehran author Azar Nafisi says the best books are ‘republics of imagination’ erasing national and historic boundaries.” via The Atlantic, By Heart

Follow the link for ‘Writing to Transcend Time and Space,’ Azar Nafisi’s full post on the importance of art.

And be sure to check out the full By Heart series, which includes passages/selections from Gruff Rhys, Jonathan Franzen, Mark Ronson, Amy Tan, Khaled Hosseini, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, and more.

Thinking Outside the Book with Brian Dettmer

Brian Dettmer

Brian Dettmer

Otherwise known as the Book Surgeon, Brian Dettmer carves old books new again, using knives, scalpels and other surgical tools to completely transform them into sculptures.


Brian Dettmer



Brian Dettmer



Brian Dettmer



Brian Dettmer



Brian Dettmer

Dettmer says of his art, “My work is a collaboration with the existing material and its past creators and the completed pieces expose new relationships of the book’s internal elements exactly where they have been since their original conception.” — via

For more info and photos of Dettmer’s art, head to Bored Panda or the artist’s website at

Be sure to also check out this excellent video, in which Dettmer explains his process and approach.

FRIDAY FREE-WRITE: Writing the Unseen…

J.J. Abrams says his unopened mystery box from childhood represents “infinite possibility,” the sense of potential that hangs in balance with the unseen.

Grab your notebook! Trap your characters inside of a mystery box–a car, a freight container on a moving train, a basement, a kleenex box on a desk–any space, at any scale. Describe the setting and tension as accurately as possible without ever finally revealing exactly where they are.

Not feeling it? Revisit a piece of your writing and think about the unseen or off-screen details that haven’t been exploited. Exploit them.

Leo Tolstoy on, well, everything…

Leo Tolstoy’s Theory of Everything, via

Leo Tolstoy's theory of everything

Leo Tolstoy (Credit: Wikimedia)

excerpts from ‘Who, What Am I?’: Tolstoy Struggles to Narrate the Self:


“Beginning in 1850, the time scheme of Tolstoy’s “Journal of Daily Occupations” and the moral accounting of the Franklin journal were incorporated into a single narrative. Each day’s entry was written from the reference point of yesterday’s entry, which ended with a detailed schedule for the next day—under tomorrow’s date. In the evening of the next day, Tolstoy reviewed what he had actually done, comparing his use of time to the plan made the previous day. He also commented on his actions, evaluating his conduct on a general scale of moral values. The entry concluded with a plan of action and a schedule for yet another day. The following entry (from March 1851) is typical for the early to mid-1850s:

24. Arose somewhat late and read, but did not have time to write. Poiret came, I fenced, and did not send him away (sloth and cowardice). Ivanov came, I spoke with him for too long (cowardice). Koloshin (Sergei) came to drink vodka, I did not escort him out (cowardice). At Ozerov’s argued about nothing (habit of arguing) and did not talk about what I should have talked about (cowardice). Did not go to Beklemishev’s (weakness of energy). During gymnastics did not walk the rope (cowardice), and did not do one thing because it hurt (sissiness).—At Gorchakov’s lied (lying). Went to the Novotroitsk tavern (lack of fierté). At home did not study English (insufficient firmness). At the Volkonskys’ was unnatural and distracted, and stayed until one in the morning (distractedness, desire to show off, and weakness of character). 25. [This is a plan for the next day, the 25th, written on the 24th—I.P.] From 10 to 11 yesterday’s diary and to read. From 11 to 12—gymnastics. From 12 to 1—English. Beklemishev and Beyer from 1 to 2. From 2 to 4—on horseback. From 4 to 6—dinner. From 6 to 8—to read. From 8 to 10—to write.—To translate something from a foreign language into Russian to develop memory and style.—To write today with all the impressions and thoughts it gives rise to.—25. Awoke late out of sloth. Wrote my diary and did gymnastics, hurrying. Did not study English out of sloth. With Begichev and with Islavin was vain. At Beklemishev’s was cowardly and lack of fierté. On Tver Boulevardwanted to show off. I did not walk on foot to the Kalymazhnyi Dvor (sissiness). Rode with a desire to show off. For the same reason rode to Ozerov’s.—Did not return to Kalymazhnyi, thoughtlessness. At the Gorchakovs’ dissembled and did not call things by their names, fooling myself. Went to L’vov’s out of insufficient energy and the habit of doing nothing. Sat around at home out of absentmindedness and read Werther inattentively, hurrying. 26 [This is a plan for the next day, the 26th, written on the 25th—I.P.] To get up at 5. Until 10—to write the history of this day. From 10 to 12—fencing and to read. From 12 to 1—English, and if something interferes, then in the evening. From 1 to 3—walking, until 4—gymnastics. From 4 to 6, dinner—to read and write.— (46:55).

An account of the present as much as a plan for the future, this diary combines the prescriptive and the descriptive. In the evening of each day, the young Tolstoy reads the present as a failure to live up to the expectations of the past, and he anticipates a future that will embody his vision of a perfect self. The next day, he again records what went wrong today with yesterday’s tomorrow. Wanting reality to live up to his moral ideal, he forces the past to meet the future.

In his attempt to create an ordered account of time, and thus a moral order, Tolstoy’s greatest difficulty remains capturing the present. Indeed, today makes its first appearance in the diary as tomorrow, embedded in the previous day and usually expressed in infinitive verb forms (“to read,” “to write,” “to translate”). On the evening of today, when Tolstoy writes his diary, today is already the past, told in the past tense. His daily account ends with a vision of another tomorrow. Since it appears under tomorrow’s date, it masquerades as today, but the infinitive forms of the verbs suggest timelessness.

In the diaries, unlike in the “Journal of Daily Occupations,” the present is accorded a place, but it is deprived of even a semblance of autonomy: The present is a space where the past and the future overlap. It appears that the narrative order of the diary simply does not allow one to account for the present. The adolescent Tolstoy’s papers contain the following excerpt, identified by the commentators of Tolstoy’s complete works as a “language exercise”: “Le passé est ce qui fut, le futur est ce qui sera et le présent est ce qui n’est pas.—C’est pour cela que la vie de l’homme ne consiste que dans le futur et le passé et c’est pour la même raison que le bonheur que nous voulons posséder n’est qu’une chimère de même que le présent” (1:217).  (The past is that which was, the future is that which will be, and the present is that which is not. That is why the life of man consists in nothing but the future and the past, and it is for the same reason that the happiness we want to possess is nothing but a chimera, just as the present is.) Whether he knew it or not, the problem that troubled the young Tolstoy, as expressed in this language exercise, was a common one, and it had a long history.”

Read the rest at…

Join Us for An Interactive Discussion with Acclaimed Author Pico Iyer (2/26/15 @ 3pm)

Chapman University and Orange High School Literacies Partnership invite you to an interactive discussion with acclaimed author Pico Iyer!

*photo credit Marisa Vega

Thursday, February 26 @ 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Panther Productions | 633 West Palm Orange, CA 92866

Pico Iyer, is a British born essayist and author of Indian origin. His works travel the globe to see what happens when cultures converge and combine and exploring the idea of a “global soul”.

Pico will discuss what it is to belong, or to feel like we don’t belong ‘here’. The sense of belonging is part of who we are, it comes from inside of us and is also imposed on us. We hear it from our family and friends, the media, school government; it is how we make sense of the world and our place in it. The idea of belonging is never simple and it isn’t stable either- we may have a sense of our identity at a certain age or space, and then not have those same feelings as we get older or move around. What is important is to recognize that these feelings of belonging or not belonging are equally valid and insightful.

This will be an interactive talk about how to engage in these feelings and ideas and turn them into something powerful and useful. We will also touch on films, novels plays and other forms as we engage in this topic.

We would like to invite you to submit any questions you might want to ask Pico anonymously through the link below. These can be questions about identity, writing technique, culture, travel, pop culture, etc. The discussion will be followed by a short reception where you will have opportunity to meet Pico Iyer and the dean of Wilkinson College. We look forward to seeing you soon!



Click here for campus map – please arrive by 3:00 p.m. to be seated in the studio. The talk will be recorded and everyone must be seated at 3:00.

 Pico Iyer’s Ted Talk on “The Art of Stillness”

Virginia Woolf on Keeping a Notebook (via

“The habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments.”

– Virginia Woolf

Portrait of Virginia Woolf by Roger Fry, 1917, via Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of Virginia Woolf by Roger Fry, 1917, via Wikimedia Commons

Maria Popova at has put together a great selection of Virginia Woolf’s thoughts on the creative benefits of keeping a journal. Woolf herself did not begin keeping a journal until 1915 at age 33, but left behind 26 volumes when she died in 1941. Like the notebooks you carry with you during our workshops, Woolf’s diaries provided her a place for collecting ideas, research, and creative processes.

- image//content via

– image//content via


Head over to Popova’s for more!