Thursday, October 20, 2011


I'm sure there will be rapturous odes to the writing gods everywhere for National Writing Day. By way of contrast, I give you "how it really is" from one of my favorite writers, Lloyd Alexander, in his Horn Book essay, "The Flat-Heeled Muse."

On another occasion, I had planned to include a mysterious and menacing portent in the shape of a dark cloud. The Muse, an early riser, prodded me awake sometime well before dawn. 
"I've been meaning to speak with you about that cloud," she said. "You like it, don't you? You think it's dramatic. But I was wondering if this had occurred to you: you only want a few of your people to see the cloud, is that not correct? Yet you have already established a number of other characters in the vicinity who will see it, too. An event like that? They'll do nothing but talk about it for most of the story.  
Or," she purred, as she always does before she pounces, "did you have something like closed-circuit television in mind?" 
She clumped off in her sensible brogans while I flung myself from bed and ripped up all my work of the night before. The cloud was cut out.

The entire article was published as “The Flat-Heeled Muse, Horn Book Magazine, April 1965. I wish, wish, wish it was still clumping around online somewhere.  A bit more of it is here, at least.

Not a sensible brogue. 


  1. "you only want a few of your people to see the cloud" Perhaps I'm taking this line out of context but it spoke to me....The cloud can be so many cloud is the deep, dark side in which thankfully I haven't been to in quite a while. We all have one, whether it be depression, bad thinking, or bad memories.

    Personally I like to hear both sides of someone's story.

    You're blog has inspired me to write more...thank you!

  2. What a great excerpt, thank you: I shall keep my eyes open for the whole of the essay.

    I have finally decided to listen to that annoying muse in her sensible shoes: she has been telling me for some time that a scene I particularly like has no place in my novel. Sigh. More ripping up. Writing sucks.

  3. Ahahahah! Sensible brogues - well, I have a pair, and I shall think of their plain so-ugly-their-cuteness stomping all over my prose now.


    It's better than her mincing about on heels. Then I'd be offended...


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