Leslie Odom Jr. talks ‘flexing the storytelling muscle’ with debut book Failing Up

In Hamilton, as Aaron Burr, Leslie Odom Jr. asked Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Alexander Hamilton, “How do you write like you’re running out of time?”

Odom now has an answer to that question, having written his first book, Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning. The book is part auto-biography and part inspirational text, with Odom relaying stories of life lessons he’s learned from childhood, through his Broadway debut in Rent, and up to his Grammy- and Tony-winning work in Hamilton.

(Excerpt from Maureen Lenker’s interview with Leslie Odom- read more)




Garret: a top-floor or attic room, especially a small dismal one (traditionally inhabited by an artist).

I once read a book on writing which mentioned “finding a garret.” I had not heard this term before, and didn’t quite know exactly how it related to writing. But the book had explained it as an area a writer can go to write perfectly uninterrupted and at peace. It’s a place where you can get mass amounts of writing done without distraction, it’s a place that’s comfortable and a generally nice spot to be at.

(Excerpt from Samantha Fenton in A Writer’s Path- read more)

End of the Year Thoughts

Shuttle Cockpit

Shuttle Cockpit

Joe: Good afternoon Calliope.

Calliope: Good afternoon,  Joe. I wondered when i would hear from you.

Joe: I haven’t forgotten about you. I have just been extremely busy with my writing and keeping up with the changing world, especially in our country.

Calliope: Tell me about your writing.

Joe: I finished writing From Rage and Violence to Peace and Harmony. I have two readers reviewing it for content and my editor/proofreader is waiting in the wings. The book went well but took more research than I thought it would.

Calliope: Congratulations. I will be waiting to see it. Are you just waiting for the editorial reviews and proofing?

Joe: No. I have gone on to start working on my next book. The working title is Violence in America. This is coming along well and about half finished as we speak. I have also been keeping up with articles for Sliding Otter News. I have published a couple excerpts from my violence and peace book as articles.

Calliope: I am glad you are keeping busy. What’s with the shuttle cockpit photo?

Joe: I feel I am on a trip to an alternate universe since the campaigns and recent election. I feel like I have lost my bearings and am struggling to remain upright. I guess the older you get, the harder it is to adapt to change. I keep reminding me that it is only change and not disaster. But it is hard for me to be reassured.

Calliope: Strap yourself in and hang on for the ride!




Carlo Gébler: On not writing

Carlo Gébler: my psychic economy was a mixed one, happy to come up with content of its own accord, and happy to fulfil any commission

At school I found essays difficult: presentation was my problem. As I wrote I’d make mistakes. I was always writing the wrong word, which meant I would have to cross the wrong word out and write a new one above. My mistakes were so frequent my pages were blizzards of corrections. I would also make blots. Lots of them. That was the problem with writing with a fountain pen as children did in those days. They splattered and spluttered no matter how careful you were.

My messy pages upset me. Why couldn’t I produce page after page of clean, fair copy like the other boys and girls amongst whom I sat in classrooms that smelt of chalk dust and wax floor polish? These paragons seemed to have no difficulty covering page after page with their lovely flowing handwriting, often rendered in turquoise or emerald or other exotic colours and always unblemished by blots and emendations. But I couldn’t. It just wasn’t fair.

(Excerpt from Carlo Gabler’s article in Irish Times)

Living the Writer’s Life -Sliding Otter News

Joe's Work Desk

Joe’s Work Desk

He is careful of what he reads, for that is what he will write.
He is careful of what he learns, for that is what he will know.

~Annie Dillard~

Last Saturday night I attended a party as the culmination of the Woodward Library Summer Reading Program. I read a couple of my old favorites, Jack London’s White Fang and Michael Crichton’s Prey. I also read Bob Dylan’s and Woody Guthrie’s accounts of themselves and their lives. I stepped into an Amish romance and science fiction about regenerating body parts.

I also ventured into new waters and stretched myself, delving into new reading adventures. At the same time I was busy formatting my books for ebook distribution, studied Nancy Kress’s book, Dynamic Characters, dusted off an aging manuscript and started a new book collection of columns such as this one.

Writing this down, I suddenly knew where my time went over the past couple weeks. A friend wondered where I got my recent energy. I can’t account for it but am glad it arrived when it did. Immersing myself in reading and writing stirs my creative energy and keeps me moving ahead. A far cry from my first high school writing assignment which I considered a form of torture.

I started writing seriously for my own amusement. Then I wrote as a marketing effort. As I moved into middle age, I started wondering about my experiences and those of people I encountered. I found that writing about adventures (of others and my own) helped me make sense of them and gave me a framework in which to begin understanding the world and its inhabitants, myself included.

Along the way I have spent years following Thoreau’s advice to start each day with a list of things which give me a sense of gratitude and Julia Cameron’s suggestion of writing three pages a day about whatever comes to mind. Both have helped me with my writing, the first is keeping a positive attitude and the second with honoring my creativity.

So now what? Am I going to suggest that everyone become a writer? No. Some people think they could write a book if they only had the time. Others would like to write but never put pen to paper. Still others acknowledge that they could never write anything of substance. I don’t know which if any of these people are right. I do know that you never know if you don’t try.

Even if you don’t aspire to write a great novel, writing might help you gain some perspective on your life and the world around you. On a smaller scale, you might get to know yourself a little better and might learn to pay more attention to what is going on in your life. Why not give it a try?

Life Lab Lessons

  • At night or in the morning, write down what made you feel grateful over the past day.
  • Write someone a letter rather than a text or email.
  • Write a love note to someone you love.
  • When you feel down, write about how you feel.
  • When you feel up, write about that too.