Archive for the ‘pleskoisms’ Category

First-class Pleskoisms

Posted: October 25, 2013 by jamieschaffner in pleskoisms

From Virgpaz

A few Pleskoisms straight from my first-class-with-Les-notebook:
About writing scene by scene in a novel: “If you like the scene, it really happened.”
And about building a character bit by bit: “Like a dark room, fixate on a shape coming to life. Then see what it really looks like.”
“Like a cobbler, fix as you go.”
“Where there’s speaking there’s also thinking.”
Thinking about the first person narrator: “Of course he watched this! There’s no other watcher, no other thinker, no other looker, no other do-er.”
“Characters don’t realize they’re in novels.”
Upon being asked what a cliché really was….”Anything you’ve read before in exactly the same words, shortcuts for saying real things.”


“Find a better word…”

Posted: October 21, 2013 by Janet Fitch in pleskoisms

From Nathalie Kramer

The first time Les commented on my ten pages was the first time I met him at his writer’s group in Venice.
Les said: “This has energy!” He was more excited than anyone in the group about my pages. There were certain things in the writing and formatting that needed help, and if I were to read these pages now, I would think: This writer must have never gone to school except High School and clearly her first language is NOT English.
Les, of course saw beyond that.
Les encouraged my heart to speak on the page.
He said that it might actually be a gift to not have had college education and have French as a first language.
Les encouraged my bravery, my need to learn and be a better writer.
Every time I sit down to write, I hear Les: ” Find a better word.” “Find a better way to say this.” Except sometimes, cuz it’s “swell.” or every once in a great while, “GREAT!”

Wind ’em up, let ’em go

Posted: October 15, 2013 by Janet Fitch in pleskoisms

From Jamie Schaffner

How to write a scene: Place your characters in a room, wind them up like those little kid toys, and let ‘em go.



Posted: October 11, 2013 by Janet Fitch in pleskoisms

From Sovann Somreth

Weird? I’ll take weirdness any day. Normal people scare me.

-Les Plesko

The emotional content of the novel…

Posted: October 10, 2013 by Janet Fitch in pleskoisms

From Janet Clare:

“The emotional content of the novel is more important than the forward movement of the story. In fact, it is the story.” Les Plesko

Writing will infect your life until it is your life

Posted: October 6, 2013 by AStrauss in pleskoisms
By Kanani Fong

I’d been traveling in India, where all good ideas either die or flourish. I decided I wanted to be a writer. When I got back to L.A. a huge catalog from UCLA Extension landed in my mailbox. I signed up for Novel 1 because I figured you have to start at “one.” Besides, it was the only class that fit into my schedule, since I had to come from 40 miles away. I wish I could claim to have known who he was, but I didn’t. It was sheer luck.

While waiting for class to begin, the students started hauling out chapters of their works in progress. One lady had 475 pages, another had 500. They talked about the other workshops they’d taken. I was nervous because this was my first writing class. The talk stopped when he came into the room wearing a lime green linen suit. The wild hair, the loud lime green, his eye that seemed to be looking at 2nd base were showstoppers. I remember thinking “This must be how West L.A. people dress.” Over the course of the summer, the lime green suit come back in pieces. Sometimes he’d wear the the pants and a t-shirt with holes, or the jacket would appear with a pair of shorts. Everything about Les was eccentric, even his old rootbeer-colored car that shuddered when he drove it. But his eccentricities would fade when he shared his enthusiasm about writing, along with samples by Larry Levis, David Francis, Anne Carson, Hemingway and more. He was an artist. Few had his unerring sensibilities for beauty, simplicity, and how to declutter a page.

Les once wrote to his students: “Writing will infect your life until it is your life, and there will be no turning back. You will learn what bravery is. You will be utterly and irrevocably transformed. You will wonder, “How did I get here?” But you’ll know how. Then you’ll get back to work.”

My first class with Les was in 2001. The last class was in 2007. My last sighting of the lime green jacket was sometime in 2003. I saw him the last time in 2012, and told him that I’ve stuck with it and told him about my work with projects that have to do with war. He was excited, and later, sent me his book. I didn’t get to catch up with him, but it’s less important than knowing this: His job with me was complete. I have transformed. And as Les would say, “Swell.”

A Luminous Mind

Posted: October 1, 2013 by AStrauss in pleskoisms
Les, to know you was to live beside a luminous mind. Your memory and words will forever inspire us to channel a true love for writing. I hope you’re passing into a higher a state of tranquility and bliss. Los Angeles is grateful and fortunate to have had you. Thank you for changing lives by being the unity between writing, art and life.

Libby Lee G

But Never Mind a Fish Mind

Posted: September 30, 2013 by AStrauss in pleskoisms
“But never mind a fish mind.”

– Les Plesko

There has never been another person with whom I’ve had a more profound connection. His very presence on this earth was a blessing and balm to all those involved with him. His unique, sagacious energy that longed-for comfort and strength. He takes with him a substantial part of my heart. I’m plagued and harrowed by a tremendous sense of loss and at the same time I feel calm knowing how I’ll see him every day of my life in the written word. Knowing how inspired I’ve become to carry on his linguistic legacy throughout my years. Les has risen high above corporal constraint and will now permeate my world with his very rare brand of immortality.
May you have eternal peace, dear friend.

Thank you.

Jesse S. Darnay

The Void

Posted: September 29, 2013 by AStrauss in pleskoisms
I’ve been trying to puzzle it out, to think about why I have such a giant gaping sadness about Les. He’s dead and gone. Okay. No not okay of course, never okay. But really, why does the void feel so incredibly huge and inescapable? He wasn’t my best friend or my confidant. He wasn’t the person I would call in the middle night, (which for some reason is supposed to be the epitome of true friendship.) I wouldn’t have called him if I was in jail or stuck in my car in a flood, although he’d laugh later at the story. He wasn’t a family member. Or the love of my life, not someone I yearned for. No, he played a more important role than any of those, significant though they may be. It was Les who spoke to my desire, his desire, our common in common desire to write, to get it down on the page as right and true as possible because it was and is simply the finest kind of work imaginable.
–Janet Clare


Posted: September 29, 2013 by AStrauss in pleskoisms
It started with a simple invitation from Les that led to the rebirth of my voice as a fiction writer. He worked one-on-one with me, respecting my elementary teacher working life/schedule/etc. My last email from him came Sunday, September 15,2013, but I’m sharing this comment from last January because it’s all about ACTION and I need to take action again. Action without Les has felt scary, but he would tell me to “bring it on!”

“The beginning is the best part, and when he first meets Clara. When the action starts to unfold, the writing gets real rough. Like I said, it’s hard to do action. You want enough details so we can see what’s happening, but not so much that the details or their arrangement cause confusion. You want to block the scenes [as if on a stage] so we know the general layout. It’s like checking for continuity in a movie. If you have Clara by the fire, then she can’t also be at the table unless the table is close enough to the fire. If the scene is from Henry’s POV, and he hasn’t been told Tom’s name, then you can’t use Tom’s name. Henry is still working really well as a character! We can discuss if you like, phone or in person or back and forth e-mail.”

Now there isn’t a way to discuss on phone or in person. The pain of this last line reverberates. The last time I saw Les we took a short walk together. How I wish I could go back to that walk and make it go on and on. I’ve still got so much to learn. It’s time to focus on the fact that I’m lucky (as many of us are) to have the bundle of memories, treasured check marks, penciled comments, and archived Les emails. Time to shift focus on to what I’ve got instead of what’s been lost. A mentor is someone who recognizes you, sees your potential with absolute clarity, and somehow prompts you to shed fear and become even more you than ever before. That was Les for me and for so many others. Thank you to those who started this Pleskoism site- it’s a “swell” idea. LES was generosity personified. He was still giving of himself up until the day before he left us. It feels good to think of being generous with one another, sharing what Les we have!

After our memorial for Les the wind picked up with a strange ferocity. I stood at the beach, sand hitting the back of my bare legs and thought of how Les said there are two types of stories, it’s either: “someone goes on a trip or somebody comes to town.” Now Les is on the trip and we’re still in town.