That writer’s journal thing? Yeah… I’m still doing that. The latest installment: So, February Was Pretty Brilliant … has been posted. It’s true. February was pretty brilliant. And March ain’t too shabby so far.
“To defend what you’ve written is a sign that you are alive.” ~ William Zinsser
Today, I invite all hard laboring writers to defend something you’ve written. No matter if it’s old or new, no matter if it has been published or hides out in the bottom drawer of your desk. Tell us about it. Tell us why you wrote it. Inspire us with your dedication to this character, this plot, this form, that demanded you be the one to bring it into the world.
How is your project progressing?
Have you decided to go with dark action and suspense, a psychological thriller? Or a poetic peek into a single afternoon of dark thoughts?
Feel free to ask writerly questions, to share a tidbit of your writing, or some insight that you’ve discovered during this recent undertaking. Meanwhile, here are some fun short fiction facts:
The Grey is based on a short story originally titled “Ghost Walker”, by Ian MacKenzie Jeffries.
The New Daughter, was originally written in short story form by John Connolly.
Hello Brigit’s Flame [waves]
I have a special post for you today! Saturday I attended the Wizard World Comic Convention and sat in on a storyteller’s workshop with Michael Golden.
It was only a forty-five-minute seminar, but the venue was intimate, maybe thirty people in all. Mr. Golden was patient with the enquiring minds and seemed to give deliberate and sincere answers. There were aspects of his advice that I disagree with, but I definitely took away some valuable tips I intend to try as I continue to work towards completing my novel.
Michael Golden kicked things off with the advice to keep it simple. As creative people, we are inclined to elaborate, and to describe and craft complex worlds of wonder and grace (my words). But if you want to be a commercial success you need to keep it simple because the consumers of your product don’t want…
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Why are we so fascinated by human DARKNESS?
When the bad guy’s crooked philosophy suddenly seems made of common sense. When good characters step over that invisible line. When civilized societies go stark raving mad at the prospect of losing the simplest creature comfort.
Why do we revel in the opportunities to observe such behavior? Analyze it? Read it? Write it?
Tell me what you think. I’m listening.
So, there’s a contest underway. Your entries are due by 11:45 PM (EDT) Sunday 10/11. Get more details here .
How do you fair with those early words? Do you find introducing your story to the audience the easiest part of the process or the part where you’d stick a hot poker in your eye if promised such an act would make the creative juices flow? Join the discussion!
Some great opening lines chosen at random:
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. —Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850)
The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. —William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)
It was the day my grandmother exploded. —Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road (1992)
It was a pleasure to burn. —Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. —L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between (1953)
These writers hooked their audience with those first lines, so much so that years later these first lines are listed among the greatest of their kind, to which emerging writers might aspire. What do you think makes these combinations of words enthrall a reader?
Authors have lamented publicly for…
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The decision to write about writing publicly was made years ago. I opened generationKathy with the intention of regularly taking the opportunity to introduce myself as a writer.
I get all warm and fuzzy over the prospect of introducing myself to new acquaintances as a writer. Truthfully, though, I’ve yet to suggest to any of the everyday real life sort of new acquaintances, hey y’all, check out my site! Why? Because it’s been rather bereft of proof that I am indeed a writer. I’ll post things, then delete them. Open another social site for cross-posting, then delete it. Doubts gave me fits.
It’s only now that I have begun to do away with troublesome thoughts about what it means to share sample pieces of my favorite writing — pieces that capture some sliver of what kind of writer I strive to be. This is, after all, open space. The great beyond. People I will never meet, never know, never speak to, can read through yet unpublished pieces. And, there is the chance that the work I share here might never be published because I have effectively disqualified it from certain venues.
One would think these sorts of issues should be worked out before opening a website, right? Well, this is how I tend to fly through life — by the seat of my pants. I learn as I go. Sometimes that makes a mess, sometimes it works out all right.
The tabs above all have actual content now. I am sharing, for real, and in earnest. As the weeks pass, more content will be added. You are invited to read and comment.
So, there’s this thing called The Pitch. Somewhat like a query letter, only not. I get the impression that magazines have been requiring The Pitch for quite some time, even if it is a new-to-me phrase. I’ve had my head in the sand a while, apparently.
Or, maybe I have spent an inordinately small amount of time making earnest searches for writing work. Maybe that’s it. As it happens, there are magazines out there with virtual ESSAYS WANTED signs. How about that? I feel kind of silly right now.
Today marks my first step toward those virtual ESSAYS WANTED signs. I have spent the last few hours staring at them, pondering the very necessary Pitch that I must compose for the chance to have an editor read me. Or, at least, read my Pitch. I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to get a response. To get a positive response. Tingly?
The easiest to begin with (and shouldn’t I start with the easiest?) would be the thin stack of personal essays tucked into the middle desk drawer. Memoir pieces, really. Now all I have to worry about is how to write a convincing Pitch: Read all about me, me, and me!
Reckon that would work?
Tell me what you know.
There are times that success must be measured by how many new things I try in the span of a month, a year. This method of measurement extends beyond writing, but yes, for now I’m speaking of writing. If ever you’ve read my ramblings, you know that I began to write with the goal of one day completing an epic fiction. I spent my childhood and adolescence gorging on historical romances, mysteries, and thrillers, and dearly wanted to write a hybrid of all three one day. Participating, finally, in writing events and group competitions led me to discovering many different genres and exploring them thoroughly. That’s how I found poetry, and ultimately, how I discovered my voice.
Poetry … rather … the fact that I got poetry, and that a well of it actually existed somewhere deep in my writer’s soul came as quite a shock. I refused to call myself a poet for years. It was all quite comical. Then absurd. Then frustrating. Until I embraced it. Earlier this year I completed the writing of THAT ONE THING, and since I’ve done little more than experiment. Dabble, even. Syllabic verse, haiku, cento, found poetry, prose poems, list poems, recorded readings, etc. These are the new things I’ve tried. Therefore, I am successful.
The contest judges who read THAT ONE THING were nice enough to send their notes to me — notes compiled, I can only assume, as they read and made suggestions for what entries should win the contest. Wasn’t that nice of them? This was my first experience with submitting to a large contest, so I was delightfully surprised that the judges would offer such a thing. I like feedback. I learn from it. What did I learn in this particular instance? That one person out of five completely appreciated my efforts. That judge commented on style and voice within individual pieces, as well as the arrangement of the collection, said “sometimes it’s just so seamless it’s impressive”, and “rich with history and language without every being too historical or verbose”. Wow. Thank you.
One out of five. Weeks later, after reading through that email, I am still overwhelmed by the miracle of that percentage. I was just happy that I tried new things — in this case, an autobiographical, hybrid series of two very different genres — then actually completed the task of compiling them all into a collection. I was just happy that I FINISHED SOMETHING, then submitted it. The bonus was that five reading writers working in the literary world were thoughtful enough to send their notes. The others all made nice comments about how well-written the collection was, but questioned whether or not it was “right” for them. I expected the challenge of finding a place that would be totally open to my style … it’s not really a universal style. But, oh man, I’ll never be able to express how thrilled I am to discover that the words “well-written” to come from the editors of a lit mag.
I didn’t win the contest. Didn’t get past the quarter-finals. And, though it may read as such, I’m not still patting myself on the back over how far I got, or that I completed my first major writing project. What I’m doing is making a record of a measured success. The last record. For four months, my life has revolved around this first major project, from inception to final email from the lit mag. I’m done. Now I’m on to worrying over where to go from here. I can, in fact, measure success outside of THAT ONE THING, because since I have tried more new things, specifically, cento and prose poetry. These two styles have dominated my reading and writing since March. I have learned a lot … but I am beginning to question what might come from it all. It seems, regardless of the immense learning experience gained, that I have put a lot of distance between my writing and that thing that I once considered my authentic voice.
It seems, regardless of my accomplishments thus far, that I am becoming more and more isolated. I have thrived in a certain measure of isolation since that moment years ago when I accepted that I was writer, and that I wanted to dedicate the majority of my waking hours for the rest of my life to becoming a better writer. I have no local writing friends. My husband doesn’t share in my enthusiasm for writing and rarely offers to read or give feedback. The desk where I sit to write and do research faces a wall in the back of the house — a fitting representation of how involved I’ve been in the WORLD for the past four years or so. Closed off, isolated, my back to everyone as I write and read and write. On the rare occasions that I participate in live, group conversations, I realize just how little I have to say. If it didn’t happen on Netflix, HBO, in an anthology that I’m currently reading, or in this little corner of the city while I’m out walking the pup … I got nothin’.
Recently, I was called in as a temp to work for ten days in an accounting office. I was quite pleased that I managed to sit up straight and could follow along well enough to complete necessary tasks. Even so, conversation often failed me. Witty banter … no. Knowledge of current events wasn’t really required but I sweated over the probability of certain topics coming up. What the hell exactly would I say?
I’ve cut myself off too much. And I’m beginning to worry it’s long-term self-imposed isolation, rather than dabbling in disparate styles and genres, that is effecting my voice.
Goals. I have them:
Friday is the deadline for a chapbook contest. I will be submitting a new and very small collection of found poetry and cento, as well as my usual rambling free verse. My first collection was autobiographical, this second will speak on social issues, particularly crime. I am fascinated by the crimes we humans commit against one another.
If I actually manage to pull off compiling this tiny chapbook by the 15th, I hope to then rework Ramshackle Houses and send it off by the 31st. About twenty pages need to be trimmed away (the majority of which will be the creative nonfiction pieces originally included). By then I hope to be gainfully employed and back to writing mostly on weekends and during the occasional insomnia attack. Just like old times.
The past week’s activities have been all about getting hired. I had forgotten just how sweaty interviews can be. And I had forgotten just how simultaneously exhilarating and frustrating rush hour on the expressway can be. In the brief periods between sweaty interviews and stressing out during “performance” exams, I have been reading Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present (Ed. David Lehman), and I have fallen irrevocably in love with Charles Simic. (I want The World Doesn’t End for my birthday, FYI.)
My love for Margaret Atwood has been strengthened and soared to new heights. (This happens every time I am introduced to another of her poems, no matter the form.) And Fanny Howe? Where has she been all my life?
So, I have a new obsession. The prose poem. That highly disdained bastard child of the prosaic and the lyrical that even poets tend to hate. If you are a hater, I do not judge. I only ask that you read the Introduction of this book before resolving to be a lifelong hater.
Oh my God. I’ve got to finish a chapbook in five days. Toodles.