Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Latest Addition

Meet a New Writer

Suzanne Gwinner

I have spent a career working with dyslexic students, students who learn differently, call them what you will. Whatever the label, they are bright students who have difficulty with our language – most commonly written language. One of my high school boys remarked recently that I must be crazy to enjoy writing!

I have written for pleasure since high school, but I have just recently gotten serious about attempting to write a book. As a newer member of the SCWW, I am finding the feedback and comments at our meetings most beneficial. I’m extremely excited about the conference in October!

As for my student’s comment – there are days when I consider him a most insightful young man!

Suzanne's first posting follows.

Summer's Gift

By Suzanne Gwinner

At the end of May I gleefully waved goodbye to my cherubs at school as they scrambled into an assortment of cars, SUVs, and minivans waiting to whisk them away to the beaches and mountains of our fair state and beyond. Don’t get me wrong. I love my work, but teaching bright dyslexic and ADHD children is an adventure not meant for the timid. Summer break is a well-deserved respite for a veteran teacher.

Early in June I spent ten days exploring Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The summer crowds had not yet descended, cool weather prevailed, and wildlife roamed unperturbed. Attaining one of my life goals – observing wolves in the wild – made me tingle. On three separate occasions I watched different wolves interact, undisturbed by humans. My spirit rejoiced.

Now, school is out, vacation is tucked away in my mind’s eye, and summer has delivered her most precious gift – the gift of time.

Seated at my computer, refreshed and rested, I make plans for my gift.

The lack of it seems a constant theme in American life, but for the next eight weeks time will be my friend. I’m giddy at the prospect of unstructured time. This year I will put writing high on the priority list, schedule time for it instead of giving it the leftovers. In the past it has been buried under home improvement projects, golf, and travel. Like an artist molds clay, I can shape time into forms that appeal to me. Most likely I’ll carve it into big chunks. That’s the kind of time I like. I’m not good at doing a little here and a little there. Multitasking? Not my strong suit. When writing, I like to lose track of time. It’s a luxury, I know. Sometimes I skip meals, or work late into the night. I like that kind of time. I love the surprise when I turn off my study light to go to bed, and darkness envelops the entire house. Only then do I realize the late hour for the lamp timers have all clicked off. Even the dog has curled up in his bed to chase dream rabbits. That’s the kind of time I cherish. And it is to be cherished, for off in the distance I hear a little voice whispering, “Eight weeks! You only have eight weeks!”

I admire people who write books while they toil at demanding jobs; I just don’t know how they do it. Finding big chunks of time during the school year is almost impossible. So, now that summer has delivered her gift, I can work on another of my life goals - to write my book. My materials are in order, the outline is complete, and the story plays like a movie in my head.

All that’s left now is to put the words on paper.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Latest Addition

Meet a New Writer

Marissa Burt

I am an unabashed lover of all things book-related. Like most avid readers, I've tried my hand at writing. Short stories, poetry, novels - you name it, I've probably tried it. My most recent project: The Tale of Una Fairchild: The Beginning, the first book in a middle-grade fantasy trilogy, is currently on submission to publishing houses via the hard work of my agent Laura Langlie. Please visit my blog for more details.

When not writing, I enjoy time with my husband, two sons, and the clowder of cats that surround our house. I like to bake (mostly sweets), garden (any plant that survives my meddling), read (of course), and act (the more dramatic, the better). I'm thrilled to be a part of the Columbia Writers Workshop and appreciate the encouragement of such a great group of writers.

Marissa's first posting follows

Writing Like an Actor

By Marissa Burt

I recently saw an interview with a well known actor who described this approach to his film roles: for each take of a scene, he would adopt a fresh angle. The lines were the same. The setting was the same. But he always tweaked his delivery, just to see how it could be different. The end result was that he thoroughly explored his character and gave the director a whole slew of different options for the final film.

Are you stuck on a scene? Do your characters feel wooden? Or maybe something’s just not right, but you can’t put your finger on it. Try writing from a fresh angle. Play around with your characters. Give them a stance, a voice, or a motivation you haven’t seen before. Make adjustments to the setting. What would change if the scene took place in the middle of the night? During a busy workday? First thing in the morning? Or pick a side character – maybe someone who merely passes through a scene – and explore her backstory. Tweak her delivery, just to see how it could be different. You may be surprised by the end result.

Some writing friends I know have done this as a group. Everyone hands off a chunk of a current work in progress to someone else in the group. Then they each write the next scene of their partner’s work. It’s a challenging exercise for a writer. On the one hand, you must try to enter into another author’s world and continue the story. Writing in an unfamiliar voice, exploring a different genre, tackling the type of writing you might never do on your own – all of this is great practice. And, on the receiving end, you get fresh insight into your own work. Perhaps your partner will take the story in an unpredictable and interesting direction. Perhaps these new ideas will reveal the weak spots in your plot or setting. If nothing else, the combined effort should get your creative juices flowing.

As writers, we can often be so motivated to print off that fat draft of our manuscript that we focus primarily on productivity. Of course, this is important, or we’d be stuck in endless cycles of revisions. But sometimes it’s worth it to playfully rewrite our work in progress, even if it doesn’t seem very productive at the time. At the very least, our writing skills will improve, we will explore our characters in greater detail, and we will give ourselves a whole slew of different options for our final draft.

Untitled, Part I

By George Newport

Life consists of:
What you want.
What you need.
What you deserve.
What you end up with.
What you do with what you get.
I have been writing most of my life, I wrote stories in school and it seemed to be popular from the early grades, in our one room Vermont schoolhouse, with one teacher for all eight grades, on up to college, in college my classmates encouraged me to write more, I took more than one Creative Writing Class and you were only allowed one as I passed each one with a high grade, I wrote about my journal events, my dysfunctional and abusive childhood, the deaths of three of my younger siblings from abuse, I held Rhonda Jeans hand in the local emergency room as she bled to death internally from a beating, I tried to prevent Elaine Louises sexual abuse from one of the older adults and was unsuccessful, she ended up in a semi coma and died in her sleep one night, I saw William George run over, by Pop, because he would not stay out of the road on our little traveled, rural, backwoods, Vermont country road and Pop was trying to teach him or scare him to keep him out of the road, I drove, one at a time, four of my younger sisters over to New York state from Vermont, for abortions, from sexual abuse, as they were illegal in Vermont, these events were added to my daily journal, I drove tractor trailer coast to coast over the road, starting at age fourteen, for my Dad in his truck, a 1964 Mack cab-over with the largest turbo charged V-8 Mack engine and twenty speed transmission, when my Dad got me a license that said that I was ten tears older than I really was, I would drive the truck to high school on Friday and park in the school bus line, then I would try to get back for my classes on Monday morning, some of the girls in high school wanted to see my one stack Mack with the bedroom on the back, and some rode with me, more journal events of my life on the road,

To be continued next week

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Untitled, Part II

By George Newport

I enlisted in the Army, at seventeen, by getting my older brother and his wife to pose as my parents and sign the necessary Army paperwork, I volunteered for Airborne duty and went to Jump School in Fort Benning, Georgia, then I volunteered for Special Forces training and qualified as a Green Beret, I went to Viet Nam, to work for the Intelligence Agency in illegal and secret projects in Cambodia and Laos after our government signed agreements to keep our troops out of these countries, my time in combat was just like being at home with my abusive parents, I transferred to different units in Special Forces to stay in Viet Nam from 1969 to 1973, I earned a number of awards and decorations which look real pretty on my dress uniform but represent the deaths of some of my teammates that as combat veterans we formed a special bond that is closer than brother and sister or even husband and wife, when my war ended, I did two years of Prisoner Of War and Missing In Action recovery in Cambodia and Laos, I was captured by the Pathet Lao but the war was over so I was not a Prisoner Of War, I managed an escape as getting me out would have been an international incident, I spent a lot of time with Psychatrists working on my Borderline Personality Disorder and my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from my childhood abuse and my time in the military, I could pick out other abuse victims by watching them for a little bit and encouraging them to seek therapy for their childhood abuse and continued to council them about their abuse also, I continued to write about my life and the lives of the people around me, I changed the names to protect the guilty, I have a rather large manuscript that I have been trying to get published, the publishers want me to write a series and I do not think that I can do that so they refuse to publish my book as a single volume, so I continue to write about the dark side of life and death and maybe one of these days I will find a publisher who will work with me, I have belonged to a number of writers groups which has helped me immensely in my writing, e mail does not have a spell check, which I desperately want and need, the muse in me is constantly composing and I will sit down at the computer and write until I am done and then I have to go back and look at what I wrote to find out what it is about, that has been my writing style most of my life, I would not encourage anybody to set out to be a writer as it is a low paying job with little recognition with no future, go to medical school or law school, I was born handsome instead of rich, so I continue to fill pages with my writings and look for an outlet for my writing and hope that it is made into a movie some day as that is where the money is, my initial rough drafts are normally devoid of paragaphs and real puncuation and the first thing that I do is hit it with spell check, I should go back and edit this write, but I am going to send it off in its original format, as the ramblings of a muse inspired writer, then I will look at our writers group website to see what I have written, if it winds up in our blog