Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Writer’s Holiday Gift

By Ginny Padgett

Even though I consider myself a veteran writer, I have just been published for the first time under my own name in the Petigru Review, SCWW’s literary journal. So I guess, technically, I am considered a newbie in the writing/publishing game. I use the word, “game,” as euphuism for an artless business driven by the greed for cold cash.

I attended my first writers’ conference in October, and this is my ‘Aha Moment:’ I may be writing in the wrong genre. How can I tell? The answer seems to me that no one has yet bought what I have previously written. The story snippets I heard during a slush-pile session made me realize I may not be a story teller. Perhaps I’m more of an observer/reporter. Whatever the designation, I claimed myself a writer. Discovering my self confidence was worth the price of the conference registration.

Recently Janie Kronk sent out some words of wisdom to our chapter email group from a writer who knows his stuff. Probably most of you have seen this, but this is my holiday gift to those reading our blog and wondering if they are writers, if they could be writers, if they should try to be writers. We can all use the encouragement and inspiration all year long. Happy Holidays!


Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through. - Ira Glas

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Rock and the Element of Surprise

By Kimberly Johnson

Not the one off the southern tip of Spain. I’m talking about the former pro
wrestler, Dwayne Johnson. He’s an element of surprise.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a formidable foe against Randy Orton and John
Cena. As The Rock, he entertained screaming fans in the squared circle with
24-hour trash-talking, power-drill moves and bulging biceps. Plus, he’s a good looking guy. With a killer smile. The Rock shifted away from body slams and into a pink tutu. Dwayne Johnson played the tooth fairy along with Julie Andrews. So, when Dwayne Johnson took the driver’s seat in the flick, Faster; I wanted to ride shotgun.

I’m a sucker for the who-dunnit genre and its first cousin, I-didn’t-know-he-dunnit.

In this movie, Dwayne plays a vigilante hunting down the gangsters who murdered
his brother. It’s the classic cops ‘n’ robbers theme—with a twist. Dwayne’s fresh out of prison with a mean streak a mile wide. He drives a vintage ride that all the men in the theater cheered for during the chase scenes. Billy Bob Thornton plays the slime ball, red-neck cop who is addicted to heroin. He’s on the trail of this vigilante, hoping this capture will bring him redemption. His partner thinks he’s a creep. His ex-wife thinks he’s a bigger creep. His pudgy son doesn’t know what to think.

Billy Bob turns out to be the bad guy. I didn’t see that one coming.

After leaving the theater, I wondered: How did the screenwriters keep me
guessing? I answered that question with Internet research. The Writers Digest website posted an article by Simon Wood (www.writersdigest.com). It lists nine tricks to writing suspense fiction. Here are the highlights:
* For a good suspense story to work, what’s at stake must be stated at the
beginning.
* Let the reader see the viewpoints of the protagonist and the antagonist.
* Create a really good villain. The bad guy is very visible. The best ones are
smart and motivated.
* Create dilemmas that keep the protagonist in awkward challenges.
* Pile on the problems. Give the protagonist more things than he can handle.

Not bad advice, Mr. Wood. So, I clicked over to crime novelist Michele Martinez.

Martinez is a former New York City federal prosecutor (www.michelemartinez.com). Martinez shares her struggles in a refreshing manner. Here are some observations that improved her writing:

I realized that generally the suspense novels I found the most engrossing were written in the third person and frequently told the story from more than one viewpoint. I had been working in the first person, but ultimately this felt too limiting technically. I wanted to show the reader action beyond things that
happened directly to my protagonist.

I realized I just hadn't structured my book carefully enough. I needed to pay more attention to the transitions between chapters, to give the reader that burning desire to keep turning the pages. I needed to hold back more, tease more.

Now, I know the secrets that Joe and Tony Gayton, the screenwriters for Faster, know. They employed point of view techniques and then reworked structural elements to produce the quintessential I-didn’t-know-he-dunnit flick. If I read about those techniques earlier, then, I would have figured out that Billy Bob was the bad guy.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tripping

By Laura P. Valtorta

Nobody needs an excuse to travel. It’s just a mind-blowing thing to
do. Marco, Dante, and I went to visit our daughter, Clara, and her
fiancé, Ross, over the Thanksgiving break. It was my second trip to
Texas and my first to Austin, the capitol city.

LANDSCAPE. From the airport to the University of Texas college campus
the ground seemed open, flat, and dusty. I expected to see tumbleweed.
The cab driver was taciturn until Marco asked about the football
stadium at UT that seats 102,000. The cabbie looked South American but
spoke American English.

We hiked in the northwest hilly region and encountered cacti and
mountain bikers. The landscape was littered with limestone.

Bonnell Park, with its 99 steps above the lake, was a good place to
view the Austin skyline, big-ass houses with pools situated on
handkerchief-sized lots, and modern architecture. We imagined that
Sandra Bullock lived there.

The weather was temperamental. One afternoon as Clara and I walked to
the grocery store, a front blew in. The temperature dropped from 80
degrees to 50 degrees in about 30 minutes.

AUSTINITES. We saw a good mixture of Anglos, Asians, Hispanics,
foreigners, and a loud family of Italian-Americans. Very few African-
Americans in sight. The school district where Clara and Ross live is
about 80 percent Asian.

Downtown, my favorite Texans were the cowboy metrosexuals: like the
tall, tan smiling white man who greeted us at Manuel’s restaurant and
made the five of us feel welcome. Lots of large Texan women at the
local Target.

ALLEGATO. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we ate dinner at a
Japanese place that was not overly crowded. Japanese chefs, Japanese
waitress. Clara and I ordered sushi (tropical roll, spicy avocado
crab, and some other roll). It was possibly the best meal I have ever
eaten – certainly the best sushi. Ross, Marco, and Dante played it
[too] safe and ordered tempura.

DOWNTOWN. I could live in one of those apartments. The city needs
more public transportation. The sidewalks were wide, clean, and
inviting. All of the mendicants hang out alongside the highways. We
went to a hat shop; I purchased a hat for Dante.

Next visit – music at Antone’s! This place was recommended by the
taciturn cabbie.

IDEA FOR SHORT STORY. A cowboy metrosexual working at a Mexican
restaurant has a cheerful attitude toward life until he meets a woman
from South Carolina.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Latest Addition


Meet a New Writer

AMANDA SIMAYS

I hail from Glenmoore, Pennsylvania, and I’ve loved writing (stories, essays, journals, anything) for as long as I can remember. This past spring, I graduated from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where I majored in English and Creative Writing and worked as a writing tutor. I spent a semester abroad living next to an extinct volcanic mountain in Edinburgh, Scotland and surprised myself by developing an affinity for haggis (ground-up sheep organs). During my senior year, I turned my guilty pleasure of reading melodramatic novels about creepy old manors with ominous secrets into a senior thesis about ghosts in Gothic literature.

Residual wanderlust from studying abroad and a desire to try and make the world a better place inspired me to apply to an AmeriCorps volunteer program in a part of the country where I’d never been before. That’s how I ended up working with City Year Columbia, where I spend my days doing literacy tutoring with eighth-graders, in the hopes that I can share my passion/addiction for reading and writing.

Besides reading and writing, my hobbies also include arts and crafts, baking, smoothie-making, running, board games, and exploring new places.

Amanda's first post follows.

What I Learned in College

By Amanda Simays

I knew going in that college would be a growing experience, and sure enough, by the time I left, I’d picked up a whole slew of new life skills. I learned how to whip up an impromptu batch of chocolate chip cookies without a mixer, mixing spoon, measuring cup, or a cookie tray. I’d mastered the art of shaving my legs while wearing flip-flops and standing in dorm shower the size of a welcome mat. But if I could pick the one thing I learned that changed my life the most, it would be the skills I picked up as an English major…a deeper understanding of how to read and write.

Of course I didn’t enter my freshman year illiterate, but college transformed how I thought about reading and writing. I became fascinated with the way I could pick up a seventeenth-century poem, seemingly composed of stale words frozen for centuries on the page, and then by taking notes and writing about it, the text would magically come to life before my eyes, pulsing with energy and possibility. I used to think you did the learning first and then writing second, but in my undergraduate years, I learned how you can learn while you write.

I’ve always kept journals, but in college I developed a fuller realization of why I’m so addicted to the activity. It’s not just desire to have a written record of my life as it happens, but a desire for clarity. When I’m confused about anything, when I have a big decision to make, I always write about it, and somehow the translation into black and white letters on the page makes even the stickiest problems seem more manageable.

I learned that I—and humans in general—see life through stories and make up narratives all the time. This awareness added a whole new dimension to my journal-writing habit…I realized I was turning my life into a story, not just in my head, but in a much more literal sense, translating these random thoughts and real-life occurrences into concrete stories on the page. Likewise, when I set out to deliberately make up my own stories in the form of fiction-writing, I began to notice how, on some level, I was still using writing as a vehicle to puzzle out topics I wanted to better understand. My fiction is never strictly autobiographical—it’s too much fun to explore situations I’ve never been in with characters doing things I would never do—but the stories I write often become fun house-style distortions of the issues that are on my mind at the time of writing.

I still have so much to learn about the writing process and what it means to put words on the page, but I’ve come a long way in the last four years. The act of writing brings me joy for lots of reasons, not least of which being the magical power it has to bring sense and order (or at least a more understandable chaos) to the world around me.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What Happened in Vegas...

By Deborah Wright Yoho

The last time I visited Vegas, the year was 1967 and I was fifteen years old. My family was passing through on our way to our new home in the Philippines. For an hour we ogled the bright lights of the Strip through the car windows, and I wondered why women wore high heels with their short-shorts as they teetered along on the sidewalks. We marveled at Frank Sinatra’s name on the marquee at the Sands, and then my parents scuttled us off to our beds at a small motel two blocks away from the hubbub.

Las Vegas today looks more like Disney on steroids than a playground for the Rat Pack. If it is possible to camouflage unbridled gambling and drinking to appear wholesome, the spin doctors of Vegas have done it. McDonald’s fits right in between the Paris and MGM casinos. You have to look closely to find a wedding chapel or an establishment advertising topless exotic dancers.

Ralph and I were quick to explain to everyone in South Carolina that we were visiting Las Vegas to attend my high school reunion, not to gamble. I had to hurry to clarify that I didn’t go to school there but overseas instead, and that Vegas was a destination venue rather than a pilgrimage to stoke the home fires.

I wasn’t that keen on looking up old boyfriends anyway, but wanted instead to promote my book, a memoir about high school days in the Philippines. So I hired a graphic artist to design a poster and a flyer to tote along on the plane.

The results were mixed. People seemed impressed that I was writing a book and were happy to reminisce with me, but I found we didn’t have the same memories! Why was I so surprised? I hadn’t realized that the Air Force base we lived on was large enough to provide such a rich diversity of experience. As I talked with people who remembered me and with many who didn’t, I frantically took notes.

On the red-eye flight back to South Carolina, I pondered whether to incorporate any of the stories I had heard into my tome. Abruptly I realized I am now faced with a new list of questions as I think about what to write: is my story just MY story, or is it really about a unique time and place? What’s more interesting, the things we all had in common there or the individual experiences that were different? At a distance of more than 40 years, can I trust my own recollections? And if I can’t, how significant are my own biases in relation to the purpose of the book? I thought I was nearly finished. Now I find I must start over.

Tom Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again.” He was right.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Latest Addition


Meet a New Writer

BELISE BUTLER

I was in private practice as a therapist for 20 years, part of that time
working with politicians. (Try doing that for a living!) I also traveled
the world presenting corporate training and motivational workshops.

I have one super son and two wonderful daughters, as well as six grandchildren and one great grandson. All are successful and talented. (Thank goodness!)

After all of my travels and adventures, my head was filled with knowledge
of many unusual experiences and I wanted to commit them to paper so I
retired, or at least I TRIED to retire, to begin writing. That lasted four
months.

My 92 year-old mother always told me that "I had ants in my pants, sand in
my shoes and my mind was never in the same place for more than five
minutes." I guess she was right because I am still moving in several
directions at the same time. I am a partner in two businesses, Trilogy
Library Services and The Home Staging Group. Trying to wear three hats all
the time, I find that I have very little time to get that “sand in my
shoes.” I am way to busy.

I keep THINKING that SOON I'll stop all of this nonsense and spend my time
doing some real work like unfolding a chair on the beach in lazy, crazy
Key West, FL, while I write. However, every time my thoughts move in that
direction my over-zealous mind says; "Oh yea, lady! That just ain't gonna
happen anytime soon."

So, I continue planning my escape from the REAL world where I can move at
a slower pace, write until my pens run out of ink and become consumed with
counting the grains of sand that collect in my shoes.

Belise's first post follows.

My First Time

By Belise Butler

I’ll always remember my first time.

I was nervous. What would I wear? What would I say? How would it feel?

As I entered the hotel, I told myself, “it’s okay, be calm, you’ll love it … and I did.

WOW!

One of my favorite words is WOW! It conveys anything I want it to. For me, since it was ‘my first time’ it reflected a multitude of feelings. I was ecstatic, excited, enthusiastic, and completely out of my mind with anticipation.

This was officially ‘my first time’ at a writers’ conference and I was hooked. Upon arriving, I was nervous about my critique and cleverly talked Ginny Padgett into visiting the nearby hotel watering hole for one of their special relaxers in a glass. Having been a professional trainer and motivational speaker for companies all over the world, I was always in charge. This time I was not only, not in charge, I was not in control of my emotions. I had to keep remembering that this was different and…after all, it was ‘my first time’

The next morning in the dining room, I sat at a table where three people were deep in conversation. I knew I would blend right in because I had been extremely loquacious since I arrived. Every time I entered the elevator I had a captivate audience. I took advantage of it talking to each person on-board, and escorting them to their floor first, chatting the entire time. I must admit I was distraught when they each exited on various floors and I had to continue alone.

Most of the programs at the conference were excellent. By the end of this way-too-short event I had filled a hundred-page note book. However, I must be truthful and tell you that ninety-four pages of my precious journal were written so rapidly that it looked like a foreign language. Upon review I was sure that I had mistakenly picked up a book belonging to someone from Japan.

‘My first time’ was outstanding. I appreciated the many speakers though out the event. And WOW! I felt a new wave of excitement when Wendy Sherman critiqued my material and shared her thoughts about the MS. I have no doubt that the entire room thought I had just won the lottery when she asked me to rework the first six pages and then send her fifty pages. I don’t normally squeal or jump up and down in public, however I remind you that it was ‘my first time’…and I did.

I applaud the volunteers who gave their time and energy to provide talented professionals. Who, for the most part, were generous in sharing their suggestions and directives for achieving the goals that each participant there had gathered to hear--how to create an outstanding masterpiece.

It was ‘my first time’…but it won’t be my last.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

2010 SCWW Conference Notes

By Bonnie Stanard

In a word - wonderful! Since a carload of us from Columbia II rode together, we caroused for two hours before getting lost in Myrtle Beach and finally arriving. Our check-in at the Hilton was quick and painless, and the condo had a spectacular view of the Atlantic. For me, the best part of the conference was the camaraderie with my fellow writers.

Friday night, author James Born started our conference with a dinner speech on his experiences writing police thrillers. He’s the kind of writer you’d like to have over for dinner sometime. Apparently our complaints about the food last year were addressed, though the acoustics of the banquet room weren’t. We found ourselves shouting to be heard above the din.

As for the sessions, prose took the spotlight with presentations covering traditional genres. Perhaps too traditional, for a nod to more innovative writing would have spiced things up (e.g. creative nonfiction, graphic novel, prose poetry, flash fiction). Also, I’d like to see more encouragement for screenwriting.

As usual, agents and editors appeared on the schedule with presentations to ease our tensions about the submission process and publishing. As for faculty, I’d like to see more agents from small/boutique houses. Those of us trying to sell our first or second novel would like to meet independent publishers, which were practically missing from the program. The 'elephant in the room' was self-publishing, which agents and editors tried to ignore. We needed more helpful information on this topic.

The sessions I attended were adequate and came from the 'establishment' in the industry. Joshilyn Jackson gave the tip I liked best: “stop caring about the latest literary trend.” Perhaps I could remember something author Ann Love said about the children’s market if she had provided either a hand-out or visual aid. However, I entered this discussion after a pitch session went bad and that’s all I could think about.

My second pitch on Sunday morning wasn’t as disappointing as the previous one. Agent Suzie Townsend said my race was a factor but not insurmountable. The previous afternoon Agent Raychelle Gardner said in so many words that slave stories are the prerogative of African Americans. She presented this as not just her opinion but that of publishing in general. Though discouraging, the two sessions provided me with the important insight that NYC agents/publishers are unlikely to consider a debut novel about a black slave written by a white person.

By the time my Sunday morning pitch was over and I arrived at the conference rooms, the sessions were well underway. Although I knew my way around, I couldn’t find a room marked as Palisades F and thus missed out on a presentation I wanted to see.

Overall the conference was a success, though there were some complaints—the cancellation of some sessions, Saturday lunch keynote presentation, and a long-winded announcement of the Carrie McCray awards. Once again I’m amazed at the professionalism of Lateia Sandifer, Carrie McCullough, Barbara Evers, their staff, and volunteers. Our thanks to them for their many hours of work. Columbia II’s donations to the silent auction compared favorably with other baskets, thanks to Ginny Padgett and Belize Butler.

CORRECTION: My thanks to Carrie McCullough for setting the record straight: "Noticed a big error in [your] blog -- Barbara had absolutely NOTHING to do with this year's conference. And we don't have a staff, at all. Wouldn't it be nice if we did?"

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Perfect Workshop

By Monet Jones

Many thousands of years ago, or so it seems, I graduated from Hannah High School. My graduating class consisted of twenty-one persons, fourteen girls, and seven boys. The curriculum in that small rural school was naturally limited. Two non-academic courses were considered mandatory; all girls were to take FHA, Future Homemakers of America, and all boys, FFA, Future Farmers of America.

The FFA proved to be an extraordinarily boring class except for three areas, each of which included a contest: electricity, public speaking, and cattle judging. That third area, cattle judging, has had a greater than expected impact on my life because of one learned principle. In order to judge or compare cattle or anything else, one must first determine a perfect example of that which is to be judged.

As one might suppose on reading the title of this article, I set out to describe the perfect writer’s workshop. I started by looking for a definition. Since I didn’t find a good one in my research, I made up my own and present it that my readers, both of you, might critique it.

An environment or gathering of respectful peers wherein one might use words to depict original concepts or events, and receive constructive nonjudgmental criticism of said depictions.
For a participant to receive maximum benefit from a workshop, I believe one must be familiar, but not necessarily friends, with other members. My reasoning here is that in order for comments to be constructive, an evaluated writer must expect criticism from respected peers. If a writer chooses to use familiarity or intimidation to prevent criticism, the concept of a workshop is perverted.

I recently presented some material that connected two big scenes on my current novel. I had not spent as much time on it as I should have. The workshop members made that point very clear.

R - too many long sentences and holes in plot
B - too many repetitions of same idea, POV errors
G2 - “that” not a good connector and two improbable scenes
K – ignorant of how young girls might react to a situation
L - didn’t like me, my work, or the horse I rode in on
D - helpful in showing proper paragraph separation and comma use
G - mixed in a positive comment with several faults
I think Columbia II workshop approaches perfection. I love the camaraderie as we get together but have no doubt the friendliest person there will savage my material if it’s not properly written. That is as it should be.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sparse Space, Mighty Muse – Part II

By Lisa Lopez Snyder

Are you making stereotypes of your characters? Are they predictable? If so, you need to give them a good hard shake and see what falls out of their pockets. If you’re lucky, you’ll find something deliciously odd, dangerous, or scandalous. The goal here, folks is surprise. And surprise for we writers is good, very good.

That’s at least one of the thoughts I came away with from my workshop with Danzy Senna at Skidmore College this summer (see previous post for Part I). In several of the sessions, we reviewed more than a few manuscripts that had some scintillating prose surrounding the character, but there was the predictable narrative that never got away from itself, e.g:
A compulsive young man spends his day watching and calculating every minute[okay, fascinating], but nothing every challenged his compulsive habit, and nothing changed about him or around him; a little boy places a bowler hat on his head to make himself invisible because life at home gets pretty scary [intriguing, let’s keep reading], but he keeps doing this, no one does anything, and that’s all that happens.
We’ve all done this! We get so into our characters and we love them, good or bad, but we don’t let anything happen to them to challenge them or transform them. Nothing pops out and hits them in the face. And to top it off, we may veer wildly off tone. Danzy explained this dynamic as the need to get a narrative strategy to help get inside your character, to get beyond the “clean and easy” (my term), and to get…well, “dirty” (her term). The idea, she said, is to get yourself out of your head.

She suggested reading some folk stories as a way to discover narrative strategies to strengthen your writing. “Notice the tone,” she said, “and study at the dialogue.” Using dialogue, she added, “helps you see more characters more clearly.” Folktales not only do this, but they use a framework that astounds not just us, but our characters, too. Here are a few that came out of that class:

• Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol’s "The Nose" http://h42day.100megsfree5.com/texts/russia/gogol/nose.html
• Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales
• The Hebrew story about “the talking fish” that ran in The New York Times in 2003. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=980DE0DE1F3EF936A25750C0A9659C8B63&scp=1&sq=Miracle?%20Dream?%20Prank?%20Fish%20Talks,%20Town%20Buzzes&st=cse

On another note, I should add that during my stay the faculty and my peers continued to expand our recommended reading list. Ah, that we should live as long to read all the good books our friends suggest! Here’s just a snapshot of several on my “to-read” list:

Novels
Bad Behavior - Mary Gaitskill
Letters to a Young Novelist – Mario Vargas Llosa

Short Stories
“Women in Their Beds” – Gina Berriault
“Hole in the Wall” - Etgar Keret

Non-fiction
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach


Enjoy!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sparse Space, Mighty Muse, Part I

By Lisa Lopez Snyder

Thanks to a generous scholarship I had an opportunity this past July to spend two weeks at the New York State Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Describing the experience is akin to trying to express what seeing Yosemite Falls is like for the first time. Okay, so maybe that’s not the best way to illustrate my point, but the enthusiasm it generated might measure similarly.

Perhaps the most potent aspect of the Writers Institute is that it is truly a writer’s colony. In the midst of life’s madness, this gathering is a place where you can forget having to make a meal or clean a dish (you eat at the university dining hall), and just dive into the writer’s life all around you--every day. I was one of more than 60 writers who stayed in the dorms on campus and participated in fiction, nonfiction or poetry workshops.

During the first week my workshop (18 to a class) was led by Danzy Senna (http://blueflowerarts.com/danzy-senna), author of the phenomenal Caucasia and the autobiography, Where Did You Sleep Last Night? The second week I studied under Howard Norman, whose novel, What is Left, the Daughter (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/books/review/Wallace-t.html) will have you eager to explore the epistolary form. We had workshop three times during the week and on the alternative days all the groups came together for an afternoon discussion with other workshop faculty and visiting writers, who included Ann Beattie, Russell Banks, Joyce Carol Oates, Mary Gaitskill, Rick Moody, nonfiction writers Jim Miller and Geoffrey O’Brien, and poets Henri Cole, Jayne Anne Philips, Mary Kinzie and Peg Boyers. In addition to small group discussions with these authors about the craft of writing, we heard them read from their latest works later that night, and then on Sunday evening, we participants held our own public reading.

As a fiction writer, I came away with ideas on how to further explore character, dialogue and story. Ann Beattie talked about how “short stories can be like plays.” She urged us to “use dialogue to create situations” as well as to expose the raw, the “unredeemable” character. Emerging writers can be timid about exposing the “imperfect” character, Joyce Carol Oates said in another session. She reminded us, however, that “all great art is based on conflict.” Simply put, she added, “If you don’t want to upset your mother or father, you won’t be a writer. You can be a nice person, but you won’t be a writer.”

Henri Cole’s reading of his poem “Black Camille” struck me with the utter significance of word choice and how I might apply the lessons of poetry to my work. “What are you now but a blood-red palanquin of plucked feathers and silk airing in the sun?” he read one night. In the hush of the auditorium, I understood then, that the words we choose are not just for their rhythm or sound, but for their absolute urgency. And, we know that takes time. But it’s worth it, isn’t it?

Stay tuned for more in Sparse Space, Mighty Muse – Part 2 next week…

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Woman in Red Dress

By Laura P. Valtorta

During a recent disaster evacuation drill at Stanford University, all went awry. Workers and students were supposed to stand outside the buildings, twenty feet away, between 10 and 10:30 a.m., marked by siren signals. The sirens failed to go off as scheduled. Still, the Stanford police managed to rally most people outside, and situate them in neat clusters with their groups -- physics department, law school, visitors center, the Cantor museum, etcetera.

Dante and I waited outside the Cantor museum studying the beautiful sculptures by Auguste Rodin, including the Gates of Hell. We waited 30 minutes for the drill to finish.

At 10:20, a woman in a red dress strode out of the Cantor museum. The guards looked at each other. "What happened?"

"She was inside." The guards shrugged their shoulders. This was the first disaster evacuation drill, and all over campus it had been a disaster. Foreign, non-English-speaking tourists refused to leave the non-denominational chapel. The sirens either failed to sound entirely or they were too soft to hear. Students remained inside the dorms.

Then there was that woman in the red dress, who might have been an employee of the Cantor museum. If there had been an actual earthquake or fire, she could have been killed. But there was no disaster. Instead, she illustrated a point. She pushed the boundaries and disobeyed the rules, either out of stubbornness or ignorance. She showed the system did not function well. During this drill, she was an auslander.

Why does disobedience exist? As an outsider myself, I can testify there is no choice involved. Outsiders are born challenging the rules, questioning authority, stretching the boundaries. Auslander writers, such as the great Stieg Larsson, create new realities, illustrate our unexpressed dreams, and blast aside stereotypes. The result is Lisbeth Salander -- the woman every intelligent woman wants to become.

My goal as an auslander writer is to create a vision of the future that no writer has expressed. My future world is inspired with hope -- it is a utopia as opposed to the dystopia described by such writers as Margaret Atwood. Being an outsider causes me pain and disaffection on a daily basis. Oftentimes I fail to understand the world around me because it seems to be so driven by fear. There must be a reason for my pain. Outside thinking pushes the human species forward. It helps us evolve.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What Ever Happened........?

By Beth Cotten

Remember the movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? As I recall, it bordered on a horror movie. The title stirred my muse to write this blog. My question is different and doesn’t provoke the same sense of dread as the movie title....but close. The question is, "What the $#@& Happened to James Patterson?"

On the way to visit my daughter in Indiana, I stopped at the airport gift shop to pick up a novel to read on the trip. I selected a James Patterson and quickly read the blurb on the book about the story line. Science Fiction is not my cup of tea, and this was a different genre from most of his nearly 60 books published since I read Virgin in 1980. So, I rationalized it must be good because it was a James Patterson novel.

I can count on one hand....maybe three fingers....how many books I started and did not read to the end. One was written in Spanish, and it was taking me way too long because my Spanish was "way too long ago." This Patterson book, The Dangerous Days of Daniel X, had a total of 220 pages. I read 80 pages to the end of chapter 31. Almost every other page is the beginning of a new chapter. I did not read further. This is by far the worst book I have ever read!

The premise of the book is that Daniel X is born with an extraordinary power unknown to our world. He is capable of creating inanimate objects and human and alien beings. As a toddler, from his hiding place, he sees his parents cruelly slaughtered, but the killer is not aware of a witness to the murders. Later, he discovers a list of names of super-powered, evil, alien beings and determines his father’s mission had been to assassinate these evil beings to save the world; thus the explanation why his father and mother were murdered. At the age of fifteen, Daniel takes up the search to complete his father’s mission. I will not be the spoiler and tell more.

I did some research:

- Reviews about the Daniel X series were split between those who thought the books were substandard to Patterson’s previous novels and others who praised them.

- The average review was three stars out of five.

- The books were written for young readers between the tweens and teens. (Well, I am a bit older.) Patterson explained the books were written to encourage the younger generation to read something other than comic books.

-The favorable reviews were from the youngsters or from parents and grandparents who were thrilled their child or grandchild was reading rather than spending all the time in front of a computer or television.

-Since 2005, Patterson published an average of 5.4 books a year --- seven alone in 2008. Can any author write four to seven quality novels a year?

Please, Mr. Patterson, don’t leave us “Oldies-but-Goodies” hanging. We were here first!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Is Less More?

By Alex Raley

When I began writing fiction, I tried to include every thought, detail, and event that could possibly be related to the story and much that was not related. Dialogue was filled with things said that had absolutely no relevance to the story. Obviously, repetition crept in on kitten’s feet with tiger paws.

That same tendency to tell all carried over to my poetry; however, poetry taught me that less really can be more. For example, one of my early poems had over forty lines. After many revisions I finally have something that speaks to me. It is only twenty-two much shorter lines. Did I lose anything that I wanted to say? No. I have something that punches out exactly what my soul feels about an event that has hung in my memory for over sixty years.

I am not talking about brevity, which is another matter altogether. T. S. Eliot took twelve pages (more or less, depending on how it is printed out) to give us the classic “The Waste Land.” He even uses repetition – repetition that drives home his thought. An example is found in the section of the poem where he ponders the bareness of no water. “If there were water / And no rock / If there were rock / And also water /And water / . . . Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop / But there is no water.” Every line in Eliot’s poem moves his thoughts forward.

If you want both brevity and sharpness of thought, I invite you to read Galway Kinnell’s “Promissory Note.” In thirteen brief lines he captures the essence of one who knows he will precede his loved one in death and who exacts a wonderful promise from that loved one. There is no way to retell the poet’s thoughts. You can only experience them by reading Kinnell’s poem.

Though I am suggesting that the unnecessary be eliminated from writing, in the real world there are many examples of tomes being successful. My daughter introduced me to “The Girl” trilogy by Stieg Larsson. When I looked at reading five to six hundred pages per book, I thought, this is insane. What I experienced were exciting page turners. Sure there is repetition that comes primarily from constantly changing from head to head depending on whose version of the event you are hearing, and Larsson does love to tell the reader everything. But you find yourself enjoying all of it. I pondered why? I think it boils down to a compelling story, unlike anything we have read before, with good sequencing, and strong, ongoing suspense and expectation.

So, unless you envision yourself as another Larsson, work on eliminating the unnecessary. I might even suggest that you read some contemporary poets to see how they distill their thoughts into succinct lines. Poetry can inform fiction about unnecessary words. Try it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Language of Historical Fiction

By Bonnie Stanard

When Shakespeare, in his play Julius Caesar, had Cassius say “The clock has stricken three,” he committed a faux pas which is so common among historical fiction writers a word has been invented to describe it—anachronism. The clock is the anachronism, for no clocks existed in Caesar’s day.

Recently I read the antebellum novel Jacob’s Ladder by Donald McCaig in which a character orders a sandwich in a tavern. Though the word sandwich dates back to 1762 in England, it doesn’t appear in antebellum diaries and cookbooks I’ve researched. From that misstep by the author, I read the story with an eye of mistrust (which was compounded with his reference to a “rubber tarp,” for rubber wasn’t in common usage at the time).

The writer’s challenge is to avoid not only anachronisms but also a modern English tenor of speech, in other words try to be true to the history and language of the time. An example of a novel that takes place in history but reads like a modern story is Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl. Though you’re supposed to believe you’re in 16th Century England, the modern sound of the language transports you to the 21st Century.

In writing of slaves and their owners in the South in 1857, I have compiled my own lexicon of white and slave idioms which I’ve taken from diaries and slave narratives. I’ve found this useful in writing not only dialogue but the narrative as well.

Charles Frazier in Cold Mountain uses language effectively to put the reader in the antebellum South and to bring the characters alive in their time. If you open this book to any page and read, you will guess from the language that it is a 19th Century story set in the South, even if you know nothing about the book. If only I can capture that sense in my manuscript.

There are 19th century words which hardly anybody has heard of today, some because an entity no longer exists—e.g. calabash (vessel made of gourd shell) or banyun (slip-like dress) or osnaburg (coarse material). Others disappear because usage has changed—e.g. counterpane has become quilt; chilblain became sore; and snood, hairnet.

If I’m in doubt about a word, I look it up in the Merriman-Webster dictionary (CD copy) to check on the date it was introduced into the English language. I have found that some words dated earlier by Merriman-Webster don’t appear in 19th Century diaries, words such as diaper, moonshine, and toddler. The Merriman-Webster dates would be even better if the dictionary provided the original definition, for many contemporary words date back centuries, but mean something entirely different now.

I’ve tried to avoid even questionable words, some of which I really miss. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to talk about meals without using the word left-overs (introduced in 1891). Pregnancy is mentioned by antebellum doctors, but lay persons described the condition in veiled tones such as confinement, lying-in, or a delicate condition. Teenager dates from 1921 and I wish it had come into our language much earlier. And if one of my characters broke his wrist watch, the reader could justifiably mistrust me as a writer of historical fiction.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

O.U.R. B.L.O.G. R.O.C.K.S.

By Tiem Wilson

Our blog rocks, let me be clear.
Unlike any other, it’s a place to share
Relevant information for those who care.

Books, bound & electronic, blogs, ball-point pens.
Lines, letters, lyrics, and literature
Opinions, and observations
Genre gossip on Google galore

Read thru the entries and be amused
Of how our members display their muse.
Come back often for new insight and
Knowledge to help facilitate the need to write.
Show the web how our blog rocks!!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Blue People, Billions and Basic Writing

By Kimberly Johnson

I didn’t pay the $7.50 at the ticket window last Saturday. That’s right; I’m the only one who didn’t see Avatar. You know, the flick with the blue people flying on dinosaur-looking creatures. The flick that made billions of dollars.

To borrow a phrase from Drew Barrymore’s date night film: I’m just not that into it—science fiction, that is. My history with science fiction is checkered, spotty at best. I did munch popcorn to the Star Wars trilogy. I smiled through E.T. I curled up on the couch to Close Encounters on DVD.

Again, not a fan of space, the final frontier.

I didn’t pay the $7.50 at the ticket window last Saturday. That’s right. I blew it. After watching James Cameron’s insightful interview with PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley, I realized that blue people and quality writing equals big bucks. The Smiley-Cameron exchange revealed the director’s vision on creativity, the use of computerized imagery and the writing process. I also realized Cameron is a prolific screenwriter with box office notables such as The Terminator, Rambo: First Blood Part II and True Lies under his belt.

I did pay the matinee price to see those films.

That interview got me thinking… Cameron must be a darn good writer.
I drove to the public library and checked out three screenwriting books. (There is an iceberg and leading man in my future.) Hal Ackerman’s, Write Screenplays That Sell, is a keeper. Ackerman states that you don’t need to take a screenwriting course to write professionally. Did I tell you he is a former screenwriter and film instructor? Well, his former UCLA film students give him high praise for his simple, yet effective techniques to write and to format scripts.

So, I rolled the dice and decided to skim the book.

Then, I decided to read it.

Finally, I decided to incorporate some of his ideas into my writing. (I liked Ackerman’s take on character descriptions--- Keep the language fresh and vivid. Never leave your reader wanting less.) Overall, Ackerman wants the reader to develop strong writing skills. He does a good job on providing the nuts and bolts. For example, Ackerman believes that “dialogue must function as a part of a character’s efforts to accomplish his or her immediate objective”. He offers helpful hints such as:
• It’s never a character’s objective to give information to the audience.
• Characters ought not to be complicit with the writer’s intentions for them.
• A character’s objective is not to tell the story or to supply biographical information, back story, mood or psychological diagnosis.

I didn’t pay the $7.50 at the ticket window last Saturday. That’s right. I didn’t blow it. I used my library card to check out a reference guide to improve my writing—and to find some blue people.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Independents and Independence

By Mike Long

I'm not sure where I'm going with this—it feels more like venting than advising potential writers. It seems to me that we, the public, are subjected to a regular barrage of pleas to support indies, the independent booksellers of America. I understand and agree with their arguments, and there's that David vs. Goliath thing too.

In fact I do support them; for example, for about ten years I drove past the “big guys” to shop at Litchfield Books, when we had a place at Garden City Beach. This year I called them to ask about putting my new novel there on consignment. The “lady” who answered interrupted me to ask if I was self-published, then said, “We do not stock self-published novels.” End of that conversation.

I had the same brief talk with a large indie in Charlotte (not Park Street Books-they've stocked me and are allowing me a signing this month). I sent an email query to 20 Texas indies, and only received two responses—one was folding, the other wanted a 45% discount. True West Magazine accepted $1540.00 from me for an ad, then declined to review my novel as they “have to stick with established authors and publishers in these troubled economic times.”

I have had great luck with some of the few indies left in SC, like Indigo (John's Island), Swift (Orangeburg), Fiction Addiction (Greenville), Java Nook (Ridgeway), and Blue Bicycle (Charleston). The manager at Ravenous Reader (James Island) was absolutely rude, even though I had stacked up $184.00 worth of books to buy on her counter. I left them there, drove over to Indigo Books and bought them from nice people, the owners Nat and Linda.

I guess that's my point. We, the independent writers, are sometimes treated to a different standard than the indies wish for themselves. I, as an indie writer, plan to keep spending money with fair-minded folks, and to keep identifying those with double standards. My True West subscription will expire.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Writer's Gut

By Mayowa Atte

Not that kind of gut.

I am talking about that other writer’s gut. The writer’s instinct.

Among all the skills and talents a writer must possess to write well, few are as important, far-reaching and ethereal as instinct. What is it, this writer’s instinct? How do we cultivate it? How do we put it to good use?

Let us try a recipe. Take all the experiences that make a writer unique as a human being. Add a large helping of the story the writer wants to tell, plus an equal portion of all the writer knows of the writing craft. Blend vigorously.

What you have at the end is a writer’s instinct. It is what helps a writer choose between two or more equally applicable words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes, motivations, actions and consequences. All the ingredients blend into a fluid, personal and inspired inner compass that points the writer towards the true north of the story.

We cultivate the writer’s instinct by building up all the individual ingredients. By living full and vital lives that enrich our experience. By picking the right stories to tell. By reading and writing ceaselessly to better our craft.

How do we put our writing instincts to good use? By listening to them. There are countless moments when a writer’s gut feeling will directly contradict writing convention, the opinions of our editors, beta readers and fellow work shoppers. Our writing instincts should win a good portion of the time.

Why not all the time? Tis a fine line between trusting one’s instincts and being a writing egomaniac. Writers have to know when to accept criticism and feedback, when to ignore their instincts and gain new insights.

Your writing gut is right there. Cherish it, build it into the wonder of muscular magnificence that it is, and listen when it whispers.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Enslaved to Confusion

By Deborah Wright Yoho

As a writer, I feel buffeted by the pressures of globalization. Ever since I read Thomas Friedman’s iconic books on the subject, daily I feel like I am leaning into the wind, weathering the storms of merciless change. Deadlines. Competitions. Places to go and things to do if I ever hope to be published. Yet writing for me requires a slow pace and a measure of peace and quiet. I’d like to think of my writing as a refuge, at least a pause that refreshes. But more and more the mechanics of modern life reduce my writing time to a few moments, like taking a vitamin pill with the hope I’ll have more energy later.

My new intellectual hobby is keeping up with the effects of globalization. I am enslaved to perpetual confusion, dealing with the unrelenting learning curve required to operate my demon computer. I call it the Machine, and I refuse to talk to it.To do so would confirm the presence of another life form struggling to communicate with me in an alien language. While I know it is useless to ignore its demands, I maintain the delusion that the human mind by default should function as master over all machines. Entities with an assertive consciousness require respect I refuse to offer.

The joy of maintaining a connection to friends and family has become a chore. Nobody is ever home, cell phones are unreliable, email addresses constantly change, and who has the time for snail mail? Facebook just won’t cut it. I must plan for a three-day delay trying to reach anybody at all. Not that I am any different. People get mad at me if I don’t return their message in less than 24 hours. Half the time I want the world to just go away and the rest of the time I’m chasing after it.

My private life as a reader has been invaded. Should I buy a Kindle? Must I? Probably. The cost to feed a two-books-a-week habit is bounding away from me. I can’t indulge my preference for ink on paper much longer unless I want to spend more time with the Machine managing a waiting list at the library.

I suspect those who cherish the deliberative writing process, considering, drafting, editing, and then doing it all over again before releasing their thoughts to others, could someday become an extinct species.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Why Workshop

By Monet Jones

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” What a bunch of nonsense! Most of us have heard this line from childhood and perhaps responded to insults with it. It’s a lie. Words hurt, criticisms hurt, and even “constructive criticisms” often cause anguish.

This is a fact that we must recognize if we intend to relate to readers or improve our writing style. Spoken words can insult; written words can destroy. As aspiring authors, we must be aware of the possible impact of our words, and particularly the concepts described.

We also quickly learn that the power of words is a double-edged sword. Words give us power to hurt others, while at the same time endowing critics with the ability to cut us to the quick.

For that reason, a certain amount of masochism is involved, particularly with the Columbia II Workshop, whenever one submits to a peer review. Writers who set up scenes with words must realize that we can’t be objective enough to anticipate all possible viewpoints, never mind spelling and grammar. Painting word pictures is always an inexact art, and therefore, accords suggested improvements.

This is the “raison d’être” for writers' workshops. It is my belief that no writer ever achieves a standard of professionalism that would make peer review redundant. You might have a rapier wit and think you have produced a “monumental tome of literary excellence,” only to have it drop into an abyss of indolent nescience, if none but a select few appreciate it. (The preceding statement is a façade of BS intended to impress the casual reader.)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Path to Inspiration

By Michelle Gwynn Jones

Whenever I tell someone that I am a writer their first question is always “What do you write?” I can see the look of confusion on their face, or horror in their eyes, as I tell them about my novel and the sequels. “Where did you get that idea?” is almost always their next question.

Some people find their inspiration in a country song, either the lyrics or the title. Others find their stories embedded in historical events and create a fictional character who was there. There are those who design the coolest spaceships known to mankind and unfold their stories in its travels.

I looked over the outlines I developed for the sequels to my novel, Daniel’s Law, and tried to remember exactly what I was doing at the time I thought of the story. I have never been able to point to anything so definite. What was the catalyst to its development? Nothing comes to mind. There were no great moments of epiphany while watching the news, attending a conference or getting a manicure which I can point to.

I do, however, remember the questions I asked myself that led to the storylines: Can citizenship be forced upon someone? How far is too far undercover? If murderers can’t inherit, can their children? Once I asked myself the original question I felt compelled to seek out an answer, sometimes with a quick Google, other times with weeks of devoted researching. It was not until I had an answers to my question that I realized this could be a story. There is always some subtlety in the law, some nuance in its interpretation, which lends it to a mystery.

While I have no idea what inspired my original inquiry I know that by the time I decided it could be a story it was well thought out.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Thinking Ahead in Another Language

By Ilmars Birznieks

Repeatedly educators and parents in our country question the
relevancy of foreign languages in schools. Their argument is that
practically in every foreign country we can get by with English.
Consequently, they propagate the idea that the learning of a foreign
language is a waste of time.

The idea that foreign languages are irrelevant and their learning
a waste of time ignores the facts. English is not spoken in every
country. It only appears that way to American tourists. People in
other countries naturally prefer to talk or negotiate in their own
language, a matter of national pride. However, in many instances U.S.
media, businessmen, and government officials working in other
countries are at a disadvantage because they cannot speak the language
of the country in which they work and live. They have to employ
translators, who do not always serve the best interest of their
employers, for faulty translations occur frequently.

Our educators and parents should seriously reconsider their
attitude towards requiring students to learn foreign languages at an
early age. Because of the global economy, which will become even more
global in the future, we will have more foreign involvement not less.
In preparing our students for that kind of future, we must not
handicap them. We must recognize that many of them, like it or not,
will have to work for a foreign company here or overseas. For them
the ability to speak a foreign language will be a distinct advantage.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mr. Peanut: A Book Review

By Ginny Padgett

I must say Adam Ross’s Mr. Peanut goes against all the advice from experts we aspiring writers hear for crafting a first-time novel, and I am hopping mad. I want to know who Ross had to sleep with to get this trash to market and reviewed by the New York Times.

Here’s the list of some of the transgressions I noticed:

• Two stories told side-by-side and then too conveniently dovetailed by an unbelievable turn of events. (The implausible storyline includes Dr. Sam Shepherd, whose wife was murdered, a real case from 1954. He was convicted for the crime, went to jail for ten years and was then released, all the while maintaining his innocence. In Mr. Peanut, when released from prison, Shepherd becomes a police detective and is assigned to investigate the suicide, or possible murder, of the wife of David Pepin, one of Ross’s main characters. The Shepherd and Pepin murder stories are juxtaposed for our enlightenment or entertainment.)
• Rambling descriptions of Hawaiian terrain, climbing a mountain, convoluted feelings, etc., go on for pages and halt the forward progress of both stories.
• A flashback at the end of the novel that sheds no insight into characters or events is so lengthy it becomes a mini-chapter…just hanging there.
• The Mobius strip, a mathematical object of optical illusion, is mentioned ad nauseam as an element in works of art; is the basis of one of David Pepin’s video games he is developing for a flourishing market; and is the name of the private detective hired by Mr. Pepin. I enjoy symbolism, but this use struck me as overkill. In addition, Mr. Peanut, the Planter’s Nuts icon, and the actual nut also carry significant weight as symbols throughout both stories. I felt like I was being hit over the head with the hammer of Mr. Ross’s less than subtle images.

On top of all these annoyances, this is the most misogynistic piece of ‘literature’ I have ever read. If one is to suspend belief to buy into this story, the reality is all men fantasize, dream, plot, and sometimes carry out the murder of their wives.

The New York Times reviewer wrote this about Mr. Peanut, “…story that reads like a postmodern mash-up of Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and one of James M. Cain’s noirish mysteries.

How can this “…dark, dazzling and deeply flawed novel that announces the debut of an enormously talented writer” get published? Maybe I could understand it better if this were the fourth or fifth book from an established author.

Mr. Peanut seems to prove my theory that all you need to become a successfully published, well regarded, best-selling author is a good publicist. I regret I wasted my time reading this collection of words. I hope Adam Ross will renew his prescription for ADD medication before he attempts another book.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Boot Camp

By Suzanne Gwinner

In April, I attended a weekend boot camp. A writers' boot camp. A children’s writers’ boot camp to be exact. When I got the invitation in the mail, it sounded perfect for someone like me – a writer struggling with revisions on my first children’s book. It meant giving up an entire weekend, the weekend of our annual neighborhood soiree, but that would be a small price to pay in exchange for a dose of inspiration. On the designated Friday evening, I tossed my suitcase in the car and headed up I-77 to Charlotte. I know from experience that workshops don’t always meet expectations, but I had high hopes for this one.

Early Saturday morning I entered the conference room and established my territory. With coffee, bagel, notebook, and workshop materials spread before me, I perused the agenda. In two days we would cover:

• Generating story ideas
• Developing unique believable characters
• Creating internal and external conflict
• Developing plot
• Making a plot point outline
• Writing dialogue
• Exploring point of view
• Writing description and setting
• Opening sentences and paragraphs
• Revising
• Formatting manuscripts
• Writing query letters
• Writing a synopsis
• Marketing

Time was built in for group discussions, class exercises, and questions were invited.

“Whew!” I thought to myself, “This is going to be intense.”

It was. Our knowledgeable speakers, Laura Backus and Linda Arms White (Children’s Book Insider, WeMakeWriters.com) packed each hour with valuable material. The well-planned writing exercises were professionally evaluated. Laura and Linda, while warm and sincere, exhibited some drill sergeant-like qualities. The no-nonsense tone of the workshop meant we stuck to the schedule, we accomplished all of the goals, and we had time for questions. We analyzed the handful of books we had been assigned to read prior to coming to camp. Their organization and preparation allowed for a workshop packed with quality learning.

At 5:00 P.M. on Sunday afternoon, I drove back to Columbia with that fabulous fried brain feeling. This workshop had met all of my expectations and more. Ideas for revisions were already dancing in my head. As I drove, a simple thought occurred to me. Good writing is good writing, no matter the audience. The agenda from boot camp could have been the agenda for any number of adult writing workshops I have attended. We all strive for a moving story, characters that connect, clever dialogue, a setting that grabs. In some ways, a children’s author has a more difficult job as he/she must convey all this using fewer words and, often, a less sophisticated vocabulary.

Anxious to get a reaction from my writing companions at workshop, I read the new rendition of my book. My cohorts insist they don’t know anything about children’s literature, but they do. They know plot, character, setting, dialogue. Many of them have children and grandchildren whose reading habits they have helped to develop. In my opinion they’re experts. I cherish their comments.

“Children’s Authors’ Bootcamp” was the spark I needed to finish my revisions. Have you been to a workshop lately? An outsider’s view, a fresh idea, a different perspective might just be the answer if your muse has gone on vacation.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Curse of Concrete/Sequential

By Alex Raley

My twelve-year-old grandson just finished a workshop in creative writing as a part of the University of South Carolina's Carolina Master Scholar program. After the first day, I asked him whether the workshop was what he expected. His response was negative. A bit surprised, I asked him what he expected. He said, "Boooring!" I said, "It isn't boring?" "No, it is so fun. We wrote about twenty short poems and prose pieces." I ignored the "so fun" nonsense and pondered writing "so much" in a group setting. His group kept that pace for five days. Of course, they met from 8:30 to 3:30 with a lunch break.

Groups are inspiring to me. I get excited on hearing the work of members of our writing group. Even reading books on writing is helpful and goads me to get to writing more. Attending workshops on writing provides me with lots of fodder for thought, but rarely do I produce something in the workshop that excites me. I suppose my mind just doesn't work that way.

For most of my life I have thought through scenarios in my mind before beginning to write. That may have come from the many essays I had to write throughout my school career--essays that had to have well-defined theses and a sequenced development of those theses that would bring you to logical conclusions. Do you suppose we are wired before birth to be concrete/sequential or random access? If so, lucky is the writer of fiction who is wired as random access. Fiction is about life and life is not concrete/sequential.

Recognizing my bent to think concrete/sequentially and paying homage to that bent for its contributions to me throughout my school years, especially graduate school, I set about remaking myself. One of the things I did was to use every opportunity to jot down bits and pieces of scenes and experiences without tying them to other thoughts that might try to drive them to a logical end. I also approached reading differently. I chose books that did not feed my bent to the logical. Even mysteries, which must be built with a good measure of logic, lead you down many unexpected paths before finally confronting you with what you logically should have expected.

Writing poetry also has helped me. Poetry is built on unexpected interesting images drawn into the vortex your writing. The idea of poetry enhancing fiction is for a later blog.

Can you still expect to see me in writing workshops? Count on it. I love the camaraderie of and conversation with other writers. Now that's where random access resides.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Giving Women What They Want

By Laura P. Valtorta

Stieg Larsson, (1954 – 2004) the Swedish author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (in Sweden originally titled Men who Hate Women), The Girl who Played with Fire, and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, wrote books that are wildly successful because they give women what they want: a strong female character who defies every despicable stereotype. The character, Lisbeth Salander, lives the way she wants in a society that tries its best to suppress her. More than 27 million copies of Larsson’s novels have been sold in 40 countries.

There is no doubt in my mind that Larsson’s longtime companion, Eva Gabrielsson, helped invent the characters in these novels, especially Lisbeth Salander. Full credit must be given, however, to Larsson for being strong enough to write such a fantastic female character, who steals the show from Blomquist, the character who may be Larsson’s alter ego.

But to say that Blomquist is Larsson’s alter ego is unfair. Every character is part of the author’s psyche. Lisbeth is Larsson.

Lisbeth Salander exists in a world of misogynists, a world that is constantly trying to beat her down. She thrives, nevertheless, because she displays so little emotion. For a five-foot-tall woman she is exceedingly strong, physically, and knows how to use weapons and fight. She always protects herself and successfully fights off the larger men who try to kill her. She has sex when she wants, with whom she wants, and then she walks away unscathed. (Except for Blomquist, who is the love of her life, but whom she ignores when he goes off with another woman.) She excels at math and science and makes her living as a computer hacker. She depends on no one.

There are no children in Lisbeth Salander’s world. No husband. She makes her own money – lots of it – and spends it as she wants – on a luxury apartment and lots of travel. Nothing ties her down. When the time comes, she drives off on her motorbike, leaving the expensive apartment, and its IKEA furnishings behind.

This is the dream world, the ideal world that Stieg Larsson has given us. It is a wonderful gift.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Setting: It's All in the Song Title

By Kimberly Johnson

I’m on the interstate (I-20 E) and I’m thinking about the topic for this blog. My radio’s on 97.5 FM and my AC is on 5. All of sudden, my foot starts tapping (the other foot that is not on the gas pedal) along to Tulsa Time by Don Williams. It got me thinking:

“What does Tulsa look like in the summertime?”

“Is it hot as Texas Pete hot sauce on a fried chicken leg?”

I mentioned that episode to get you to ponder the setting of your next fiction piece or nonfiction masterwork. Setting is the time and place in which a story takes place. The purposes are 1) to create problems for the characters, 2) to provide a background for the events and characters, and; 3) to help understand the characters and their conflicts. For me, setting is truly important; I spend considerable time conjuring the perfect city, state and zip code for my good and bad guys to duke it out in. Sometimes I feel like a production manager on a MGM musical from the 1940s.

As always, the Nashville sound is a great template to bring into play when you begin to write the backdrop for the next Great American Novel. So, the next time you are driving on the interstate, switch over to the country station. Think about how you can produce an action-packed plot or weave a tale of romance. For inspiration, try these songs, the drama is built into the titles:

All The Gold in California, The Gatlin Brothers, “…all the gold in California is in a bank in the middle of Beverly Hills, in somebody else’s name, so if you’re dreaming about California, it don’t matter at all where you played before, California’s a brand new game…”

Cowboy Casanova, Carrie Underwood, “…He’s a good time cowboy Casanova, leaning up against the record machine, looks like a cool drink of water, but he’s candy-coated misery. He’s the devil in disguise, a snake with blue eyes, and he only comes out at night ...”

Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, “…See the alligators all a-waitin' nearby, sooner or later they know I'm gonna try. When she waves from the bank don't you know I know, it's goodbye fishin' line see you while I go. With a Louisiana woman waitin' on the other side, the Mississippi River don't look so wide…”

Alright, Darius Rucker, “…Don't need no five star reservations; I've got spaghetti and a cheap bottle of wine. Don't need no concert in the city, I've got a stereo and the best of Patsy Cline. Ain't got no caviar, no Dom Perignon, but as far as I can see, I've got everything I want…”

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Latest Addition



Meet a New Writer

MONET M. JONES

I am currently a member of the SC Writers’ Workshop, and participate in several online writers’ groups. I retired from teaching high school technology courses, twenty-five years at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, and am now involved in writing full time. I live with my wife Kathy near the small town of Elgin, SC.

Kathy works in Columbia as an accounting assistant. Each morning before she leaves for work, we usually hike with our dog, Max, on a two-mile trail near our home.

Max is a toy poodle and my constant companion, if our granddaughter is not around. Our cat, Annabelle, more commonly known as “Mow Mow,” makes an appearance on the walking trail or in the home whenever the notion strikes her. Both pets have been the inspiration for several short stories.

My favorite activities, other than writing, include reading, walking, watching and feeding the birds that cluster to our back yard, singing in the church choir, and helping my son Nicolas with the planting and harvesting of our vegetable garden.

My first novel, Rehoboth, is in the final stages of self-publication, and I hope to have it published by CreateSpace in July of 2010. I welcome emails mjones1@sc.rr.com.

Monet's first blog entry follows.

Writing Is Like Gardening

By Monet M. Jones

As I approach the nether years of life, I have learned that the best way to garden is to let my son do it while I give him sage advice and praise. However, gardening is still an important part of my life and the obvious similarities with writing intrigue me.

A serious gardener is always planting seeds into small peat pots in anticipation of the next growing season.

A writer is constantly observing and cataloguing characters and situations in anticipation of the next story.

A gardener must decide where to plant. This decision is contingent on many factors: available land, sunlight, drainage, etc.

An author must decide what to write. This decision is contingent on many factors: area of expertise, audience, saturation, etc.

A gardener plants more seed than needed; this necessitates thinning (the very painful process of destroying some of the precious babies simply because they are too many).

A writer writes much more than needed; this necessitates self-editing (the very painful process of destroying some of the precious babies simply because they are too many).

A gardener prunes the vine for better fruit; this involves cutting away part of the vine.

A writer submits his work to peer review; this involves cutting away part of one’s soul.

A gardener must contend with insects and disease.

An author must use proper grammar and a spell checker.

A gardener must eventually destroy the plants and till the soil.

A writer must eventually submit to the ministrations of an editor.

A gardener with a good crop enjoys the fruits of his labor, and preserves food for the coming year.

A writer with a good story submits it to a publisher, who casually tears it apart and tosses it into the trash, then chortles as she sends a form letter of rejection, indicating that the company is not interested in publishing such a story at this time.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What Does Your Bookcase Say About You?

By Michelle Gwynn Jones

Yesterday I went online to Amazon.com and did a search on one of my favorite topics, “books - writing - fiction,” to see what if anything was new and interesting. As usual I put several books in my shopping cart so that later I could review them and decide if I want to make the purchase.

With about fourteen books placed in my cart I settled into the task of further evaluation by clicking on “Look Inside” and reading any and all available reviews. When I came to the third book something about it seemed familiar. I thought to myself, “Have I read this before?” or worse, “Do I already own it?”

I got up from my snuggled-into position on the couch, walked into my home office and looked on the shelves of my bookcase. Sure enough, there it was. So I printed out my shopping list and did a cross check with what I already owned and to my surprise, or dismay, four of the books already adorned my shelf. I decided then that before I did any more shopping I should take a full inventory of what I already own.

Now I have most of the basics by my desk for easy access: the largest dictionary that I can pick up, a thesaurus for when I desperately need another word, a few books on proper grammar and style. Of course, there are the other standards for a fiction writer such as books on developing a scene, the importance of the first five pages, writing effective dialogue and how to prepare a manuscript for submission.

All of those books are normal for a fiction writer, but it is the genre of my writing that makes my top shelf so peculiar. There is a variety of reference books with titles such as: Making Crime Pay; A Complete Guide to Poisons which rates toxicity level from 1 to 5, describes the symptoms of the poison and how to mask it if possible; Guns, Knives and Other Weapons of Death which dedicates a bit too many pages to antique weapons for my stories; Cause of Death : A Writer's Guide to Death, Murder and Forensic Medicine, which is self explanatory.

It made me wonder, if someone came into my office and only looked at my top shelf what would they think? Would they assume I was in law enforcement, or would they fear I was a hired assassin, slowly back out of the room and make a nonchalant exit from my home?

Take a few moments, look over your collection and ask yourself, “What does my bookcase say about me?”

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Luxury of Being Understood

By Deborah Wright Yoho

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "It is a luxury to be understood." Perhaps this is the reason a writer is a creature who craves feedback. We want to know we have communicated what we meant, that our words are received with all the nuance and meaning we ascribe to our efforts in our own minds.

We all want to be understood. Emerson noted the rarity of that privilege. The writer strives for the Holy Grail, an elusive instant that is precious. How can we know the reader 'hears' what we 'said'?

We have to ask. The SC Writers’ Workshops provide structured opportunities for readers to share what they 'heard'. As writers, we hope this is a reflection of our own voice, and if we are fortunate indeed, perhaps the reader's mind is challenged to follow our mental pathway toward something new.

I find that I get the most out of constructive, sincere feedback only after I reach a level of personal satisfaction with what I have written. So I don't share my work with anyone until I sense a fair chance that it is good enough for someone to 'hear' what I am trying to say. Like Emerson, I know the luxury of being understood. Perhaps I need to develop a thicker skin; it strikes me that writing is a risky business.

So if I don't really value what I have written--if it hasn't cooked long enough, or doesn't have enough ingredients yet, hasn't marinated to a richness at least in my own mind, I don't bring it to the workshop. I feel I can't expect a reader to value my writing (enough to give my words serious consideration and help me improve) if the selection isn't already close to the best I can do without the reader's feedback. If I want to grow tomorrow beyond whatever level I have reached today, I have to do my best first, and only then seek out the "luxury of being understood."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Confident Writer

By Mayowa Atte

Late at night, when sleep refuses my entreaties, I ask myself; what must I do to write the Truth? What must I do to write it well, to have it clench my reader’s heart in its fist and pump horror, laugher, lust, love, sorrow and joy within? The answer never comes. In the morning, I write.

Then there are other nights, when I am sure that I am a hack and a copycat. I am sure readers will pee themselves in laughter at my feeble prose. In the morning, I write.

Confidence, it is a writer’s secret weapon.

But how do we build confidence? By writing the right story and by putting in the work.

The right story always nags a writer, whispers to the writer at night, pinches the writer during meetings and dates until the writer writes it down. When a writer is writing this story, the writer can be confident in his/her creativity. This story is yours and yours alone, no one else can write it like you can. The words will come.

The other way to gain confidence is to put in the work. When a writer has studied the craft, has labored before the empty page and sacrificed free time for the story, the writer can be confident in his/her finished work. When a writer puts everything into a story, it is more than just words on a page. It is life.

So when doubt creeps into our hearts, confidence beats it back. When the empty page tries to stay empty, confidence fills it with words. When our writing is dull, confidence helps us break the rules and achieve the omnipotent power of voice. When a critique hurts, confidence soothes us. When another rejection crashes into our inbox, confidence makes us send out two query letters in its place.

We are confident because we are writing the right stories, because we put everything into them and hold nothing back.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Writer's Paradise

By Tiem Wilson

The school year is coming to an end. The kids are going to Grandma’s for the ENTIRE summer vacation. What shall I do with myself? WRITE, WRITE, WRITE!!!

There will be no kids to yank out of bed and hustle to the bathroom. Instead, I can sit at the table to sip coffee from my SC Writers’ Workshop mug. The travel mug can stay in the cupboard. No dog in need of a morning walk. I can sit with the laptop out on the patio. No inhaling breakfast while packing lunches. I can digest the motives for the antagonist’s behavior. No racing traffic to beat the tardy bell. I can cruise through the history of why my character resents her mother. No homework to check. I can study the landscape of the hilltop my character sits upon when trying to unwind.

I am so excited to get started, I can hardly wait. I will begin the very first week the kids are gone. Well, first I need to use this opportunity to clean the bedrooms, professionally clean the carpets and maybe touch up the walls with fresh paint. I’ll get that out of the way first. Then I can focus solely on my writing.

Now that I’m thinking of it, I might as well put down the new tiles in the kitchen. With no distractions, it should only take a couple of days. New plan: clean the kids’ rooms, paint, lay new tiles… all done in one week. That’s still nine weeks left dedicated all to writing.

Come to think of it, I did promise myself to finish that scrapbook. No problem. I can finish the scrapbook in a week and still have eight weeks left. This is going to be the best summer ever. I will get so much done… housework, scrapbooking, and most important, writing.

I now have my routine planned out completely. One week will be spring cleaning and redecorating. Another week is dedicated to serious scrapbook time. One week will be late hours at work to finish up some of those projects early and free up some writing time for later. Another week is for family vacation. Don’t worry… I’m taking the laptop. (smiles) That’s still six good weeks of writing. Not bad, right?

I have it all laid out now. The daily routine will be to start with a cup of Joe, using the time to get the creative juices flowing and thoughts percolating. I’ll get in about 45 minutes of computer time before heading to work.

In the evenings, I’ll start with an awesome calorie-burning workout. Next, I’ll add in a little bike riding or a run. Then I'll have a nice relaxing bath and put in a call to the kids. After eating a healthy, balanced meal, washing the few dishes, ironing the work clothes for the next day, I’ll sit down at the computer with a glass of wine. The perfect writing regime!!

Summer is almost here. The kids are going away for the summer. What shall I do with myself? Procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate…

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Need a Good Story? Listen to a Country Song - A Lesson in Conflict

By Kimberly Johnson

Country music songwriters are some of the finest writers. They immediately assemble the basic building blocks to a good story; elements that perhaps novelists sometimes fail to fully develop: setting, plot, conflict, character, point of view and theme. What key ingredient makes a Nashville hit? Conflict. That quarrel, that squabble, that moaning and groaning between characters; it’s the reason why the listener stays tuned and taps his foot.

The lyricist chooses from internal or external conflict to build his composition, employing one of the following conflicts to create tension and a great song: man vs. man, man vs. circumstances, man vs. society and man vs. himself.

Willie Nelson’s "Crazy" is a prime example of a good story, a lesson in conflict. Nelson pens the internal struggle of a woman who is distraught because her man doesn’t love her. He’s left her for another woman. Nelson’s lines examine the grief that the leading character harbors. The late Patsy Cline brings the story to life as she woefully croons...
I’m crazy for feeling so lonely, I’m crazy, crazy for feeling for feeling so blue. I knew, you ‘d love me as long as you wanted, and then someday, you’d leave me for somebody new…Worry, why do I let myself worry, wonderin’ what in the world what I did I do, oh crazy, for thinking my love could hold you, I’m crazy for trying, and crazy for crying…

Another good story with a lesson in conflict is Dolly Parton’s 1970s chart topper "Jolene." In this narrative, a woman (Dolly), tells the other woman (Jolene) to leave her man (Dolly’s husband) alone. Jolene, a red head beauty, is a home wrecker. Dolly begs Jolene to stop using her womanly ways to seduce her man. Dolly, the songwriter, cunningly reveals to the audience the reasons, and conflicting elements, why her man is in love with the other woman.
Jolene. Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene. I’m beggin’ of you not to take my man. Please don’t take him just because you can…your beauty of is beyond compare with flaming locks of auburn hair…I cannot compete with you, Jolene. He talks about you in his sleep and there’s nothing I can do to keep from crying when he calls your name. Jolene I can easy understand, how you can easy take my man, but you don’t know what he means to me. Jolene. Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene . Please don’t take him just because you can…

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Why Write, Indeed?

By Ginny Padgett

This blog spot is a great resource for aspiring writers, full of good counsel and information. Today I’d like to share a different kind of advice that has been balm to my frayed creative nerves. The source is Dan Albergotti, one of the submission judges for the 2007 Petigru Review. I hope this will bring you the sigh of relief I heaved when I read this.

Albergotti observes, “To present your own writing for the world’s judgment is…an act of courage…The only true gauge of you work lies in your own mind and heart. And if you give too much credence to publication and awards as indicators of your artistic achievement, you risk squelching that one true measure – that critic inside yourself who really knows the score.”

He goes on to cite an essay, “Why Write?” (The Cincinnati Review, 2.1, Spring, 2005), written by his teacher and mentor, Alan Shapiro. “Recognition through publication and awards is ‘like cotton candy: It looks ample enough until you put in your mouth, then it evaporates. All taste and no nourishment.’(106)”

Alborgetti cautions the aspiring writer about the danger of being too critical of her work. Again, this part really spoke to me regarding my sense of failing at my chosen art. “Do not succumb to that sense of failure. It is a natural feeling, but it is not true. If you ignore it – if you continue to write regardless of publication or public approbation or immediate personal satisfaction – you will not be failing. That ‘deepening sense of failure’ is what success feels like.”

Bless you, Dan Albergotti! These words helped put my fingers back on the keyboard and, in some strange way, gave me the courage to submit my work for publication again.

I want to leave you with this amazing fact. In her lifetime, Emily Dickinson saw only TEN of her 1600+ poems published. Write on, my friends.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Latest Addition


Meet A New Writer

MICHELLE GWYNN JONES


Michelle Gwynn Jones has found a way to combine three of her favorite things: her enjoyment of researching just about anything, her ability to write and her fondness for the law. As a writer of legal mysteries it is Michelle’s hope to entwine compelling who-done-its with unique legal arguments.

Michelle would be hard pressed to name her favorite authors. Her taste ranges from Scott Turow to Nora Roberts, from Stephen King to Sophie Kinsella. If she were forced to go into seclusion and told that she could only take three authors, and no other books, she would pick Jane Austin, William Shakespear and JK Rowling without a doubt. However, if given the choice, Michelle would gladly trade the books for an unlimited supply of Pepsi.

As for how she spends her “me” time she has several hobbies. There is her love of crafting, just about any kind. Sometimes Michelle actually creates things that she is proud of and other times she…well let’s just say no one will ever see them. Cooking is also a passion. One of her favorite things to do is to try and recreate, or improve on, something that she had in a restaurant. Even though it is widely debated whether or not taking a bubble bath is a bona fide hobby, there can be no doubt that Michelle has mastered the art.

Michelle was born and raised on Long Island, New York. She completed her undergraduate degree in New Hampshire where she enjoyed all the snow it had to offer. At Ohio Northern University she obtained her law degree and learned how to tell the different kinds of corn just by glancing over the field. At present she resides in South Carolina and is the mother of a seventeen-year-old boy who aspires to be an attorney and screenwriter.

Michelle's first posting follows.

Some of my Best Friends Are Characters

By Michelle Gwynn Jones

When I began my novel, Daniel's Law, I concentrated on the mystery that would unfold and the legal issues that the book would cover. I didn't spend much time on the characters themselves because when I read a novel I never retain the useless information. It is not relevant, in most stories, whether the characters are short or tall, cook in a well-equipped kitchen or always do take-out, live on this planet or another. In real life I would never use race to describe a person, why should I do it in my writing? However, after I sent the first draft to a few trusted friends to read I was shocked to find out that many people, for some reason, think that the this information is important. Obviously what is useless to me is not useless to other readers, reluctantly I had to admit a serious weakness in my writing.

I set out to learn the art of character development. As with any need for knowledge I began with research, research and more research. Unfortunately there are so many books written on the subject, each offering their own bits of wisdom and/or practical exercises, I found myself on information overload. I weeded through all the suggestions and chose those I thought would best work for me.

While rewriting my novel, and planning its sequels, I have now devoted a lot of time developing the characters and their surroundings. I maintain a character sheet that lists their basic description, education and work history. For recurring characters I have taken the sheets further to include their living environment, personal history from birth and how their lives will unfold in the upcoming novels, always aware that their futures are subject to change.

In regards to the detective, I have fully designed his apartment. The floor plan has two bedrooms, two baths, and a laundry room hidden behind the kitchen. I have gone to furniture stores and picked out and photographed most the furniture, copied pictures of rugs, lamps and artwork which I found online. The decorations are contemporary. The color scheme is black and white with red as an accent color, why, because he is colorblind. However, the only thing the reader of Daniel’s Law really learns about his apartment is that he has at least two couches and a dining room table.

I have found that I really like most of my characters. I want to spend a day on New Grace Lake sailing with my protagonist Rachel Shorte. I wish I could have a dinner out with my detective Winston Spaulding and listen to him tell tales of his childhood. If only I could enjoy an afternoon sipping wine on the deck with Willa Bower I could learn much from her words of wisdom. These people have become some of my closest friends.

To the detriment of my writing time I have devoted many hours into the creation of my characters’ home surroundings, food and beverage preferences and even their choice of transportation. So my question to my fellow writers…and the universe in general, is this…how much time is too much time for character development?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Is It an Autobiography?

By Tiem Wilson

Have you ever read a novel and asked yourself: is this a real-life experience for the author? When you read about certain tragedies in a story do you find yourself wondering how much of it is a first-hand account? In your own writing, how much of yourself can you see reflected in the characters?

In a recent conversation with my nephew, this question was asked in reference to Blair Underwood, actor-turned-author. Underwood currently has two published novels featuring the character Tennyson Hardwick. Hardwick is a struggling actor. Thus, we pondered how much of Hardwick’s life is mirrored from Underwood’s own close encounters?

The same question was posed to Eric Jerome Dickey when he penned Between Lovers. It is a heart-felt story of a now bestselling author confronting the woman who left him at the altar early on in his career. The experience is so compelling you truly feel it is Dickey’s own broken heart bleeding on those pages. Based on the love scenes in all of his novels, my girlfriends and I have had many wine-induced conversations about the kind of lover Dickey must be in real life. We wondered when would he have time to write?

More recently, this question was answered by author Alice Sebold. I just finished listening to a production of The Lovely Bones on audiobook. In the author interview, Sebold revealed there is a common thread shared between herself and the main character, Susie. Sebold professed she was a rape victim at age 18. Although she obviously lived through her ordeal, she admited that a lot of herself came out as Susie’s character began to take form.

I have tried to pen an experience for a novel. I never get too far as I realize my life, at times, is quite boring. Therefore, I stick to characters that have exciting experiences I only dream of. It has been said that everyone has a story to tell. The quest then becomes turning that story into a never ending journey to pass down through the generations.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Latest Addition


Meet a New Writer

JESSICA ROBISON

Jessica Robison teaches English in a local high school. Always an
obsessive reader, Jessica has recently channeled her creative energy
into writing a young adult Sci-Fi novel as well as numerous salacious rap lyrics. She plans to retire young after winning the lottery and/or tricking a wealthy man into marrying her.

Jessica's first entry follows.