Tuesday, July 23, 2013

An English Confession

Yes, it's confession time.

I always hated the analysis of literature in English, in particular the words theme and symbolism. I'm sure there were others in the mix. What is the theme of this story/book? What does it tell us? What I kept hearing was theme = meaning. I just wanted to read the story---not analyze it for meaning and I certainly didn't care what the rose bush beside the steps in "The Scarlet Letter" symbolized. I really didn't.

The insistence of my English teachers (hush, Barry, you taught me Spanish!) on all of that turned me completely off literature, especially in my senior year. My teacher was very sweet but I learned to loathe Thomas Hardy. I passed primarily because I could, as the old saying goes, : if you can't dazzle them with brilliance---baffle them with B--S--. 

No, I was not a good student and I doubt if any of them ever thought I would persue a writing vocation. Seriously. Well, except for Mrs. Langley in junior high. She was the one who encouraged me to continue writing poetry and tried to get me into honors English in high school. It didn't happen.

I took a journalism class but dropped it after one semester when I found myself tooling around town selling ads for the yearbook to local businesses. Journalism is a business; I do understand that. But there were never any classes--no instruction whatsoever.

College was much better. I flew through Basic Comp I and left the instructor wondering why I was taking it. Simple answer: it was required for my major. It seems a lot of students were having trouble writing a coherent sentence. I was having a problem with boredom. Technical writing was required for my nursing major and I did well in it but it was boring, too. Creative writing I and II sparked my interest at last; I did well there because I liked what I was doing. I was writing a story. That was fun! No searching for meaning, no analysis pending, no symbology necessary. Just tell the story!

No, I'm not writing the Great American Novel nor do I have any ambition to do so.  I will simply write the best story I can, put my heart into it, and leave the reader to decide if it speaks to them . . .  and all that theme and symbolism stuff.
“A book is never, ever finished. You simply get to a point where you and your editor are reasonably happy with how it is and you go with that. Left to our own devices, a writer would endlessly fiddle with a book, changing little thing after little thing.”
― Kimberly Pauley

Yes, I'm in the throes of revision and understand that quote far too well!

Thursday, July 11, 2013


It's been awhile since I've posted any "bad poetry". Is it too soon?

My Mother’s Hands
I found my mother’s hands today
Dishwater-wrinkled with little spots of brown
The nails all bare—no Sunday polish in peachy tints
And the left finger still banded with gold.
It surprised me to see them there
Quiet, soft, so well remembered
Where I never thought to see them
At the ends of my own arms
My mother’s hands.


Reality with Subtitles

A one second touch.
Just fingertips and there it was.
Connection. Reality.
Again? Please?

Personal Possessions

Etched in your bones
A part of you , never to be lost.
Like silver, never to be tarnished
Always a part of you.

Summer Haikus

Laugh with me then
Safer than firecrackers
And lasts much longer.
Heat undulating
Off the grass moving waves
Without water. Stop!
Glaring, sun-bleached white
Stripped of moisture— of rainbows
A thunderstorm please!

Enough for now, I think. I don't want to do this very often. It's rather debilitating to be truthful. Authentic but truthful.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Do Your Characters Ever Invade Your House?

I'm so sorry. I couldn't help myself. In a recent email exchange with another "writing buddy" I wrote:

I am busy with my 'own stuff' but I think the guys improve when I make them sit in the living room and amuse themselves while I do something different. (Now there would be a funny scene to write!) I better stop thinking about that image!!

Of course, I looked up from my laptop into the living room and the images started popping up. The urge became overpowering. My fingertips tapped out the following little scene. Maybe it will make you giggle like it did me.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Perfect Question

I subscribe to a lot of blogs and writing sites. One of them I particularly like is Writers Write. Every day in my mailbox I find a writing-related comic, the latest blog posting,  a literary birthday,  a writing-related quote, and a writing prompt. All of them make me smile, think, and sometimes laugh out loud. The only thing I don't like--- they're in South Africa and when they send me an announcement about an upcoming class I growl. "I can't come! You're in South Africa!" Yes, I talk back to my computer screen, don't you?

I really like some of the prompts, though I don't really need them right now to get me writing,  Just as an example I'll share a few.
  • List the gifts your protagonist received on his or her birthday. Which one did your hero like best?
  • Make a list of five things your protagonist does not want to do.
  • Write about missing a plane.
  • Your hero and villain are on a train. Where are they going?
Sometimes one intrigues me to the point I want to use it so I do and end up stuffing it into a character's dossier. Today I'm going to take that up a notch and do a posting with a recent prompt. I thought I would apply it to each project just for fun. So here goes.

What is the perfect question to use as the opening line of your novel?

1. Rain: Cheryl's here at the club?

2. Snow: Get placed again in that trice-cursed area of the female psyche known as friend? Not only no but hell no!

3. Dani's Song: What do you suppose the story would be like if the Beauty was a king and the Beast his bride?

4. Troika: Didn't she know she was too small to be lifting weights like that without a spotter?

5. Familiar Strangers: What in the hell did she think she was doing waiting beside Buckingham Fountain in December for a man she had never met?

It's more difficult than it sounds. Only the question for Familiar Strangers and Troika come close to being acceptable. I cheated on Snow by adding Aaron's answer and the question for Dani's Song is in the old narrative voice which I am re-doing for the revision. All of them hold true to the beginning of the story though. Interesting.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Paring down the List---or F-O-C-U-S

Recently, with an eye to publishing online, I sent off a completed piece of work to a freelance editor. Every time I turned around I read about online publishing the advice kept hitting me: "Hire an editor!" So I did.

The experience brought me up short and made me look in a direction I hadn't thought of before with that particular piece. The story was fine, in a general sense, but it needed this and this. This word was overused. Oh, and this one, too.  You're repeating this and how about showing the audience how this happened. Yes, I suppose in a sense you could say it was ripped to shreds. Surprisingly, the feedback felt good. It really did.

The nearest simile I can think of right now is it like someone walking into a room you like. The room has colors and textures you like, furniture and art you've grown fond of, but there's clutter you don't know what to do with and the placement of the furniture isn't quite working for you. They deconstruct the room, pare down the clutter and move furniture around,  You blink in amazement---the room looks so right and what you've always liked about it is stronger. Whoa!

Now down to what I'm talking about in the title of this post. I'm revamping my projects list. I want and need to revise two of them. I have three rough drafts to complete  The rest is going to the back burner.

Revision tier:
  1. "Dani's Song" - I'm scrapping the notion of simply e-publishing a revised fairy tale (with or without illustrations) and going to revising it into a full grown middle school book.
  2. Rain- Of course it needs revising! It's been read and critiqued with all its shortcomings delineated. I want to get it straightened out and into the publishing ether. My characters deserve that chance.
Rough Draft tier:
  1. Snow
  2. Troika
  3. Familiar Strangers
I will be focusing on revision but I can't completely. It will be more of a 60/40 mix between the tiers or perhaps 80/20. Working on one storyline all by itself saps me. Switching to another for a space is what keeps things going for me. I don't risk burnout by any means. I'm too addicted to writing for that.

So what do you say? It's July. Should I give myself a deadline?  Nah---not yet. But the DFW Writers Con in 2014 is coming up in less than a year. Another gut-wrenching pitch perhaps?  Or two?