"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Writing Prompt

Write about someone who accidentally destroys something irreplaceable.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

To Whom Shall I Tell My Grief?

A Grandmother has ears that truly listen, arms that always hold, love that’s never ending, and a heart that’s made of gold.

My grandmother (my mom's mom) passed on Sunday. That's three grandmothers in the last six months that I have lost. While I'm lamenting their absence from my life, I am celebrating their peace and Heavenly embrace.
There’s a story by Anton Chekhov entitled, simply, “Grief”--also sometimes called "Misery"--which speaks to what grief may require--and to how the process of writing might contribute to the healing of grief.

The Chekhov Story –
When the story begins a cab-driver waits at twilight in the snow for a fare. His son has died the previous week. He waits a long time in the snow, and then finally—a passenger. As the evening wears on, the cab-driver attempts conversation with three different passengers. Three different times he attempts to tell his story—what has happened with his son. Each of the three interrupts him. One closes his eyes to stop the story. One informs him that we all must die. One simply gets out of the sleigh. Still later, the cab-driver attempts to stop and speak with a house-porter, but the house-porter tells him to drive on.
The driver asks himself: “To Whom Shall I Tell My Grief?” There’s so much that the cab-driver needs to tell. Chekhov writes:

One must tell it slowly and carefully; how his son fell ill, how he suffered, what he said before he died, how he died. One must describe every detail of the funeral, and the journey to the hospital to fetch the defunct’s clothes. His daughter Anissia remained in the village—one must talk about her too. Was it nothing he had to tell? Surely the listener would gasp and sigh, and sympathize with him?

The details must be told. And then—that gasp—that sigh—from the listener.
At the end of the day the cab-driver returns to the stables. He begins to speak to his horse:

Now let’s say you had a foal, you were that foal’s mother, and suddenly, let’s say, that foal went and left you to live after him. It would be sad, wouldn’t it?

The horse munches his hay and breathes his warm breath—and does not interrupt him. And that is how the story ends—with the cab-driver telling his story, finally, to his horse.
Perhaps what grief requires, as much as anything, is that the process not be interrupted. We need to tell and share our grief, even if only through writing.

I’ve been reviewing stories I wrote about my grandmothers before their passing. Feelings so raw and bittersweet well up, all part of the grieving process.
I recently came across this interview with Joyce Carol Oates on Why We Write About Grief.

What about you? Do you write in or about grief? How has it helped or hindered your mourning process?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Craft Timing Tip

Writers often complain about the amount of time (or lack of) to dedicate to their craft. Try this three part recipe of timing a friend sent me:

I can honestly say I have not even come close to this schedule lately. I've been enjoying a summer of fun with my girls and what time I have dedicated to the craft has mostly been for the two writing groups to which I belong. Planning workshops and conferences can be exhausting, but rewarding! When school resumes I'll be redirecting my priorities, but for now I'm enjoying family time.

How dedicated have you been? What factors affect your craft and how do steal time for your commitment?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Action Propels Your Reader

Action is the essence of a story. When a reader picks up a book, it’s the action mentioned on the back cover or the first page of your story that pushes them to buy the book. Continuing action throughout your story will propel the reader through the pages to the end.

Are your characters, or you if it’s nonfiction, too brooding or reflective? Think about action and how you can turn a scene with too much pondering into movement.
If it’s a scene trying to pick out what to eat, have them decide they really want something only to have the person in front of them buy the last one. What happens now? Is your protagonist in such a bad mood that they make bad decisions which in turn cause an accident, ruin an event, or the rest of the day? Does an argument ensue with the restaurant getting them banned for life? Does the main character try bargaining with the patron for the desired purchase, and end up creating a friend or enemy?

All of these outcomes lend to interesting possibilities. Remember, when a character acts, a reader engages.
As a friend of mine often says “Would you rather read about a man thinking about death, or a man building his own coffin?”

Do you have any examples of creating better action? How are you doing on your WIP?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

4 Reasons to Buy Books in Print

Many people own Nooks, Kindles, or other tablets now. We continually hear about bookstores closing down, and major book retailers downsizing. So, who is still buying the actual books you can hold in your hand?

1.      Lovers – so many readers and writers still prefer the tangible experience of the book. The way it feels in their hands, the sound when you open a new book and the pages fall, the smell of the paper and ink… these are all experiences cherished by book lovers. They may occasionally use the electronic devices, but as long as print exists, they will always prefer the ‘real thing’.

2.      Furnishers – these are people who cherish art and beauty. Books are decorations, colorful objects used to enhance the ambience of a room. I know several people who buy books because of the “look”. They never actually open them, let alone read the contents.

3.      Seekers – these people are looking for friends, approval, and respect. Their purchases are based entirely upon the popularity of a book. They want to “talk knowledgably” with others. They continually check the bestseller lists as well as the goodreads lists of those they will be around. Their purchasing decisions will be the same as that of others. Buying the print version is proof or validation of their "accomplishment".

4.      Money Makers – books are still seen as an investment, especially early printings, or rarely signed by the author copies. Don’t think books can bring in much money? Try this Chaucer for $225,000 or this Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations for $185,000. Try a search for rare books and you’ll find many more examples.

What about you? Do you still buy print? Why?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Preparing a Writers Gathering

Hey all! I hope you are enjoying the second half of summer.

I'm over on the Texas Gulf Coast Writers blog today talking about planning writers retreats, workshops and conferences. If you have time, stop by and ask your own questions or just leave a friendly comment: http://www.texasgulfcoastwriters.blogspot.com/2013/08/preparing-writers-gathering.html