Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Alert! Tomorrow, September 26, is the Deadline to Sign Up For My Short Story Class at Edmonds Community College Beginning October 1, 2013

This class covers crafting a short story all the way to publishing. There are literally hundreds of journals looking for stories. This is true!

My class is intense personal, positive and supportive.  Promoting self-esteem is paramount.  We get to know one another very quickly and become wholly involved.

As a teacher, it doesn't take me long to uncover strengths in a writer and exploit them.  We start from the critical first sentence right through to resolution.

Everything in a short story is there for a reason. I cover characters, dialogue, conflict, plot, similes,
metaphors, point of view, scene, narration, voice (and everything in between) in a heartfelt way.

Here is the link to sign up:

Or call 425 640.1243 between 10 and 2:00

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Truth in Fiction

Everything one invents is true. -- Gustave Flaubert 
What is remembered is what becomes reality.-- Patricia Hampl
True to life becomes fiction when it perceives more than observes. -- Wright Morris 
One's real life is often the life that one does not lead. --  Oscar Wilde

Monday, September 16, 2013

Keeping a List

I'm obsessed with lists:  Story ideas, good character names. even my characters make lists.  Many of us keep shopping lists,Christmas cards lists, birthday lists, to-do lists. How about getting in touch with your past lists?  Here are some examples:

1.  List all the friends you've had.  Put an X beside those you've lost contact with.

2.  List all the pets you've ever had,even the turtle that lived two days.

3.  List all of the moments you'd live over again.

4.  List everything you've done that you're ashamed of.

5.  List every object you've ever lost.

6.  List the best meals you've ever eaten.  And the worst.

7.  List the toys and games you owned as a child.

8.  List your favorite song.

9.  List your favorite smells.

10. List your goals for the next five years.  Prioritize them.

Take five to ten minutes on each list initially.  They will suggest events, emotions, people you haven't considered in a while.  What else do they suggest?  Use the lists for sources of material for your fiction.

                             --Taken from The Lie That Tells a Truth by John Dufresne, p.27

Friday, September 13, 2013

Rule One In Writing

The first rule in writing is that there are no rules.

This is what I tell my class before giving pointers in writing characters, dialogue, conflict, plot, simile, metaphor, point of view, scene, narration, voice, etc.

The truth is there is no system, no set of rules that guarantee good writing.  No magic formula that will make hard work, commitment, inspiration, taste and good luck unnecessary.  There are some ways  to trigger imagination.  Being obsessed with the need to write helps.  Patience helps.  Doing this for love helps.  Take the vow.

My classes are intense, personal positive and supportive.  Promoting self-esteem and confidence is paramount.  As a teacher is doesn't take me long to discover strengths in a writer and exploit them.

Teaching in a heartfelt way promotes accomplishment and leads to success.  Rules are only suggestions.  Each story has it own rule.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Story of Your Life is Never Boring

Stephen King's book, On Writing --  A Memoir of the Craft, is a link between writing and living.  Not a "how-to" necessarily, more an account of his struggles, successes and the drive to write.  Often it is very funny, always it's useful and revealing.

Steve had a teaching certificate and two kids, but he couldn't find a teaching job.  So he went to work at a commercial laundry.  He found little extras in hospital laundry like boxes of Cracker Jacks with weird prizes in them.  He found a steel bedpan in one load and a pair of surgical scissors in another. Once he heard a strange clicking from inside of one washer and hit the emergency stop button. In a pocket of surgical scrubs he found a complete set of human teeth.

What's more interesting than that?  When someone tells me about their so-called boring life, I don't believe them.  Whether you've worked in a laundry or on the 21st floor of a skyscraper, it's all grist to the mill.  Write that story and share it with me, please.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Writing About an Ordinary Life

We need to know about ordinary childhoods.  We want to know about your cough and that your mother/father was there to administer the syrup.  What kind of a bottle did it come in?  What did it taste like?  Did you want to spit it out or did the experience give your fragile life a foundation?

The important thing is to go below the cliches to touch the texture of your experience.  Your mind is hungry to be alive.  You give us that gift by laying down your true mind on the page.  We read it and you open up fields of our own imagination.

Life passes.  Thank you for telling us about your time.

Paraphrased from Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg, p.121

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Writers Need Rain

One of my students brought an editorial from The Seattle Times dated August 25, 1990.  The author is Pat Dillon.

"It sounded like piano keys tinkling.  The Douglas firs dripped freshly, smelling like toothpaste should.  And judging from the depth of the puddles on the patio and from the darkness of the soaked garden dirt, the rain evidently started during the middle of the night.

It had turned to a heavy mist that hung around all the next morning.  Out on the Sound, where the mist hung heaviest, where you couldn't see, the foghorns blew deep-toned toasts . . ."

"'The weather's definitely turned,' my brother said, looking out the window into the mist toward the Sound.  His voice sounded somber.  But he had a relieved look.  He's a poet.  He needs the rain.

It hadn't rained on Puget Sound in nearly a month, and the tanned natives of the Pacific Northwest were getting edgy.

Rain is their blood, their life.  Rain paints their landscape.  Rain restores the character of the place just as it begins to fade, just as it gives the salmon entree to stop swimming in confused circles and return to the rivers of their birth.

The sun is fine.  Just not in great doses.  Like visiting relatives, it saps them, just as it had been sapping the marigolds and dahlias and petunias in my mother's garden and the neighbors.'

So it was good that the rain came, good for everybody, that it arrived the day my kids and I returned to California . . ."
Many Puget Sound writers welcome the rain.  While I love to complain about it, I need the rain.  I need my studio window wet with drops of fall.  I need shelter to watch the rain with my two dogs and the Maine Coon cat.  I welcome the clicking of my computer keys nearly in sync with the drops on the window.  I walk the dogs to feel and smell the rain.  I return to my study and listen to it.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Will I Ever Be a Published Writer?

Will I ever be a published writer?

"You will be published if you possess three qualities--talent, passion and discipline.

You will probably be published if you possess two of the three qualities in either combination--either talent and discipline, or passion and discipline.

You will likely be published if you possess neither talent nor passion but still have discipline.

But if all you possess is talent or passions, if all you possess is talent and passion, you will not be published.  The likelihood is you will never be published.  And if by some miracle you are published, it will probably never happen again. . . ."

"A lot of writing is simply showing up.  A lot of writing is being willing to show up day after day, same time, same place.  A lot of writing is being able to put the work first simply because it is the work.  A lot of writing is being able to delay gratification."

                                                                  --Elizabeth George, Write Away

Progress On My Second Novel

The main problem in my second novel is drawing out the female protagonist. She is 21, admitted to a psych ward of a hospital after a suicide...