Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I turn yet again to Lu Chi's Wen Fu

There is a reason why writers must read from the genre that they wish to write in.  They must know what others are producing and most importantly how they are going about it.  It is necessary to examine the art to grow into the artist, to watch the masters to learn to master the craft.

Lu Chi said it best.

When cutting an axe handle with an axe,
   surely the model is at hand.
      (Lu Chi's Wen FuThe Art of Writing, Translated by Sam Hill)

These words are so apropos.  It is not the plot, the setting or the characters used.  It is how the plot is imbedded in the story and how the characters are designed and put into motion.  It is the choice of the right word and the reason why it is right.  It is the reader crying even when the character's eyes are dry. 

Writers must apprentice themselves to the masters.  We must look closely in the same manner that the jeweler puts on his magnifying lens so he can evaluate the emerald and its unique setting.  Do the same as the farmer who runs the soil through her hands, or the wine maker sniffs the wine.  We must understand the process and product of the art of writing.  We must read closely the models at hand.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #35 2012

face on the wall
Find a face in your house that does not belong to a living being (no animals, no people).  Imagine it speaking and telling you its favorite moment. Give the voice emotion, specific diction and a degree of movement or expression.  Write the length of a page or two.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Writers are collectors

You may not find a series of shelves massed with tiny figurines or thirty-odd tennis racquets mounted on the wall and never used, but we're collectors.  We keep scraps of images, places, phrases, and emotions.  Some of us organize them in neat rows on revolving memories deep in our subconscious while others of us let them tumble about getting stuck together, so we can just reach in and grab a clump.  But we are constantly collecting from the world of experience around us.

pine resin, cool breeze, the heavy alarm of cicadas
I have lived all over the US, visited abroad a few times, and I can smell and hear these places no matter what current place is about me. In my mind the Narraganset trail lays out before me, twisting eagerly toward the Oregon Trail which I also know well in parts.  Standing on the deck of a ferry moving between Seattle, Washington, and Victoria, Canada, I can feel the rumble beneath my feet, the stiff breeze dragging at my ponytailed hair, the stacks of tandem bicycles filling the lower deck, row after row of them.  I can still see the riders standing about chatting in their matching jerseys and riding shoes that clicked in awkward careful steps that seemed to lean the riders slightly back on their heals.

I recall the day I moved into a new house when I was nine years old.  We moved often, and I had formed the habit of running outside to check out the neighborhood the moment I was excused by my parents.  I would peer up and down the street searching for children near my size and age.  This day I looked beyond the cul-de-sac I lived in, across the connecting main road into another cul-de-sac.  Three little girls were playing in the street.  I don't remember how I introduced myself, but I do remember they greeted me warmly, and we played until twilight and the street lights began to flicker on, which was my signal to return home.  We agreed to play again the next day, to be life long friends.  Just as I was about to head home, one girl asked me if I was Catholic.  I admitted that I was Lutheran.  Suddenly, the girls became a wall, shoulder to shoulder in front of me.  One girl stated quite dismissively that they were not to play with children who were not Catholic.  They left me standing in the middle of that cul-de-sac watching their stiff little backs as they strode away.

I didn't go home despondent; I was confused.  We had had a lovely day playing together, and one word had changed everything.  The next day I met two girls who lived several blocks away but were far more willing to enjoy lovely days with me regardless of my faith.  All six of us took the same bus, but I don't think I ever talked or even glanced at those three cul-de-sac girls again.  I wasn't hurt, I wasn't angry.  But that moment of separation is saved inside me.

We writers gather these moments, and somehow they grow into stories, poems, essays, novels, and histories because we never stop looking at them, turning them about in our minds, viewing them from different angles, remembering tastes, textures, sensations of the moment.  We are connoisseurs of memory and experience.

What have you collected recently?


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #34 2012

This prompt requires you apply your imagination to something that already exits.  I have one example that will be looked at two different ways.  Recently a tree branch fell from one of the large city trees planted on the other side of our sidewalk.  From one angle it looked to me like a big spider and from another angle it reminded me of the flying predators (Ikran) from the movie Avatar.
Avatar Ikran

Big, ugly spider
So find an object that could be viewed as something else and write about it wandering the neighborhood, city, countryside or where ever. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Building a positive writing community

When I started on my journey as a writer just one year ago, I decided that I wanted to build slowly.  That is how I build friendships, and mine tend to last.  I want my involvement in writing to be one that carries a positive polish.  So I carry that philosophy into my approach to building a platform and making writing connections. I don't see the positive in the flash-in-the-pan way of doing things.  So I have published my books (two so far at and I have taken part in discussions on Goodreads and this past summer, I began tweeting (which definitely reduced my Goodreads activities).  I have met some writers at both venues that I have built a sense of connection to.  Marcy Peska and L. A. Hilden have been the two that I have recently made friends with.  They are enthusiastic writers and have been most welcoming to me.

Marcy and I have begun a peer feedback process for each other's books.  I cannot explain how exciting it was to find someone to share my exuberance for completing a writing goal and the desire to write well.  Marcy and I have started to tweet #confettitweets to each other as we share our writing achievements.  I don't know about Marcy, but I don't have anyone who understands what it means to write and get to the end of a chapter or a tough go at 2047 words after several hours of typing, rereading, redrafting and sighing.  So getting those #confettitweets and giving them as well has been a treat.  We hope to expand our range of flying confetti to other authors who do their goal dances by themselves before diving back into their creative muse.

L. A. Hilden and I have traded approaches to using time travel in our books, and it is intriguing to talk about why we chose the means we did.  I have already read Hilden's London's Quest (a well-written Regency Romance) and am getting a sneak peak of Marcy's book Magic All Around (a modern lady comes to grips with the magic she never noticed before).  I am fortunate to have met these two talented writers.

Denise Baer is another author and blogger that I have met.  She has begun a Pay It Forward program on her blog meant to showcase indie authors as well as encourage the review of indie author works.  I participated and am happy to find another author who wants to bring positive action to the indie author publishing effort.

Nick Bost is a book reviewer I met on Goodreads.  He regularly reviews books and as a young reviewer with a good sense of what makes a good read, he is making his mark as well.  I have enjoyed talking about the review process with him.

Today, I just wanted to mark my year of publishing by recognizing the fine people I have met during this part of my journey as an author.  I thank each of them for adding to my slow immersion plan of joining this positive writing community.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #33 2012

Today you'll practice settings. Choose two opposing settings, such as a beach and mountainous area.  Think of a specific place and don't pick the obvious time of year. Winter on the Atlantic Seaboard leaves the beach looking far different than summer.  The waves on a particularly chilly day can actually become frozen mid-crest coming in to shore. It looks like an ice sculpture all along the beach edge thawing out as the ocean keeps rolling in, but the frozen crust of a frigid crest remains in place.  The sand crunches like broken glass, and the salt air stings your face.  As for mountains, the Cuyamaca Mountains in California are far different from the Blue Mountains of western Oregon which have a tint of blue gray vagueness and a sense of just being dropped in place without warning or preamble of foothills.  Pick a specific setting, detail it out and then switch to the other.  Flex your descriptive muscles as you change between your chosen dramatic scenes.

One Lovely Blog Award

I have received the One Lovely Blog Award.  Sunni of blog Surviving Life named me as one of her chosen eleven blogs that she felt fit this award.  There are some rules: Post the award on your blog, thank the person who named you, share seven facts about yourself, and name eleven blogs for this award and notify them of this award.

Publicly:  Thank you, Sunni. (But I'll send her a thank you, too.)

Seven facts
  1. I don't drink coffee or soda.  It's water and juice for me.  I think it started when I began running in junior college. The coach was a stickler for a proper diet.  I stopped drinking milk then, too and never returned to it.
  2. I love technology.  I have two computers, my phone, ereader and iPad within easy reach at this very moment.
  3. I value friendship and have several friends from childhood I still maintain contact with.  It is funny to look over at pictures on my desk and see myself at eight years old standing next to my long time friend, Anne.  We live many states apart these days, but not long ago, we visited, so now I have a picture of the two of us as adults.   Things change/things stay the same.
  4. Before I decided to publish my writing, I used email and snail mail as my primary electronic connection to the world.  After a year, I have a blog, Goodreads, Google+, Indie Writer's Network, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook (which I never use), Linkedin, and a Smashwords author page.  It's hard to get to them all and participate, and I am learning as I go.
  5. I love old furniture.  My desk used to belong to a gentleman who ran a shoe repair shop.  Made of oak, it has a heavy duty, built-in pull-out table for a typewriter which works nicely for my all-in-one computer.  My husband does not like it because it is so heavy, and he's always the one that has to move the desk from place to place.  He talks about replacing it with something better, but I love this old thing.  It has some sort of black finish on the top which reminds me of slate, but it is not a hard surface, and that shoemaker left cup rings and other unusual marks on it. 
  6. I am a dog lover and have two lovely, well-mannered ladies who live with my husband, daughter and me.  They are best friends, but given a choice, one prefers to sit next to me with her head on my leg and the other worships my daughter.  My husband is leader of the pack, and they are ever on the alert for his sneaky, playful antics.
  7. I was worried that I would not come up with seven things to mention.  So my seventh thing is sometimes I worry I might not have something to say about myself.  I teach, and for some reason at teacher training, they always want us to introduce ourselves and share something unique.  I work so hard on this I never get to hear the other introductions.  Ridiculous.

ELEVEN Lovely Blogs  (I'll do my best.)
Marcy Peska at Magic All Around
L. A. Hilden at Lori Hilden
Denise Baer at "Skipping Stone" Memories
Nic Bast at Bookmark Reviews

I am going to keep adding to this.  I am having a blogger's block. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Advice: Another grammar resource (requires experience)

Last week I suggested A Writer's Reference as an important resource to have as it contains just about every grammar, vocabulary & formatting issue likely to be run into by a writer (from student to professional), but this week I offer up a text that is geared entirely to the well-seasoned grammarian.

There is humor, sarcasm and clear cut demonstration of the rules of punctuation and sentence structure.  But you won't laugh if you are a beginner because all Lynne Truss's references require that you at least appreciate that there are rules and know quite a number of them.  If you don't know most of them, you won't appreciate the humor in her refining your understanding.  The title is a perfect example, though one of the simplest she provides:  Eats, Shoots & Leaves or if you prefer Eats Shoots & Leaves.  There is a distinct difference.  First off, imagine a panda bear.  He eats, shoots and leaves (which requires he has a license to bear arms or at least can hold a gun) or he eats shoots and leaves (which only requires he stick to his diet).  The title alone makes me giggle, but if you don't get it yet, don't purchase this book until you feel good about your use of grammar and punctuation.  If you are intrigued already, this is definitely the text for you.

It is important to note that Truss is English, but she kindly shows where the British vary from the Americans in grammar.  So do not fear you will refine your understanding only to find you will only be accepted by the British as knowing what you are doing all the time.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #32 2012

Design something that does not exist.  Here are some items to choose from.
  • a creature
  • a tool that can be used for painting
  • material for use as road surface
  • compact nutrient replacement food or drink
  • a better mouse trap (or moose trap)
  • transportation
  • a political faction
  • pet
  • truth serum/detector
  • medical treatment
Once you have selected what you are going to create, describe it being used as a routine item or concern in a character's life.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Married for 30 years: How did that happen?

Keep as much as you can in common
When I look back at all my husband and I have done in our lives together, it is not so hard to understand how we could be married for more than 30 years.  Rather than go into the specifics of all those adventures, I  am going to supply a list of general rules that we follow that I feel are the reasons we are together and are planning on staying that way.
  • We recognize that we have many dissimilar interests, so while we respect those differences we encourage those interests we have in common.  We both love to waterski.
  • When we have disagreements, we work on the premise that everything we say should be geared towards working it out. 
  • I cannot read his mind nor he mine, but we have had plenty of time to learn to read the body language we use.  Given that, we make every effort to keep the lines of communication open.  Sometimes that means taking some time to figure out what it is we want the other person to know, whether he/she "should have figured" it out or not.
  • We don't say anything negative about each other to other people.  We don't argue in public.  We do say positive things about each other to other people.
  • When it comes to spending a large sum of money on something, we both have to agree.
  • We have a designated bill payer, designated lawn care person, designated kitchen cleaner, etc., but the other person is welcome to help anytime and does. 
  • One of us is always better at something than the other, so we always help each other.
  • We don't make the other person feel uncomfortable.
  • We happen to have the same occupation, but we go about our jobs differently.  So we know there is more than one way to do something and still do it right.  That means we can learn from each other, even when we are already experts.
  • We don't love each other despite or in spite of our flaws.  We love each other because of all we are: flaws and finer qualities together.
  • There are some things neither of us like to do, but they have to be done.  So we make sure we do them together.
  • Most importantly: We like each other.
We do mess up on occasion, but we always come back to one thing:  underneath the problem is the promise that we love each other.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Reference Advice: Grammar and Punctuation -- the Bane and Benefit

Every writer's frustration is getting the grammar and punctuation correct.  Without it, our readers can't follow the road we have prepared for them.  Even a grammarian/English teacher needs to check her work regularly and review rules.  One of the best books for assisting both the conscientious beginner and the experienced writer is a text that was on the recommended list for a college class I took:  Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference.  I have returned to college several times picking up different certifications and degrees, but this is the best writing reference text I came across over the years.

  • Looking to track down the list of the words most confused by writers? Check A Writer's Reference.  
  • Want to understand the ins and outs of the semicolon vs the colon?  Check A Writer's Reference.  
  • Document design harassing you? Check A Writer's Reference.  
  • Have to give proper documentation for research you have done?  A Writer's Reference supplies formats for MLA, APA, and CMS.  
  • Are you an ESL individual still dooking it out with prepositions and articles?  A Writer's Reference has a section on that.  
  • Need more practice than is in the text? It also has an online presence with plenty of practice sets and explanations.

This is a compact text, about 6 1/2 x 8 inches, held together by a comb binding, so it travels well and lays flat.  Cost is a bit steep, ($50.00+ on average), but grammar evolves quite slowly, so you have time to wear it out.  So dictionary (or word book: see my previous post on spell friendly dictionaries, July 11, 2012), thesaurus, A Writer's Reference, if you write anything and care about writing well, have them in easy reach.