The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Sioux the Stalker

           Sometimes I stalk writers in person. When I saw him at a teacher's convention, I tried to kiss the big ring on John Reynolds Gardiner's hand like he was the Pope. I almost kneeled down. (Gardiner is the author of Stone Fox, a children's book that makes me cry every year when I use it in my class.)

       I've stalked publishers, via local authors. (Kristina Makansi--I'm talkin' 'bout you.) I've even stalked a friend who was plagued by postpartum depression. 

       Bloggers are the same. There are quite a few I follow. Many I love are loved by hordes of people. And others try to fly under the radar. Here are a few bloggers I stalk:

Hillbilly Mom

This writer is quite secretive. She lives in the same state that I do. She's a teacher (or so she says). But when you try to dig up the dirt on her, you come up with an empty shovel. Nowhere on her blog is her real name. It makes me wonder what she's trying to hide?

However, what she makes no move to hide is what goes on in her daily life. In her posts (that appear every day), she shares what her PITA of a husband does, what her kids are up to (occasionally) and what living in the country is like. Her writing reminds me of another writer's style... I just can't place it.

Fireblossom

Shay Caroline Simmons has more personalities than she has names. At least it seems like she's suffering from multiple personality disorder. Each one of her brilliant poems is searingly different. One day, she might post a poem that's bittersweet and tender. The next day? A poem that's bitter and biting, her lines spewing spittle.

Once I won a custom-made poem from Shay. I gave her the topic... she wrote the poem, and now it's hanging in my writing room. I typed it up in a large font, and created a custom mat for it. (Okay, what I really did was buy a mat and frame from a thrift store and decorated the mat with a marker... but I guarantee you, there's no other frame like it.) Here's the poem:


Damn the Match

I said, damn the match that set me on fire
But no one heard
so I fanned myself with books, and oh
How I burned.

Damn the one who made me feel nothingly small,
This lonesome girl--
Then I spit my anger on a black-curling page,
And blistered the world.

Damn the distance that keeps my love from me,
The miles are sin--
Then I wrote out my love as a pink-fire dawn,
Warm on her skin.

Bless the match that each finger is,
To strike what I feel into words that be
An incendiary flow from soul to sky,
One burned-bright star that's made from... me.

                                                                  --Shay Caroline Simmons


Mama Zen--Mama Zen/Kelli, like Fireblossom, is a poet. In fact, the two have collaborated on poetry collections. Also like Fireblossom, Mama Zen's poems seem to come from different people--the tone, the voice is so varied... and so succinct. This poet can write jaw-dropping pieces in way less than 50 words. (Many times I count them, because I'm so ticked off she can say so much with so few words.) 

So, I'm a stalker. I follow some writers (and some publishers) a little too closely. Sue me. 

Have you ever stalked a writer/celebrity? Have you ever been stalked by a stranger because you're a weirdo-magnet? Stalking minds want to know...




Friday, September 23, 2016

Viola Davis is Back... and Back-of-the-Book Blurb Friday # 27

         Last night How to Get Away with Murder started its new season. If you haven't seen it, and if you enjoy twists and turns and jaw-dropping plot surprises that completely blindside you, you need to watch the first season and then catch up... quickly.

        Viola Davis has a lot to offer writers. With just an arch of an eyebrow, she says volumes. By just kicking off her heels, she is showing us something, not telling us. When she uses one character against another in a completely unexpected way, the show's writers are reminding us:  don't be too predictable with your writing.

         The show also plays with time--in a big way. Their use of flashbacks keeps the viewer on their toes. (Thankfully, there are helpful textual notes like, "Four months earlier" to help everyone keep track of the timeline.) For example, last night one of the main characters died/was killed. We don't know who it was and we don't know how. Viola Davis uncovered their face (after she rushed to the ambulance and yanked the doors open) but the viewers are being kept in the dark--for a while. The teaser for next week promised that we wouldn't find out for a while who it was, but each episode will tell us one character it is not. I imagine that each week, one of the characters will find out about the death (in flashbacks) and if they can be told about it/see it happening/commit the murder... well, it's not them.

         I hope your weekend--and the beginning of your next week--is a good one... and now, onto the book blurb's brevity exercise...
      

  • Look at the photo below. That is the cover of your book.
  • You choose the genre. A mystery? A child rearing how-to? A horror story? You decide.
  • Write an enticing blurb--150 words or less. (The title doesn't count in the word count.) Lisa Ricard Claro is the original brains behind this writing exercise. Her third romance book just came out in July (Love to Win) so now she has the time to focus on her friend Cathy C. Hall. Cathy is getting her name legally changed to "Korea's James Patterson" and Lisa is helping her out by making her physically look the part. The next time you see Cathy Hall's photo, she will have big jowls... thinning, dark hair... and in her hand will be Jimmy-on-a-Stick. 
  • Include your blurb in a blog post. Include a link to this post. 
  • Link your post to Mr. Linky. Mr. Linky is easy. You don't have to buy him a drink or anything. If you've never done it, you'll be impressed with how simple he is.
  • Check out the other blurb(s). It's interesting to see the different directions writers take, given the same photo.
  • And have fun with it. Think of it as a way to take a break from the truly important writing you do... like a bit of a warm-up.





The Ungratefuls

Timmy and Jimmy had a whole cultural vista spread before them… and never did they appreciate it.

Their mother took them to the 1st annual Croc Convention, so they could check out the new Croc models before they even hit the sidewalk. Mom paid for the three of them to view the “History of Crocs” movie (recently edited down to 2 hours and 13 minutes). How did Jimmy and Timmy respond? They whined and moaned and napped.

Their mother bought them cheese-in-a-can. The snobby tikes turned their noses up. She made them watch a 12-hour marathon of Cat Ballou. They read comic books instead of enjoying the film. She took them to the fanciest store in town--Salvation Army’s Shoppe--and they wandered around listlessly.

What will make Jimmy and Timmy wake up to the wonders of the world? Will they ever show their thanks? Or will they remain ingrates forever? (149 words)



And here is the photo for next week, Val (and maybe Pat, if you can take a break from knitting long enough to write a blurb).



Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Because of the Dogs... and the Boss

         Everything I learned, I learned in kindergarten. That's a popular saying, but I beg to differ. I think the last couple of things I've learned (lately) I learned from my dog.

* Don't be afraid of being big-headed sometimes... at least inwardly.
          
        Okay, I'm not saying anyone should walk around full of arrogance. However, writing is hard. Being a writer is even harder. Deep down inside, you have to have a core of confidence in order to keep slogging forward.
        
Bruce Springsteen said it best this past weekend on CBS Sunday Morning. Unfortunately, I didn't write it down, but it boils down to this: artists make it because someone said they'd never make it and someone else thought they were the second coming. 
        
Keep it a secret (most of the time), but know your strengths. Are you capable of crafting a decent phrase? Can you make people laugh? Can you make readers cry? Get puffed up when you write something that sings across the page... but keep the puffiness to yourself. 

Radar looks like he has an abnormally large head,
which is weird, because there's no need for much room
for the gray matter... Actually, he's quite intelligent
but does some crazy-stupid things sometimes.


*  Be ready to take a break when you need to.

            Don't feel bad about taking a break from writing to read a good book. Or going on a walk with the dog. (Radar would really like that.)  Writing taxes the brain. Doing something else will help reboot the brain and ultimately, our writing will be better.  

           In the picture below, if you can't tell what that chewed-up "plate" is at Radar's feet, it's one of his beloved Frisbees.




       Howboutchou?  What have you learned lately from your dog, your cat, your horse or your kid?


Friday, September 16, 2016

NaNoWriMo Anyone? and Back-of-the-Book Blurb Friday #26

     Yes, it's still September, but I'm thinking of November... and NaNoWriMo looming over my head.

     I plan on doing NaNo this year. Last Spring I was the member of a jury and we spent a week listening to testimony about the murder. What happened in the jury deliberation room was shocking and disappointing to me, and changed forever the way I think about juries. That might be the book I work on...

     If you're knee-deep in a manuscript right now, or you're working on a poetry collection or you're planning on doing NaNo this year, I'd love to hear from you. My 6-8th graders are going to work on NaNo projects... they just don't know it yet. (When I say, "NaNo is coming soon," they think I'm Mork calling Orson.)

And now, onto book blurb stuff:
  • Look at the photo below. That is the cover of your book.
  • You choose the genre. A mystery? A coffeetable book full of creeper photos? A historical piece? You decide.
  • Write an enticing blurb--150 words or less. (The title doesn't count in the word count.) Lisa Ricard Claro is the original brains behind this writing exercise. Her third romance book just came out in July (Love to Win) so right now she's alternating her time between sitting on her couch and poking into the bottom of pieces of chocolate in a Whitman Sampler (trying to avoid the nasty "jelly"-centered ones) and french-braiding Fabio's hair (he so needs a new look).
  • Include your blurb in a blog post. Include a link to this post. 
  • Link your post to Mr. Linky. Mr. Linky is easy. You don't have to buy him a drink or anything. If you've never done it, you'll be impressed with how simple he is.
  • Check out the other blurb(s). It's interesting to see the different directions writers take, given the same photo.
  • And most importantly, have fun. This is supposed to be enjoyable.


Here is the photo and my it's-done blurb:





A Pretty Good Cook


Mike was some cook. Vienna sausage casserole, topped with a Snapple-reduction drizzle. Bologna spaceships, covered in melted Velveeta. Spam lasagna. Mushroom caps stuffed with squirrel filets. You name it, he could kill it (if needed) and then whip it up in the kitchen.


But cooking anywhere else in the house wasn’t happening. Not at all. It was puzzling. Mike made sure he was always impeccably attired. He was obsessed with keeping his beard combed and oiled… and yet he was still living alone…


… Until one day, when Mike was deep in the woods, hunting for any critter he could put a bead on, he found he wasn’t by himself. There was a woman in the forest with him.


Mike rushed down the hill, falling twice while a greeting tumbled out of his mouth. The woman just stared. And then she chuckled.


Will Mike learn to cook in other places? (150 words)



And here's the photo for next week, Val (and for anyone else who wants to join us).





Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Magnificent Mary Karr

       I saw Mary Karr last week, and am going to begin with how she ended. Here is the poem Mary Karr recited--by heart--after an audience member told her she carried a copy of the poem in her wallet for years.


A BLESSING FROM MY SIXTEEN YEARS' SON

I have this son who assembled inside me
during Hurricane Gloria. In a flash, he appeared,
in a heartbeat. Outside, pines toppled.

Phone lines snapped and hissed like cobras.
Inside, he was a raw pearl: microscopic, luminous.
Look at the muscled obelisk of him now

pawing through the icebox for more grapes.
Sixteen years and not a bone broken,
not a single stitch. By his age,

I was marked more ways, and small.
He's a slouching six foot three,
with implausible blue eyes, which settle

on the pages of Emerson's "Self Reliance"
with profound belligerence.
A girl with a navel ring

could make his cell phone go brr,
or an Afro'd boy leaning on a mop at Taco Bell --
creatures strange as dragons or eels.

Balanced on a kitchen stool, each gives counsel
arcane as any oracle's. Bruce claims school
is harshing my mellow. Case longs to date

a tattooed girl, because he wants a woman
willing to do stuff she'll regret.
They've come to lead my son

into his broadening spiral.
Someday soon, the tether
will snap. I birthed my own mom

into oblivion. The night my son smashed
the car fender, then rode home
in the rain-streaked cop car, he asked, Did you

and Dad screw up so much?
He'd let me tuck him in,
my grandmother's wedding quilt

from 1912 drawn to his goateed chin. Don't
blame us
, I said. You're your own
idiot now.
 At which he grinned.

The cop said the girl in the crimped Chevy
took it hard. He'd found my son
awkwardly holding her in the canted headlights,

where he'd draped his own coat
over her shaking shoulders. My fault,
he'd confessed right off.

Nice kid, said the cop.

This is the pose she did after I said, "You're
61 years old? You look gorgeous!  I hate you."

         Here are some quotes of Karr's that I jotted down:


  • She was asked by her agent? publisher? where she wanted to do a book signing? She--for sure--wanted to do Boston, because she had taught classes there. She said, "I went there for the signing, and three people showed up."
  • "A lot of literature is about longing."
  • "Memoir, if done right, is knocking yourself out with your own fist."
  • "A dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it."
  • "I remember myself as smart. There was no evidence I was smart."
  • (In writing memoir) "You get ambushed by the truth."
  • (As a memoirist) "My goal is to make you feel something."
  • "I'm an inefficient writer but a skillful editor."
  • When writing one of her memoirs, she threw away 1,200 finished pages... "they went to live with Jesus."
  • "I spend a lot of time in my head. I have a big inner life."
  • "What is the difference between autobiography and memoir? Well, memoir sounds so much more French. Mem-wah."
  • "The ass-whipping is easy to write. It's hope that's hard to write. Hope and love are hard to write."  
What writer would you most like to see in person, and why?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Why I Hate Mary Karr and Back-of-the-Book Blurb Friday # 25

       A couple of evenings ago I saw Mary Karr's talk on memoir. I was seated surrounded by Lynn Obermoeller, Linda O'Connell, along with Marcia and Jim Gaye.

      I'll post about her talk on Tuesday. Every thing about the night was wonderful. Karr was full of great advice on how to get published. ("Learn to write well.") She was full of confessions. (Sometimes she felt like eating Ho-Hos all day, and was Catholic "but probably not the Pope's favorite Catholic.") She was full of family tidbits. (Her mother was amazed when Karr got an advance for her memoir The Liar's Club. "You mean you get to keep that money? Even if the book doesn't sell?")

     However, as I watched her stride across the room, owning it, in her size 2 white pants and sky-high sandals, wearing her wrinkle-free face, a deep hatred started rumbling around in my heart.

     And when I heard she was 61, I declared my hatred for her--to her face. (She of course thanked me when she heard why I hated her.)

      On Tuesday I'll post more about Mary Karr... and now onto Back-of-the-Book Blurb Friday (I know. It's now Saturday, but we were in a car dealership all afternoon and evening and during the day I was at work 'cause, you know, I retired and then went back to work and my knee is really bothering me and if I don't stop this whining I'm gonna have to serve some crackers and some decent cheese to you and Velveeta doesn't count.)


  • Look at the photo below. That is the cover of your book.
  • You choose the genre. A mystery? A coffeetable book full of strange dog photos? A historical piece? You decide.
  • Write an enticing blurb--150 words or less. (The title doesn't count in the word count.) Lisa Ricard Claro is the original brains behind this writing exercise. Her third romance book just came out in July (Love to Win) so right now she's booked solid, doing book signings in Europe (mostly in France) as she does double duty--she's selling her novels and constantly on the look-out for Johnny Depp. Or Juliet Binoche. Or Maurice Chavalier statues.
  • Include your blurb in a blog post. Include a link to this post. 
  • Link your post to Mr. Linky. Mr. Linky is easy. You don't have to buy him a drink or anything. If you've never done it, you'll be impressed with how simple he is.
  • Check out the other blurb(s). It's interesting to see the different directions writers take, given the same photo.
  • And most importantly, have fun. This is supposed to be enjoyable.
Here is the photo and my lame-o blurb:





One Strange Dog

         Fo-Fo was one strange dog. He was a golden retriever and yet he was aloof. Unlike every other golden, he didn't have human contact too high on his priority list. Fo-Fo was content to spend most of his life waiting... waiting to be a missile.
        This golden boy wasn't made to do anything that took any smarts but he was designed to fly across fields after a ball, a stick, a disc—anything that could be thrown. Fo-Fo lived for racing like a missile in frequent games of fetch.
         But then Fo-Fo's family starts spotting a stranger—often seen walking in front of the house or sometimes just standing in front of their house, seemingly lost in thought.
And then one afternoon, Fo-Fo disappeared. The gate was still closed. No holes were dug under the fence... and the stranger was gone as well.

        Where did Fo-Fo go? (145 words)






        And dig in... Here is the photo for next week: