The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Friday, March 18, 2011

Book Blurb Friday #3

          Haven't you ever wanted to be able to amass a collection of ideas for possible novels?  Don't you have the need to hone your "pitching" skills? Wouldn't it be nice to practice your writing abilities in short bursts---and the inspiration is even provided for you?  If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you should check out Lisa Ricard Claro's new meme.  You can do some pre-thinking, 'cause the photo is posted a week early so you can take a pondering gander.

        You only have 150 words (or less) which does not include the title.  After you post it on your blog, go to Lisa's friend, Mr. Linky, and add your blurb, along with reading everyone else's.

      Here's my Book Blurb this Friday:

Ladling Up Your Life's Desires:  The Parkview Grill

        Sink into the leathery booth. Get comfortable. Kick your shoes off if you'd like. Check out the menu...And my recommendation? The meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

        Something strange is being brewed in the stews and soups at this local eatery. Something strange overcomes the diners at the Parkview. Depending on what they order, their lives change. Forever.

        Ask for the Chicken Caccitore?  A long-lost love reappears.  Fried fish and chips? An opportunity for an adventure arises. And order the daily special---which is always meatloaf? Your biggest worry is lifted from your shoulders.

      Everyone is happy after a meal at the Parkview Grill. Their step is a little lighter when they leave. Their laughter...a bit more free.

     That is, until a new cook is hired. Herman doesn't fit in with the rest of the cooks and waitresses. He's quiet. Aloof. And there's an unsettling glint in his eyes...(150 words)


Linda O'Connell and Dianna Graveman and a Book, Oh My!

Linda O'Connell

         Yesterday evening at a Borders bookstore there was a St. Louis Writer's Guild event. Linda O'Connell was part of a panel about the road to publication. (And don't tell anyone, but I would have preferred to hear just her; she spoke practically, and with passion.)

         Linda said many things that resonated with me.  She called her self a "rule-breaker." Daring to blaze trails often results in her getting a foot in the door. She may occasionally get rebuffed, but in her case, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Linda O'Connell---part of a panel on the perils of publication

            Her attitude when she gets a letter of rejection?  Ticked off. That's so much better than dejected and downtrodden...
            She also told stories about how she takes a call for submissions and "twists" it to suit her purposes. For example, there was a call for stories about Valentine's Day dates.  (I hope I am remembering the details correctly. If not, blame my old age, my hot flashes, the awful cold I have, or all of the above...) Linda didn't have a story about a date on Valentine's Day but she did have a story about not having a date. (Her husband was doing shift work on that particular February 14, and they went to the grocery store before he headed off to work. A song came on in the store---one they could jitterbug to---and Bill danced Linda all the way down the cookie aisle.) Think outside the box, is the message I got. Don't think of your cup of story ideas as half empty, but instead, overflowing...    

          Linda introduced me to Dianna Graveman, which was a weird experience. I mean, I felt as if we were already acquainted; I follow her blog, and look forward to the times when a new post pops up.  So talking to her in person was a pleasant change of pace. 

          Side note: We're both surprised with how much people will regularly spend on a cup of coffee. How can so many folks spend $5 or more every day on something they're just going to pee out in an hour or so?  (But don't think Dianna went to the "pee" part.  That's only me...)

        After (hopefully) passing my cold onto the strange man who sat next to me, I even got a new book I've been drooling over.  Andre Dubus III wrote The House of Sand and Fog, one of the saddest books I've ever read. The two main characters are pitted together in such a way, you're rooting for both of them, but a happy compromise?  It's simply not possible.  I am hoping this book will be just as his earlier novel.

       Linda O'Connell and Dianna Graveman are two generous writers. They help out other writers, instead of "hoarding" their talent and knowledge.  (Linda gave me a bunch of practical suggestions on a piece I'm working on. That took time away from her own writing, but she graciously did it anyway.)

      Do you have a story about a fellow writer who was generous?  (Probably you have too many tales to tell, if you have good writing friends...) Share them. It's always good to give collaborators a shout out.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The ABC's of Writing---Jane Yolen Style

photo by kris247

If your butt's on the fence as a writer,
that means it's not sitting in a chair, writing,
like it should be!
           Jane Yolen, one of my favorite author of children's books (Owl Moon, The House of Sand, The Sea of Grass, The Devil's Arithmetic among countless others) has a marvelous book about writing called Take Joy.  It's been one of my favorites for years.

photo of Jane Yolen by fgherman

       As a finale, she offers a chapter called "The Alphabetics of Story."  I was skimming this morning, and the "G" just jumped out and grappled with me and threw me down. Here is one of the "G" gems Yolen has about writing:

G is for Grab Bag.

       Most of us have minds that are grab bags. Or compost heaps. Or in somce cases, sewer lines. But a good story focuses all that messiness into bit-sized portions.
        Awful metaphor?
        But we haven't reached M yet.
        Where do stories come from? I answered that once earlier in this book, but here is another way of looking at it. Stories are around us everywhere, like fireflies, and the writer must be ready to grab them as they fly by. Use a net with a very small weave. Ideas are small---what we do with ideas is the large part of the equation.
         However often I capture an idea, its look, its size, its wingspread is always a surprise.
         As writers we must be ready for those surprises.
         The way to do that is to organize your luck. In other words: be prepared for whatever happy accidents may occur along the route of story. It means clipping articles that interest you, even when you have not a clue what to do with them. It means buying odd books on the off chance that you may some day have need of them. It means being open to a universe of possibilities long before a story has arrived.  As Louis Pasteur noted: "Chance favors the mind that is prepared."

photo by vylettefairwell

            What happy "accidents" have impacted you as a writer?  What fireflies have you snared in your net? Please share, so we can all bask in the flickering light...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Truth...and No Consequences

        Before I (drum roll, please) reveal which was the lie (see the previous post), I want to pass the liar's torch to one blogging friend I unintentionally left out.

           I don't think of Fireblossom as just an average, run-of-the-mill blogger. I read and follow other blogs to laugh, to think, to get inspired.  I read Fireblossom's posting when I want to get brilliantly green with envy.  How one person can write a phenomenal poem every day is beyond my comprehension. Perhaps she's the biggest liar of all?  Maybe it's her minions that take turns writing poetry will she sits back in a recliner eating bon bons?

         Anyway, Fireblossom...Consider yourself included in the fibbin' bloggers. Maybe your 4 truths and a lie can be written in the form of a poem?

       Okay. Start the drum roll now, please.  

  • I did work in Mark Twain National Forest one summer in high school. It was part of the Youth Conservation Corps program.  It was an all-girl crew, which we did not consider exceptional until we visited another crew that happened to be coed.  Much to our surprise, the girls in the coed crew did the easier work while the guys did the more manual stuff.  That summer---forty years and 100 pounds ago---I learned how to dig post holes by hand, I strung barbed wire, cleared trails and tried my best to avoid rattlers and brown recluses...

  • I do have a half-sister who is in prison (forever) for killing her four-year old step-grandson.  For the several years since it's happened, I've wrestled with the desire to understand/forgive/disown.  I still am undecided...

  •  Skydiving. The most exhilirating experience of my life.  I've done 3 tandem jumps (which means I'm hooked up to diving instructor) and hope---some day---to do a solo jump.  There is nothing more exciting than looking up and down and all around and seeing nothing but blue sky... 

photo by amelungc
This is a tandem jump, done in the proper position:
Back arched, arms and legs extended, your cheeks
(probably both sets) rippling like a brook...

  • Both my daughter and my son were born at home. When I was 18 I trained to be a nurse's aide, and we had to do a rotation in the wing where the new mothers were. In those days (late 1800's) women got routinely shaved and had a "just-in-case" enema. And if they were dying of thirst, they only got ice chips. I wanted a little more control to what went in or came out of my body, so I looked into getting a midwife (not legal in those days) and eventually found Dr. Fred Duhart (now dead), an osteopath whose specialty was home deliveries.  No drugs. Surrounded by my family and friends. When I was thirsty I got some 7-up, and after Virginia and Ian were born, we had cake and coffee with the doc.  Their births were a close second to skydiving...

  • So the lie is working for Chrysler. However, I did work for a short time at a pharmaceutical factory. My job involved working a machine where the two halves of a capsule were filled and then joined.  We were supposed to throw away the capsules that got dented or got holes in them. My problem was just about all of them had dents or holes, because I was such a klutz. I finally got fired when I cut the tip off one of my fingers with the machine and they had to pay for a trip to the emergency room. I was relieved---that place really stunk! 
            I know there are other writers brewing up tall tales right now. Linda O'Connell
is telling a lie...See if you can determine which one it is. Donna has got her pants on fire, she's such a liar...Barb--as expected--told her 4 truths and a lie in a poem that rhymes! There are others. Check them out.(And Fireblossom...I'll be on the look-out for yours!)