The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Die, Tammy, Die

         Wednesday was WWWP night. Wild Women Wielding Pens. The time for critique and cackling and snorting bouts of laughter.

         Beth complained that when she goes clothes shopping, the only ones that fit her are usually on the mannequin; the rest are too large.

        Alas, that's me too. Nothing at the Shamu the Whale and You store fits me right except the mannequins' clothing.

        Lynn crabbed about a short story submission she had just sent off. Lynn Obermoeller is one of the best I've seen when it comes to voice. Her characters come through loud and clear. We all shivered after reading her piece; it included a character teasing another character with big-as-Texas ticks--ticks he had collected in a jar to get another character antsy. Yikes.

        And of course Linda whined about her mailbox. Apparently she is getting so many acceptance letters, Bill has had to install an industrial-sized mail box. (Can you hear the tiny violin I'm playing for you, Linda?)

       Finally, Tammy chimed in. She had been working through the exercises in the book The Artist's Way, and said, "Can you guys help me make this into a story? It's just a stream-of-consciousness string of memories right now."

       Lynn and I looked at each other, with eyebrows raised and mouths smirking. Tammy has done this for the last three or four meetings--she claims it's still rough, it's not any good (and she honestly thinks it) and we weren't falling for it. Beth and Linda are too gullible, but Lynn and I pounced right away.

      Tammy was able to capture the shimmery waves of summer, the childhood fantasies that filled the endless months of June, July and August, the peace she found as she made clover necklaces and listened to the cicadas. And she succeeded into transforming prose into pure poetry.

      As I read her piece, the first paragraph that blew me away made me scrawl in the margin, "I hate you." Then, another spot was so rich with imagery made me note, "I really hate you, Tammy." Next to the third jaw-dropping spot, I simply wrote one of my favorite phrases: " ----  ---, Tammy." And then I stopped writing comments like that, because the whole piece was beyond phenomenal.

        Her images, her word choices were reminiscent of Cynthia Rylant and Jane Yolen and Patricia Palacco--three writers of children's books who are known for their rich writing.

        Here are a couple of snippets of Cynthia Rylant's writing:

            "In July, the Thunder Moon trembles, shudders, and disappears in a thick, black sky.

              It listens to the clouds beat their drums." --- long night moon

              (In the book Scarecrow, describing the positives of being a scarecrow:)

              "He has been with the owls in evening and the rabbits at dawn. He has watched a spider  
            work for hours making a web like lace,  He has seen the sun tremble and the moon
            lie still.

                The scarecrow doesn't care what he is made of or how long he might last, for he has
            been a witness to life. The earth has rained and snowed and blossomed and wilted and
            yellowed and greened and vined itself all around him."

        Just like the Dixie Chicks' Earl had to die, and just like Uma Thurman worked so hard to make sure Bill was killed, Tammy must die, too...Or, at the very least, her whining needs to stop--'cause Lynn and I are sick of it.

Toss It in the Trash

          My son came into town this weekend. Six foot-something. Twenty-four years old. All arms and legs and a stomach with an amazing capacity. (His metabolism is also incredible, but one day, it will slow down. And then stop altogether.)

        His first morning, I offered to make french toast for breakfast, but added that we had no syrup. He said, "I'll go to the store and get some." He then thoughtfully added, "While I'm gone, you can always start on the french toast." He's always thoughtful like that...

      The preparation of breakfast went without a hitch. I added nutmeg and cinnamon to the milk and egg mixture. Each side got equally cooked. The french toast ended up golden brown.

      The next morning, french toast was again a "menu" possibility. The Boy jumped at the chance to fill up once more on syrupy-bread and scrambled eggs and glasses of milk. (Because, hey, at Mom's Restaurant, the food is free and plentiful!)

       But this time, things did not go as planned. Two batches in a row got too brown. I tried to scrape away the almost-burned parts with a sharp knife; this works for toast, but not french toast. I ended up throwing eight pieces in the trash.

        I've got a trash can for my writing. It's a two-pocket folder that I've had for over a decade. The stories I've found no use for, the awkward poems that I've found no place for--they're in there.

       And they might stay there forever. If I'm able to scrape away the crappy parts and "recycle" the piece somehow, at some point I will--when the time is right.

        Don't be so in love with your words that you're hesitant to discard them. Slashing (and burning--in the case of french toast) is a necessary part of the writing process.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Here Comes the Bride...Almost Here

            On May 13, Chicken Soup's newest anthology---Here Comes the Bride--will be on sale.

            My husband seems to think that a collection's stories are arranged in order of quality: the better stories are in the front of the book. The ones in the back are--from his perspective--the "honorable mentions," the not-so-hot ones.

            My previous first Chicken Soup story was on page 300-something. My soon-to-be-in-the-woodchipper  husband said something snarky like, "Oh, it's barely there--it's way at the end." We had a 42-minute discussion about themes and headings and the stories were grouped around particular ideas. After I had talked myself hoarse, he still wouldn't budge.

           This time, my story "The Planet Zirconia" is on page 66. Without even reading a word, he was impressed.

            I'm movin' on up... 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What Are You "Branded" With?

Everybody who takes their craft seriously--whether they paint or sculpt or weld or write--has a unique voice, a distinct flavor. If they're really good, you know them immediately; there's no need to see their signature on their just know it's them...

This is my son-in-law doing the work he does. He is a painter (the artistic kind, not the wall kind) and a tattoo artist. (Jason is gifted as well as unique. He usually wears a dress shirt and tie when he works, but this photo was taken at his home.) 

This is my son-in-law creating a tattoo on me...

(I asked Cathy C. Hall's husband if it was okay with him if I got a tattoo. He said, "Sure, as long as you're married to someone else besides me!")

I've had the tattoo for a month now, have gotten used to it, and am no longer startled when I see something there on my flesh...something that was not there for the first 50+ years of my life.

What is your brand?  How do readers know it is you when they read your words? How do you plan on leaving your "mark" on this world?