The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pearl--Why That Little...

       Everyone needs a laugh.  But do you need to snort out your nose whatever liquid you're drinking?  Do you need to worry if your panty liner is still in place? (Sorry guys, and sorry ladies who are not residing in the menopausal house o' fun yet.)

       Pearl has a post today that is gut-bustingly hilarious. For those who profess to only watch educational things on television, beware. As Pearl points out, your TV knows the truth...

       Go to this link (if you dare) but do NOT become a follower of hers. She already is a blog-hogger. Right now, she has over 900 followers. By the time you finish reading this post, she will have over 1500.  Stand tall. Be strong. Resist the urge.  Read. Enjoy. But do not follow. (And then maybe our own number of followers will inch up a bit.)

     And welcome (and thank you) to my two newest followers. (Pearl---I had to scratch and claw to wrench these 2 unfortunates out of your grasp. So there!)

Scott Blackwell has a blog called Acquiesce.  (Isn't that a wonderful title for a blog?)  You can find it here.  Someday, I will be able to say, "I knew him when..."

Janet, has a blog as well. She wrote a wonderful post on April 20, comparing her writing to "dry holes" and "gushers" which is a great metaphor.  Her blog is called Writing in the Blackberry Patch.  Check her out!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Book Blurb Friday...Another Helping

           Well, it's time for another dollop of Book Blurb Friday. For those who are new to this weekly writing exercise, go to Lisa Ricard Claro's blog. On Thursday evening, the new photo is "officially" displayed; however, you get to look at the next week's photo all week--it's at the end of the Book Blurb Friday post, so you can work ahead if you want.

        The photo is the book cover. You come up with a title, and a blurb of 150 words or less. (The cutting and slashing you have to do is great practice.)

         Now usually, the photo used is wonderful. This week, the picture is crappy.  But don't drop out!  Next week's photo is out-of-this-world incredible!

         (Sometimes you have to work with manure. It makes you stronger.)

          After you write your blurb, link your blurb to the others via Mr. Linky (on Lisa's site). And don't forget to read the other blurbs and comment on them.

         It's a very worthwhile writing activity. I swear. 

         Here's my blurb this week:

    His Alabaster Beauty

         Every day between 10-3, Roger shuffled through the museum, keeping an eye on the snot-nosed kids, shushing the folks who got loud, making sure nobody touched the statues…that’s what filled up the unexciting string of his days.

        Then one day he felt something stir deep inside. He stopped in his tracks, turned, and stared. Stared with new eyes…

        It was apparent this mam’selle was modest. One hand was ever-vigilant in the attempt to keep her bosom covered up. He’d never thought of it before, but it was sad that a lady would have to do something like that for the rest of her life.

         He stared into her unblinking eyes. He reached out and caressed the outstretched arm. Roger was in love…

         Follow Roger and his marble maiden as he schemes to free her from her pedestal prison and create a life the two of them can share… (148 words)

I Ain't Never Been Called "Stylish" Before


         Lisa Ricard Claro just received the "Stylish Blogger" award.  She included 7 facts about herself, and then invited all the bloggers she follows to accept the award.  Since it's black (and black is slimming) and since my posts are sometimes a bit fatty and run long, I jumped at the opportunity to improve the look of my blog. (Thank you very much, Lisa!)

         Before you read the 7 things about me, check out the tidbits about Lisa and read her post.

Here are my 7 things: (You might get a short nap out of the list!)

1.  I once worked at a restaurant that had an extensive wine list, which is where the situation became sticky, resulting in me only working there for one day. After the first day of training, where I was expected to be able to describe dozens of kinds of wines with phrases like, "a hint of oak," or "an aftertaste of juniper," * I knew I would never be able to sniff/taste/fake that kind of expertise. I quit without ever waiting on a single table there.

(* I made up the one about juniper.)

2.  My favorite job when I was younger was with Dairy Queen. I was 16, could eat anything I wanted and still stay slim, and never got sick of chocolate (even though my parents were sure the allure would wear off). I never really mastered the little "curly-Q" top to finish off the ice cream cones and sundaes, but I did master the art of "Oh-you-wanted-a-strawberry sundae-and-not-a-hot-fudge-one?" which meant that I could put the "mistake" in the walk-in cooler and gobble it down later.

3. One of my favorite "musicals" is Flashdance. Yes, I know the dialogue is wretched, and yes, the acting is sometimes atrocious, but I love the music, and the dancing makes me envious...

4.  One of my favorite sad movies is The Widow of Saint-Pierre with Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil. The acting is sublime, the photography is marvelous, and the story is achingly beautiful. (It has subtitles, so no knitting while you watch it.)

5.  One summer I worked at Yellowstone Park at a gift shop. I was 17, and figured it would be a way to see a different part of the country. I occasionally "gave away" post cards to the cute, personable guys...(I think too much time has elapsed for them to press charges.)

6.  My all-time favorite "gnome" movie is The Full Monty. It's actually one of my favorites no matter what the category. When the garden gnome/job interview scene comes on, or when Hot Chocolate's song "I Believe in Miracles" begins to play, I almost shriek, I get so excited. (Yes, some of the British dialogue is difficult to understand, but what you cannot figure out is not the important stuff. You won't get lost, considering the dialogue you lose. Trust me.)

7.  My first teaching job was with a vocational school in a very poor part of the city. I had a 3-hour "lecture" period every day. (It was a childcare class--our students would theorhetically be able to open up their own daycare home after "graduation." ) I would type up my talk, almost word-for-word (I was so nervous every day, worried I would falter in my instruction), and as the lecture progressed every day, I would nervously roll, and unroll my notes.  My hands would get so sweaty, when I picked up the chalk, it would break. When the other teacher would use the same classroom in the afternoon, she'd comment on all the new, long pieces of chalk she had put out--they always ended up much shorter.  I'd always blame the students for breaking them.

And now I'd like to pass the award onto 10-15 of my blogging friends. (Please leave a comment to let me know you've accepted the award, so I can read 7 things about you!)

*  Donna Volkenannt and her blog
* Becky Povich and her blog
* Janel Gradowski and her gems
* T'Mara Goodsell and her blog
* Linda O'Connell and her blog
* C. Hope Clark and her blog
* Doug Savage and his chickens
* Dianna Graveman and her blog
* Shay and her poetry
* Scott and his blog
* Clara Gillow Clark and her blog
* Barb and her musings
* Katie Gates and her blog
* OJ Gonzalez-Cazares and her blog
* Pat Hensley and her lessons via her blog

Congratulations, award-winners. I'm looking forward to getting to know you a bit better...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

After Midnight, We're Gonna Let It All Hang Out...

         Well, I sent off the second story (see the previous post) with oodles of time to spare. The deadline was today, and it was 11:46 p.m. when I sent it off.  Fourteen minutes before the deadline; I'm impressed!

photo by PrincessFroglips

          I've been wondering all day---off and on---about the writing process. Two nights ago, I was stuck.  No inspiration.  Trapped in a tar pit, I gave up, and (not on purpose) fell asleep on the couch. (All sorts of parts and things were hanging out as I lay in a puddle of my own drool, face-down on the futon.)

         The next morning, magically, I was able to make some progress. I don't ever remember my dreams, so if I dreamed about the writing piece, I didn't recall it.

         Maybe writing pieces are like spaghetti sauce or homemade chili or vegetable soup. You let them simmer as long as you can, and then put them in the refrigerator overnight. Something happens once the door is closed. The flavors marry. The spices step forward. What was once loose and liquid-y becomes solidified.

        Who knows if my sauce was any good...Who knows if I put in enough green pepper or too much oregano...All I know is I had 14 minutes to spare.  (And that means I can procrastinate even more next time!)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Keeping the Pressure On

         This past week I was working on a story to submit. I'd work on it a bit in the evening, let it marinade until the next day, and write some more.  There was a 1200 word limit, and I'm not sure how many evenings it took to "cook" the piece, but more than a couple.

        Yesterday evening I sent it off.  Since today is the deadline, I was way ahead, compared to the way I usually operate. (The deadline is Friday? That means I have until 11:59 pm on Friday, right?)

photo by sue-tarr
(This is what I look like as I compose a piece. Hey!  Why did you just snort milk out of your nose?)

       However, as I was tinkering on the story, I had another idea for a different story. The same theme. The same anthology. But while my other story was serious, and a story that spanned more than 10 years, this new idea was lighter, and it was a story that covered only an hour or so in my life.

      I began working on it the night before last, when I would take a momentary break and put "aside" the other story.  Yesterday evening, after submitting the other piece, I worked on it some more.

      Hey, twice the submissions. Twice the chance of getting published. But what was more important in my mind was the fact that I'm thinking more like a writer. I'm keeping my eyes open to story ideas.  The writing I'm doing is leading to more writing. And some day, perhaps, I will have countless pieces out there simultaneously, like Linda O'Connell or Janel Gradowski.  And the more stories that are floating around on editors' desks, the greater the chance I have of being published. 

       And if you want to check out some submission possibilities, ask Donna Volkenannt or Lisa Ricard Claro.  Donna regularly (and generously) shares calls for submissions, and Lisa has a heading at the top of her blog...all you have to do is click on the button, and various paying markets will appear.

      So tonight, I'll be back. Right around midnight. Pushing the limit.  And if you're up late tonight, writing, have a cup of coffee. For me...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hope in the Form of a One-Act Play

           For close to 10 summers, my friend and I taught a creative writing camp for our school district. It was at an idyllic setting: a nature center, with 94 acres of wooded trails, air-conditioned classrooms (necessary for the 2 menopausal teachers; we tried to set the thermostat lower each day), prairies to write in, and even a creek to wade in.  Every summer, we'd decided what age group we wanted to invite...Sometimes it was more elementary, but most summers, we worked with middle and high school students.

          For every one of those summers, we worked with a young man named Scott.  He is an exceptional young man, and seeing his one-act play performed this past weekend rejuvenated us. But his writing was not always as inspirational.  For many years, it was pure crap... 

          Scott used to write long stories---pages and pages and pages. They were hand-written when he was younger, and then when he got older and  typed them on the computer, he'd never save them to help in the revision process later.  And they definitely needed revision, but at that point, he didn't care. He'd just churn stuff out, it would end (in his mind) and he'd start on  a new story.

photo by eyeliam

           He wrote a lot of sweeping stories with huge battle scenes. Think Braveheart meets Greek mythology. My friend and never cared about his characters because he gave us nothing to care about. We never were interested in what happened in his stories because there was never any background built, there was never any dialogue other than grunting and yelling during the fighting, the characters were never fleshed out.

           And my friend and I tried.  We pleaded with him to try his hand at a short story with a smaller focus. We gave him loads of suggestions. We gave him books and stories to read that--we thought--might prod him in the right direction. We had other young writers read his work...all in vain. He never wavered from what he saw as his vision. 

          Why did we stick with him and never lose faith in him?  Why did we continue to wade through the manure-on-paper that he produced? Because Scott, for all his faults,  was a true writer. He had spent years finding what worked for him as a writer, and he was absolutely-and-positively sure of his talent as a writer, to the point of being cocky. And being thick-skinned and cockily-confident is necessary as a writer.  

          For example, when he was in middle school,  there was a "career fair" for the students. People from various types of work came to talk about their jobs. Architects. Engineers. Nurses. Scott was so looking forward to this day...

       And when that day came, he was so crestfallen and angry. There was no writer there! That was the only job he was interested in hearing about. What a waste of time! How disappointing!

        From the very beginning, Scott was a voracious reader as well as a ravenous movie watcher. He read like a writer, and he studied every detail when he fell in love with a movie. He absorbed the lighting, the close-ups, the bits of slow-motion. 

        And he collected disc after disc of movie scores. Not movie soundtracks. Movie scores. They inspired him. He found that he wrote best while listening to them, and had quite a collection of favorites to choose from. And he had the discs alphabetized.  By director.

         Last year, he wrote a short story. It had the flavor of No Country for Old Men. It blew our minds away. And then, we knew that Scott had finally evolved. He had finally arrived as an author. His writerly habits had enveloped him, like a coccoon, and he had emerged, a true writer.

photo by pirlouiiiit

         His play this weekend, part of an evening of senior one-acts, was incredible. Paradox was so Scott!  It so clearly came from a writer, had monologues of the main character (a writer) as they offered up to the audience what was going on in their head as they wrote, and was pure brilliance. (My friend and I have asked Scott for a copy of his script; we want it autographed. When he's a famous writer, we are going to sell our scripts so we can retire!)

        Some day, you will see the name Scott Blackwell on a best-selling novel or emblazoned across a movie screen. You'll see a scene---juxtaposed---of two poochy-bellied women as they sip from umbrella-adorned glasses as they read books all day long. And you'll know. Scott has arrived...