The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Thursday, February 2, 2012

WWWP Highlights

         Last night was our twice-monthly writing critique night. One of our group was missing in action, so it was a bit more sedate than usual, but extremely productive, as always.

         Here are some of the highlights:

  • ClickClickClickClickClickClick. The sound of pills shaking against the inside of a plastic pill bottle. Three of us sat up on our back haunches and begged, unblinking, expectant and transfixed. (A member of our group just got off painkillers, and we were sure she was shaking one out for each of us.)
        Oh, those were toothpicks being shaken out, for the appetizers? Awww. Oh,

  • "Change the focus of the piece to your children, take out the 'essay' parts, and this would make a wonderful story." Too often we look at a piece and box it in, thinking it would not be suitable for a particular publication/contest. Repurpose it. Retool it. Tweak it, then send it off.

  • The power of self-fulfilling prophecy. Two years ago, my students each hung up their dream in our classroom. There were clouds hanging all over the place, swinging on fishing line. My dream was up there, too: "I dream of being a published writer." That was in September. In December of that same year, High Hill Press accepted my picture book manuscript. Coincidence? I think not.
       This year, all five of the WWWP's are going to be in the Chicken Soup for the
       Soul Parenthood anthology. We're going to do book signings (they will be the
       most raucous book signings ever!) and we're going to be fierce. Have any of
       us been accepted yet? No. But it will happen...

       Have any of you had first-hand experience with a self-fullfilling prophecy? I'd love to hear about them...

Sunday, January 29, 2012


       Oh, have no fear. This post is not about what people normally think of when TMI is mentioned. I'm not going to paint a picture of what I looked like when I got my head stuck in the sink, too cheap to pay $5 for a shampoo at the stylist...I'm not going to describe what my evening "attire" is, after a long day of herding third graders...I am going to spare you the psychological scarring you'd suffer if I made you visualize what happens when a fifty-something woman's body meets gravity head-on...

      No, this TMI lesson has to do with writing. And I learned it in my twice-monthly critique night. The teachers? Linda O'Connell, Lynn Obermoeller, T'Mara Goodsell and Beth M. Wood. They're better than nuns at rapping my knuckles when I do wrong...

      At our last class meeting of the WWWP (Wild Women Wielding Pens), I shared a hockey story. Chicken Soup had a call-out for hockey stories (the deadline is tomorrow) and even sent out a reminder, which--to my way of thinking--meant they didn't have very many submissions. Since I had no real hockey stories, I thought even I might have a chance. Because I had two "near" stories.

     I brought both, thinking I could beg them to read the other story sometime in the next week and send it back to me, all marked-up. (I even had stamped envelopes at the ready, in case anyone agreed.) The problem was, the deadline would come before we had the chance to meet again. Two piles of crap had a better chance than only one, I thought. 

       And the lesson I learned is this: sometimes part of the story is TMI. It may be part of the story that you get down, in the initial draft, and in your mind, it's really a part of it. However, if it doesn't move the story along, if the story can stand without it, cut it loose.

       In one of the stories, I was in the locker room with a bunch of teachers and one hunky hockey player (true). There was quite a scandal because the hunk flirted shamelessly with me a crime scheme was being hatched (true). And although most of the giggling, fawning teachers were women, there were a few men.

       Since that was true, I thought it important to include. Of course, the WWWP's went after me with a meter stick. The fact that some men were in the group was unimportant. Delete. Immediately.

        The other story (in  the end, they looked at both, after moaning and groaning about this one) got some major slash-and-burn work done. Half the story was spent explaining how I got some tickets to a semi-pro hockey game. Was it important that teachers sometimes got the chance to get free tickets to a comedy club or a semi-pro baseball or hockey game? No. So, a 1,200 word story ended up 37 words long (just a slight exaggeration).

        Barry Lane talks about three drafts. The Down Draft is when you get the story down. Just let the words flow, and banish your inner critic during this phase. Then, there is the Up Draft. This is where you fix it up. Revise. I should have cut those dead limbs then. Finally, there is the Dental Draft. That's where you look at every nook and cranny, checking for anything loose, anything that's out of place...the editing part, and the final touches of revision.

       Do you have any stories about having a part of a story or poem that you thought was integral but later saw the light?