The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Friday, August 23, 2013

Be Careful What You're Hating On

       When I was in high school, I hated crab ragoon. My sister Virginie, Charmaine  (the 3rd Musketeer of our group) and I would go to a local Chinese restaurant almost weekly. They had crab ragoon and I waited patiently while they crunched away, because after their appetizer-turned-entree, we'd have fried ice cream. That I loved...

       The fact was I hated crab ragoon, despite the fact that I had never even tried it.

photo by wintersoul1

        Now, of course, I adore it. If there was a swimming pool full of crab ragoon, I'd happily dive in and eat my way out of it. And then I'd be renamed Shamu.

        A couple of weeks ago, I got word that a publisher liked a story of mine but it needed tweaking. They wanted to include it in the Not Your Mother's Book...On Family--if I did some revising.

         I looked at the story several times and felt no inspiration. I began to hate the story. I had written it in a whirlwind session of submissions, and not only felt the ending "fell flat" but thought the whole piece was dead...and I wasn't in the mood to beat that dead horse.

         Yesterday (thankfully) I found out it was a different story they wanted. Also, (thankfully) the talented Linda O'Connell, the co-editor of the book, did some magical work on the story that I had never hated.

         What have you hated/resisted, until you tried it and found out it either wasn't too bad or you found out it was positively addicting?

          And pass that plate of crab ragoon. I'm in the mood for another one...   

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Power of Ad-Libbing

          This morning I saw the story of George Raveling on the "CBS Sunday Morning News" show. Decades ago, Raveling showed up--at the last minute--to the march on Washington, volunteered to help with security (there were lots of celebrities, like Marian Anderson and Sammy Davis, Jr. in the front rows) and when Dr. King stepped away from the podium and was beginning to ball up the copy of his I Have a Dream speech, Raveling asked if he could have it. At that moment, a rabbi stepped up to introduce himself, and King handed George Raveling the three typewritten pages and the moment was over.

         For several decades, the copy of the historic speech stayed where it had been stashed--tucked in the middle of an Eisenhower biography...until someone asked him how it felt to be the first black basketball coach of something-or-other (my eyes glaze over when it comes to sports) and the interviewer asked him if he had gotten involved in the Civil Rights movement. Raveling mentioned he'd heard King's famous speech, and had the copy. Ever since he realized its importance, it's been framed and is protected. He's offered it to museums, stipulating that they sign papers stating the speech belongs to him...They've refused. He's been offered 3.5 million for it. He's refused. He's since given the speech to his son, with the stipulation that it never be sold.

         Sorry. I've spent a lot of words telling the "back story" and now I'm finally to what blew me away.

      The words "I have a dream" are nowhere in those three typed pages. Nowhere.

       There are, however, several spots where an asterisk was penciled in. And those were where King took off, adlibbing, making a four-minute speech into a sixteen-minute speech...transforming a powerful piece into an unforgettable moment.

         If your story is moving along, in a certain direction, but then veers off in another...perhaps it's a good thing. Embrace the spontaneous moments. Make use of the ideas that suddenly and unexpectedly burst in your brain.

       After all, it might transform your tale into something even better...  

          By the way, I just got word that my stories in two upcoming Chicken Soup books---Think Positive For Kids and Just Us Girls--have made it to the final round and will be included in those collections. Without my critique group, the felonious (at least in our daydreams) WWWPs, these slice-of-life stories would not have had a chance of getting published, so not only do I believe in the power of spontaneity, I also believe in the power of critique...