Saturday, October 23, 2010
In this one you are with me and our cousins, Hank and John, in Baldwin, on the south shore of Long Island. It’s 1950 or 1951and we are posing at the edge of a canal in the shipyard where Granddaddy keeps his motor boat. We just got back from our annual day trip through Jones Inlet. You and I stand in the middle with our arms around each other and clearly we take care of each other. We are as plain and sturdy as our scuffed Buster Brown shoes.
Hank and John, wearing sneakers, are aliens from Planet Cousin and we have no clue about them. If you are trying to cheer John up with a hug, it isn’t working. We love the person who is taking the picture, probably our mother or father, though John seems more interested in the ground in front of him.
Over the years to come the tides of our lives will pull you and me together and keep us apart, but we will always be Susan and William, Sister and Brother.
In 2001, from the rocky shore of Nova Scotia, I scattered your ashes in the cold waters of St.Margaret’s Bay, where you once took me for a day trip on your motor boat, Seaweed 2.Now you travel on the tides to all the waters of the world.
We'll see. Meanwhile the ending is nagging at me, as is the idea of pitching GRACE as "edgy" YA.
Homework is an "invitation," so any topic is acceptable if the invititee has other writing priorities. I often use my own writing as an example in the Invitations. For example, I used the the meditation on Will (2nd from left in picture above) as an example of writing to a person in a photograph "In this one, you are..."
Saturday, August 21, 2010
This garden’s white and green
Fat with waste-waxed floors
Crisp white machines.
“Good veins,” approves Nurse Thing.
A room with a view of sky.
Last sight; last rite.
This is a garden of wolf’s tongue
And wean balm,
This is a garden of the sick to death,
A formal garden of the
Friday, August 20, 2010
Have you ever imagined yourself to be the characters? Tried to feel what they’re feeling? Try it now. It’s not hard. Be an actor.
Often, after I’ve written a scene, I’ll go back and try to live the emotions. I’ll act out the parts I’ve created. Almost always what I feel “in character” will make me add to or change the scene.
You can also imagine the scene, step by step, in your mind. Let it play like a movie. But instead of watching the movie from a seat in the theater, be in the scene. The other characters can’t see you, but you can see and hear them.
Intensify the proceedings. Let things happen. Let characters improvise. If you don’t like what they come up with, rewind the scene and allow them to do something else.
Look at the beginnings of your scenes. What do you do to grab the reader at the start? Have you spent too much time with description of setting? Often the better course is to start in medias res (in the middle of things) and drop in description a little later.
Examine scene endings. What have you provided that will make the reader want to read on? Some great places to stop a scene are:
• At the moment a major decision is to be made.
• Just as a terrible thing happens.
• With a portent of something bad about to happen.
• With a strong display of emotion.
• When raising a question that has no immediate answer.
Keep improving your scenes and your novel will soon develop that can’t-put-it-down feel.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Saturday, July 31, 2010
ANSWER: Follow the 75% Rule of Marcus Sakey
Thursday, June 17, 2010
1. Intention, Not Expectation. Set an intention for whatever it is you want to be successful at, but don't have an expectation of exactly how it will pan out. Because, the universe loves to surprise you. This goes for small, daily goals, too. Set an intention to write a certain number of words per day, for instance, but don't have an expectation that you will absolutely, positively meet that goal or else. Set an intention, go for it, and if you don't make it, do better the next day.
2. Just A Wee Bit of Organization. I know, we creative types like to be wild and crazy and free. And organization is a dirty word when you are wild and crazy and free. But a wee bit of it will help you to achieve your success goals. Learn what your maximum mess quotient is and when you reach it, take some time to get yourself organized. My maximum mess quotient is when my desk gets so overwhelmed with piles I no longer know what each pile represents (probably because they are so messy they don't represent anything).
3. Use the Power of Your Subconscious. Put your brain to work for you. Your subconscious can be noodling away on your creative projects while you are doing other things, like dishes, or vacuuming or carpooling. You just need to give it a little nudge. And that's easy to do. Read over your notes before you leave to do errands. Glance at a page or two of your manuscript before you go to sleep at night. Or sit in front of your latest painting and ponder it before you leave for work. You can also tell your subconscious directly what you need, such as, "I'm looking for Claire's motivation for leaving her husband." And don't forget to carry a small journal with you wherever you go so that you can jot down ideas as they come. Because they will come.
4. Process, not Product. Don't put yourself into the mindset of product creation. Instead, remember that it is all about the process. Yes, you are indeed creating a product, whether that is a novel or a painting or an EBook. But focusing on the end product results in perfectionism, and panic. Instead, stay in the present and think only about the process. Be in the process. Product follows.
5. Transcend Judgment. This is a biggie, and a difficult biggie at that. You need to be able to transcend judgment of the product you are creating until you are finished and need to be critical of it. But beyond that, you need to transcend judgment of yourself and other people (which is really just judgment of yourself). Stifle that negative voice that loves to hear you tell critical stories. You'll be amazed at how much space opens up in your brain. And you can then use that mental space for, oh, I don't know, rewriting a novel?
6. Ask For Support. But seek it from the right people. I adore my family and my non-writing friends, but I don't let them in on the process of trying to get my novel published much. Why? Because, wonderful as they are, they just don't get it. If I mention I have an agent interested in my work, they'll be asking me constantly how it's going. My writing group, on the other hand, offers concrete assistance that I can take to the computer and use immediately. (And no worries, there will be a huge celebration with my beloved family when the time comes and I do nab that agent.)
7. Know You Can Do it! Because you can. We all can. We all can accomplish our goals if we just give ourselves a chance. Or a pep talk. So good luck cultivating a success mindset and go forth and accomplish your goals!
Reposted with permission:
Writer, mentor, and coach Charlotte Rains Dixon is passionate about helping writers, coaches, entrepreneurs, and creative professionals succeed, achieve, and profit in their careers and lives through writing. Visit her for more tips and techniques on writing--and living--at www.wordstrumpet.com.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Thanks to Backspace and Colleen Lindsay for the original query contest last fall that I won. The prize was free attendance at the conference. I also thank Backspace for giving me a rain check when I couldn't attend in the fall.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
PART 2: WHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN
Bellhaven, Long Island
Casualty: Any person who is lost...by having been declared dead, duty status-whereabouts unknown, missing, ill, or injured.
—Department of Defense, Dictionary of Military Terms
Acid is not for every brain.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Won query letter contest back in October, could not claim prize (attendance at Backspace's Nov. writer/agent conference in NYC) due to illness. Sponsors have graciously extended prize to cover 3-day conference in May in NYC. GRACE may not have an agent yet but it's a winner! I'm thrilled.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
So I return to Grace pencil sharpened; no regrets.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
".... I was impressed by the narrative tension you created over and over again. Grace is a beautiful, complex character, I think the reader ends up feeling very deeply for her by the end.
This touches on something I have thought about. I worked hard on these characters and it's always great to discover they spoke to someone else memorably. But the plot concern is definitely something to tackle.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Grace has now won two contests (well, the second was a query contest) and now a grant. Time for an agent!
I am thrilled!
Sunday, January 31, 2010
to be a writer-in-residence at a writing conference or college
to have sold 3 novels, the 2 I completed in 2009 and 2010 as well as the one completed in 2011
to have sold a how-to book based on my class assignments
to have attended the opening night of my first play
to be marketing novels written 2012 - 2014
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
We fill our cups with each other’s words until they run over.
We fill picnic baskets, trunks, silos, freight cars, and hay barns with our words. Every one a gift.
Listening to each other’s words is as pleasurable as eating watermelon on the porch steps (with comments launched like watermelon seeds into the back yard).
Our words interlock
like the strands in a multi-colored braided rug.
Our words blend and sing harmonies.
Our words pluck long-forgotten chords in each of us.
Some words grow in neat rows, willing to be weeded and watered.
Other words escape and tangle into briar patches, resisting and drawing blood when we try to pick them.
Some words roam wild and free on the high slopes and have to be chased down and forcibly corralled.
Other words are as docile as sheep waiting to be penned.
As writers, we have to be
…as persistent as prospectors panning for word nuggets that will assay into stories.
...as faithful as fishermen, patiently casting into a pool of words to see which ones will bite, taking the keepers home to fillet and fry up as stories and poems.
…as tough as tight rope artists, walking the wire of writing and step by assured step bridging the gap between inspiration and story.
I celebrate the writers who have read their work tonight!
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Impersonal response reminding me it's better to "know" than wait for a personal gentle let-down.
Hmmm. Not sure about that. The limbo of querying, in which all is possible for weeks until the reply comes back, was truncated today. After 4 hours, Grace was back in my court.
Time to serve an ace.
This is why having 10 queries out at a time is such a good idea.
Friday, January 15, 2010
My last 5-year plan (1980) had a single goal "get a job in the fire service." I accomplished that one in 4 years. Published a book on arson in 1982, joined the Bellport Fire Dept. as a volunteer in 1982; became an editor with the NY Fire Dept. --temp, 1983; full-time, 1984.
What does a five-year plan have to do with Grace at War? Everything! For 2010: have at least 10 queries out at all times; sell the book. See it in print by 2012. Meanwhile, get the new novel ready to send out before November 2010.
I'll post my progress!