Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I wrote a short story for my Fiction Workshop class a couple months ago. It was straight from local headlines, once removed. Told from a different angle and or perspective—if you will.

I added another twist (purely fictionalized) and made up details about the “news” aspect in my head. I wrote the story, it was mine. The reception was lackluster. It was either FANTASTIC— “some of the best” student fiction ever read or it was "offensive."

I’ve worked on the story since then—a lot. Details have been rearranged. Basic errors were corrected. The structure remains the same, as do several of the “scenes.”

I think it is NOW "some of the best" student fiction ever....(ego, I gotta have one)...and I will use it (in some form) in my portfolio for grad school.

Moving right along, I love the characters I’ve created. Which is the point of this "blog entry" today. Characters.

Something as seemingly simple as "a character" can lead to all sorts of problems.

(Stranger than Fiction--Harold Crick)

The character becomes alive. In my head. On the page. With my words. Alive. Good and Bad. No matter what, you have to love your character. It is a weird thing to describe without sounding like a "crazy person."

(Although they say writers are relatively crazy or more sensitive--and so I'm not exactly offended.)

I think a whole character is made up with little bits and pieces of your perception of different people. YOUR perception aka MY perception. I fill in the blanks with how I perceive things to be.

I was "accused" of loving one specific character--loving her an almost obscene amount in a class last year. But the accusation was not to be taken as a "bad" thing. I needed to "let her" get in "trouble" though. Fair enough.

There are questions we (writers/students) are told to ask and consider when creating (writing) a character:
  • What does your character want/desire?
  • Where are their desires coming from?
  • What do they think about?
  • What would they eat for lunch?
I let them (the characters) do what they want to do now.

I try to show and not tell the reader everything. Even if that includes something "offensive" or "risky--but it works"...Readers are smart. They can connect the dots if the groundwork is laid out before them.

Now not offending "friends" who assume characters are "me" is another story. And I've actually been victim to this myself. When a character is "so much" like "you" or "me" it can become uncomfortable.

BUT it is fiction, after all. Stranger than fiction, maybe.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Literary Monday?

Not quite. Maybe.

I saw two really interesting films this weekend:

Away We Go (released last month) was quite a pleasing little one, filled with laughter, tears, and a great soundtrack.

It had me thinking about Garden State (2004) a lot. I saw Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) as an older Andrew (Zach Braff) and Sam (Natalie Portman) still on a quest for “home” or that infinite abyss.

Either film defines the existential struggles of my generation well—(my generation being those born in the ‘70s). Heartbreaking and funny. Poignant and silly. I may have to hang some plastic fruit on a tree just because…

THEN I finally watched Revolutionary Road (2008) and was blown away.

Again, another generational (is that a word) film—this one dissecting suburban life in the 1950s.

Kate Winslet was perfection (as always) and since I haven't read the book, the ending was a shock/surprise.

As I was watching, I thought about a few of the short stories I've read by John Cheever...and then afterward I started thinking about similar films, or films on similar themes.

I call them "films of quiet desperation"...they are my favorite! And so there was a texting session later on...

J: I'm the queen of suicidal flicks, I guess
A: Seems so! While I have many involving the murdering of others...
J: We may need to be studied.

Of course if you put our movie collections together...

J: It would be a bad idea; if we don't kill ourselves we'll commit murder instead.
A: True.

If you like The Hours, Evening, or Closer--you'll probably like Revolutionary Road.

If you like Garden State, Lost in Translation, or Juno--you'll probably like Away We Go.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Submission Status:

under consideration: Your submission has been received and is being read by our editors.

Which is a nice thing to see as opposed to "REJECTED!"

REJECTED could, may will be coming soon enough (or in this case, they use PASS, but you don't get to collect $200)...

I read somewhere (in the back of my copy of The Bell Jar, I think) that Sylvia Plath received something like 47-rejection letters before her first short story appeared in a magazine.


I have officially only received three rejections in my writing life, so I need to step up my game, right?

I only have two submissions floating around right now. TWO! But I will be sending out another this week...and this is an actual "hard" copy manuscript--and local (to the Memphis Magazine).

In other news, my friend Maureen is training for her SECOND marathon. That's right...second. She completed her first in 2007 (the New York City marathon) and I am quite sure that she said she'd never do another. HA!

I'm both impressed & inspired (with) by her!

More News:
  • I purchased "less than" ten books at the used bookstore.
  • I finished my 2nd week of Yoga (I hate downward dog, BTW)
  • I finished the second installment of Jane Eyre. AMAZING!
  • I edited another story for submission (see above).
  • I'm adding three classes to my Fall semester (WHAT?)


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Short Story Thursday:

Just because it's short, doesn't mean it's easy!

EVERY word counts. There isn't enough space for filler. There isn't a chapter somewhere in the middle that could be taken out.. MIND your words. USE your words. WORDS!

And something I like to tell myself to keep the pressure off: "A story is only words. A poem is only words." I've said this more than once over the last couple months. I'll say it again soon enough.

in the 2008 edition of How to Write a Short Story (John Vorwald and Ethan Wolff) there is a very abbreviated list of twenty excellent stories they recommend. I am going to list the first ten here:

"Cathedral"/Raymond Carver
"The Swimmer"/John Cheever
"The Lady with the Pet Dog"/Anton Chekhov
"The Story of an Hour"/Kate Chopin

"The Most Dangerous Game"/Richard Connell
"Barn Burning"/William Faulkner
"The Yellow Wallpaper"/Charlotte Perkins Gilman
"The Birthmark"/Nathaniel Hawthorne
"Hills like White Elephants"/Ernest Hemingway

(I made the ones I have read dark red)

Just in case you're wondering, I love the book. It is like both of my fiction writing professors combined. Now it is not a substitute for either one of these professors, but a great addition to any writer's collection of "books about writing."

Character (make a chart!)
Conflict (external? internal?)
REVISION (unity, voice, flow...)

My copy of this book is already dog-eared.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Writing Wednesday:

(full size HERE)

This is author Katherine Center revising a very early draft of a story...I love the sound her pen makes as she writes. I love knowing that someone else in the world prints something out and then starts writing all over it.

She is a published author. I, am not (yet). My pen is made by Sharpie and does not make the "wagging dog tail noise," but it jumps all over the word processed page in a similar fashion.

Today is Wednesday--"writing" Wednesday--a series she does in which she answers questions about the writing process.

I have six seven short stories somewhat in the final stages of "done"...and one more in the middle of "writing." Plus one in the "thinking" and "researching" stage.

It really is a process, this "writing" thing.

So, Allison recently wrote a review of To Kill a Mockingbird. Guess what? It was Harper Lee's only novel. Yes. One novel.

Remember Gone with the Wind (the novel)? It was Margaret Mitchell's only novel as well. She worked as a newspaperwoman in Atlanta (I have visited her house/apartment actually). Yes. One novel.

Now both of those novels were a great grand HUGE success! I'm not picking apart or judging anyone for writing a WHOLE!

I guess I'm really trying to say (poorly) that writing is a process. I guess I'm also trying to make myself feel better about the "meager" seven short stories I have written.

There is a novel inside of me somewhere.

And since I am "off" work today, I plan on doing some writing or editing since it is Writing Wednesday (but even Katherine Center will tell you that Writing Wednesday is everyday).


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Another Day,

(toothpaste for dinner)

another trip to the pharmacy...

Day 1: Look! pills!

Day 2: More pills...

Day 3: guess what?

Day 4: You need pills?

Day 5: Hello. Pills?

Day 6: spill?

Day 7: I think they may be chasing me...REALLY! I am really sick and tired of counting pills, people asking about pills, calling insurance companies about pills, reading love letters about pills, stories about pills, whining about pills...

Hey, I'm off tomorrow!


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Is that YOU, Paul Rudd?

A few weekends ago (too many weekends ago) I had a dear friend over for a “movie” night.

We watched 3 or 4 films (I told you it’s been too long) and somewhere after midnight we found ourselves in the middle of a heated debate.

Not really heated. Not really a debate.

We found out that Paul Rudd has a twin. Okay, he doesn’t have a twin per se.

BUT there is another actor out there that had us wondering, is that Paul Rudd or was it the “other guy.”

George Newbern, meet Paul Rudd.
Paul Rudd, meet George Newbern.

Father of the Bride? George Newbern.
Object of my Affection? Paul Rudd.
Adventures in Babysitting? George Newbern.
Clueless? Paul Rudd.

Friends? Are you ready for this???? BOTH OF THEM!

See, it’s hard to tell them apart if you start thinking about it. And we don’t mean any disrespect toward either. They are both dark-haired, blue-eyed actors that we love!

Can you tell the difference? Look at those photos....did you have to do a double or triple take? Think about that last movie or television episode.....WHO WAS THAT ACTOR?


p.s. I am not telling you the'll have to post a comment to find out.

Random(ness) from a Chick:

(Married to the Sea) ---------------------------------------------------------
Today is day SIX of working seven days in a row*...and I almost forgot (that I was working so many in a row).

Now, LAST week I was fuming about the whole idea--so apparently Yoga is doing a great job at relieving stress and relaxing me!

I'm not ASKING to work this much again, don't get me wrong--I'm just surprised at my general happiness and continued vigor.

*possible because it is split between two "work weeks."
I started watching this version of Jane Eyre last night. Since I have yet to finish the book, maybe I am cheating a bit. BUT my goodness, I was on the verge of tears as the first installment ended (2 hours).

It doesn't takes Hollywood Magic or CGI to make my heart pitter. I'm a simple girl who loves watching tiny moments captured between people. (Which seems to be what I like to write as well).

I will have to wait for Netflix to send me the last installment (2 more hours).
MORE from the Mouths of Professors:
  • You can be 10 miles away taking a crap or eating some cheese and the next thing you know you’d be blown to smithereens!
  • Suddenly at 5:30 Michael’s brain ruptures and he was just looking out the window...
  • It’s just Scotty calling from the other world, if only we could all just be beamed up.
  • The fly was actually Otto Terminex in another life.
  • This is Keith Richard’s girlfriend...
  • It’s not fantasy and it’s not the seat of his pants.
  • This is astronomy; wonderful things are coming into the sky.
  • A space ship landed in my yard from Mars..
  • Magic is in all forms!

So that was three distinct entries in one!

Random enough? Yes!


Friday, July 17, 2009

I'm not Drunk--

That's just my Yoga High!

Last night I said, "I feel drunk now," to a classmate as we were walking out of Yoga.

Yes, that was my profound first sentence after two hours of silence.

I thought about it all the way to the car (the statement). & then it hit me--that's the perfect way to describe my post-yoga-mood.

And I mean this in the second definition of the adjective "drunk" (at least according to Merriam-Webster):

2: dominated by an intense feeling [drunk with rage]

But ignore their rage example. It is more like--PEACE or HAPPY or like I could talk to the flowers.

We added a couple new poses:
cobra, sphinx, the fish, mountain-->standing side stretches

We also did some OM OM OM. Which is what a lot of people imagine when you mention Yoga. Or maybe that was just me several years ago.

I always imagined people sitting lotus-style (like up there in that picture) with their eyes closed, chanting. Well, last night we did the OM OM OM. And well, everyone was into it. Shocker.

OM: is reputed to be the resonant vibrational tone of the non-dualistic universe as a whole.

So there we have it.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

From the Mouths of Professors:

Actually, wisdom(s) from the mouth of a former professor.

The class? Forms of Poetry. I’ve been meaning to post this for a while now. I figured a couple semesters removed was appropriate.

the notetaker? Rachel. She is at least half the reason I made it through that class without throwing the biggest tantrum known to mankind.

(of course these are not notes, these are just random sentences spout out from the depths of melancholy and despair)

I have rearranged the snippets she copied into various "subject" matter(s) and will present them this way. Remember that these were from throughout the semester, and as random as you could ever imagine!


~Carl, you’ve just taken the door off the doorjamb!
~The poems aren’t written for the podium or the soapbox.
~We’re all the way back at the station of the metro with Ezra Pound again.
~We’re breathing the commas, we’re breathing the periods.
~Can you hold back on your rhythm, man!
~The pain of the page disappears and we have the voice speaking to us...
~He catches us with a comma.

~And love, of course, is embedded in lovely
~Trudie…truth, beauty maybe I’ll meet her someday...
~You might meet your partner in Cincinnati three years from now…if that happens send me a postcard.
~It’s like when you play chess, no matter how many times you play you’ll always think, “Wow, I’ve never been here before.”

~Most people become old orphans...
~Old age ain’t for sissies!
~We’re no different that the squirrel… we’re biological.
~We’re a long way from Mr. Stevenson’s fifth grade class.
~There's the "wheel of fortune," if you will.
~Bob doesn’t even want to look!
~Physics is physics and there’s no escaping, biology is biology and there’s no escaping.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Yoga Me This:

Day One.

aka the first time in my life (I know of) in which I didn't speak for over two hours.

If you know me--you know me.

If you don't know me--
this is big!

(I've been told that I even "sleep talk")

I had my first (for credit) yoga class this evening and I feel like jello.

I am still totally stress-free though and THAT is a serious plus! (I also have a feeling that I will sleep like a baby)

For those who have any clue about Yoga we did:

Sponge (aka Corpse)
Half locus
Downward facing dog
“Half lord of the fishes”
Half bow
Warrior II
“Single nostril breathing”
Modified eagle

Of course, none of that is in sequence (nor is it everything). I just rifled through Google trying to find names of these poses. One cool thing about this class is that we do it--with the lights off. And you're so busy concentrating on yourself, that it is impossible to even remember the 19 other people around you.

Our instructor has been teaching Yoga since 1975. You do the math. He combines a lot of different "schools" and methods of yoga and was affiliated with the Himalayan Institute for a very long time.

I don't really know what all that means yet, but I can tell you that I am a master of the Sponge aka Corpse pose already.

And if you're not laughing your ass off over that yet, LOOK AT IT HERE.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Editing Process--

(subtitle: I NEED ONE!)

There is a difference between editing your own work and editing the work of others. Editing the work of other is a million times easier.

When the story is being filtered through you, when the words spitting out onto the page (or screen) are yours—you rarely see mistakes or missing information. All of that information is in your brain as you read along.

This being said (was that an excuse?) I am embarrassed looking back at the “original” drafts I submitted to classes to read. I am going to stop doing that—BUT it is amazing to see how much better version 25 is compared to version 10.

I am thinking about a story I wrote in April. It is now July and three months (only three months? or is that four?) have made it fantastic.

When do I stop? (Alternate title to post?)

I have left the story alone for weeks; I pick it up and feel the need to edit like a maniac. Maybe “maniac” is a strong word.

This morning, I was looking for adverbs and unnecessary words. I was looking at ways to make it tighter, stronger. I was looking to remove a sentence here or there.

Sometimes I wonder if this is why I haven't written anything of late. Okay, I have written something this month (I was looking over and editing it last night)--actually I wrote it LAST month!

How many times can I let friends read and reread and read the same story again before they stop being my friend?

Is this why writers work in "circles" or is this why writers are notorious drinkers? (Alternate title #2: A Drink--)

My vision is blurry, a sure sign I need to stop(period NOT question mark).


Thursday, July 9, 2009

You can quote me...

“I think therefore I am.”

“I cannot write therefore I read.”

That being “said,” you’d think I was doing a lot of writing or reading to pass my “non” work time. Wrong. If the last two months of “no class” have taught me anything, it is that I need a full schedule to maintain equipoise.

Read This Week:
"The Ice Palace" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
"The Five-Forty-Eight" by John Cheever

Written This Week:
This blog entry

of course, if I maybe stop watching every single second of MJ coverage, I may find all the lost time I keep complaining about.

OH! I took another GRE practice exam (only the “English” side, so I guess that is practically cheating) and I learned that I am seriously lacking in Reading Comprehension skills.

WHAT? Everything else was greater than average, but the very low comprehension score pulled me waaaaay back.

So even though I have read two relatively famous short stories (and really loved them) don’t ask me what they were about because I probably didn’t understand them anyway.

Sigh. But I want to talk about those two stories like it is nobody's business. Especially the endings...*watches tumbleweeds blow by*...

I am considering taking a couple classes online this semester...maybe in lieu of "testing for language credit." I think I'm afraid that I will fail the "test for credit" delaying my graduation another semester.

You can thank my most recent "never gonna graduate" nightmares for this current revelation. I don't know what to do now. Grad school won't happen until NEXT fall...should I chance it?

What harm is a few "fun" psychology classes anyway? (Abnormal! Psychology of Learning/Memory!) Or maybe another history class?

You can quote me on that!



Blog Widget by LinkWithin