Monday Melting Pot

In a previous post, when I talked about Tim O’Brien’s book, I told you I was reading two short story collections and had planned to write about the second one today. Alas, I haven’t finished reading it yet, so I’ll just catch up on a few other bloggery things.

From the results of my last poll, it appears that most of you don’t really care to read samples of writers’ work when you visit their blogs. In light of that, I should be thankful I got even a handful of comments when I’ve shared a flash or poem in the past. I haven’t figured out what you do prefer to read—maybe another poll is in order. If I possessed that particular golden ticket, and my blog readership skyrocketed, I could brag about my “platform” in my agent query letter. How soon do you think I could increase my daily post hits to at least a thousand? 😉

I’m sure you all remember the momentous day I blogged about bacon presses, so I thought I should update you. I did buy the one pictured, and as you can see, it works perfectly to keep the bacon flat. The bacon cooks evenly, but it also cooks faster, so I’ve had to watch the timing. What is it about bacon that people love so much? Within my circle, there is only one carnivore who doesn’t like it, but then she doesn’t like any pork product.

Because I’m a research addict, I went online to further my bacon knowledge. What we in the USA call bacon, is not necessarily what the citizens of other countries know as bacon. Americans refer to fried, smoked pork belly when they speak of bacon. Non-Americans may call that “streaky bacon” because their preferred bacon is leaner, cut from the sides and back of the pig—although there’s also “fatback” cut from the back, which is almost pure fat. What we Americans call “Canadian bacon” is back bacon. I also discovered that what I grew up calling jowl bacon, was not jowl at all, but just belly bacon with the rind left on. For the record, my favorite bacon is applewood smoked. And now I really, really, really want a BLT.

If you’ve been keeping track of my Creativity Workshop progress, you may have wondered why there was no update posted yesterday. Well, the simple answer is there wasn’t any progress to report. My goal last week was to write a short story, one of four connected by place, but I only managed to write maybe half a story. I know the rest of the story, so I’ll get it written eventually. I also failed to do Merrilee’s writing exercise, in fact, I forgot she posted an exercise. But I’m giving myself a pass because this was a busy week, with the end-of-school awards and a high-school graduation.

That’s not to say I did no writing this week. I wrote three little poems; it seems all I have to do is be quiet in the morning, especially on the way home after driving my husband to work. I also finished my final polish and format clean-up of my novel. This time I know I’ve done all I can do because I’m down to deleting and inserting commas.

Okay, that’s that. Thanks to all who participated in my weekend discussion on publishing options. Today, I hope to finally get my new dishwasher installed, and then I will—once again—ignore the crabgrass that is taking over my flowerbeds because it’s supposed to be 100° F here today and I truly, totally cannot stand to sweat.

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Sunday Stew with a side of Workshop Update

Today I’m serving up one of my stew posts, a bit of this and that. Plus, it’s time to let you know about my brilliant, fabulous, stupendous progress toward my workshop goal. Grab a spoon and bowl; the line forms on the right—women first because this is a matriarchal blog.

BLOGS: Lately, I’ve visited several blogs that frustrated me. I wasn’t frustrated with the content of the blog, just the presentation and/or navigation. A lot of the popular blog themes use either small white fonts on dark backgrounds or small greyed-out fonts, which are hard to read at my usual screen resolution of 1680×1050. I’ve been grumbling for a while. Fortunately, I just learned that I can enlarge the fonts with the keyboard code Ctrl+plus. Still, I hate having to do that so often while I’m browsing, especially because I sometimes click through to another blog where the fonts are now HUGE and I have to use Ctrl+minus to get back to normal.

Another thing that bugs me is a blog with no search capability, or categories, or even archives—some way to get to previous posts. I always wonder if the blog author is ashamed of every post they’ve written except the current one. Sometimes I go back to a blog and want to reread a previous post and have to jump through hoops to find it—and sometimes I never do. Please, Bloggers, add a search box or at the very least use a category list or cloud because it’s unlikely a reader will take the time to go back through your archives looking for the post where you mentioned some particular person/place/thing especially if it wasn’t named in the post title.

Hmmm, I guess I should ask: do you find anything frustrating or annoying about my blog?

Twitter:No, this is not going to be another rant about Twitter. I’ve made my peace with it. I’ve learned to glean some useful information from it and use it to keep in touch with writer friends. I’ve also learned that I can live without logging on every day. I no longer worry about how many Followers I have (or Facebook Friends, for that matter) because unless you have thousands of them, it means nothing—and maybe not even then. An acquaintance recently explained how she amassed such a “following” so quickly (she’s not famous.) One of her methods is to use a lot of hashtags and buzz words in her tweets. She also accepts ALL followers. When I asked her how she could possible keep track of all those tweets and status updates she gave me a look that clearly questioned my sanity and told me she doesn’t. In her Twitter app, she creates a list of the dozen or so followers she really wants to follow and then only watches the tweets in that list. (She does the same in Facebook, only there you can just Hide the “friends” you don’t care about.) I didn’t dare ask which category I’m in. 😕

I like to Tweet and ReTweet good links for writers. Here’s a few recent ones:

  • Things I no longer believe (via Scott G. F. Bailey at The Literary Lab) http://bit.ly/dzBXD5 This is tongue-in-cheek, but speaks to the frustration at all these writing “rules.”
  • @LadyGlamis blogged about the need to back-off when reading a fellow writer’s work: http://bit.ly/9cpgXs
  • Another post from Scott at The Literary Lab | A Question of Genre: http://bit.ly/9suLqW
  • And one from Edittorrent: Does your POV make it hard to like your character? http://bit.ly/aKeWvB

Also on Twitter, @karenfrommentor reminded me the other day about the virtual parties we used to have here on my blog. They lasted all weekend and things got a little crazy. Ah … the good old days.

Creativity Workshop update, Week 4

I completed my weekly goal for Merrilee’s Creativity Workshop, so I will take another step up. This week’s poem continued the theme of personifying the seasons, and depicted Spring as an ingénue. (Yeah, yeah, cliché.) Here are the notes from my week:

  • Monday: Chose the triolet as my form for this week’s poem. Wrote my first two lines (A and B) and then filled in the fourth (A), seventh(A), and eighth(B) lines of the form. Jotted down some possible third lines.
  • Tuesday: Went to Rhyme.com to find possible rhymes for last words in lines A and B. Decided to change end word of line A because of difficulty in rhyming. Wrote some possible third, fifth, and sixth lines.
  • Wednesday: Changed one line and now have a completed poem, though I don’t much like it. I think I could have written a better poem about Spring without this rhyming structure, but then I suppose that’s the challenge. If I were truly a poet, I could write a good poem in any form. I’ll look at it again tomorrow.
  • Thursday: Changed several words in an effort to mature the poem.
  • Friday: Took another look and declared the poem awful. Revised it. It’s okay now, definitely not one of my favorites because the rhyming still assaults my ear. But after having now read numerous triolets by published poets, I recognize the fault is only in my amateur application of rhyme.

Next: My fourth, and last, poem for this section will be about Autumn—or Fall, depending on where I take it. 🙂 I have done no advance work on this one, so I’m hoping some of that Tuesday morning magic kicks in.

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Stone steps photo credit: Michael D. Perry – MikePerryMedia.com

Are you prompted to write?

Along with meeting our weekly Creativity Workshop goal, Merrilee gave us tips on ways to come up with writing ideas and assigned us the task of looking at three photos to spark three ideas each. Sometimes a story idea sparked, sometimes a line, possibly an opening, for a story came to me.

Creative Commons via Cobalt123

It was hard not to see this photo other than in a “techo” sense, so I went with that … and a bit of fantasy (which I don’t write.)

  1. A radical new technology enables photographic evidence of the human soul.
  2. She stared at the beautiful blue visualization on the monitor as his favorite song played in Media Player and her heart slivered into shards.
  3. She held her breath and touched the pulsing blue orb, but this time—oh, this time—encountered no barrier; she reached further.
Creative Commons via bslmmrs

Since the main character in my recently completed novel is a brokenhearted man who flees to his cottage by the sea, that’s what immediately came to mind, but I pressed on … sort of.

  1. A suicidal woman retreats to a beach cottage and falls in love with life again.
  2. A recluse suspects that her neighbors on either side are planning to kill her.
  3. In a rental cottage overlooking the sea, a man finally confronts the fallout from his years of alcoholism.
Creative Commons via moriza

This photo just struck me funny, so I had a little fun with this one.

  1. A woman realizes that her husband had lost his mind along with his hair.
  2. If she had to listen to one more of his ridiculous ideas, she would murder him in his sleep.
  3. She knew in that instant on a sidewalk in Manhattan, their marriage was over.

I’ve rarely used photos as prompts, though something I actually see often sparks an idea. Dreams are a big source of inspiration for me. Music can be a good one. Occasionally, some bit of conversation sets my muse to scribbling down an idea. What serves you as a writing prompt?

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Leave Your Sleep … and write a poem

In perfect timing for my Creativity Workshop goal this week, I’ve been listening to Natalie Merchant’s newest recording Leave Your Sleep. I have to thank Cynthia Newberry Martin’s lovely post on this 2-cd with accompanying 80-page book for incentive to purchase this.

Natalie’s latest work was seven years in the making. Inspired by poems she read to her daughter, Natalie wrote music and lyrics to twenty-six poems and nursery rhymes in musical styles as varied as Celtic, pop, jazz, bluegrass, reggae, chamber orchestra, R&B, Chinese folk, Balkan, and others. Listening is an amazing adventure.

Some of the 19th and 20th century poets she honored are: E. E. Cummings, Laurence Alma-Tadema, Robert Louis Stephenson, Nathalia Crane, Ogden Nash, and Lydia Huntley Sigourney. A multitude of musical talents accompanied her, as varied as Wynton Marsalis, The Memphis Boys, Hazmat Modine, and Joseph Fire Crow. Recorded in live ensemble, this work is an aural feast.

I’m almost as new to poetry reading as I am poetry writing and must confess I hadn’t heard of most of the poets represented in Leave Your Sleep. But through reading the works of new poet friends (as well as my published poet d-in-l Sarah Chavez) my mental wall is crumbling. This is why I chose to write four poems as one of my workshop goals. I’d like to fell that wall once and for all.

Please enjoy this performance video and visit Natalie Merchant’s site for more videos and to read the poems she selected for this work. Cynthia also has a great interview video in her post.


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Goooals!

Our third instruction in the Creativity Workshop is to formulate three goals to concentrate on during the workshop and to create a task list for each goal. Merrilee’s post defined the difference between wants, needs, and goals. We must decide what tasks are needed to reach our goals.

I confess; my right brain started to whine immediately. “This is too hard.” I never approach writing this way. To even describe myself as a “pantser” insinuates I write more methodically than I presently do. So you see, just attempting this workshop is a challenge for me.

Merrilee told us to choose three from our issues/interests list to set as our goals. First problem: I didn’t compile a good list. I included no interests, for one, and she had already planned to address two of my five issues in the workshop! So … I had to improvise. I decided that incorporating more description and fleshing out dialogue would come into play in writing each story for the workshop. That left one general and one specific issue on my original list. But the general issue (#0) doesn’t really apply for the following reason.

Goal #0: Finish writing a story (or poem) in one week. (Twelve times.) This is the goal for every participant in the workshop, but I am (secretly … shhhh) challenging myself to have critique ready stories (or poems) by the end of each week.

  • Day 1: Choose a story idea. Do research, if necessary. Sketch out character(s) and storyline.
  • Days 2-7: Write. My stories average about 3,000 words, so I will have to write 500 words per day.
  • Days 3-6: Review and edit the previous day’s writing. Determine that I’m still on track with my storyline (or adjust, if one of my characters has thrown me a curve.)

Goal #1 Weeks 2-5:  Linked by theme. Learn about poetry forms and write poems in four different forms. I am not a poet, nevertheless, I occasionally write a poem … badly. So, I want to write four poems I’m proud to claim.

  • Research poetic forms and select four.
  • Choose poem theme.
  • Choose a different form each week and write the poems.

Goal #2 Weeks 6-9:  Linked by genre. Write psychological suspense or horror without giving away too much too soon.

  • Choose and read four published (and acclaimed) stories in this genre.
  • Analyze these stories to understand how and when the author introduced plot elements and details.
  • Write four stories in this genre.

Goal #3 Weeks 10-13:  Linked by characters and location. These will be literary fiction, my usual genre.

  • Write four stories set in the same Kentucky “holler” with one or more of the characters, mostly family members, appearing in each.

Now you know; this is what I’ll be writing for the next thirteen weeks. At the end of each week I will post here about my progress … and I may mention it in another post now and then. Don’t worry, you won’t hear me bitch and moan because this will be a breeze. How’s that for positive thinking? 🙂