Craft, Feedback, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Goals, Novel, Query, Rejection, Short story, Writing

A Year’s Worth of Writing

Have you reviewed your writing progress in 2010? In this and another post or two in the next two weeks, Ill take a look back at the highlights of mine. When I looked back at all the posts for this year, I was surprised at how many twists and turns I took.

At the beginning of the year, I thought I had a finished novel in query status, so I turned my attention to short stories. I wrote a post, Writing vs. Crafting, in which I vowed to not only read more short stories, but to write and submit for publication some of my own. Nothing to report on my stories, but I did read more of those written by others, including fabulous debut collections from Robin Black and Tracy Winn.

Next, I jumped out of the box and started my year of living dangerously. (Even though I lost sight of that along the way, it may explain the way my writing year will end. Stay tuned.) But back then, I dared myself again by trying a writing challenge: a micro flash story. And I wrote it from a prompt, which is something I hadn’t done for decades. It was so much fun I invited my readers to take the challenge too. 

And then, I fell apart. Rejection spawned dejection and in barged the Blue Muse. From the bottom there’s no way but up, so I went into warrior mode and wrote a new query letter and opening paragraph for my novel; entered two contests; and dissected a Flannery O’Connor story for a discussion group.

The decision to edit my novel again reminded me of a good beating and then, continuing with new experiences, my novel spoke aloud. I discovered frigid fiction, but soon I became blinded by the words. To my rescue came the fabulous Kayla Olson who volunteered to read and critique for me.

Again I needed to be reminded to wait for the words. Before long I had reason to panic over platform, but as the end of the first quarter of 2010 came to a close, I was riding the train of eternal optimism.

Your turn: Have you charted your writing progress this year? How did you fair?

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Author, Book Reviews, Fiction, Opinion, Short story, Writing

Since I loved it, I will tell you this

A month ago, I mentioned I was reading two story collections, one old, one new. I told you about the old one and promised to tell you about the second collection the next week. Then, I decided I should finish the book first, and life kept getting in my way, so I didn’t finish the last story until a few days ago. Technically, I don’t review books. I’m not schooled in dissecting and analyzing. I can only give you my opinion, tell you that I like a book or not, and maybe share a bit of why.

So, what’s my opinion of this book? Look at that photo of assorted truffles. Can’t you practically taste their rich, creamy, sweet, elegant, lusciousness? Well that, dear friends, is the chocolate equivalent of Robin Black’s debut If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This. The book consists of ten stories, each one a different flavor, each marvelous—like truffles.

I’ll share a quote from the inside jacket flap: “Brilliant, hopeful, and fearlessly honest, If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This illuminates the truths of human relationships, truths we come to recognize in these characters and in ourselves.” That’s not hype; that’s truth. From the opening pages, I knew these stories were masterfully written. Robin Black not only starts us with a unique situation: a father taking his daughter to meet her first seeing-eye dog, but she complicates it with the unexpected: as he drives along trying to pay attention to his daughter’s chatter, his mind wanders to visualizing his mistress as she seduced him the night before.

Always, she delights with language:

“A streetlight comes on. Clara waits to see how long it will take another to join it. A minute passes, two minutes. Nothing. They must have different levels of sensitivity, she thinks. They must believe different things about what darkness is.”

And this:

“Her body, no longer thin, no longer seemed striving to be thin and had acquired a relaxed, logical quality, as though the wide hips and general sense of plenty were the obvious right choices.”

And this:

“The truth was, he wasn’t sure he would ever like anyone again. He seemed to have lost the thread of how affections worked.”

I read these stories as a reader, and they enthralled me. I read them as a writer, and they amazed and inspired me. I read them as an editor, and never picked up my red pencil—and, for me, that rarely happens.

Keeping with my truffle analogy, it’s probable best that it took me awhile to finish the book. As with all fine chocolate, it’s best savored slowly.

If you’d like to know more about the author, read Cynthia Newberry Martin’s blog post A Day in the Life of Robin Black. You might also like to read her review of the book and visit Robin Black’s website.

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