Write With Me! Study Hall, Monday, Ecember 7, 2015


  The Kansas sky is a carpet of stars, so clear you can see the full sweep–well, of our arm, anyway–of the Milky Way, as we could along much of the East Coast when I was a child. Those days are long gone to vapor lights. 

I try to hold onto that thought as I help my future daughter-in-law and son navigate through a thicket of attitudes about children and animals that is stunning in its cruelty. More about that later. 

Writing requires one thing above all, something most writers know but find hard to practice: Keep your butt in the seat if you want to succeed. My recent workshop instructor, Laura van den Berg, had a much nicer way of putting it when asked about her productivity on the page: Try to touch your manuscript each day. Any way you put it, persistence is the difference between success and less than that. 

Today my family had a bit of a disaster concerning two pets that kept me away from our Study Hall and my writing. So, apologies, all. Now let’s get to work. 

Today, I’m going to fashion a new chapter in my second novel, tentatively titled The Man Who Loved Chocolate, which you might call a paean to kind men. Today I met a local government official who was anything but kind, and I’ll have him in the back of my mind as I continue the love story with the sweet-souled bookseller, David Bear. Sometimes it’s good to draw a real-life character’s opposite.

It’s important when the World deals you dirt to remember who you are and what you are worth. To hold onto your star. I hope yours is in sight as you navigate through your day. 

Now, what are YOU working on?

Write With Me! Study Hall, Monday, September 27, 2015


Moving Day!

 Hi, All! So sorry about last week’s missing study hall link. My early morning Social Security meeting became a nearly all-day affair, in which I was prohibited from linking to the Internet. This week, I also don’t have wi-if, because we are packing up our Florida house and preparing for the final move to Charlotte. But this time I’m scheduling the post courtesy of free Barnes & Noble (I know, evil empire, but I live in no-other-bookstore land) on Sunday, and then I’ll be easily able to catch up with you via my cell phone tomorrow. 

Not sure how much concentrated writing time I will get done this week, but after the packing, on Thursday I’ll be joining a workshop taught by Laura van den Berg (Finding Me, The Isle of Youth, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us) along with Connie May Fowler and Parneshia Jones for a long weekend. More about that later! So I will be writing, all week long. 

So please check in and tell us what you’re up to. You could look at this, if you choose, as get-your-butt-in -the-chair-and-keep-moving-day. Let’s get it done–baxt (Good writing mojo, Romani style!) 

Learning to write––again!

I'm convinced that knowing and doing are two separate things, all the more so since attending Connie May Fowler's wonderful Below Sea Level conference in St. Augustine last week. The company was excellent––what a top notch group of writers. I think Iearned something from every single person there. We chose buddies who started off the critique of our work and saw that we didn't freak out too much from the experience, then kept in touch with us. That system worked very well and is missing from many conferences, I think. Have you ever been to a writing conference where you didn't know anyone at first and felt very isolated outside of sessions, when you were mulling over what was said? Then you'll know what I mean.

And the critique sessions were the best I've ever been to, including some of our Jane's Stories critiques, which, I think, are generally very fine. What was better about the BSL sessions is that one and a half hours were spent on each piece, which is a luxury one rarely gets at this level. This will affect how we do things at JSPF in the future, I hope.

My workshop leader was Dorothy Allison, and she walks on water as far as I'm concerned. (I'm in a novel-writing seminar with Connie May Fowler, so I opted to seek out Dorothy's session for variety, but I would happily follow Connie May anywhere, as well.) Dorothy is so superb at structural analysis that she synopsized the trajectory of my story and how I had structured it to achieve its mission in two sentences better than I could have done myself. She did something similar with each work, after encouraging the group to give their opinions. Better than that, she is a fine human being who knows how to pull out the guts of a writer for analysis without agony, and put them back in a little better organized. I was impressed by her deep compassion that is totally without bullshit.

And then there were the talks with literary agent Joy Harris, Wordsmith organizer and literary analyst Kate Sullivan, and Ploughshares editor Laura van den Berg. Excellent, informative lunchtime sessions with each of these kept us focused on our goals.

Lastly, we had nightly readings that let us meet writers in the other workshop leader's group, and also allowed us to let down our hair a little by reading our coolest, most moving, and experimental work. The readings really ranged widely and so were very stimulating, sometimes tearful, and often funny beyond side-splitting.

I heartily recommend this conference to everyone. Check the next offering out at http://www.writingbelowsealevel.com.

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