New Writer Group – In Real Life

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Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

 

I attended a new writer’s group last night. There were 13 people attending and I was the only newbie. The group is well established with a 30 year history.

Introductions were made around the table and 6 people read their pieces of writing. The author reads their piece aloud and the rest of us follow along with a copy provided by the author. Sign ups are provided ahead of time through email.

There were a variety of readings. One woman read Chapter 4 of her novel, one woman read a poem about texting, one essay about a sale and snowmobile ride (quite funny), one essay on holding hands, a short story about a bazooka bubble gum knife, and an essay about fishing.

There was some light critique, some more well received than others. Copies are written on then passed back to the author. I figured this part of the process out after the 4th reading!

One author specifically asked for us listen for a particular craft aspect before he read which I appreciated. I always find it easier to give feedback when given a direction.

Overall it was nice. The meeting lasted 2 hours and is held in meeting rooms at the county library. It is impressive that a group that has been around for 30 years still has several of the founding members attending.

It was refreshing to hear other people read their work. With it being my first time, I just listened. There was some side conversation with the 3 ladies sitting by me which was pleasant.

Everyone talked about their writing as something they are really compelled to do whether paid or not. Several writers expressed their difficulty in finishing projects.I do believe it is the right group for me and I will be attending the next meeting. I have to pick something carefully for the first reading because my stories tend to be dark or strange, and I do not want to concern anyone. They need to get to know me a bit first.

As I was thinking about this new group I was reflecting on the writers group experiences I have had in the past. Most of my writer contact is online now. These other groups were not purely writing groups so in my mind I put them in a slightly different category than the one I attended last night.

More than 15 years ago I took a journaling class that was held at an independent bookstore I frequented. The group clicked so well we continued to meet after the official class was over. The leader of the group graciously opened her home and we meet for many years after that initial meeting. We met through births, sickness, the bookstore closing, and changes of jobs. The form of writing was informal so there wasn’t any critique. The food was always fantastic! Christmas time there was the best blank journal exchange you have ever seen!

I still talk to the leader of the group although the calls and texts span between larger and larger blocks of time. We even co-taught a journal writing class for young girls at the United Way. The leader and I attended a few writing events over the years but none of them ever felt right for us individually or as a pair.

I also was invited to join a writing event sponsored through a writing group 5 years ago. There were sessions on a Saturday morning. I met my friend Jane and started to meet with her Book Club but we didn’t talk about writing so much after that first event. We were both gravitated toward each other during the potluck after the sessions were over. We both liked what the other said when we intro-ed ourselves in the first session. She is a smart woman and always interesting to talk to, especially about books.

I hope this new group has the longevity of the other groups I have been honored to be a part of. I feel like it was the right time for me to find them. I will keep you all posted!

Read and Reflect: Magic For Beginners

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One of my favorite short story authors is Kelly Link. One of her collections is Magic for Beginners and this week I read the story of the same title.

Here are some of my favorite lines and reflections from that text.

Page 210: When you get tired of having a secret, you tell Amy. Understand: Amy isn’t that much stupider than anyone else in this story. It’s just that she thinks out loud.

I love how the author talks directly to the reader. These lines are an explanation of the character of Amy who represents that one friend that everyone has. The one that when you are tired of keeping a secret the person you know will spread it. The last piece of this excerpt is a concise explanation that makes sense. It’s not her fault. It is just the way she is…loud. 😃

Page 211: Elizabeth’s family has a large and distracting selection of shampoos.

This is one of the odd lines that I find endearing and funny. I can visualize the plethora of shampoos in the shower. The character in this story showers at friend’s houses because his dad is weird about timing him.

Page 211: Talis is, famously, a loner. She doesn’t listen to music as far as anyone knows, she doesn’t wear significant amounts of black, she isn’t particularly good (or bad) at math or English, and she doesn’t drink, debate, knit, or refuse to eat meat. If she keeps a blog, she’s never admitted it to anyone.

I love the description of this character – and her name. It makes me like the character even more than I did before these lines. The mix of descriptors in the list are odd and quirky and makes me pay attention as a reader.

Page 212: I’m not allowed to tell you what they fought about.

As a writer, I love this line. It progresses the story along and also ups the intrigue. There is an underlying issue with the parents. You know this but get the feeling from the son when he utters this line – again to the reader.

Page 212: They imagine that life will always be like this— like a television show in eternal syndication— that they will always have each other.

This line makes the connection to the reader of the real-life people to the tv show that is a character in the story as well. It is not certain whether the show is real, or where it is even filmed in the story. There are multiple actors that play different characters. It also plays to the naive idea that the friends you have in school are the ones that you will have in adult life. That the group of influence will not change and you will always be close.

Page 212: Velveeta- and- pickle (a reference to a type of sandwich being made – ewwwwww)

Page 212: There is something dreamlike about the way that she makes a sandwich. As if she is really making something that isn’t a sandwich at all; as if she’s making something far more meaningful and mysterious. Or as if soon he will wake up and realize that there are no such things as sandwiches.

So many ideas and items in life have multiple meanings. The fight is not really about the fight… it is often about an underlying issue. Short stories are multilayered and these lines exemplify this idea for me. There is a melody to these lines I enjoy reading, even if it is just about a sandwich…and something more.

Page 214: once spent eight thousand dollars on a Japanese singing toilet.

The ridiculousness of this line made me laugh. The dad is a shoplifter, a writer, and a cook.

Link is known for not always tying up her stories in a nice bow. Sometimes there are large pieces that are left hanging for reader interpertation. There is a relationship that is unique between the story and the reader and the author and the reader. Knowing this before you read her work is incredibly helpful.

One of the other favorites of her stories is the Fairey Handbag.

Happy Reading!

Summer Tuesday #SOL

A cold nose to my leg woke me today rather than an alarm. The German Shepard is more impatient than cell phones. It is my first day of summer break. I will read, write, and exercise today.

June is a month of transitions for me. A place I do not like to be in honestly. There is lots to do and prepare for.

The morning is a bit dreary with a light rain and cloudy start. Perfect for a midmorning nap.

Lists will be made later of actions that need to take place including books to read and places to send stories. Some of the lists have to be fun!

The lists will help keep me centered. Illusion of control is sometimes needed.

What I Learned from Story a Day May

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I did it!!!

31 stories in 31 days!!!

It was one more than my goal. I figured I would give myself one off day. I had so much fun I didn’t use my freebie.

What I Learned From Writing Everyday…Again

I participated in StoryADAY May 2018 hosted by Julie Duffy from storyaday.org. This is not the first writing challenge I have particpated in this past year. For those who do not know, November is not only known for Thanksgiving in the US but also for NANOWRIMO — National Novel Writing Month where thousands of writers challenge themselves to write 50,000 words in the 31 days. There are days that word count is easier to achieve than others.

Storyaday has the advantages of a Superstars forum (for a small fee) and daily prompts (for everyone). The Superstars have the bonus of videos from the creator with some further explanation.

  1. The Superstars community and writers that commented on the daily posts were great. The camaraderie was amazing and there is a bond with people who you are accountable to everyday. There is a warm fuzzy feeling when you know other people are in the same situation as you are.

The idea that others were in the same routine as I was helped to motivate my writing the couple days I was reluctant to put pen to paper. There is comfort in the idea of other people following the same crazy plan that you are!

2. I like having conversations about writing. I seek out other Storyaday writers, Twitter writers and recently joined a real life writers group. Critique is nice, but not always the conversation I want to have. Through Storyaday we had three Zoom chats with Superstars and we talked about how we write and why. It was quite enjoyable.

3. Establishing the daily writing habit is good for me and my practice. I am more creative when I do a little per day. It is thinking and planning that helps the juices flow. I was always looking for a story spark and that habit has continued past the challenge.

4. I love monthly writing challenges! I participate in the TwoWritingTeacher blog challenge in March, Storyaday in May and NANOWRIMO in November. There is also CAMPNANOWRIMO in April and July!

5. The Storyaday prompts required me to plan more. I am usually a pantser — I write from the seat of my pants. I sit and write and just let whatever flows out materialize on the page. I thought about the prompt thoroughly before diving into the actual writing which made the words flow faster. With my long commute to work, I was able to listen to the prompt direction video and then think about my story beats and write it later in the day. This method worked well even if I just constructed the first couple of sentences.

6. A joyful part of the writing process for me was being able to combine ideas for stories I wanted to write with the prompt most days. It was satisfying to take a spark I had and mold it to the prompt idea which made it more layered and interesting and therefore a better story!

7. Many prompts were so much fun or effective I will come back to them again and again. I will also use some of them with students.

  • I love the idea of taking a random list of words and constructing a story.
  • I also enjoyed telling a story from 3 different perspectives.
  • The MICE prompt was new to me and I did some extensive research for this day.(Check out the Writing Excuses podcast for a great explanation)
  • One prompts was to take a story from earlier in the month and rewrite it from a different perspective. This prompt was surprising to me. I learned so much about the secondary character! I don’t normally gravitate toward this type.
  • Using prompts is not always a “writers block” solution for me. Just using them to start writing is a favorite practice of mine.

7. The StoryADay writing podcasts are awesome and batch listening to them is inspiring. They are the only writing podcasts I listen to over and over.

8. Morning writing is more effective for my personal routine. I could write later in the day but it was slower and felt more laborious. The flow was pretty steady in the morning but I believe coffee had something to contribute.

9.Most of the month I wrote on the computer. When thinking or planning to figure out what to say, I wrote longhand or sketchnote. To get words on the page and not overthink it, I type.

Writing Goals Moving Forward

  • Continue to write daily
  • Complete at least one short story a week
  • Visit the Storyaday.org website for Wednesday prompts
  • Submit 3 pieces monthly
  • Revise at least 2 days a week to prepare stories for submission
  • Remember the conflict!
  • Revisit all the prompts from May 2018 and rewrite all new stories. It is a writing experiment to see how different the stories would be!