Bradbury Revision Challenge Day 20

For June, I am following Ray Bradbury’s self directed MFA by reading a poem, a short story, and an essay with the intention of using the idea of good words in = good words out. I welcome your comments, recommendations, and insights!

July is Coming!

Join me for the July #10min challenge. Each day I will send you inspiration to create for 10 minutes a day. Change your creative life and create a habit. It is a low stakes challenge with levels of accountability! Join us here Sign up here!

June 20

Poem: Mourning

Story: Click Clack the Rattle Bag by Neil Gaiman

Essay: The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg – Things to Draw

Reflections

This poem draws me in with all the objects contained within it.

This short story is one of my all time favorites. It is about 1400 words so not considered flash fiction. There is a moment in this story where you gasp and you realize what is happening. It is a story told through dialogue as well which I find difficult to pull off.

NG talks about drawing with words. Sarah Selecky talks about this a lot as well – the idea to describe something with words. Lean descriptions keeping close to the object and the senses. It can add to the experience for a reader.

What inspires you?

Weekend Coffee Share

Thank you for joining me for our weekly coffee chat today. It has been a busy week!

July is coming!

If we were having a beverage I would tell you I am considering my July challenge. I am considering doing the #10min challenge again. It would be a low stakes challenge where I would send a prompt for 10 minutes of creativity. Let me know in the comments if this idea interests you! Sign up here!

If we were having a beverage today I would tell you I am continuing my Bradbury revision Challenge and am on Day 19.

For the month, I am following Ray Bradbury’s self directed MFA by reading a poem, a short story, and an essay with the intention of using the idea of good words in = good words out.

I welcome your comments, recommendations, and insights!

If we were having a beverage I would tell you this is what I read today:

Poem: Those Winter Sundays

Story: Mrs. Fox’s Wedding Grimm Brothers

Essay: The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg Kiss

I just absorbed the words today mostly. I have been up since 2am and was able to go back to sleep but the essay was the one that resonated the most. NG talks about a passage she has read aloud at several places by William Kennedy. She uses the structure of his piece to encourage us to write our own.

She asks us to categorize something we have a passion for and then talk about a specific to us.She says to,” Break down category, idea, boundary. Follow your own trail out into the rain.”

What passion would you write about?

Her example is running shoes but even though I am a runner, that topic didn’t appeal to me.

If we were having a beverage I would tell you I attended Sarah Selecky’s FLOW class this week and it was amazing. The first session was about her classic writing exercises that put you into a state of flow. The second day she shared a more indepth exercise from Writing the Wave a book by Elizabeth Ayres. The third day she broke down more of the concept in the book FLOW by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and how they relate to the Story Intensive. I was about to get a copy of the WAVE book from my library. I will work with it this week. You can sign up for the Story Intensive until June 24th.

If we were having a beverage I would tell you that I had an amazing birthday on Wednesday. We went to a great White Sox game. There is always great food too. It was a long but pretty perfect day.

I hope your week was amazing and full of things that bring you joy!

Bradbury Revision Challenge Day 18

Welcome to Friday!!

For the month, I am following Ray Bradbury’s self directed MFA by reading a poem, a short story, and an essay with the intention of using the idea of good words in = good words out.

I welcome your comments, recommendations, and insights!

July is Coming!

Since it is more than halfway through the month I am considering my July challenge. I am considering doing the #10min challenge again. It would be a low stakes challenge where I would send a prompt for 10 minutes of creativity. Let me know in the comments if this idea interests you!

June 18

Poem: Subtraction

Story: Straw, Coal, and Bean Grimm Brothers

Essay: The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg Story of Love

Reflections

This poem reminds me of the This + That book by Amy Krouse Rosentahl and the life equations I write with my students. One of my favorites I wrote is:

coffee+writing=Breakfast

There are several lines from the poem I am drawn to:

This is my temporary mind.

You taught me math

in color: “Red + Blue=Purple.”

Imagination is an intraocular organ.

The story is another Grimm brothers tale that I was not familiar with. I am drawn to it since it is told through objects. It is on the silly side I think and also has an ending that explains why beans have a black seam. It is quite short as well.

NG gives an assignment in the first sentence of this essay. Go for one hour, in the middle of everything, and write about your story of love.

She did this exercise with students on the 4th day of a silent retreat. Then after they read later she asked them: What did I find interesting about what I heard?

I will tell you after many guesses from the students, which were all wrong, she said simply she was glad they stayed writing for the whole time. She knew from this they were settled.

Then they brainstormed other topics for this exercise and noticed what was different about the list. One was growing tomatoes which was hyper specific.

Then she joked it would be chapter two of her new book.

This was a playful chapter to read.

The takeaway today is specifics in writing. Earlier in the week a podcast referred to the fact the more the writer is specific the more universal the message. It is much more interesting to hear about a specific detail from a writer rather than a generality.

In the story I was revising this morning I added to a list of objects contained in a zippered plastic bag a rock from the shores of Long Lake in Minnesota. These small details are important. The more odd and pinpointed the more they resonate and stay with you.

What topic would you add to a list?

NG added loneliness.

Bradbury Revision Challenge Day 17

Welcome to Thinking Thursday!

For the month, I am following Ray Bradbury’s self directed MFA by reading a poem, a short story, and an essay with the intention of using the idea of good words in = good words out.

I welcome your comments, recommendations, and insights!

June 17

Poem:

Mothers I Once Was

by Kaveh Akbar

From The Paris Review

Story: The Three Spinning Women- Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Essay: The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg Seven Attitudes of Mindfulness + At The Beginning

Reflections

I love Kaveh Akbar’s poetry and was happy to see this poem show up in my inbox from The Paris Review. Of all the daily poem emails I seem to like the ones from this publication the most. It is a poem that I like the repetition of but not necessarily the poem as a whole. The last line: Mother who held on while it was happening. Is the one I like the best.

The story is a Grimm brothers tale is one I was not familiar with and is on the happier side which surprised me. A good deed is rewarded and not punished. There seems to be no twist of the knife that often arises in these tales. I like the rule of 3 but it is done differently. I am liking the idea of continuing the reading of the fairy tales. They are old and I love that about them.

The essay resonated with the Seven Attitudes of Mindfulness which I used in my newsletter for this week. The essay that followed the list is about getting out of your own way. She recommends writing practice for 2 years before you even think about a novel.

NG talks about writing as discovery. To take a topic and write about it in several timed writing sessions over time and then reread them. To follow the trail of the writing and see where it leads.

“Time lets the blood dry.” Isn’t that a fantastic line?

“The places where you were present almost glow off the page.”

“..eventually your path reveals itself.”

“Writing is magical, extraordinary, but we have to pick up the pen to run down the rails and catch that caboose.” This line caught my eye today because I was stopped by a train on my walk.

This project is causing me to rethink revision on a grand scale and what I even consider a draft. It is opening up a new level for me which is exciting.

What are you excited about today? It doesn’t have to be about writing!

Bradbury Revision Challenge Day 15 & 16

For the month, I am following Ray Bradbury’s self directed MFA by reading a poem, a short story, and an essay with the intention of using the idea of good words in = good words out.

I welcome your comments, recommendations, and insights!

June 15

Short Story: Bullet in the Brain by Tobias Wolff

Essays: The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg  – Dreams and Lying Down

Poem: Sonnet for A Tall Flower Blooming at Dinner

By Yona Harvey

Southern Flower, I want to quote the bard,

to serenade you, to raise a glass to you.

lone & tall you are always parched

& hungry. You wobble in strong winds, you

pull your bright hair when it rains, you

toss off the lint of dandelions, you

lean into the evening haunts

with your indifferent afro. You

were born in the old-world city, the invisible

dark girl city, the city that couldn’t hold

a candle, a straight pin a slave-owner’s sins

to you. You are the most beautiful

        dark that hosts the most private sorrows

        & feeds the hungriest ghosts.

Reflections

Today I am sharing one of my favorite short stories. It was introduced to me through Sarah Selecky’s Writing School. [Her intensive registration is open now! Here is the link for more info and sign up.]

It is an example of a story that utilizes a list. The main character is unlikable and is critiquing the robbers of the bank he is in. There is a whole list of things he doesn’t remember as he is dying. It is an interesting piece because often I list as a freewrite. This is a published story that has that type of list contained within it. I come back to this story again and again.

This poem has some lines that pop out for me

raise a glass to you

bright hair when it rains

feeds the hungriest ghosts

Poems helps me appreciate phrasing and sentences. There is beauty in words that rise up from the text like they are glowing.

This poet was introduced to me Sunday and I recommend her short poems as well. Her sentences have bite and I love them. Jane Brunette introduced me to her: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XYPYDRQ/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

In the NG essay she speaks of dreams being tied to the unconscious. In silence at the retreat with all the sitting, walking, and writing the subconscious is listening and often brings participants tangled dreams. She talks about writing them down. I have been doing a lot of inner work with my dreams and the associations I have with the images contained within them. It is an interesting practice.

June 16

Poem: How to Live

Short Story: Death’s Messengers by the Grimm brothers

Essay: The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg  – Breaking Silence

This poem is one I have come back to often and rewritten for my own life. It changes as the years pass. Since it is my birthday I find myself reflecting about truth, risk, and my ideal life. It is the little things I have found that make a life – the good coffee, the daily walk, a surprise on the page when I am writing.

What would be in your version of the poem?

I think it would be an interesting exercise to examine a character I am writing as well. Lately a new character, Bridget, has shown up in my writing. She is the character in the story I am writing with the 7 daily prompts.

Fairy tales are a particular flavor of flash fiction. I like to retell fairy tales so decided it would be a good idea to reread them. The originals are often much different than the Disney versions. This tale is one that is lesser known. Death and a Giant get into an altercation. A man helps death so Death tells him he will allow him to know he is coming. Death is tricky however and in my opinion doesn’t exactly keep his word.

Death and a Giant are unexpected characters for sure. The idea of a man helping him is even more surprising to me. I appreciate the concise nature of the tale. It is a good lesson in telling a complete story quickly.

The NG essay is about transitions. The chapter specifically talks about coming back to speaking after so much silence. When I was training to be a yoga teacher, I went to a retreat where we did more advanced poses than I was used to and deeper meditation. I was almost in a trance after one session and didn’t speak. I didn’t feel the need to, nor did I want to. The people with me kept asking me if I was ok.

Yesterday I posted about the transition from school life to home life.Another transition I have been thinking about is coming into writing and moving out of a writing session. Sarah Selecky added Somatic practices to the Story Course lessons in this update. It is a way to open and close a session. Sometimes I open with breathing and I always feel better about it but often forget. Ending a session is simply closing the notebook or computer.

Maybe I should think about how my rituals can be revised as well.

I would love to know what you are reading! Please share in the comments.

Bradbury Revision Challenge Day 14

I am following Ray Bradbury’s self directed MFA by reading a poem, a short story, and an essay with the intention of using the idea of good words in = good words out.

I welcome your comments and insights as well! I also welcome any recommendations you would like to share with me.

June 14

Poem:A Warm, Small Rain by Adam Zagajewski Paris Review

Story: https://fictionkitchen.berlin/2021/06/12/death-row-dinners/

Essays: The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg  – Orientation
And Not a Novel A Memoir in Pieces Jenny Erpenbeck On “The Book of Words”

Reflections

I have reread the poem several times. The sparkles from this poem for me are:

a street with no name

actors appeared,

from your dreams and my dreams

The story is from a publication I respect and read often. The story is a short list that reads to me like a character sketch. Underneath each paragraph is a brief line separated with the death row dinners. One is an olive, one is a slice of pecan pie, and the last is hard candy. It is an off center story for me.

NG’s essay is about the routines of the rituals she has established for her retreats. Sitting, slow walking, jobs, meals, etc. There is mindfulness built around everything for her retreats. One of the ideas that resonates with me is the Food Offering that is written out that students pick up and read before they eat. It is a moment of pause and reflection and appreciation. Some might call it a prayer but I like the label of offering.

She also discusses interviews in this chapter. She talks with students in groups of 4 which she says allows them to learn from each other and takes the pressure off all parties.

The Erpenbeck essay is another lecture she gave a concept she talks about is a motto Silence is Health promoted by military in Buenos Aires. She discusses how it was used in the war to quiet people but also refers to writing and reading being done in silence. She discusses writing her book and the ideas behind it. There is a lot in this essay about writing, craft, and silence.

Yesterday I had my monthly writing circle which is always an interesting gathering. We do timed writings each time and then do an activity called Readback Feedback. The teacher talks a lot about the “gems” we write and hear. It is the same concept of underlining phrases in a story or poem that pop out to you. I teach this technique to students in various contexts but especially when annotating.

There is magic in this group. Something about the chemistry and the trust is a special time. The group is three hours and it always flies by. To hear someone speak their words aloud is interesting in itself. I have come to recognize everyone’s style of writing in each of the pieces they read. There is a flow that happens while we all write together. We do a bit of grounding and meditation beforehand but I am not sure that is what causes the extra sparkle in the group. I appreciate it and try not to overthink it. There is no formula to be followed.

Next month we are meeting again for a bonus session and I am excited it is being offered. I have learned so much from this group and Jane herself. It is truly inspiring.

TakeAways

What do I take away from all these readings? We are almost halfway through the month now and I am maintaining that the Good words in = Good words out is a good motto. The conversations I have had the last 5 days about craft and writing have been some of the most in depth conversations I have had in a long time directly tied to reading. There is power in a common text within a group of people.

I feel l am more carefully crafting my sentences and pieces. The most effective exercise is using my daily prompts to write one story. I reread and revise what I have written on the previous days which makes me feel productive. I am using the 7 prompts to write one story. Today the prompt is about suet which I had to look up. The only thing I knew about it was it is used for bird feeders in craft books I read when I was young.

Next week the experiment will change slightly.

The concept of silence is coming up in the pieces. I am noticing threads through the readings and what I am paying attention to. I will freewrite with the word silence today as well and see what connections come through.

Bradbury Revision Challenge Day 12

Each day in June I will follow Ray Bradbury’s self directed MFA by reading a poem, a short story, and an essay with the intention of revising a story already in my files. I will share my reflections.

I welcome your comments and insights as well! I also welcome any recommendations you would like to share with me.

June 12

Poem: Interrogation of an Alternate Timeline

Essay: The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg – Altar

Story: Big Red

Reflections:

I am obsessed with writings about time and was immediately drawn to this poem.

In the essay, NG talks about the set up for the essential pieces of how she does her retreats.

The story was published at Fractured Lit.

Today, I am just reading and allowing the good words to come in.

I am working with revision with my daily prompts and that is going well but the reading is mostly about pleasure today.

I would love to know your thoughts about writing today! Please comment!

Bradbury Revision Challenge Day 11

Each day in June I will follow Ray Bradbury’s self directed MFA by reading a poem, a short story, and an essay with the intention of revising a story already in my files. I will share my reflections.

I welcome your comments and insights as well! I also welcome any recommendations you would like to share with me.

June 11

Poem: Kaveh Akbar An Oversight and Famous Americans and Why They Were Wrong Paris Review Summer 2021

Essay: The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg What is Practice?

Story: Thank you to Nicole Rivera for reminding me of this story!

Lost Things

They are lost, but also not lost but somewhere in the world. Most of them are small, though two are larger, one a coat and one a dog. Of the small things, one is a certain ring, one a certain button. They are lost from me and where I am, but they are also not gone. They are somewhere else, and they are there to someone else, it may be. But if not there to someone else, the ring is, still, not lost to itself, but there, only not where I am, and the button, too, there, still, only not where I am.

— Lydia Davis

Reflections:

Akbar is a great poet and I love to read his words. I was excited to be part of a poetry reading with him as the moderator through Purdue’s MFA program several months ago.

The lines I am drawn to are:

Some pain stays so long its absence becomes a different pain

I hope somebody forgets you today.

In the essay, NG talks about practice. She hosted a yearlong intensive where she asked students to choose a practice they could sustain for the whole year.

“You don’t know where practice will lead,” she says.

This chapter is longer than some of the others. She poses the question in the last paragraph about what practice you would realistically choose. She recommends tracking it in a notebook as well.

I write a lot about lost things. The first line of this piece has stayed with me. I was fascinated with the idea that items are just lost to you not the world at large.

I would love to know where the seeds of your stories come from! Let me know in the comments.

Bradbury Revision Challenge Day 10

Each day in June I will follow Ray Bradbury’s MFA schedule of reading a poem, a short story, and an essay with the intention of revising a story already in my drive. I will share my reflections along the way.

I welcome your comments and insights as well! I also welcome any recommendations you would like to share with me.

June 10

Poem: Power Lines Ada Limon The Paris Review 2021 Summer issue

Story: Rabbit Boy from Meg Pokrass’ collection Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Essay:The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg – Some Determination

And Not a Novel A Memoir in Pieces Jenny Erpenbeck How I Write

Reflections:

One of my favorite poets is Ada Limon. She has a poem about carrots I have talked about before. The new issue of the Paris Review came yesterday and I dug right into it.

Lines I enjoyed from the poem are:

“Where wisdom once was”

“Thought power was something you could control”

Rabbit Boy is about Alice catching the scent of the White Rabbit years later with the house as an anchor in the story. It is only four paragraphs but there is loss that is a clear theme in this story. I will reread it several times today.

The Not a Novel essay was about an experiment that the author conducted about going back to high school in a quiet 21 Jump Street style. This line resonated, “In a single moment I’ve gotten ten years younger and I sit where the teacher tells me to sit.”

Another: In my free time, I work on my story about the woman who doesn’t want to grow up.

I like the Peter Pan reference.

The NG essay is about a bowl of questions that Natalie sets out for students since her retreats are in silence. How do you stay connected is a piece of this chapter. I think this speaks to me as to how I stay connected to myself and to others. [Now I am thinking about what questions Peter Pan and Alice would put in the bowl! Can you imagine them at a silent retreat?????]

In a coaching call I was a part of yesterday the idea of how we were showing up in our writing came up. The idea stemmed from the feeling that the writing that was being produced did NOT seem like who the writer thought she was. This came up for me this week in the context of risk. I wonder if I take enough risks in my writing and truly show myself. There is a truth in all writing whether it is nonfiction or fiction. The truth is always the best story but what lens it is through is the tricky part.

Bowls come up in my stories a lot. Nina LaCour has yellow bowls that are a metaphor in her novel We Are Okay and she gets comments about them all the time. Sometimes the small anchors are what guide us through a story.

These readings today are making me think of strange angles to come into a story. Who knows where this will end up leading me!

I would love to know your thoughts about where your stories come from.

Bradbury Revision Challenge Day 9

Each day in June I will follow Ray Bradbury’s MFA schedule of reading a poem, a short story, and an essay with the intention of revising a story already in my drive. I will share my reflections along the way.

I welcome your comments and insights as well! I also welcome any recommendations you would like to share with me.

June 9

Story: http://haydensferryreview.com/cheryl-pappas-tending-the-elephant

Poem: https://poets.org/poem/teller-tales?mc_cid=fef35fc1bd&mc_eid=2fac48206f

Essay:The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg Happiness

Reflections:

The flash is one that I heard Cheryl read at a flash fiction festival earlier this year. I immediately was drawn to it and couldn’t wait for it to be published. As I have shared this piece it is interesting to me people’s difference interpretations of what it means. I suppose that it is the beauty of flash – it can be cryptic.

The more I facilitate discussions in my groups around text the more I see how individual experiences change the lens which people read the same piece. I see the elephant as a metaphor. It plays on the phrase “the elephant in the room” The marriage is in trouble and they are only passing each other and taking on the task of cleaning the elephant. They are stuck in a routine. The rest of their lives are just in the background. Cleaning the elephant is the only thing they do together – yet separate. The detail about the three time zones intrigues me as well.

The poem inspires the thought that stories are everywhere around us. In all the details while we live our day and we need to pay attention to them. Sparkly phrases are popping out all over the place to me since I have started this challenge – more so than usual.

Where do your stories come from?

The NG essay examines the question “When are you happy?”

During the May challenge one of the prompts was to write a happy story (it was Roxane Gay’s prompt as well who I adore) and I struggled. I think of stories as having conflict or transformation. There are different levels of happiness of course, just like everyone thinks different things are fun. Being a writer is about paying attention and also about seizing opportunities. You take those few minutes to write down that thought that crosses your mind or the overheard conversation in the grocery store aisle.

Today I will ask myself often, ” Am I happy?” I need to ask my characters this as well in the story I revise today. I need to notice it.

I would love to know your thoughts about these pieces or writing in general!

Feel free to leave a comment or question. Let’s have a conversation!

###We start the Fabulous Flash Fiction Class today!!! Last chance to join us for a generative class with a casual atmosphere of community and writing! Registration details here.