Obsession Much?

July just ended, and now it’s August. Did I get caught in a time warp and miss July altogether? I must have because it seems I opened my eyes the other day, and it was August. How did that happen? And how have I managed not to blog for a month or more?

Three words: Work in Progress, aka WIP.

This particular WIP is a four-book series entitled A Perfect Hatred. I’d left it alone for a year, then resolved to do a complete rewrite of all four books this year. All told, I’ve cut about 90,000 words from three books, and I’m working on the fourth now; it’s down 10,000 words.

A writer friend said why bother to cut; length doesn’t matter in an ebook. It may not, but unnecessary words weigh anything down. Most of what I’ve cut has been back-story, info dumps, and clever little paragraphs to show the reader just how much research I’ve done. I’ve cut swaths through what a character is thinking and let those thoughts emerge through dialogue and action. I hope.

In short, I’m trying to apply everything I’ve learned from three years of workshops and conferences, and it takes a lot of time. I’m back in my characters’ heads, and I don’t want to leave them. I dream about them. When I’m not writing them, I miss them. I find myself getting annoyed when other responsibilities intervene. I’m having chats with my characters when I’m in the car, the shower, at the grocery store. Trust me, if the chat happens in a public place, it needs to be entirely within your head; otherwise, people avoid you.

Why am I suddenly obsessed with this particular WIP? It’s somewhat time sensitive. It deals, fictionally, with an historical event whose twentieth anniversary occurs in April 2015. It would be timely to release an ebook a month starting in January, with the fourth book coming out on the anniversary itself. Of course, that pre-supposes I’m going to self-publish it, another thing I’ve obsessed over, written endless pro/con comparison lists about, and changed my mind countless times.

It’s my opus magnum. I started a first rough draft of it in 1997, researched and wrote in my spare time, discussed the topic to the point where my now-ex said, “Please stop,” and ended up with three books worth of “stuff” by 2000. I put it aside because it had no ending–at least the right ending. I’d tried several; none worked. Then, in June 2001, the ending happened.

In the meantime, I’d drafted other novels and many, many short stories. I got a new job, which involved a lot of my time, and this particular WIP got tucked away again. When I retired in 2009, it wasn’t the first thing I picked up to concentrate on, but when I did focus on it, I realized it should be four books, not three, an unusual number for a series. So, last year I edited the first book, put it aside because something wasn’t clicking, and I got caught up with other projects. It dawned on me late last year, the whole kit and caboodle needed a rewrite, as in start book one from page one in a blank Scrivener file.

I’m likely going to be diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome (again), my back is pretty much wrecked from sitting too much, and my house really needs cleaning. Oh, it’s not in hoarder territory at all, nothing a good vacuuming wouldn’t cure, but I don’t want to take time away from rewriting to do that. Lately, I don’t want to use my time for much of anything except writing. I went to a writers conference on Saturday–a good one where I got to be a gushing fan girl to Bruce Holsinger about his incredible novel, A Burnable Book–and resented the hell out of every minute there.

Obviously, this is something I need to get a handle on or I’m never going to leave the writing room in my house.

But, why is that so bad?

More Craft Lectures – TMWW Pt. 2

The Tuesday craft lecture for this year’s Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop was geared for the poets among us, so we prose writers–at least from my workshop–decided to spend the extra time reading workshop submissions and doing our assigned homework from that morning. Since it involved writing down our dreams, a nap seemed like a good idea, all in the interest of the workshop, of course.

Wednesday’s lecture was probably one of the most anticipated of the week. Barbara Jones, executive editor at Henry Holt, had chosen the topic, “Writing a Book for Publication: Approaches to Authenticity and Timing.” The description of the lecture called it “A dual narrative–the writer’s ongoing work on the book and, meanwhile, what’s simultaneously going on in the publishing world…. how do you prepare your organism to thrive in that agar?” Exactly what a writer seeking publication would be interested in, right?

And, indeed, Ms. Jones gave us a vivid glimpse into a publisher’s conference room where editors have to sell a project to her, the marketing staff, the sales staff, the publicity staff, and ultimately the publisher him- or herself. Her opinions were honest if not a harsh reality–if your first book doesn’t meet the sales department’s goals you don’t get a contract for a second one., for example. She did, however, talk about making your writing “stand out” to attract an editor’s attention, so he or she will push hard for your book at that conference table.

She then described her editing process, i.e., “eliminating words to free the story.” Frankly, she seemed to be describing an ideal book, in her opinion, as page after page of “subject-verb-object” over and over. However, she did emphasize she edits literary fiction. This was a great insider’s view of the part of the publishing world we writers are–or were–happily ignorant of, and Ms. Jones may have inadvertently discouraged more people from submitting their work to Holt or anywhere else than she encouraged.

On Thursday, my workshop instructor, Laura Benedict, did her lecture on “Bringing the Sizzle: Five Ways to Add Genre Appeal to Your Writing (Without all the Heavy Breathing.)” Benedict opened the lecture with the question, “Is popular fiction inferior to literary fiction?” She didn’t wait for a reply and responded with, “No, of course not!” She explained that she is not a traditionally trained writer–she started out in marketing and public relations for Anhauser Busch–but when she came to writing she wrote stories she wanted to tell. She made a conscious decision to write genre fiction with supernatural elements because she wanted her work to be entertaining.

The key to genre writing is simple, “Something has to happen in every chapter.” Genre writers, she says, should strive to produce “upmarket” work, i.e., a compelling story with attractive language.” Good genre fiction, Benedict says, “is for a literate reader who loves a story but who doesn’t want to read crap. Bad writing, whether genre or literary, makes me angry.”

Benedict provided her personal definition of the differences between popular (genre) and literary fiction. Literary fiction, she says, “is character-driven. Style and language are more important than plot. Popular fiction is driven by the plot, but popular fiction can be as good as literary fiction when a writer successfully merges good characters and writing with a superb plot.”

Her “Five Ways” are as follows:

  1. If you want people to read your book and enjoy it, raise the stakes–don’t be quiet, go for the awesome factor, not the quotidian epiphany. Make sure people care about your characters but put them at risk, i.e., in situations where they might lose something or where bad things can happen.
  2. Mind your setting for all its worth. It’s okay to use tropes because that means you can concentrate on story.
  3. Keep the story moving; don’t dwell so long on an image you lose the reader. Start by having a clear sense of what your story is about. Use the 3 X 3 exercise: Describe your current work in three sentences of three words each. This is the start of–or is–your elevator pitch.
  4. Create characters with emotional and moral intensity and definable value systems, whether the value system is good or bad. This is especially true for your antagonist or villain; make him or her as three-dimensional as the protagonist.
  5. Enjoy yourself in your work. Genre writers love their jobs because they’re writing what they love.

Great words of advice from one established genre writer to a hopeful one.

Part 3 – Fred Leebron’s take on creative writers using post-modernism.

Weapon As Character – TMWW Part 1

I was just like a kid anticipating going to Disney World in the few weeks before Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop. I was positively giddy, so excited was I to see old and new writer friends, to workshop my genre MS, to meet the instructors, to conduct the student readings–everything. (Well, everything except perhaps the beds in the freshman dorm at Hollins University where the TMWW attendees are housed.) I mean, my suitcases were in the car two days before I left.

Dinner on Sunday was a big reunion for thirteen of us who were TMWW “alums.” That meant thirty-seven of the attendees were new to the workshop, some new to the concept of workshopping entirely. After dinner, we met with our instructors to go over the schedule for the week; then, we made our way to the student activity center for faculty readings. Emilia Phillips read her poetry, and Laura Benedict, who was my instructor for “Enhancing Your Genre Writing,” read from her new release, Bliss House.

This year, the craft seminars and the workshops exchanged places, meaning we had workshop from 0900 to 1200 in the morning, and the craft lectures from 1300 to 1400 in the afternoon. Now, the good news was three unencumbered hours in the afternoon to read, write, do workshop exercises, or have your post-critique conference. However, because we backed up against lunch in the morning workshop sessions, they felt rushed to me, and we were constantly aware of the clock. In past years, when the craft lecture was from 0900 to 1000, we had two hours of free time before lunch. Afternoon workshops went from 1300 to 1600 (the same number of hours), but if you went a little long, you still had time before dinner to work in a conference or even some free time. At the end of the week, there was an informal poll about having workshop in the morning, and it was overwhelmingly in favor of that. Oh, well.

The first craft seminar on Monday was “The Weapon as Character,” given by Pinckney Benedict, my instructor from my first time at TMWW. It was pure Pinckney. He opened the seminar with Mussorgsky’s “Pictures from an Exhibition,” followed by an excerpt from “The Walking Dead,” a popular television show about the zombie apocalypse. He used Mussorgsky to illustrate the concept of “ekphrasis,” or using one form of art to describe/define another. Mussorgsky wrote “Pictures at an Exhibition” to be a virtual stroll through an exhibition of paintings by an artist who was a close friend and who had died prematurely, Viktor Hartmann. The ten movements each focus on a specific painting by Hartmann, e.g., Baba Yaga’s hut or the Great Gates of Kiev (my personal favorite). This, according to Pinckney, is the epitome of ekphrasis–a musician describing paintings, paintings which were subsequently lost in a fire so that the music is the only depiction of many of them.

“The Walking Dead” sequence was a scene with the character Michonne, who carries a specific type of sword to fight zombies, a katana (aka a samurai sword, so designed and worn the wielder could draw and attack in a single motion). This in and of itself is already defining the character of Michonne, since the traditional way to kill zombies is a head shot with a gun. She chooses an ancient weapon, one specifically designed for close-quarter, hand-to-hand combat. Yes, it would be easier to grab a gun and fire away, but her way, she has to confront her enemy directly; she has to look into their dead eyes as she kills them. Re-kills them?

At first we see her confronting a zombie who looks remarkably like her and that appears to put her off her game. Then, she draws the katana and begins to fight, conquering an overwhelming number of zombies. The character at that point is the katana, which seems to have a mind of its own while dispatching the walking dead. This, per Pinckney, is the perfect example of a weapon becoming a character itself. “Michonne would not be Michonne without her katana,” he explained. I don’t watch the show because, frankly, my dreams would be full of zombies, and that’s just too unpleasant for me; however, I might have to watch some episodes because I’m now intrigued by Michonne and her choice of weapon.

Pinckney acknowledged the potential controversy in having a weapon as a character, and then dismissed the controversy by saying that if you don’t like weapons, don’t write stories that feature them. Amen. I encounter this myself. I write about spies. Spies on occasion use weapons. I’ve had people declare to me they won’t read my work because my characters carry guns. Okay, that’s fine. I respect that, but respect my personal writing choices in return.

After we tossed about some characters who are so closely associated with their weapons that, if they didn’t have the weapon, they would no longer be that character, we discussed the pros and cons of including weapons in our work–beyond the Chekhov adage that if you show a gun in the beginning it has to be fired before the end. Research, research, research, Pinckney emphasized because if you go on what you assume to be true about a weapon and an expert in that weapon reads your work and finds your knowledge lacking, it will color his or her opinion of the whole work. And, Pinckney says, the weapon has to fit the person and the setting and the time period of your work–unless, of course, you write Steampunk. Then, you can be very inventive.

In a recent piece of historical fiction I wrote, I had a soldier from World War II use a bazooka against a German Tiger Tank. That involved researching not only the types of bazookas used in World War II (and selecting the appropriate one), it also meant researching the Tiger Tank’s vulnerabilities (few though they were), all for a brief mention of the bazooka’s range of effectiveness.

You do that, in the world according to Pinckney, to be authentic, and if you’re authentic, he said, people will read your work and want more.

Next installment: Workshopping genre fiction and additional craft seminars.

Getting Ready for Tinker Mountain

TMWW logoI’ve made my to-do list for the next week so come Sunday afternoon, I can hit the road and arrive in Roanoke for this year’s Tinker Mountain Writer’s Workshop. It’s the tenth anniversary, with a lot of extra workshops and new instructors. As usual I’m nervous, excited, and, well, nervous.

The past two years have been very positive experiences. Last year, for example, led to having an agent review a manuscript. (He turned it down but said lots of positive things.) The first year I attended was the first time any of my MSS had been critiqued by total strangers, and they liked it, they really liked it. This year is the first time a portion of one of my genre MSS is being critiqued by strangers. The workshop I’m attending is “Crafting High Quality Genre Fiction,” and the instructor is Laura Benedict. She also happens to be the spouse of my first Tinker Mountain instructor, Pinckney Benedict.

The forty pages I sent in comes from an MS titled A War of Deception, which is loosely based on the Robert Hansenn spy case from the early 2000s. I say loosely because it started out as a fictionalized version of that event with my U.N. spy characters in the mix. It turned into a study of revenge when what I intended to be a subplot became the main plot. The title comes from a Sun Tzu quote in the Art of War, one of my favorite books: “All warfare is based on deception.”

I’m sure I’ve mentioned my love affair with the Art of War before. I had the audio book on my iPod and listened to it every day on the way to work. It was that kind of workplace at times. Plus, Sun Tzu has a lot to say about spies and espionage which resonates today.

Anyway, the nervousness comes from having my genre fiction workshopped. It’s a first, though the material workshopped in my first Tinker Mountain visit was a speculative fiction piece I submitted because I didn’t have anything else ready. However, I don’t consider myself a speculative fiction writer. A lot of my flash fiction falls into that genre but only because I’m not sure I could sustain a full-length spec fic novel, even that particular manuscript. It seems I inadvertently channelled Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale when I wrote it for NaNoWriMo a few years ago. When Pinckney encouraged me to work on that MS, I explained about the striking similarity to Atwood’s dystopian piece–“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” he said. Ms. Atwood may not think so, however.

This year’s MS is one of my “historical thrillers,” to borrow a term from Alan Furst, a writer of espionage fiction I hope to emulate. It’s got a mole in the FBI, sex, violence, marital discord, and two mysteries to be solved. I hope I have a third great experience. Even if the rest of the workshop hates it– Ack! Let’s not put that in my head!

So, off to do laundry, water plants, and pack, etc., and be ready for a worthwhile week of workshopping, craft lectures, and writer friends that is Tinker Mountain Writer’s Workshop.

Friday Fictioneers and an Elegy

Friday Fictioneers LogoAs I’ve mentioned before, I’m no poet but wish I were. I occasionally dabble and embarrass myself and anyone unfortunate enough to read my attempts. I often read a poet’s work (Seamus Heaney, for example) and realize, there, that’s my voice; there’s nothing I can add.

Of course, there are the times where you read a poet for the first time and understand you could never come close so why bother. I had that feeling when I first read Maya Angelou. When I heard her read “Phenomenal Woman,” I knew those were the words forever locked in my head, which she freed and expressed for the benefit of all us phenomenal women. There were times when that poem was a mantra for me, and I would read it over and over and I, too, would rise. Do me a favor and read “Phenomenal Woman” by clicking here.

So, in addition to a facelift for the blog, (The theme is called “Hemingway Rewritten,” by the way.) I’m changing just for today the format of my Friday Fictioneers offering. Instead of a post here and the story under the Friday Fictioneers tab, I’m combining them. In lieu of a 100-word story, I’ve written a 131-word elegy (def. elegy – a mournful, melancholy, or plaintive poem) in honor of Maya Angelou. I know, totally presumptuous of me, and, frankly, if I were a poet, I’d have managed to write a 100-word poem, but I’m not, so 131 words. Mea culpa. To read other Friday Fictioneers offerings on the photo prompt, click on the icon at the end of my, gulp, poem.

The poem consists of seven stanzas, and I’ve taken the title of nine of her poems which most resonated with me and used them as the first line of five of those stanzas. In the six stanza, the title of three of her poems begin each line, and the final, one-line stanza is the title of the ninth poem. The poems are:

  • “Caged Bird”
  • “On the Pulse of Morning”
  • “Still I Rise”
  • “Phenomenal Woman”
  • “Alone”
  • “To a Man”
  • “When I Think About Myself”
  • “Human Family”
  • “Refusal”

Here is today’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt, which evoked for me not just Ms. Angelou’s connection with academia but the concept of passing through a doorway to wherever she is now:

(c)Jennifer Pendergast

(c)Jennifer Pendergast

 

And here is “Elegy for Maya,” with my humble apology:

When I think about myself
I am amazed at the breadth and depth and scope
Of my life. Every place in the

Human family I have occupied:
Dancer, singer, actress, composer, director, author, and more.
I have honors, awards, but I am

Alone in this latest endeavor
As we all will be when life’s final steps are taken.
No longer will I be the

Caged bird whose words caused
A man to die for his hideous violation of a child.
I became who I am in my

Refusal to allow this rape
To define me. Instead, I grew, I flew, I rose, I rose.
And those who heard my words

To a man declared
Phenomenal woman to take us to places unknown; so
On the pulse of morning

Still I rise.

 

(c)2014 by Phyllis A. Duncan; reprint with permission only.

Inspiration All Around Us

The other day on my Facebook Author’s Page I shared a graphic from a great on-line group called Writers Write. Based in South Africa, this group offers writing courses, some of which sound so great it might be worth the expense of a trip to Johannesburg to attend. They also post inspiring quotes from writers, renowned and otherwise, for writers. Almost every day, one of those quotes makes me stop and think about my writing and my writing goals. Those quotes are affirming on so many levels.

Here’s one I shared recently on my Author’s page:

(c)Writers Write

(c)Writers Write

That struck a chord with me because I want to write more short stories, but I’m always lamenting that the things I draw inspiration from (current affairs, history, politics) lead to longer works. (Not complaining by the way; I love writing novels.) I keep a notebook with me at all times, but it’s distressingly empty lately. I live in a very interesting area of central Virginia, full of intriguing, odd, and refreshing characters and, so you’d think that notebook would be full of dialogue snippets, bon mots, and killer ideas for a raft of short stories.

Maybe I need to overcome the MYOB attitude imbued in me by my grandmother. “It’s not polite to listen in on others’ conversations,” she used to tell me. I paid attention to that because I probably didn’t know then I was going to be a writer. It just seems rude to write down what other people say; a southern thing, I suppose.

I do manage to overcome the reticence of jotting down what other people say on occasion. My one-act play, Yo’ Momma, started from a single phrase I overheard at a bar: “This here’s my new phone–I gots it for free.”

Recently, in my town two young men died within two days of each other, both at the age of twenty-six. One had mental and intellectual challenges; the other was an award-winning and brilliant cellist. One was murdered; the other died in his sleep of a heart defect. They both warmed the hearts of everyone they encountered. All that is rife with inspiration, but it will have to wait. It’s too fresh and raw.

I’ve long wanted to write a novel based on the lives of my father and my ex’s father–I even have a great title: Two Fathers. The ex (when he wasn’t my ex) and I discussed it, and I took a lot of notes on his father’s history. The ex and I haven’t been together for nine years, and even though I haven’t forgotten the idea, it is also too fresh, too fraught with emotions I’ve tried to put behind me. Someday, I’ll be in a place to write it.

Day in and day out, I encounter the oddest collection of characters in the most routine places: the barista at Starbucks whose laughter could damage eardrums; the couple who own a local business and have arguments in front of the customers; a bail bondsman who dresses as if he’s the east coast version of Dog the Bounty Hunter; a senior citizen who is always front and center of every Tea Party event with a sign which reads, “Keep the Government out of my Medicare!” (I fixed the spelling.) And so on.

There is the challenge, of course, of making someone too recognizable. I don’t have a problem doing that with public figures. In my series based on the Oklahoma City bombing, people will have no trouble figuring out on whom I’ve based President Randolph. However, I also have a family member who is pissed about how I characterized  my step-grandfather (that family member’s grandfather) in a story which is based on a family event. Just goes to show, every story has two sides.

Even with the pitfalls, look around you. There is inspiration in everything and everyone. Use it wisely, but use it.

 

A Not-So-Quiet Friday Fictioneers

I’ve done a lot of editing and revising this week–in between those domestic things that pop up: refrigerator repair, grocery shopping, reading a book for a book club, reading MSS for critique groups. Somehow, though, when you’re editing/revising, you feel as if you’re not accomplishing much. It’s not as if you have a word count which keeps increasing; though, in the case of my editing/revising I’m trying to reduce the word count.

Bottom line is you can’t tell how successful you’ve been by simply looking at what you’ve edited/revised. For me, the measure is how what I’ve written sounds. If you’re not employing reading your work aloud as an editing/revising technique, start now.

First and foremost, you can tell if your dialogue sounds authentic; i.e., as if two real people are speaking. I even do the accents. One of my protagonists is Russian but speaks excellent English with just a slight accent. The other protagonist has an upper crust British accent but has lived in America so long she’s quite adept with American slang and vernacular. Makes for interesting conversations and great fun in reading aloud. My neighbors might not agree.

Reading your work aloud is also a big help in spotting typos and most grammatical errors, the ones your eyes skip over when you do a silent read. I think it’s because you enunciate each word and your ear hears any discordance.

Of course, doing this in a coffee shop or a library is not the best of ideas–not that I’ve ever done that. Give it a try if you’ve never done it. I think you’ll like the result. Just pretend that your publisher is having you do the audio book version. Great fun and useful, too.

Friday Fictioneers LogoToday’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt should have evoked something dark and supernatural for me, but I went completely in the opposite direction and ended up with pure schmaltz. Don’t let the title, “Through a Glass, Darkly,” fool you. It really is pretty sentimental. If you don’t see the link on the title in the line above, scroll to the top of the page, click on the Friday Fictioneers tab, then select the story from the drop-down list.

Critique Group Sagas

Note: This is an opinion piece generalized in nature and does not refer to any specific author or writer. If you see yourself in this piece, though, my work here is done.

I’m currently in two writing critique groups. I consider them essential as a writer; otherwise, I end up in a continuous loop of thinking how wonderful my writing is. All that seems obvious and clear to me in my work may not to a reader, and that’s one aspect of a critique group: looking at someone’s work through the eyes of a reader.

Because we’re also writers, we bring that to the critique table, too. In one of my groups, which has been meeting for some time, we have discussions about foreshadowing, conflict resolution, and denouement. Fascinating stuff, all that writing knowledge/trivia.

However, I also bring an editor’s skills to the table. I was a reporter for and editor of a magazine for more than fifteen years, and I edited hundreds of government documents from correspondence to blue ribbon reports. When I read something for a critique group, the MS gets a reader, writer, and editor’s eye. Some are not so appreciative of the latter. My standard reaction is, “Get accustomed to it. It’s better to catch the typos, style errors, and punctuation and grammatical flubs now rather than have an agent or publisher reject your MS for them later.”

For someone who is about to undergo his or her first experience with a critique group, that triple-threat may be intimidating. I don’t intend for it to be. In my warped little mind, I’m being helpful. When I look back on some of my earlier writing, published without the benefit of a critique group, I wish I’d had someone like me to find those embarrassing slip-ups and to point out the things which would make an agent toss an MS into a slush pile.

Critique groups aren’t mutual admiration societies, even though I can’t wait until I receive the next installment of every member’s work. Yes, I come to admire and look forward to their writing, but there is also mutual trust and honesty. We trust each other to be honest. You can’t simply say, “It doesn’t work for me.” You have to explain yourself, and the excuse can’t be you just don’t like something. For example, I’m not a fan of most YA, fantasy, or romance writing (or the various iterations thereof), but if it’s a good story and the writing shines, I’ll read it and probably enjoy it.

Some people seem to approach a critique group with an attitude of not wanting the details, just the big picture. Yes, the details are annoying and nitpick-ish, but they’re there for a reason. A comment about correct placement of commas or use of a semi-colon, etc., are not mortal blows to your writing. Rather, when I read an MS where the grammar’s good, the punctuation spot-on, and the style elements appropriate, I think to myself, “Here is someone who took the time to learn all the aspects of being a writer.”

Having an idea for a story is excellent. Putting it down on paper (or in the computer) is also excellent; you can now call yourself a writer. Staying a writer depends on your willingness to learn–whether through the feedback from a critique group, a writer’s workshop, or writing conferences. (I’m amazed by people who call themselves writers who don’t go to writers conferences or workshops.) You don’t just write and say, “That’s it. Let someone else worry about the silly punctuation details.” Breaking news: Publishers don’t employ copy editors anymore, and the only writers who get to dump a mistake-riddled MS on a publisher is someone like F. Scott Fitzgerald; and he’s dead.

Pointing out punctuation, style, and grammar errors isn’t a reflection on your ability to be a story-teller. You might say it is a comment on your writing ability. Well, yes, because that’s part of the package of being a writer. Can you call yourself a writer if you don’t constantly refresh your writing knowledge and skills? You could, but I’ll still point out the problems, and, believe me, I don’t pull these things out of my arse.

The devil is in the details; learn from them. I know I do. If you don’t want to hear the details from me, at least invest in some time-honored resources: The Chicago Manual of Style, The Elements of Style, or Garner’s Modern American Usage are just some of them, but those three on your writing resources shelf will take you a long way.

A Sheepish Friday Fictioneers

All day yesterday I waited for The Email to arrive, the one from Sewanne Writers Conference telling me whether I got in or not. Family and writer friends kept messaging me all day long asking if I’d heard. I saw others posting on Facebook about their acceptance or rejection, and I wondered what the heck was going on. I hadn’t slept well the night before, so about mid-afternoon, I lay down for a nap.

During my nap someone in a dream said, “Did you check the spam folder?” I woke up and did just that. Sure enough, in the spam folder sat a message from SWC. I opened it and found out why it went to spam. The email itself didn’t provide my status; I had to click on a link to go to my SWC account–why the spambot thought it was spam.

Of course, once I clicked on the link, I realized I couldn’t remember the password I’d used to set up the account when I filled out the application. All right, now I had to undergo the “reset password” process. Finally, after about ten minutes, I could get the answer I’d been waiting for all day.

When the message starts with “I’m sorry…” you know there isn’t much reason to read on, but I did. No place for me, blah, blah. Many talented writers yadda yadda. Wish we had more space, etc. Try again another year.

I rarely take personal motivation from television shows, but the TV happened to be on a re-run of a Castle episode, the one where writer Richard Castle’s daughter doesn’t get accepted into the college she had her heart set on. As I logged out of the SWC website, I heard Castle say, “Rejection isn’t failure. Failure is giving up.”

So, Sewanee, you’re on notice: I’m applying again next year and will until I’m accepted because failure is giving up.

Then, true to its definition, serendipity made an appearance. I woke up this morning and while reaching for the milk for my cereal, I discovered my refrigerator wasn’t refrigerating. The freezer was fine, but everything in the refrigerator portion was warmer than room temperature. The money set aside for Sewanee tuition might have to go for a refrigerator instead. All things happen for a reason.

Friday Fictioneers LogoWhen I saw today’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt, I thought, “I’ve already written that story.” Of course, it was a couple thousand words long, but the photo prompt reflects a key scene in that story. I excised a couple of paragraphs and cut them down to 100 words, and you get the flash piece, “Escape.” You know the drill: If you don’t see the link on the title in the line above, scroll to the top of this page, select the Friday Fictioneers tab, and pick the title from the drop-down list.