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Memoir

Last week I had an especially taxing day. There’s no need to go into details but lets just say there was a big box store involved, maybe a diaper malfunction, perhaps some screaming, for sure some forced smiles and definitely some tears by many. At the end of the day, I sat on my back  balcony watching the sky when I was supposed to be cleaning up and getting dinner ready and momming my kids, I sat there and I thought: This sucks.

This sucks.

All day sucked.

My mom hated the word sucked.

I can see why she hated the word sucked but words change, mom. Don’t be mad. And this sucks.

I also thought, the only way to save the day, the only possibly redeeming thing that could come from hours like these, was if i wrote it down.

If I wrote down how I felt. If I wrote down what was said and how it was said and who said what and the chaos. If I wrote down how alone I felt and embarrassed and mad and stupid and alone and incapable and mean and tired and alone. That would save me.

So then I put on instagram, “who wants to write memoirs with me?” Short ones. A few a week. We’ll write and then we can share or not share but we can write and we can feel connected and then some day we can look back on those days good or bad and they can be more than throw away days. They can be parts of us that we’ll remember even if we didn’t think we’d want to. They’ll be things we can talk about later and people can say I had that happen too. Maybe our kids down the road will say that. They’ll say, You did WHAT??? in Target and I’ll say, I did. And it’s okay if you do too. Or maybe we’ll say, never do that.

The point is, I’ve been posting prompts on my personal website and on instagram. Three a week. For eight minute memoir writing. I’d love it if you’d like to join.

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A baby, a monster and a box of markers

Dear Readers!

Carol had a baby!!! Actually her baby Elise had a baby so now Carol has a grand-baby and there’s no better news than this. A big congratulations to Carol and her family and brave Elise and the sweet little one who is in for a big treat–think of all the stories he’s going to get to experience.

In other news, which I probably shouldn’t even write about other news because the big news is enough, but here I go anyway, in other news have you watched Stranger Things on Netflix? My husband and I are watching it and we’re halfway through. It’s scary and weird and human and not human and eighties and makes me think about my mom (she would have loved it). Here’s an assignment: If you haven’t watched it or if you have and you want to watch it again, get a notebook and take notes. Who is the MC? What do he/she want? How many rocks are getting thrown and how? How do they begin and end each episode? What about pacing? Look at the major and minor plot-lines. How do they intertwine? How do they  help each other? Consider the problems you’re having with your story and see if this show can help you get ideas. You can call it research.

And finally, we got a lot of school supplies today. It’s a new year, new beginning, new teachers, new season. I’m ready. You?

 

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Three Thing Thursday

LORI ANNE!

Last Monday afternoon I left my writing critique group feeling like I’d chugged a 32 oz. energy drink. In the good excited, can’t-wait-to-get-started way, not the jittery, sick-to-my-stomach way. Even though there was only two other people there that night, they had helped me find a breakthrough in a problem I was having with the ending. I was in love with the story again! I was in love with my group for helping me!

The outcome of a writers group session isn’t always this good, and I often am stressed out the day leading up to writing group because I have serious doubts about what I submitted to the other members. Or I procrastinated. Or both. I know that they are going to figure out I’m faking it, that I can’t write at all. Still, I write. I submit. I go.  There is no other way to have that rare breakthrough, like I had on Monday, without working regularly with a writer’s group. Even though some meetings are a bit boring or you sometimes walk away feeling misunderstood, stick with it. What happened the other night could not have happened on my own. It took brainstorming, and feedback from others’ points of view, that would have been impossible by myself. Writers group gives you someone to be accountable to, helps you know what’s working and what’s not. It pushes you to keep going. It’s affirming and funny. If you don’t have one, find one. Create one, reach out to those you meet at conferences or join writing social media groups. It’s worth it a hundred times over.

CHERYL!

So, you’ve knocked out your beginning, plowed through the murky middle, and now you’re up against that terrifying monster…THE END.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably had this planned all along. You’ve thought over that last line a thousand times, revised and perfected it in your head until you are finally able to type it out. But sometimes it’s not that simple. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our character’s life that we want to just keep going after the story ends. We want to tell everyone what happens a few days later, and maybe a few weeks later…oh, all right, let me just quickly tell you all what happens 30 years later!
But we can’t do that. When the story is over, it has to end. So how do we determine that it’s over?
First, we have to be very clear on what the story problem is. The story is over when the story problem is solved. Period. But is the problem part of the plot line? Or is it part of the character’s development? Only you will know for sure. But once you know for certain what your story problem is, the ending will fall into place.
ME!

Using these ten words, write a romantic scene.

help

pierce

struggle

jabber

fluent

bottom

easy

chivalry

canyon

dictate

 

I already can see this coming out in a good way, a bad way, or with lots of kissing.

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Exercise

This morning I woke up at 5:30 and I had two options: Exercise or Write.

Usually, almost always, I take the exercise route. This is because I struggle with sadness and sometimes anger when I don’t get some time to myself in the early morning to get my blood moving and my mind flowing. However, this morning, because my heel has been aching and because I didn’t have a clear exercise goal, I decided to write.

It was the best decision.

I feel invigorated and excited about my WIP. I feel ready to face the day and the dishes and the cub scouts. I feel like I’ve done something for myself that is meaningful already and it’s only 8:30 in the morning.

When you have to choose between two good things: Writing vs. Exercise, Writing vs. Hanging out with a loved one, Writing vs. Gardening or crocheting or reading or eating, how do you choose? Does one always win over the other? Is it a practical decision? A scheduling decision? A spiritual decision?

I  have found that it is important to go for balance. To give ourselves a break. To love sitting in the dirt with the toy trucks when maybe we think we should be inside writing. The more we make decisions about how to use our time and then commit, be fully present in those moments, the more full the other parts of our lives can be.

I am glad I get to write. I’m glad that I get to have people walking in my head that I love and care for. I also feel glad that I have real people walking in my family room that I love and care for. And I’m glad I have myself who is messed up and happy and sad and angry and impatient and kind and horrible and all the other things so that I constantly have something hard and interesting to figure out. Life would be boring any other way.

Let’s write! Or exercise! Or pull weeds! Or swim! Or read!

 

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Sweet Friday with Lisa

Carol has asked this question.

Others have asked.

I’m sure more will in the future.

But I thought I’d pose the question yet again.

Why do you write?

Not why you wrote yesterday, or maybe got a degree in writing, but right now why do you right?

I always posed the same answer to that in the past—I have something to say, a story to tell.

Today, that answer changed.

I jumped on a plane this morning—DC to Houston. A guy sat next to me watching reruns of The Simpsons on his IPad sipping a Jack Daniel’s.

I could smell it.

The plane dipped to descend. Houston spread below us like a patient on an operating table—streets crossed like stitches and highways like open veins pulsing with blood and life.

The plane was an hour late into Houston.

And my flight out of Houston was a four-hour delay.

When they called that Salt Lake was ready to board, I jumped out of my seat and threw my hands in the air. No one else shared quite my same sentiments. Squishing into my seat, I tried to make small talk with the middle-aged man next to me and he wasn’t interested. I turned to the window, to pen and paper, and my thoughts.

As the clouds morphed from plankton scattered in the sea to the belly of a wave just crashing, I thought about why I write. And today, this is why: It puts back the pieces of my life I can’t figure out any other way.

So why do you write today?

Maybe it’s the same as yesterday.

And maybe it’s not.

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Three Thing Thursday

From me:

Look what I found!

I’m getting ready to rite a mystery novel.

And here’s a site that says more than, Just Do it.

https://nancycurteman.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/how-to-write-a-mystery-novel-synopsis/

 

From Cheryl:

Lately I’ve been writing short stories, which is nice, because I get to try out different styles of writing. The first was action, the second was horror, and the last is contemporary. For the first two, I used first person present tense, but for the last, it just didn’t work. The main character is a man, after all, and I really struggle getting into the thoughts of men. But when I went to a close 3rd person narrative, all of a sudden it came together. I could focus on the behavior of the character, because I knew that. He needs to always have a plan, and keeps from getting overwhelmed by focusing on just his next step. He doesn’t focus on appearance, but is aware of its importance to other people. He cares about his sister, but doesn’t say it. However, every choice he makes is with her in mind.

First person really helps to get into the head of the person. It makes that character come alive, and makes us care about them. But sometimes 3rd person works, if we need a wider perspective. In this case, I didn’t want my reader to immediately connect with the character. I want the thoughts in his head to be a mystery. I want people to wonder about his motives and his desires.

Do you have a preferred point of view? Do you ever change for certain stories?
From LoriAnne:

Fear of Finishing

“Are you finished writing that book yet?” Uughh… I’m sick of that question. For me, as I get closer to finishing this first book, why don’t I instinctively “lean for the tape” and just finish the blasted thing?

Carol likes to compare the beginning of a story to having a new boyfriend – it’s exciting, it’s sexy and you spend a lot of time with them. When you’re not with them, you think about them.

Endings are like some middle-age marriages. It’s often about endurance.

  I get caught in the whirlpool of revision, even with small phrases. To keep pushing forward, you must let that first draft be ugly. Just write and don’t allow yourself to stop and polish. But how?

1.       Show up – set the time aside, sit down and turn do NOT open your browser.

2.       Set a timer and write something about anything for five minutes without stopping, even if it has nothing to do with your book. Just get your fingers moving.

3.       Open your file and read just the last line where you left off and write for five minutes in that scene. The next day make it ten minutes. The next fifteen. You will build writing stamina and a habit.

4.       If you are stuck, skip ahead for little while and write a scene in your book that you are really looking forward to writing. Then go back and see if your brain has worked out a path for how to get your MC where you want them to go.  Then go back and write the weaving in-between those scenes.

So, if I know what to do, and how to do it, let’s see how well I listen to myself. I’ll give you an update next week.

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Freaky Friday by Lisa

I’ve had this thought the past couple of days to sack the first novel that I wrote, bury all the paper copies I have somewhere in the woods and let animals devour them when they’re too starving or lazy to hunt.

I don’t think wild animals suffer from laziness.

That’s a domestic thing.
Over the weekend I listened to Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech at the University of the Arts in 2012. He talked about making good art, “Husband runs off with a politician–make good art. IRS on your tail–make good art. Cat exploded–make good art.”
We are artists and it’s easy to get lost in what’s not happening or the insane things that are happening that can tear us apart piece by piece.
And so my invitation for you today.
Stop.
Take minutes, take hours.
Make good art.
And the art you’ve already made, leave it on the shelf.
Animals don’t eat paper.
Or ink.

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