"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." ~ William Wordsworth

The Writing Life Too

And if you're reading this, it means you're not writing.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Keeping Your Reader in Suspense 2
© Morrell
  • Save surprises and sneak attacks for chapter and scene endings if possible.
  • Use red herrings and false alarms to throw off the reader.
  • If there is a villain or some evil force in the story, introduce early or at least hint at his/her/or its presence.
  • Use cliffhangers and thrusters to end scenes and chapters.
  • If possible, use time running out to increase the suspense.
  • Create realistic hindrances to your protagonist escaping or being rescued.
  • Use the setting to capitalize on the suspense—a deserted mansion, a lonely coastal highway, a snowstorm that strands people in a mountain cabin.
  • To milk the suspense and tension orchestrate your protagonist reaching safety, but then make the safety an illusion.
  • Beware of “bimbo in peril” scenario. It’s a dark and stormy night and as the thunder crashes and lightening slashes the sky, the electricity blinks out. Meanwhile an escaped convict and serial killer is on the loose in the remote town. In a large house, with no neighbors for miles, a babysitter has just put the children to bed, is now writing a book report for her English class when the house goes dark. As she searches for a candle, she hears a sound like a basement window breaking. Instead of dialing 9-1-1 or some other logical response, she grabs a butter knife and heads down into the basement to investigate.
  • Whenever possible, choose words for their emotional connotations and their fright factor. Shriek or screech contain more of a fright factor than yell or holler. Someone can break out in nervous laughter or squeal with nervous laughter.
  • Induce tension and suspense in the middle of novel by staging a major turning point or reversal about midway in the story.
  • Tense endings force a protagonist to act in ways that the reader would be afraid to—confronting the antagonist, running into the burning building, or escaping the murderer’s clutches. The ending supplies the most vicarious thrills and action in certain genres.
  • While fiction is imbued with tension and suspense, if every moment is fraught with horror and nonstop action, the results are melodrama and a story that exhausts the reader. The solution is to intersperse breathers throughout the story where you turn down the tension a notch.
  • As a novel progresses, keep raising and personalizing the stakes.
  • As a writer you’re constantly looking for opportunities to make your character out of sync with his surroundings. You send a rookie cop to a grisly crime scene. You force an introvert to attend a party. You place a character who is struggling financially into an environment of wealth.
  • Because you’re striving to use tension as an underlying factor in every scene, rarely feature your character alone in a scene.
Thought for the Day:
“Do you wake up as I do, having forgotten what it is that hurts or where, until you move? There is a second of consciousness that is clean again. A second that is you, without memory or experience, the animal warm and waking into a brand new world. There is the sun dissolving the dark, and light as clear as music, filling the room where you sleep and the other rooms behind your eyes.” ~ Jeanette Winterson

Friday, April 27, 2012

Keeping Your Readers in Suspense
© Jessica P. Morrell
"Tension staples reader’s eyes to the page." --Ralph Fletcher
Fiction isn’t written to make readers happy. Its purpose is to jangle their nerves, make their hearts race, give them goose bumps, and disturb their sleep. A happy reader is a complacent reader, and a complacent reader is one who nods off instead of turning the pages until dawn. The urge to keep reading comes from many factors, but mostly from suspense. And suspense is a technique that requires sleight of hand and is tied to our reader’s primal instincts and fears
Suspense is part curiosity, part unease, part dread. It’s linked to every aspect of your story, found on every page, and creates a vivid fictional world that seethes with trouble causing your reader to fret and worry. Tension is a force field in fiction, created on a word-by-word basis and underlying every scene. Tension jabs at the reader’s nerves and is created by unease, discomfort for the characters,and in dialogue and settings.
Techniques for keeping readers worried and uneasy:
  • Suspense is compelling when readers worry about vulnerable and interesting characters who are in jeopardy.
  • Begin the story with a threat to the protagonist and increase the threat as the story progresses. Make certain this first incident opens a can of worms.
  • Delay. Delay. Delay.
  • Design your plot around a protagonist’s worst fears.
  • Whenever you’re writing a scene ask yourself what is the worst thing that can happen next.
  • Place the protagonist in a crucible—a place or situation from which he or she cannot escape until the conflict in the story boils over.
  • Give all the main players in the story an agenda and give some of the main players a secret which in turn casts suspicions on everyone.
  • Never create characters that are invulnerable to danger. Create characters who make mistakes with serious consequences. Orchestrate a character’s missteps so they’re based on his flaws. Mistakes, large and small shape believable characters and by witnessing these missteps, the reader worries if the character will ever get his act together.
  • Make certain that your protagonist is somehow thrown off balance and weakened by the story events.
  • Shifting from viewpoint to viewpoint also increases tension and suspense.
  • Study pacing and techniques in suspense movies noting how the director makes the story taut. Sleeping with the Enemy, The 39 Steps, Rebecca, and Gaslight are good choices.
  • The more a character desires something, the more suspense you create.
  • Drop clues in the midst of complicated scenes such as a party or large gathering so that the clue is somewhat overlooked.
  • Give characters tough moral choices and dilemmas.
  • Create something in the protagonist’ backstory that haunts the front story.
  • Use foreshadowing to set the reader’s nerves on end and create credibility for future events. A bomb that is ticking away with time running out is much more effective than a bomb that explodes without the reader being aware that it was there beforehand. (to be continued...)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

As April and National Poetry Month draws to a close...

"In the act of writing the poem, I am obedient, and submissive. Insofar as one can, I put aside ego and vanity, and even intention. I listen. What I hear is almost a voice, almost a language. It is a second ocean, rising, singing into one’s ear, or deep inside the ears, whispering in the recesses where one is less oneself than a part of some single indivisible community. Blake spoke of taking dictation. I am no Blake, yet I know the nature of what he meant. Every poet knows it. One learns the craft, and then casts off. One hopes for gifts. One hopes for direction. It is both physical, and spooky. It is intimate, and inapprehensible. Perhaps it is for this reason that the act of first-writing, for me, involves nothing more complicated than paper and pencil. The abilities of a typewriter or computer would not help in this act of slow and deep listening."
~ Mary Oliver,  Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems

Celebrate national Poem In Your Pocket Day on Thursday, April 26, 2012!
The idea is simple: select a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends. You can also share your poem selection on Twitter by using the hashtag #pocketpoem.
Poems from pockets will be unfolded throughout the day with events in parks, libraries, schools, workplaces, and bookstores. Create your own Poem In Your Pocket Day event using ideas below or let us know how your plans, projects, and suggestions for Poem In Your Pocket Day by emailing npm@poets.org.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals.”~ Don DeLillo

Don’t quit your day job
After three days of summery weather the clouds swooped in here last night and temperatures dropped. Now, hoping the rain will arrive soon or I'll need to water all the new plants including the raised bed planted with vegetables. Tomatoes are going into the second raised bed tomorrow. Wisely they're built so we don't need to bend over much.

One of the hardest questions a writer faces is when to quit your day job and begin writing full time. Many writers I know kept working for years while cranking out novels before they could pursue writing full time. With the publishing industry in such flux, it's wise not to leave a job until your writing career is established and profitable. Being stressed about money is not conducive to creativity.
Take note: 
          Stephen King struggled to support his family while breaking into publishing. At times he worked in an industrial laundry where dirty table linens crawled with maggots as did the hospital sheets that fed on the blood and gore that stained them.
         John Grisham wrote his first novels on legal pads during an arduous work schedule of 60-70 hour work week from 1983-1990 working as a lawyer and as a representative in the state legislature.
            Jennifer Crusie was a mother and teacher working on her PhD. She was researching her dissertation on the differences in the way men and women tell stories, and read 100 romance novels to study women’s narrative.  She fell in love with the genre, and began to write a romance, quitting her job to pen her first novel and her dissertation.
          Langston Hughes was working as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C. when he first broke into publishing by dropping some of his poems next to the plate of poet Vachel Lindsay.
            Raymond Carver broke into writing while working at a variety of menial jobs that never seemed to pay enough to keep his family afloat. These jobs included a night janitor, sawmill operator, delivery man, hospital porter, library assistant, encyclopedia salesman, a textbook editor, and a gas station attendant.
          Zane Grey wrote more than 90 Westerns, but first he worked as a dentist—a career he hated and couldn’t abandon until he’d collected a slew of rejection letters and finally broke into print.
          William Faulkner worked at the University of Mississippi post office, but was so often caught up in his writing that his work suffered.
          Diana Gabaldon was an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, a free-lance writer, and mother of three when she wrote her first book Outlanders, the first in a best-selling series. She wrote mostly between the hours of 10 p.m until 2 a.m. and sticks with this schedule now that she’s a full-time writer.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Writing Life newsletter
Yesterday volume 106 of The Writing Life newsletter was sent out via email. If you didn't receive a copy, please contact me.

Not a cloud in the sky today in Portland. And yes, I know that's a cliche.

Why We Write
Most writing is a deft weaving of craft, observation and imagination because first, writers must be aware and then transform awareness into stories. Writing is also a way to sift through our doubts and fears. The world is a complicated place and there are few simple answers.  Often we write because what we thought we knew simply isn’t true. There are no absolutes. Write about those doubts, those questions and worries that keep you awake in the deep hours of night.
          I often tell my students that we all have stories to tell and that they have earned the right to tell them. There are so many struggles and triumphs involved in being human. Sometimes we’re surrounded by loss and pain.  Our parents die, a  brother commits suicide, cancer returns. Sometimes writing is our prayer for all this suffering.
Sometimes writing is a way to honor those who have died, as I discovered a few years ago when I wrote and delivered the eulogy when my aunt died of cancer at 54. I was never more grateful to be a writer, that I had the ability to weave the parts of her life into a story. That we could all laugh and remember and grieve and my words would linger, if only for a few minutes in a quiet church on a December morning.
            One last thought. Reading is often voyeuristic. However, I suspect that we read memoirs and novels and watch movies and savor art because we long for connection. Humans are fascinating, frail and lovely creatures. The more we understand how others live and suffer and carry on, the more we understand our own foibles and power. So write to expose your heart and strengths and sorrows. But remember that some parts of our lives are private.
            And lastly, write to feel more alive.Write because it has chosen you.

keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

Friday, April 20, 2012

Writing is Hard
Or, It's a Hard Day's Write
Find this column at my web site here.
Here's an excerpt:
So yes, even though we don’t work up a sweat plunked here at our computers, we know that writing is hard. So (no matter our gender) we’re just going to man up and face that fact. Especially if you’re one of those people who don’t hear bluebirds chirping when you sit down to write. You are not alone. There aren’t nearly enough bluebirds to go around. Many of us sit here listening to the skipping stone, fast-talking voices inside of our heads and do our best to be capable stenographers.
            But let’s be proportionate, you and I. A bit of self pity and anxiety and comparing yourself with Sisyphus is normal. Bitching and moaning constantly is annoying to those around and you and procrastinating for months or years at time is neurosis or laziness. Because writing is not nearly as hard as holding your daughter’s hand while she weeps because she’s had a miscarriage, or insisting that your elderly parent stops driving, or facing your second round of chemo. It’s not nearly as hard as working in a chicken processing plant or coal mine, or on a fishing boat in the Bering Strait, or serving in the military.
          It’s just another kind of hard and as you know if you’re older than twelve, hard can be survived even if at times it feels as if your soul (or pride or manhood or womanhood) is shrinking. And the writing can happen word by word because you can build a writing practice that creates a river of words. And because some days the words and images come easy and things all fall into place like a Rubik’s cube.
            So while facing reality, we’re going to lean toward solutions—a place not located over the rainbow, but right in your chair.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Two Pages a day
 I used to tell my students to write every day, even if it’s only for five or ten minutes. Then I sort of backed off on this advice, because I heard so much moaning and bellyaching about how it was impossible, like climbing Mt. Everest impossible to write every day. And the excuses flowed like lava off Mt Vesuvius, or Pompeii, or fill in your favorite volcano here.
            But since I’ve met thousands of writers and I’ve been tracking my own productivity through good times and bad, I realized that we can all—let me write that word again ALL— write at least two pages a day. This much writing time will gather weight in our hearts and will power us forward. Every writer needs to grow accustomed to how it feels to sit at the computer, pecking out words and that only happens if you plunk your butt in the chair every single day. Because if you don’t put your butt in the chair, pretty soon your butt can barely find the chair and your spirit wilts and your will withers.
            Over the years of working with writers and crafting my own books, I’ve come to realize that five or ten minutes here or there don’t really teach us the habits of writing and do not a writing practice make. It’s dabbling and it’s for amateurs, for people who call themselves writers but haven’t made the commitment to carve out the time. What I’ve observed though, after twenty years in the trenches, is that you’re serious about writing a book, any kind of book, you need to write about two pages a day.
            You find that slot in your schedule that you protect (early mornings or late nights often work) that sacred, sacred time, and ask your family and friends to respect that time.
            Better yet, don’t ask them, tell them or negotiate with them.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Remembering Grace
10 years ago today Ann Hood's lovely daughter Grace died. She was five years old. Her memoir Comfort: A Journey Through Grief  and essays about Grace are some of the most compelling writing I've ever read.
Here is one detail about a quirky, blond, 5-year-old girl who died: "She carried hard dried salami in a small pink and white gingham purse.
 Here are others: She wore glasses and glittery red shoes. She carried a leopard-print backpack. She loved making art and listening to the Beatles, and she luxuriated in sl
eep in a way her gentle big brother, Sam, never could. Two days before she died, she picked purple myrtle and green chives in the backyard and made her mom a bouquet."

In honor of Grace, people are posting photos of themselves in pink on her Facebook page. I posted this photo of bleeding hearts. As I might have mentioned here before, when I was a girl one of my aunts taught me how to make a ballerina with Bleeding Hearts. I grow them now to show other girls this magical trick.

Keep writing about what matters, keep dreaming, have heart

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Writing Life Continued....

Celebrate National Poetry Month with Tell Me More Poetry Tweets at NPR Go here 
Tweet your poem using the hashtag: #TMMPoetry. It's fascinating how much poetry can be conveyed in so few words. 

As court cases are being settled, some insights at The Wall Street Journal  on e-book pricing is here. Imagine a world where authors can set the price of their books.

You might also want to check out the Before I Die Wall project. What do you want to do before you die? What books do you plan to write?

Dollar$ and Deadlines
Kelly James Engers is prolific, efficient, and successful. She's started a new blog, Dollars and Deadlines aimed at tips for freelance writers. She'll be updating it with tips for making more money in less time. Many of her tips are from her latest book Writer for Hire: 101 Tips for Freelance Success.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Emotional Resonance
I've been working on some of my upcoming lectures  lately. Thoughts on emotional resonance in writing are now at my website here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them -- words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a tellar but for want of an understanding ear.”  ~ Stephen King, Different Seasons

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Thought for the Day:
“In writing your journal give primary attention to detail, for it is detail which is organized and preserves experiences for your future self or some other reader. General statements like “We had a wonderful time” or “It was a dismal morning” make a mockery of the whole procedure, for they evaluate experience without recreating it. I kept long journals from the ages ten to twenty-two, chronicling events and describing emotional states, but again and again missing the physical immediacy of experience, the tiny hooks by with experience could have been caught and held. I failed to record how we looked, what we saw, the minor eccentricities of circumstance which gave special character to a day. I ignored these elements not only through lack of training but through misplaced priorities: I mistakenly assumed that one could discuss the heart of things without discussing the immediate details of life.” ~Robert Grudin

Writing Prompt:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

File under H for Hope and W for Wouk

From Mediabistro: 96-year-old novelist Herman Wouk has sold his latest novel to Simon & Schuster. The Lawgiver follows the production of a movie about Moses through “letters, memos, emails, journals, news articles, recorded talk, tweets, Skype transcripts, and text messages” sent between characters.

Publication is set for the fall. Wouk is the author of The Caine Mutiny, Marjorie Morningstar and The Winds of War. Amy Rennert of the Amy Rennert Agency negotiated the deal with Simon & Schuster imprint publisher Jonathan Karp–who once wrote his master’s thesis on Wouk’s novels.

Karp praised the book in the release: “Within just a few pages I was captivated, once again in the thrall of Wouk’s sharply conceived characters, amusing narration, irresistible command of story, and the wisdom of a lifetime. I found myself marveling at the verve and wit of this great American storyteller, now 96. The insights into Moses have remarkable vitality and depth. His heroine, Margo (‘Mashie’) is a twenty-first century incarnation of one of my favorite literary characters of all time, Marjorie Morningstar.” (Photo via)

Summer in Words

Registration forms are now available at the site

Register early since this will sell out. Also, rooms at the Hallmark Inn & Resort are availabe
at a group rate through May 14th.
Thought for the Day:
"Its source was a sentence written by Chekhov in a letter to a young writer: "If you want to move your reader, write more coldly." The advice is chilling, true, and rich, I think, and leads in many different directions of thought. This poem follows one of those directions: that if one were to imagine a world in which there were mythic, conscious deities, then those beings would have to be very cold, very detached, in order to bear seeing what they must see in the course of any given day. So much suffering, so much foolishness, so much anger. To be able to watch that at all - and even more, to play some active role in its continuance - would demand total heartlessness. It's the same lack of pity that Virgil demands of Dante as they tour the regions of Hell. Pity, the ghost-guide tells the poet, is forbidden. It is true for the contemporary writer as well, and for any seeker after truth. A certain detachment is needed to look the fullness of life eye to eye; yet that very detachment is what permits the viewer to feel things fully, to know them without blinking." ~ Jane Hirshfield

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Brilliant sunshine here in Portland so I can tackle the weeds that are proliferating. And last night's full moon hung so low in a cloudless sky it seemed we could reach it with a single bound. I keep meeting more writers who are writing dystopian and magical realism stories so just wanted to pass along a few ideas.

Magical Realism Characteristics:
  • Explores perception and confronts aspects of reality.
  • Grounded in a realistic setting, often with setting creating a powerful mood.
  • Focus on new aspects of the ordinary.
  • A sense of multiple worlds pervades.
  • Seamless weaving of the ordinary and supernatural.
  • Features a series of surprises, contradictions, and inconsistencies not easily explained.
  • Figurative language especially important and often extended metaphors used for resonance.
  • Emphasis on the senses as basis for understanding, perceiving.
  • Focus on finding new experiences/relationships within old ones.
  • Time is often treated in a nonlinear fashion.
  • Protagonist seeks out or discovers mystery in the everyday and often the story has a puzzle at it's heart.
  • Explores a new/unusual reality–subjective rather than objective reality.
  • Plot and structure are sometimes secondary to character growth and development 
  • Examples: One Hundred Years of Solitude, House of Spirits, Beloved, Mistress of Spices

     Reality is not always probable or likely. ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Friday, April 06, 2012

M is for Motivation
My column M is for Motivation is posted at my website.
It begins: Like some of you, I don’t really like to sit down to write all the time. As a famous wag once said he enjoyed having written more than writing. In fact, some days I detest it.  I avoid it by eating, reading, emptying the dishwasher, answering e-mails, pulling dead leaves off my plants, chatting on the phone—in fact, my list of avoidance tactics is too long to enumerate here. However, like you, I also love to write and some of my most contented moments come while I’m writing. It’s a kick. It makes me feel alive and passionate. It forces me to analyze my ideas and improve my craft. It also makes me feel comforted and safe and like I’ve found a home within myself and also a home within this vast, spinning world. Like you, I also know that I’m called to writing. Because when I don’t write, my life is flat. When I don’t write, I feel nervous, empty and unfulfilled.

So the writer who hates to write and the writer who enjoys the process, lives within me, as I suspect he or she lives within most of you. I work at understanding where my strengths and weaknesses lie, and I suggest you start there too. In my first book Writing out the Storm I wrote that we begin writing by first knowing ourselves a little better. And I still believe in that advice.

Quick Take: Just Write
Face the fact that fear is natural.
Face the fact that anxiety is part of the mix, especially when you first sit down to a writing session.
Talk back to doubts.
Quit waiting for the right mood for writing.
Quit waiting for the ideal circumstances.
Stay in the now.
Fly with the eagles. Don't affiliate with other bogged down, full-of-excuses wanna-bes.
Work on more than one project at a time so that if one bogs down you can focus on another project while you work out the problems with the first.
Take creative breaks, but don't bail out.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

I wanted to choose words even you would be changed by. ~ Adrienne Rich

Promises, Promises
The unfolding events that form a plot in your novel must be appropriate for the genre or type of story that you’re writing. If you’re writing a mystery, you will  be writing about a murder and the hunt for the murderer. You won't reveal the murderer in the early chapters (although he or she can be introduced); you’ll play fair when laying down clues, and your murderer will try to evade detection.
If you’re writing a romance, you’ll construct a series of misunderstandings and mishaps that keep the lovers apart until the last possible moment, when they realize the truth of their feelings and fall headlong into lasting, blissful love. In a romance, readers expect to deeply delve into the heroes’ psyches, want to watch the blossoming romance falter and fizzle before it finally blooms, and want all other aspects of plot— even if it is set on another planet in the distant future— to exist as secondary to the romance.
But it all begins with your opening designed to create expectations about the story that follows.You see, your opening words contain a promise to your reader. Read these pages and I’ll transport you to a world based on your expectations, where the story events will deliver an emotionally-satisfying experience. If a reader pays $24.95 for a fantasy novel, he expects fantastical elements and interesting explorations of themes an concepts that cannot be explored via a contemporary and realistic setting.
Your promise to your reader is that you’ll deliver the goods following the genre strictures; that your story will reveal something about human nature, and will create meaningful connections between the reader and the story world.
            There is another aspect of story promise that is best described by playwright and author Bill Johnson in A Story Is A Promise. Johnson explains that realizing that a story is a promise is a cornerstone in understanding storytelling. He writes, “A story sets out its promise by offering details of life-like characters, issues, events, and circumstances, then editing and arranging those details to move an audience toward a desirable experience of resolution. For example, when a story created around the issue of courage fulfills its promise, the story’s audience experiences a fulfilling moment of courage. The story’s audience experiences the truth of the story’s promise.”
            Johnson explains that when readers or an audience are confused about a story’s dramatic purpose, it’s because they haven’t been emotionally or thoughtfully engaged by the plot or actions of the characters. He explains, “The most common mistake of inexperienced writers is not clearly establishing and sustaining their story’s advance along its story line. This is ruthlessly damning. It creates a story that is a collection of meaningless details that suggest no promise or dramatic purpose, just as a collection of railroad cars sitting isolate on sections of track fails to suggest the possibility of a journey toward a destination.
            Every story should have something—an issue or idea about love, courage, redemption, renewal—some human need—in its opening scenes that speaks to an audience.”

 Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

"We need myths to get by. We need story; otherwise the tremendous randomness of experience overwhelms us. Story is what penetrates."~ Robert Coover

Transferable Skills
          Something that’s puzzled me for years is how many writers seem to think that the skills and will to accomplish writing goals exist separate from the rest of life. They believe that writers are born, not made. But of course, this is not true and the skills and strength that you possess are transferable to your writing practice. Once I was talking to a woman who was complaining that she couldn’t write because she was afraid of rejection. She was the mother of five. I said something like, “You gotta be kidding me. You gave birth five times and you’re afraid of editors?” Many women report that there are few things more terrifying than those last painful minutes before the baby is born when they feel torn, weak, and exhausted and feel like they aren’t going to survive another contraction. Mailing off a query is a piece of double chocolate cake compared to that.
          So if you’ve run a marathon, or remodeled a house, or raised children, or taught a class, or acted in a play, or sang in a choir, or ran a business or a department, or fundraising drive you can write. Your skills, stamina, and passion can be transferred. 

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Summer in Words update
Morning sun shimmering through the stand of firs this morning, but it probably won't last long. Yesterday the sun was out the entire day, a much needed reprieve from the storms that have been traveling through here. More storms to come and the rivers are swollen and topping their banks.

I'm in the midst of moving the Summer in Words blog/site so the registration form for 2012 is not up there yet. If you'd like to register now, please send me an email and I'll send you the form as an attachment. Sorry for the inconvenience and just a reminder that the conference is going to sell out this year so don't wait too long to register.

Thought for the day:

To plot means to navigate through the dangerous terrain of story and when confronted by a dozen branching possibilities to choose the correct path. Plot is the writer's choice of events and their design in time.  Robert McKee

Monday, April 02, 2012


Age and the Writer
Like Michelle Dean I spent my twenties dilly-dallying and not getting published much. I also attended college, lived on an Indian reservation, sold jewelry, cooked in restaurants, became a caterer, and was raising my daughter. If this is the sort of Monday morning where you're feeling defeated and like you'll be 70 before you're first published, here is a heartening list of writers and their ages when published.

For example:
Age at which Wallace Stevens, discouraged by the reviews of Harmonium, published his second book of poetry, Ideas of Order: 56.
Age at which Rebecca West published Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: 49.
Age at which Janet Malcolm published her masterpiece, The Journalist and the Murderer, as a New Yorker serial: 55.
Age at which Edith Wharton published The House of Mirth: 43.
Age at which Marilynne Robinson published her second novel, Gilead: 61.
Now don't you feel better?
Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

 "The sound of a word is at least as important as the meaning."  ~  Jack Prelutsky

Reminder: I still have openings in my critique groups which meet on Monday and Thursday afternoons in Portland beginning on April 9. Fiction and memoir. Limited to 4 participants. Stimulating discussions, helpful feedback, solutions to your manuscript problems. Contact me for details.