Friday, March 23, 2007

The road to happiness....


First, some book notes:

A recent purchase is Fires from Nick Antosca. Can't wait to get into it: !! Here's his blog!

And a feature...Amy Guth has agreed to let me interview her. Meanwhile, check out her blog, and sometime in Arpil, be on the lookout for words of wisdom from Amy: Bigmouth indeed strikes again.

Why must I wait until April. Simple. I have two weeks to get my manuscript in. I'm definitely going to the Muse and Marketplace and have to get prepared!! Charles Baxter is the keynote speaker.

Here are my first choice seminar selections...can you tell I'm excited!!?? The agent choice isn't confirmed til May, so I'll wait to give you that!

Author: Steve Almond
Title: Sexing The Story
Description: This intensive workshop will involve a quick examination what makes a sex scene sizzle, or fizzle. The key points here:
1. How to avoid sounding clinical, or gratuitous.
2. How to make sure your sex scenes engage all the senses
3. How to ensure that your sex scenes are serving to reveal character, not titilate the reader.
This will be an informal session, and might get raunchy, so people should leave their inhibitions at the door.

Author: Rishi Reddi
Title: "Microscopic Truthfulness"
Description: What makes some fiction seem true, like a depiction of real life, characters, emotions and events, while other writing falls flat? In the words of Brenda Ueland, it's "microscopic truthfulness," the author's ability to convey great truths and large amounts of information through the use of the tiniest and most carefully chosen details. We'll examine some good examples of microscopic truthfulness and try some of our own during an in- class exercise.

Author: Sheri Joseph
Title: "Have You Got a Novel or Not?"
Description: This is the perennial question for anyone working on a literary novel, especially for those trying it for the first time. A novel, after all, is more than the equivalent of a certain number of words. Its content requirements are not satisfied by representing, however faithfully, a random portion of someone's life. A first chapter is probably not the same as a short story. So is this a viable novel you're writing, and how can you tell? Perhaps you cannot - at least not before finishing, and revising, and revising again?but a few practical techniques can help the process. We'll discuss some of the troubles common to ailing first drafts, as well as some of the elements required to keep a reader turning all those pages. Time permitting, we may try a few brief writing exercises to help in assessing or redirecting a novel-in-progress.

Author: Gregory Maguire
Title: "A Conversation with Gregory Maguire"
Description: Maguire will read from sections of five or six novels for children and adults, both published and in progress, and comment colloquially on the inspirations, intentions, satisfactions and/or regrets that pertain to the work at hand. He will speak on the downstream effects of the success of the Broadway musical, Wicked, on his subsequent enjoyment or distress about writing for the theater and the writing of novels. In this regard he will also complain politely about the elusive movements of the muse whom, he guesses, most reliably arrives sitting on the back of the wolf who slavers at the door.

Author: Ellen Litman
Title: "Shaping A Short Story Collection"
Description: Short story collections are notoriously hard to get published. Editors complain that collections don’t sell. Agents ask for a novel. Magazine articles regularly proclaim that short story itself is dead. And yet, every year new short story collections come out, win awards, generate buzz. Some have recurring characters, others are labeled “a novel in stories.” Some center on a specific theme, while others are set in a particular location. What makes for a compelling short story collection? How to arrange the stories? How to develop an arch? What mistakes can one avoid? We will look at some recently published collections and try to identify the strategies their authors use. We will also discuss how to pitch a short story collection, especially when approaching an agent.

~~Hour of Power Sessions include:

Jumpstart Your Writing
Instructor Pamela Painter will provide unique and inspiring prompts that get you brainstorming ideas for new stories and writing new scenes. The focus will be on creating memorable characters and settings, inventing plots and improving dialogue. What better way to end the day than by producing new work to take home with you?
Pamela Painter is the author of two collections of short fiction, Getting to Know the Weather and The Long and Short of It. She is the co-author, with Anne Bernays, of WHAT IF? Fiction Exercises for Fiction Writers. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Kenyon Review, and Story. She is a founding editor of StoryQuarterly, and has received grants from the Massachusetts’ Artists Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Jumpstart Your Writing
Instructor Jamie Cat Callan will provide unique and inspiring prompts that get you brainstorming ideas for new stories and writing new scenes. The focus will be on creating memorable characters and settings, inventing plots and improving dialogue. What better way to end the day than by producing new work to take home with you?

Jamie Cat Callan is a master teaching artist with the Connecticut Commission on the Arts. She has taught writing at N.Y.U., Yale University, U.C.L.A. Extension, Fairfield University, and Wesleyan University. She is the author of the recently published Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the ‘Write’ Side of Your Brain. She is also the author of three novels for young adults and a Hooking Up or Holding Out, a book on relationships for women.

Open Mic

Your chance to show off your skills by reading five minutes of your work (usually about 600 words of prose) to your fellow participants and any guest authors, editors or agents who drop by.


I'm very excited!!

Photos from flickr/creative commons by: Istrong2k


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Procrastinators....get off your duffs, thus says your Queen


I say it's high time to put something into action, and I'm dusting off my tushie. I'm doing something for myself! I tend to be one of those that "can't say no," so whenever someone asks for something, I will. Enough, already!!

In my own defense, last week I had a paying gig, proofreading/editing for a biotech company (protein chemistry, oddly enough - and for those that don't know, it was the subject of my own doctoral research) AND last weekend, I had to travel two states and move things out of my mother's storage as she is moving (and yes, I've known for over a month I needed to). So. My excuses for the day. Now, ready-set----go!

I want to get something completed. I look over my novella, and think it should be a novel; I look at all 40,000 words of the novel-in-progress, and think I want to get going on it. I do so love the story. I'm going to make the monumental decision - which one of the two I'm going to have critiqued - and make plans to go to grubstreet.

Picture from flikr, josh.ev9

Do take a look at the cast:

Charles Baxter is the keynote speaker, along with Steve Almond, Gregory Maguire, Pamela Painter, Sue Miller and many other super authors, agents, editors, 5 workshop sessions plus two "Hour of Power" seminars. It's very inexpensive for such an impressive ensemble, IMHO.

PLUS you can pay an additional fee to participate in the "Manuscript Mart" - in a twenty minute session, an agent or an editor provides feedback on your story or portion of book-length project (20 pages). I am really looking forward to hearing what someone from the "other side" has to say about my work.

What do I need to focus on? What am I not able to see for myself? On the other hand, if I just plain suck, I want to know that too. Then I'll really throw myself into some conferences!!

So that's the deal. I like a little pressure now and then; in fact, I almost think I need it. For some, it paralyzes, but for me it creates an energy funnel that helps me focus. Or maybe that's just what I tell myself ;-) We shall see.

Anybody game to attend?

Here's the link again:The Muse and Marketplace, Boston, May 5-6, 2007.


By the way, I finished "The Ice Queen," and absolutely loved it. I was so absorbed, I must say, there was a twist that totally surprised me at the end, and I always like that unpredictability in a novel, in a good story.


Oh My!! I just realized - perhaps a larger fault than my procrastination - is my obsession with subbing. During the next month, I cannot take any pieces that have been rejected, nit-pick to death, and spend hours looking for the exact match, THE place that wants it. I have twenty-something subs out plus I just got ink from a super DUPER magazine, so I should be able to sit tight for a month, no?



Sunday, March 04, 2007

Do re mi...finding a voice.

~~Isn't this photo awesome?

Reading notes: OH MY GOSH!! I bought books again last week, including a new audio (and now I have to get reading; I'm officially banned from hardcopy, but NOT audio...)and...

I've found my new idol!

I got Alice Hoffman's "The Ice Queen," and I'm enthralled. It's also read by Nancy Travis, who's doing a marvelous job. Once, someone commented that my work was slightly Alice Hoffmanesque, and now I understand. And boy do I hope so!!

I've also started Amy Guth's book, "Three Fallen Women," in spite of my reluctance not to finish a book, Kavalier and Klay is very long and more of a cruise-through book than a page-turner. If that makes any sense.

Anyway, her writing is energetic, brutal, honest and heart-stopping....I keep reading and my heart is racing. Great stuff. Will let you know more later.


So that's about it. I'm working on developing my own voice, and I think I'm some sort of hybrid. But I think it very exciting to have finally discovered AH; her style and voice - the magic realism - seem to reflect to a great degree, what I perceive mine to be (or leaning toward, or hoping for...)

Has anyone else had that moment of pseudo-self-recognition?


I've located a couple more conferences, and I really really like they are both small-ish and have some excellent guest speakers and agent in attendance:

Grub Street, a two-day conference in Boston (I've gotten some good verbal input about this one) and

Writers at Work, in Salt Lake City, UT.

I've put applications in for both Sewanee and BreadLoaf too. I really want to go to as many as my pocketbook will allow, hehe!

What a perpetual student I am!