Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thinking Blogger?


....I'd like to thank....

Amy Guth, who writes what is inarguably one of the best all-round blogs of all - "Bigmouth Ideed Strikes Again." She has bestowed the thinking blogger award upon me! According to tradition, I must now shine a light on my own selection of thinking bloggers.

(Subparagraph B, Article I:
The recipient of this award must follow these rules:
Acknowledge the origin of the meme/award
If you are tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think
Optional: Display the “Thinking Blogger Award” with a link to the post that you wrote using either the gold or silver versions of the award.)

As you can see from the date of her post, it's taken me a long time (plus the move) to choose those people I know I enjoy and stimulate me into working a brain cell or two - in a diverse number of ways.

Without further ado, may I present (in random order), Shell's Thinking Bloggers!

The incredibly talented and wonderful Bev Jackson. She's got a beautiful curious soul that emanates from her blogspot. She's got these gorgeous pictures that illustrate her propensity for seeing it all - whether visually or in words.

Ellen Meister's site is great! She's so funny, and I love her briefs on books: they come complete with casting profiles for the movie versions. You've got to visit!

Kelly Spitzer has two features I enjoy: the Writer's Project, where she interviews an author every week and The Showcase, highlighting some of her picks best recent/current reads.

Once upon a time, Patrick Rapa reviewed one of my stories in "I Read A Short Story Today." I love this site. Each story he reads and reviews gives a brief description, his opionions on it, plus the issue and volume it has come from (or link, if an online zine). Learn about stories out there (and get a glimpse into whether your piece might fit in that magazine...?)

I may be prejudiced, but Kristen Tsetsi's blog is great. Her random thoughts are often quite deep, often daring, versatile and never boring. She's clever and creative - and the force behind Tuesday Shorts!


Well, that's all for today. I'm planning on going to see Joyce Carol Oates tonight at B&N Lincoln Center. If anyone nearby wants to join me!


Moi? Er....thankyouverymuch.


ooooooh, one bonus Thinking Blogger Award.....goes to [title of show].

I saw this production when I was here in September? October? Anyhow, for anyone with a creative spark anywhere in his or her body, this is a fantastic show. And the blog reflects it.

With songs like "Monkeys and Playbills," "Die Vampire Die" (one of my favs), "A Way Back to Then," and "Nine People's Favorite Thing"....well, I could list them all, but trust me, very inspirational! (Yeah, I own the soundtrack).

Meta-musical theatre. Was fabulous!


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Grubstreet continued...Muse and Marketplace.


Sorry I lapsed in my reports - between looking for employment, finding necessities and trying to take in a few readings and street festivals and such, I've been quite busy. I think I am going to start reporting on the authors and readings as well. Some have been stunningly brilliant and others not so dazzling; I also went to a play reading too, which was great fun and quite interesting.

Anyhow, due to lack of time, I'm going to abbreviate the next three sessions and just focus on the main points.


Sheri Joseph: "Have You Got a Novel or Not?"

Looking over my notes, I can say I got a lot of information regarding the novel vs the short story. Simple things like experience vs. moment, marriage vs. sex, the world vs. a slice. She also talked about "shaping" the elements that create a successful novel.

I loved these two particular bits she shared:

a) "Shine a light, then deepen the dark." [My apologies because I believe she credited that saying with someone in particular, but I didn't get it]

b) Determine the signature of the story (as opposed to even the elevator pitch or synopsis). This is the basis of what drives the story. Even though there may be stopping points along the way, the driving force that determines where it actually ends - "the address of the destination, even though we make many detours and stops" sort of thing. Very similar to thinking about "what the character wants and what happens on her way to get there."

Sad to say, however, I'm still not fully sure about determining which I have: novel or story, and that's OK. I think the main point she was making was that you should write what you want to read, the topic/theme/story that obsesses you, and in that manner, the novel will begin to unfold as such. She also emphasized the importance of that opening in terms of setting up the entire story to unfold.


Side note: I have a piece coming up in Right Hand Pointing - August issue.

It's a piece I wrote using pointers on detail from the Rishi Reddi workshop!


The title of Ellen Litman's workshop was "Shaping a Short Story Collection." In many of the community workshops I'm in, this is a very hot topic. And the answer is truly however you want. Successful collections (including the currently popular novel-in-stories) have been arranged according to theme, setting, a group of people (race or culture), recurring characters, and stylistically sorted stories.

The most outstanding points she shared (at least for me) were to:

a) begin and end with strongest stories

b) develop an arc according to whichever unity ties them together

We went into detail of the connections, disparities and contrasts of the stories in Jumpha Larhiri's "Interpreter of Maladies" and analyzed the arc of the collection.


Jamie Cat Callan was a delightful presenter. She is the creator of the Writer's Toolbox, which I loved. We did a couple of exercises using these tools, and whether in a block or just needing help to get started, this is a great inexpensive set to get your mind going.

She also discussed some different structures of short stories, which really was great for me. I enjoyed learning different ways of thinking of developing the story (tacking, Aristotlean, Native American). It really helped to expand my mindset. Sometimes I let the left brain control too much and get pigeonholed into thinking there's only one way to tell a story.


Be sure to keep track of Tuesday Shorts. We are collecting pieces from the issue to be featured in a special section of Opium.print #6!!! Get your micro in print, boys and girls!


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

How I feel....


By the way, it is Tuesday, and time for a very short short.

Tuesday Shorts



I just love this picture of the train. You know, I've been working on a train (so what if it is an excursion train - it's a real train!) and I love the subways. I'm infatuated, in fact. Today, I heard one let the air off the brakes. SHIT! I said to myself. I looked over and sure enough, the bubble neon signs said, "Last Stop."

And I thought "Huh, I learned something after all!" There's an exhibit at Grand Central about the development and architecture of the subways. I'm SO going!

Anyhow, here's one more visual, just for aesthetics.


Okay, now I have a huge treat very soon. Hint: Amy Guth, Three Fallen Women, Q&A. The book is amazing, and I'll tell you why soon, and she'll tell you - well - something :)


Friday, May 11, 2007

Telling the truth....


I didn't know what to expect of Rishi Reddi - no preconceived notions whatsoever. I did absolutely love her story in the 2005 BASS, "Justice Shiva Ram Murthy," and I am very anxious to get that Karma collection now.

Anyhow, the title was: "Microscopic Truthfulness"

What I liked is that Rishi seemed very sincere in wanting the participants to get as much as possible from her presence and opened by asking us what had drawn us to attend her workshop. [Incidentally, I forgot to mention that during each of these sessions there were SIX workshops from which to choose.] Rishi's was very well attended.

We looked at an excerpt from a story and gleaned information from its details and from those observations (type of car, descriptions of others, the kinds of music playing, etc.), we get more than stereotype. She said something to the effect, you can use a broad brush, but must also do the detail work to avoid that stereotype. I have to add, she also said one of my observations was very astute - like a little blushing schoolgirls I was - but it pointed out to me that even the smallest of clues will be picked up by your good readers. I guess what that means to me, is to write for your very best readers, those that want and desire that (and if someone doesn't get it, it's all right).

I loved looking at the detail under a microscope; I tend to use the generalization too much, and bringing the universal into context by using the detail is a talent I hope now to develop. (This is paraphrased from a book called "If You Want to Write," Brenda Ueland).

Someone asked a question regarding the truthfulness of magic realism or fantasy, and I ADORED her answer.

She used a phrase - "tyranny of the real" - in describing how we need to sift through the details, use the fact (even push it away) to get the truth. In order to establish authenticity, the true authorial voice, we need the underlying details that allow a reader to "buy into" our fiction. The difference between saying a coffee shop on the corner, or saying the Starbucks at 63rd and Broadway is that by being specific, it doesn't matter that the reader has or hasn't been there; he can visualize and imagine because there's no question the author knows (again, whether or not he has or hasn't been there!)

We also did an exercise that she drew upon from Ron Carlson: Person, Place, and Song, and several people read theirs aloud.

This session was such a pleasure to have attended, and by all means if you have the chance, do see her in person.


By the way, is anyone familiar with Tao Lin? I had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of years ago when we were both reading at Opium.print #1 Launch Party. Anyhow, he's like featured in the book section of Time Out New York this week. Very cool. I hope to see him read on Sunday. I'm also going to a reading tonight (and I've already forgotten who I'm going to see...).

Did I mention I got a job? I'm hostessing, starting Tuesday, so I'm trying to cram all the evening activites I can into the next four days. All free, of course!


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Whew, so much to report!

It has been a whirlwind of a week starting with the delayed flight to NY last Wednesday to the superb conference in Boston over the weekend, from job searching and sight-seeing to discovering my own little corner of Manhattan. I think I have mashed potatoes for brain matter right now.

(picture across Boston Commons from my phone :)

There really is a lot to write about this conference (so I may chop it up a bit), and I do highly recommend it. Grubstreet has a very small staff, yet they were very well organized. The selection and variety of workshops and the conference speaker selections were fabulous. Bookmark this for next year folks: Muse and Marketplace.

I'll just start from the top, and forgive me if I ramble. I'm so eager to put all of this into action; my muse is waiting patiently for me however: She knows I need to find a job first before pampering her.

FIRST, on Friday night before the Muse and Marketplace, I also got the opportunity to meet with a bunch of super writers at the Dire Literary Series in Cambridge; I even had the chance to do an open mic reading (The New Eve, which I had to hand-write in my hotel room, copied from Elimae's website...because once I arrived in NY, discovered my printer's inkwells were dry...ain't that the way?). Anyhow, among the talented crowd (with whom I socialized for pizza afterwards) were the series' head honcho Tim Gager, Sue Miller (GUD), Rusty Barnes (Night Train), Matt DiGangi (Thieves Jargon), and Kenneth Ryan and Nadine Darling (writers extraordinaire).

Saturday morning I had the pleasure of having sex with Steve Almond, writing workshop, that is. "Sexing the Story."

So, I found him better than what I expected. That is, there has been so much hype about him that I didn't set my expectations high, perhaps, because that's an easy set-up for disappointment. However, he was extremely good with an audience, helpful, informative, and I think very intelligent. One of the things he had us do was to write as BAD of a sex scene as possible in five minutes or so, and several people read theirs - some got 'awful' down to a tee.

Try this and see what happens. One of the most striking things was that the sentence structure, even though written in porn or romance style, began to emerge as if it were good. The pacing and frenzied energy of sex will become apparent even though its language is atrocious. It's that urgency that we are [supposed] to build in a good scene.

Another point he made that really hit home was that sex is in many ways a conflict or danger. When used as a characterization tool to illuminate fears and desires, sex is wonderfully "showing."

Finally, he passed out some examples of "good sex" scenes and we discussed how it's often the "what's not said" or internalization (mind play) that reveals the consciousness of the sex without overtly stating the physical actions and body parts.

I am very very anxious to try out a sex scene now, as I've always shied away from them; they always seemed either stilted or overblown.

Steve Almond is very active in the conference circuits from what I can tell, and I urge you to take see him if possible, ESPECIALLY if you have a sex problem.

So, discuss. How do you feel about writing sex? What are your promise and pitfalls with incorporating it into your fiction?

~~More later~~

Please do go check out Tuesday Shorts as well. We've had three weeks of great stories so far, all under 100 words, and now an open call. Check us out!