Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Quote Yourself!

by Melissa Kline

Quotes...They're everywhere! You see them in magazines, art, motivational posters, greeting cards, knick- knacks, movies, clothing... and anywhere else words can be stamped. Quotes have become trendy accessories for our social media personas and maybe even our identities. So what is it about these little nuggets of wisdom (or not) that are so intriguing?

These micro blurbs pack a big punch! They resonate with something inside of us that we can't quite find the words for ourselves or have forgotten about. Quotes give us a voice to express our true essence. Most of the time we like to borrow quotes from other people, but I wonder...have you ever quoted yourself?

You don't have to be a movie star or historical figure to have a quote... just be YOU! Most quotes come from beliefs, insights and experiences. What are you passionate about? What do you strongly believe in? What message do you want to share with the world? Or with your peers?

Your quote is about you. It doesn't have to be  motivational or all knowing  it just has to come from your authentic self. Turn your interests into words or stand up for something you believe in. Your quote can be simple, complex, funny, interesting, quirky, or maybe it won't make much sense at all. Get creative and have fun. That's what it's all about!

Is there a quote brewing inside of you? It may take awhile for the right words to reveal themselves, but once you have that perfect combination  one that expresses your ΓΌber-awesome self  be proud of it!

Share your masterpiece with friends. Stick it on Facebook under "favorite quotes" and encourage others to create their own quotes, too. There's something really neat (and inspiring) about seeing your words between quotation marks and  a "~" before your name. 

Embrace your awesomeness! You never know who you might inspire with your words.

Happy "Quoting"!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

My mother was a published poet for children, and her poetry was essentially Rhyme and Meter. When I rattled off original lines from the top of my head, she decided to teach me the right way to do it. I was five.

Her preferred style was perfect rhyme, scansion without flaw, so that’s what she taught me. With the rare exception of school assignments to do otherwise, I wrote only Rhyme and Meter. Perfect rhyme that always scanned. Always. And my published poems have all been that type of poem.

In more recent years, I’ve met poets who prefer their meter imperfect, so it doesn’t sound “sing-song.” I can’t write it that way. Mom wouldn’t approve. A missed beat grates on my ears. The sing-song part comes from the way it is read, not necessarily the way it is written.

Less than a dozen years ago, I tried my first free verse poem that wasn’t assigned. People had told me for years that my prose tends to be poetic anyway, so I decided to dip my toe in that stream. My subject matter was a serious one, the death of a baby. Without the rules of rhyme and meter, I self-imposed other rules. I used the same words in different ways. I wrote two verses in two opposite moods. Free verse, I was taught, shouldn’t be totally free.

After that, I went back to the prose I love and the form of poetry that had been comfortable all my life. But a person needs a challenge now and again.

At our Rich Wallace reunion in 2011, Gina Gort (retired Swagger) encouraged each of us to write an individual and personal version of George Ella Lyon’s poem WHERE I’M FROM. George Ella’s poem is free verse, so I waded in once again. (If you want to see the result, click here.)

Gina Gort’s poetry continues to inspire me. Another retired Swagger, Juliet Bond, gave free verse a try as well, and just blew me away with a few of her pieces.

While I like well-written free verse, I confess I am not a huge fan of the Novel-in-Verse. When Karen Hesse wrote OUT OF THE DUST more than 15 years ago, she set a very high bar, and too many authors have attempted poor imitations which read more like prose chopped into short lines than true free verse. I stayed away from them in my reading choices and vowed never to write one.

But writer friends have written them, and some very well. I recently decided to give them another chance. I immersed myself, reading several in a row, finding a few good ones (ETCHED IN CLAY by Andrea Cheng, MAKE LEMONADE by Virginia Euwer Wolff, and INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN by Thanhha Lai, to name a few).

As I took my daily walk one afternoon, thinking over an incident from the night before, I found the incident falling into my mind in short snippets of verse. Free verse! I came back to my computer and wrote. Characters emerged to act out the incident, and a story grew around them. I never saw it coming. I was writing a Novel-in-Verse. Whether it will be good or not remains to be seen, but I never shy away from what the Muse sends me. This time she sent me something that went against the grain. She gave me a challenge. OK, Muse, challenge accepted.

[See Kathy's efforts here.]

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Time Travel

by Kim Van Sickler

By pure chance, three of the last books I've read treated time as a fluid concept. The designations between past, present and in one case, the future blurred. Events in the past were shown to have enormous significance further along in time. And the stories were told via the narrator(s) gliding back and forth to different time periods, furthering the impression that time was elastic and we, the readers, were time travelers.

I thought this mode of storytelling was fun and exciting, and kept the reader on her toes for actual time travel books like Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife.

And it follows that we'd slip back and forth in time in the book I'm currently reading, M.J. Rose's The Reincarnationist. The main character in this book is seriously injured in a bomb blast, and when he recovers, finds himself especially attuned to two of his past lives: one a hundred years ago, and one, closer to seventeen hundred years earlier.

But this time slipping device was also used quite effectively by A.S. King in Please Ignore Vera Dietz . The story starts in the present, but then chapters jump back and forth between the past and present until Vera comes to terms with what she needs to do for herself and her dead former best friend Charlie...and does it. The time travel aspect of storytelling here is purely for the benefit of illustrating how Vera has to come to terms with her past to fix her future. There's a bonus of a parallel story involving her father. And the book spotlights how our past actions (or inactions) can come back to haunt us. King could have told her tale chronologically, but she opted for a nonlinear way to communicate with us. It was an effective way to pull me in, keep me actively engaged, and connect the dots.

And for a story that takes time and turns it on its head, there's Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad.  There isn 't one star in this book, but rather a series of characters who rub up against one another, leaving a lasting effect. Each chapter is another opportunity for Egan to turn the tables on us, leaving us to navigate which character, at which point in their life, is narrating, and how the chapters interrelate. This is POV time travel on steroids. Nothing is off limits here, even traveling into the future. For readers who like twists and turns and scenic routes in their storytelling, this book is a must read.
This mode of storytelling seemed like it would be an effective way to tell my current WIP: The Mall at Gullybrook. So, I'm trying it. My YA WIP is a story of the kidnapping of three American teenagers from the same small town American mall to serve the sex slave industry. It skips back and forth over a two-year period. Time is the girls' enemy, and their friend. Time allows them to either remember or forget; plan for the future or give up. It really is a powerful literary construct.

Have you read any of the books I've mentioned here, or others that allow you to slip between past, present, and/or future with ease? Do you find it disconcerting or exhilarating? Have you tried writing that way yourself?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Lets Go Mining!

by Jon Egan
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoesand shipsand sealing-wax
Of cabbagesand kings
And why the sea is boiling hot
And whether pigs have wings."

from "The Walrus and the Carpenter" by Lewis Carroll

One of my favorite stanzas from one of my favorite poems, and my friends, the time has definitely come.…I have not written a word of creative or non-creative anything (unless my resume counts as creative writing?) for months, and months, and well, you get my point!

So much has happened, and so much has not happened, since the last time I put pen to, ummm actually…fingers to keyboard.

So I’ll attempt to give a quick recap on what the past six months have been like.

Over one hundred and fifty job applications submitted
Over one hundred and forty-six non responses
Three interviews
Two job offers
Both out-of-state
Working a young man's job for six weeks!

Okay, so I realize the first two bullet points are probably painfully familiar to any writer who’s reading this (substituting job aps for manuscripts of course!) but finally I landed a job in Northern Nevada at a gold mine, and I am so grateful, and so tired, and so tired, and grateful. It’s been over thirty years since I stepped foot in a mine of any sort, but it feels like I never left, except for the fact that my body did in fact leave and is still fighting with me to stay away. In fact, on more than a few occasions it's quoted that famous line to me once uttered by Greta Garbo… yes that one! “I Vant To Be Alone.”

Usually at 3 am when I’m reaching over to turn off my alarm clock it begins. The whining repetition of the line, begging me to stay in bed. Home, by the way, is now a twenty-six foot, fifth-wheel trailer sitting in a dirt RV park in Winnemucca, but believe me it looks every part the Hollywood mansion when I pull up in front of it seventeen hours after I leave! Did I mention this is a young man's job?

Talk about a shock to the system: 3 am alarm, breakfast, wash, brush teeth, grab lunch from fridge, by 3:30 am catch the mine bus, by 4 am leave the bus lot, arrive at mine at 5:30 am and work till 6 pm, ride bus back to town and arrive at lot by 7:30 pm, drag bum to truck and drive home to aforementioned Hollywood mansion, shower, make snack for dinner, make lunch for tomorrow, set coffee, climb into bed and lights out by 9 pm!  TIRED never felt so bloody good though. I consider myself extremely lucky to have landed the position.

I get to fly home and see Patty every other week, for three or four days, and those are precious times.

So the point of this lil post isn’t to get everybody to say,"Awww poor bugger." (Although sympathy is always welcome. Patty dishes it out in good supply, but one can never get enough!) No the point of this is actually a comparison to what we writers go through.

As I said earlier, we sit down and write our hearts out hoping that the jumble of words we arrange on paper will entice the reader to move beyond the opening lines and somehow get caught up in the story we crafted. Once we have crafted our piece, had friends read it,and make adjustments based on their input, we send it out into the world. We pray, or we chant, or we drink, or we do whatever it is we do while we wait with everything crossed, that someone did in fact read and like some part of it enough to follow up and ask for more. So we fine tune it and present ourselves again.

We wait again, we try not to read into the length of time that elapses, and when we realize that it’s been an inordinate amount of time, we struggle with ourselves. Should I call, follow up in some manner, or do I wait for that reader, or interviewer to pick up the phone or drop me an email. I can't stand it, so I call and leave voice mails. Am I being a nuisance or is this a positive trait?

Finally we get the call and it’s negative. “Sorry, you’re overqualified.” “Sorry, your story just wasn’t right for us. Although we did enjoy it, there’s just something that doesn’t work for us! (WELL CRAP! Tell me what it is and I’ll fix it!)

Then it happens. We get that positive response… yes we love the piece, or the manuscript, or your resume, and we’d like to work with you, or we’d like you to work with us, and here’s what we would like you to do. Go out and buy a trailer, because every man and his dog has already moved here so there’s no accommodation, and move out-of-state, and work the way you did when you were nineteen or twenty. Kiss your wife goodbye and tell her you’ll get home when you can, and face off against that inner self that says I can't do this, and smack it in the mouth, and punch it in the nose, and beat that voice into submission, because you can’t doubt your ability to get through this.

Isn’t that the same as getting a positive response from an editor, or an agent? Don’t we work like mad dogs and Englishmen out in the midday sun? Don’t we doubt ourselves, and our ability to get through the re-write or the edits or changing the whole story? Don’t we sweat and question every choice of word or phrase, in the hopes that if we craft it just right we’ll be a success, and just like my new job, I don’t need to be a best seller, although it would be nice, because then I could maybe get onto permanent day shift.
Three weeks ago I was doubting my ability to push through the hardship, and I was struggling with the physicality of my new job, and my psyche was doing everything it could to come up with a reason to pack up my Hollywood mansion and head home to California, but I beat it. I managed to come to terms with what I’m doing, and I accepted that I’m exactly where I need to be at exactly the right time in my life.

It finally occurred to me that I am a writer, and as a writer I’ve fought these same issues and I gave up on them. Now I realize that I gave up too early. I look at the Kathy Wiechman’s, and the Melissa Kline’s, and the Kim Van Sickler’s, and I realize that they went Gold Mining and they had the character to fight through the hardships. They get on the bus every morning at 3:30 am, and I need to stop with the excuses and get my writing out there, because eventually I will get that positive response, and the struggle will be worth it.

So if you’re stuck in that dusty RV Park with me, all I can say is, Too Bloody Bad! Get off your bum and get writing, and don’t stop, writer. Write! (But it’s okay if you wanna have a bit of a whinge every now and then. Drop me a line and I’ll talk you off the ledge.)