What can you #write in Ten #Sentences ? #heywriters


I’ve been botching up taking an open online creative writing course from Iowa Writer’s workshop. It is in its last week, and after doing the first two classes, I mostly missed out on all the others. I traveled, worked on stuff at home, basically did anything but write.

I’ve missed the deadline for the writing assignment in the last class, so I thought I would make a fool of myself by doing it here, in public. Here’s the assignment:

Write a scene of ten sentences and include in each sentence a numeral. If you’ve reached ten sentences and you’d like to keep going, you can make this a scene of twenty sentences, or thirty — the idea is just to write within this pattern. Example: On the day my town flooded, I was ten years old. It was four o’clock in the morning. In the darkness, right before I heard the water coming, two roosters crowed.

Boy soldiers in Syria

A Boy Soldier: Copyright Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via the Guardian

And here’s my attempt:

Shut your mouth or I’ll kill you, he’d said, on day one at the camp, the day they brought his brother in. After a month, when opening his schoolbag, I found three packets of white powder, larger than the packs salt came in, but much smaller than the packs of sugar.

I found these in your bag, I said to him two days later, when I felt able to look him square in his bloodshot eyes.

He snatched them from my hand, slammed them on the table, and banged it with his stringy hands: You listen to me, woman, he said, though his thirteen-year-old body wasn’t yet as tall as mine, You listen to me good. I’m tired of eating your kabsa and your kushary, and I’m tired of Abba’s begging for rations– give me one month, and I’ll sort this all out.

You listen to me, son, I said, making the tremble in my voice a scream of anger, not fear, as my mind whispered the ninety-nine names of Allah.

I ignored the bulge in his pockets, tried not to think of the steel they hid, the two spitfires that made his voice so loud, and the new masked bosses who had given them to him.

 

Now there he lies, six months later, one dead body minus its head, the two spitfires on his chest, folded in prayer.

Shut your mouth, I tell the Mullah at the funeral, He may be the One and Only, but He has taken a mother’s sons from her.

They’ll kill me soon, maybe in twelve hours when night falls, but I’ll use each of those hours, each minute, taking my boys’ names, and I won’t take their names in vain.

So that was some fiction on my blog, the first time in six months, I think.

Have you ever taken an online creative writing course from Iowa? Have ever written exercises with constraints in mind? Did the constraints of my assignment overwhelm the piece above? Would you like to do a similar 10-line writing exercise (fiction/ nonfiction) and post it on your blog?

Been to a Writers’ #Conference ? #Writing


All APW conference photos published with permission from Tim and Deedle Tomlinson.

All AP writers conference photos published with permission from Tim and Deedle Tomlinson.

One of the things I love about writing is the ability to do my job all scruffy, hiding behind my desk, or some nondescript cafe table. A conference? No, thank you very much.

But last week I did attend a conference (the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators Conference), my very first. I admit I’d gone there just for the workshops– they sounded great. One of my first ever ‘writing’ books was Tim Tomlinson’s Portable MFA in Creative Writing, and he would teach a workshop. Dr Sally Breen from Griffith University would lead an editing workshop, and Francesca Rendle-Short would do a session on voice.

I attended all three, and let me tell you– if you ever hear of a workshop from any of them, queue up. My only wish for those sessions?  They should have gone on longer. (I’m sure the others were equally good, but they either didn’t relate to my fields of interest, or clashed with these three.)

A few things I learned from the workshops:

1. Fragments strung together can make a story/ novel, you just need the right connectors.

2. It is perfectly acceptable to write with your left hand, eyes closed, when working around a writer’s block. Or otherwise.

3. Look at each word you use while writing. Take away as many as you can when revising, leaving a spare, beautiful structure.

AWP Writers' conference

All AP Writers conference photos published with permission from Tim and Deedle Tomlinson

I had a short editorial consult with Literary agent Kelly Falconer, and her insights were helpful. Her comments would help me polish my work further.

I also went to book launches. I watched authors read, talk in panels, and chat with each other during breaks. Authors are some of the most interesting people you can meet– they talk about everything from speculative poetry to sunflower seeds and everything else in between. They are also kind, generous, and courageous souls with a sense of humor, who stand up against injustice. (There could have been bitchiness and negativity somewhere, the stuff writers’ events get a rap for, but I didn’t see any that I can report. Quite the opposite!) It all ended in a great open mic session with singing and poetry. Couldn’t have ended on a better note.

So if there’s another writer’s conference I can go to, I’ve decided I will.

Especially if it is organized by Jane Camens, because if not for her help, I wouldn’t have been able to register for the conference or the workshops during weeks of traveling madness. Besides, throughout the conference I saw her add that touch of compassion and good cheer to each event I saw her at– it brought home to me why at the heart of writers’ events we need writers. Not just a great organizer, or fundraiser, but someone who understands writing and writers. (For more details on the conference, read this excellent article.)

What writing conferences have you taken part in? What was your experience like? What advice would you give me and the Daily (w)rite audience on writer’s conferences?

 

Is Your #blogging eating into your #writing? : #IWSG


Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for again organizing Insecure Writers’ Support Group along with his wonderful co-hosts Tina Downey, Elsie, Elizabeth Seckman, and Julie Flanders! Go here to see the other participants.

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Insecure Writer's Support Group

Insecure Writers!

This month, I’m all tuckered out, been sick and missed a lot of writing. That’s not all of it. I’m co-hosting the A to Z Challenge, (the one blog event worth signing up for, imho) and participating in it via two blogs. I have to pre-schedule everything– that’s 52 posts for two blogs, and I’m not done with even one of them yet– though I hope to change that today.

One of them is going to be all done with 26 shiny posts tonight, if it kills me, waiting to go out into the world in April. I had hoped to avoid doing this work in March, but life, health, and everything else has caught up with me.

I’m trying to get the second draft of my WIP finished as well, and feel as if it is suffering due to my involvement in my blogs! Add to that my freelance writing commitments, and we’re talking serious time-crunch here.

Sometimes I wonder whether I blog too much for my own good, but at others, I realize it is my support system as well, a place online I can escape to and meet friends when my fiction is driving me up the wall. Which, let’s face it, is most days!  I have cut back on blogging this month, one post a week per blog in order to fit everything else in, but I shan’t give up on blogging entirely. Have you ever felt this way– that your blog is running away with you and there’s no time to write?

On a good note for my writing, however, I had a flashfiction piece published in an international feminist journal , When Women Waken, so that was a good feeling. My WIP has feminist overtones, so I think my writing is able to reach out, which gives me a measure of confidence.

Has Your Blog ever eaten into your Writing?

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If you’re a writer clipping away at #amwriting each day, join the Insecure Writers’ Support Group!

On Being an Insecure Writer : #IWSG #amwriting


Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for organizing and hosting this event every month for two long years! Go to his blog to see the other participants.

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Insecure Writer's Support Group

Insecure Writers!

This month, I’m all tuckered out, been sick and missed a lot of writing. Feel tired and in need of a holiday.

Well, I’m all whine, whine, whine, so I’ve decided to chip away at it..the whole mountain of stuff I’m lagging behind on.

I’m lucky I have all the time in the world this week to recover from the last two, and I’m just going to make the best of it. Right? Yes, right, no whining, because whining never does anyone any good.

What has everyone else in the group been up to in the last month?

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If you’re a writer clipping away at #amwriting each day, join the Insecure Writers’ Support Group!

On Being an Insecure Writer : #IWSG #amwriting


Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for organizing and hosting this event every month for two long years! Go to his blog to see the other participants.

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Insecure Writer's Support Group

Insecure Writers!

I’ve been a pretty inconsistent (insecure) writer.

At times I’ve felt burnt out with blogging and missed the IWSG post, at others been felled by life. Last month I missed the post cos I forgot! Alex has been kind enough to keep me on the list despite my irregularity and for that I’m grateful.

I think blogging brings out the best in writers– we become a sympathetic, helpful community (which sometimes doesn’t happen in real life.) IWSG has become a safe place for blogger-writers on the web, and I personally have learned a lot from some of the posts I’ve read, be it writing advice or publishing tips.

Can’t believe IWSG is 2 years old today! Kudos to Alex and the bloggers who have hosted the group each month– it isn’t easy.

I hope to be more regular from now on, schedule my IWSG drafts so I don’t miss out.

This month I’ve found the Muse elusive, and have had to bring myself out of negative swirls of vicious self-loathing– so I find some of the IWSG posts just what I needed! Thank you to the bloggers on this group who encourage those like me who find it hard going, this life as a writer.

Here’s to many more years of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group!

Here’s to Insecurity Between Drafts


Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for organizing and hosting this event every month. Go to his blog to see the other participants.

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Insecure Writer's Support Group

Insecure Writers!

I’ve been away for the last two IWSG posts. Too shot down by life to consider blogging about it.

Now that I’m back, I know I have to face the monumental task of rewriting my novel– look that first draft straight in its beady eyes, stare it down, and begin.

Part of me is looking forward to it, the other is like, ‘Are you Crazy? You don’t even know where to begin!’ Which is true. I’m not sure of my story yet, I’m worried my characters aren’t real enough, that the plot is falling apart.

But I’ve been through this with short stories, so if I could get over those blues, I can try and get over this one.

How’ve all the other writers in the group been doing lately? Do you feel Insecure or Inspiring?

What did you feel like when you finished writing your first novel?


Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for organizing and hosting the Insecure Writers Support Group every month. Go to his blog to see the other participants, and understand what the group is all about.

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I’ve been away the past two weeks, traveling, writing, offline. I wrote the last two chapters of my novel. They came easily, but also gave me a lot of anguish. I don’t know how much of myself I’ve put in the novel, in the characters, or the plot, but it is clear that parts of it upset me. The darkness of the subject matter, I suppose. Nearly all my writing has dark undertones. Though I almost always end on a note of hope, it is definitely painful for me and those who live with me!

tside my window in Malaysia

The view outside my window in Malaysia

This time, I had a beautiful horizon to gaze at while I wrote (thanks to a very kind Malaysian friend who lives in front of this view), so the words came easier. Something about gazing at the open seas makes me feel small, unimportant, and with little responsibility. That’s how I want to feel sometimes — because then the onus of finishing, say, a 91,000-word manuscript, is not so much on me. The sunsets were gorgeous, and made me think not-so-sadly of the sunset of my characters.

Sunset from my Malaysian window

Sunset from my Malaysian window

I lay down and did not get up for four days after I finished, flattened out by a series of backaches and headaches after I came back home. No amount of stretching and medication helped, so I went into hibernation. I’ve emerged after the weekend, shaky, sore, and ready to take on the world. I’m not sure what caused the systemic breakdown, but I’m glad it’s over.

Now, a break while I brush my blogs (namely, the A to Z Challenge — sign up now, if you haven’t already!), short stories, my reading, and my life. Then it is back to the novel — the grind of revisions, of edits, re-writes, more revisions.

What have You been up to in the last month?