Have questions for an established #author and #Creative #Writing Lecturer at Birkbeck?


As part of my ongoing series with experts from the publishing industry,  last week I hosted Jayapriya Vasudevan, Founder of the Jacaranda Literary Agency. Today, I bring you Julia Bell, Senior Lecturer, teaching the MA in Creative Writing at the prestigious Birkbeck College, UK. I’ve had the good fortune of having her as my mentor under the Writing the City Programme, and I have to declare that she’s the best thing that can happen to you if you’re a noob like me attempting a novel.

Today I ask her a few questions, and encourage you to add yours in the comments– I hope to get you your answers. So without further ado, here goes:

1. Hanif Kureshi recently said that Creative Writing Courses are a waste of time. As a Senior Lecturer of Creative Writing at one of the most prestigious creative writing programs in the UK, what is your comment on that? What do you look for in a potential candidate for your program?

Julia Bell: Creative Writing Coursebook

Julia Bell: Creative Writing Coursebook

Hanif Kureshi sounds like part of an older generation of writers who preserve their position through adopting an attitude of superiority. Creative Writing programmes have created a new democracy in literature where anyone with a story can learn how to tell it and I think it’s evident now that Creative Writing can be taught. This is an interesting article from Publishers Weekly explaining exactly how and why MFA programmes are a necessary part of the Literary Culture in the US.

I would say that CW MA/MFA Courses are a vital part of finding and developing new voices in literature. I can’t teach boring people to be interesting, but I can help interesting people to write better, to develop their work into a voice. I’m looking for openness to feedback, a sense of the experiential nature of storytelling and a felicity for language. Raw talent can always be shaped through editorial feedback and there is nothing more exciting than watching someone finding their real voice, their point of view on the world.

2. How does your experience as an author feed into your teaching? What do you like best about teaching creative writing and what puts you off? (The lecture she links to is fab– give it a listen if you’re an aspiring author)

I would teach by example – I write every day and I try to encourage students to do the same. Being a ‘daily artist’ is what it takes to sustain a career as a writer. There is quite a bit of my teaching available for free on the Birkbeck website Writers Hub – here is a link to a lecture I gave on a writer’s territory.

3. If you had to give just three pointers on ‘writing technique’ to aspiring authors, something general creative writing books don’t tell them, what would they be? (Here are a few she’s already spoken about)

It’s hard work. It demands your full and complete attention. And sometimes you write crap but there is always something good even if it’s only a sentence in a bad day’s work.

4. If you had to choose three of your favorite authors and their best works, which would they be? Why did you choose these in particular?

I don’t know if these are ‘best’ works but these books have hugely influenced my thinking about writing and my life itself:

George Orwell The Clergyman’s Daughter His prose is so clear and clean I would aspire to the same clarity of vision, but the story of a vicar’s daughter who is oppressed by the faith of her father was both a warning and a portrait of what I didn’t want for myself.

Jeanette Winterson – Oranges are Not the Only Fruit – I was jealous when I read this it seemed to articulate something about my own life, and I wondered what I could add to the story. It’s interesting how she returned to the subject in a memoir 25 years later – Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal – the two are companion pieces to my mind and make up her best and most interesting work.

Virginia Woolf – Mrs Dalloway – Oh I how I love her – what a writer – she understood that good prose also contains good poetry. Her essays are also a delight in the fluency of articulation and the way she approaches her subjects. Clarity and rhythm are for me what I want out of good writing. Something that sings in my head.

5. For those new to your work, which of your novels would you recommend they start with? 

Massive, by  Julia Bell

Massive, by Julia Bell

I write novels which are the equivalent of British Indie films. I want them to have a realism like Orwell and a voice that has the a poetic flourish – but these effects must be earned – too much poetry and the prose becomes dense, not enough and it’s too plain, too staccato. I’m very proud of my first novel, Massive which is to be republished next year in a revised edition with the cultural references updated from 2002 to 2015. It’s a real privilege to get to do this – there will then be two slightly different editions of this book out in the world which I think is a delight for a writer. You can find out a bit more on my website.

6. Tell us about your forthcoming novel.

My new novel is called The Dark Light and is the story of a girl who has grown up in a strange religious cult. It’s a bit like a reworking of the Wicker Man with a bit of Lord of the Flies thrown in. It comes out in May 2015 from Macmillan. Follow me on Twitter @juliabell for updates as the process moves towards publication – first I’ve got to do some editing . . .

7. What was the spark of the story, and what was the writing process like? Who is your target audience?

I think it’s a story about my childhood, but also it’s been inspired by an increasing sense of religious fundamentalism in the world. I’m interested in how rigid religious thought can become like a trap even as it purports to set people free. Ironically my upbringing fostered a sense of fairness which rails against religious fundamentalism where women are seen as subordinate to men and sexuality is seen as something to be feared rather than enjoyed.  I’ve also been writing a memoir in verse which I see very much as a companion piece to the novel. You can see me reading some of it here.

Julai Bell, author

Julia Bell

Julia Bell is a writer and Senior Lecturer at Birkbeck College, London where she teaches on the Creative Writing MA and is Project Director of the Writers Hub website. She is the author of three novels, most recently The Dark Light to be published in May 2014, the co editor of the Creative Writing Coursebook as well as three volumes of short stories most recently The Sea In Birmingham. She also takes photographs, writes poetry, short stories, occasional essays and journalism, and is the co-curator of spoken word night In Yer Ear.

———–

Do you have questions for Julia Bell? Have you come across the Creative Writing Coursebook? Read Massive? Have you done an MFA/ MA in creative writing, or taken any other creative writing course? Would you recommend it?

Want to talk to the Hottest #Creative #Writing #Teacher I know?


 As part of my ongoing guest post series in this blog, Scott Bryson, the editor of Cigale Literary Magazine answered questions a week ago on what leads him to choose a short story for his publication. 

Today I give you  Suzy Vitello Soule, den-mom for the hottest writing group in Portland with names like Chuck Palahniuk, Chelsea Cain, Diana Page Jordan, Cheryl Strayed,  Lidia Yuknavitch. She talks to us about her famous writing group, her reading, her writing, her teaching, and last, but not the least, The Moment Before, her new book.

Suzy Vitello Soule

The Moment Before

1.  In your experience, what should an author keep in mind while creating or joining a writing group? What sort of group dynamic brings out the best writing from its participants?  

Chemistry, I’d say. Which is a bit of a crap shoot, isn’t it? The kernel of our group began with a local mentor, Tom Spanbauer, and morphed from there. We’re big on “no homework,” meaning, we give feedback on the spot after a participant reads his/her pages. It develops a critical muscle to do it this way, but it also lets loose a knee-jerk emotional response to the work, which is valuable, but takes time to navigate as the recipient.

2. You teach creative writing. Could you tell us more about it?  Where can we find your classes? What do you like best about teaching creative writing and what puts you off?

I’ve found a great place to teach, LitReactor – an online writing community which attracts a wonderful and diverse array of teachers and students. Look for my next class in April. I’ll soon firm up what I’ll be teaching.

What I love about teaching creative writing is that I learn so much from my students as I follow their paths, their stories, their hearts. As far as what’s off-putting, every once in a while there pops up a pedantic know-it-all who seems closed off to the journey. But that is very, very rare at LitReactor.

3. Your writing is vivid and forceful, and I love how you use details to bring your characters to life. Technically, what do you find the most easy part of writing, and which part do you find the hardest?

Thank you! I enjoy the initial foray into new territory, surprising myself. I suppose the hardest thing is to trust that, eventually, the sentences will take shape in a way that approximates the feeling in my heart. Patience is not my strength. I want it all NOW!

Revision is so underappreciated. When you back away from your initial sprint and allow your subconscious to engage, you (magically, it seems) have access to a more technical and objective part of your brain. It’s that combination of authentic outburst and craft and rigor that finds its way into the hearts of others.

4. If you had to give just three pointers on ‘writing technique’ to an aspiring author, what would they be?

1.Read your work out loud.

2.Enter into that space of the unknown by unpacking the smaller moments and following your depth of inquiry.

3.Resist completing energy in dialogue. In other words, take the reader someplace new instead of resolving conflict within scenes.

5. If you had to choose three of your favorite authors and their best works, which would they be? Why did you choose these in particular?

I absolutely adore Laurie Halse Anderson. Wintergirls and her new one, The Impossible Knife of Memory. Her precision with voice, her accuracy, and her fresh approach show me how exciting that sort of discipline can be. I also love stories by Antonya Nelson.  Her irony is masterful. Oh, and Tom Perrotta’s Little Children. A creepily delicious book.I’m a fan of contemporary realism, I suppose. And darkness. Always a pinch of darkness.

6. Which of your characters is closest to your heart, and why?

I’m pretty sure I don’t have a standout favorite. My main characters tend to be heroines who are a bit, shall we say, left of normal. Lily, Brady, Liz and Sisi – they are the four main characters in the three books I’ve written and rewritten recently. What fascinates me about these characters is the ways in which they discover their strengths during their meander through my psyche. They all start out in crisis. All seem to have experienced a level of maternal abandonment, and so, I become their mother as I write them through peril and eventually shepherd them to a better place.

7. Tell us about your newly released book, The Moment Before.

It’s a love story. Between the author and the city in which the book takes place. Between the main character, Brady, and her dead sister, Sabine. And, subtly, between Brady and Connor, the boy who also loved Sabine, but was implicated in her death. That’s more than a run-of-the-mill love triangle, yes? More like a love web.

8. What was the spark of the story, and what was the writing process like? Who is your target audience?

Brady had been living inside of me for quite some time, and when I sat down to write a book that began with the death of a loved one, her voice permeated my every thought. The story crystallized around a plot whereby Brady would discover things about herself – strengths, weaknesses, her capacity to love – as she uncovered more information about Sabine.  

My target audience is young adult, but I’m finding that my readers are less definable by age than by their expectations of story. Looking over reviewer comments, it appears that Moment appeals most to a certain type of indie reader. Readers who tend to enjoy the nuances in humanity and enjoy a more lyric and wistful approach to coming of age. Plus, there’s that Keep Portland Weird vibe running throughout.

Suzy is giving away a copy of THE MOMENT BEFORE book (an e-version), plus an electronic version of Averil Dean’s new erotic thriller, ALICE CLOSE YOUR EYES, to two randomly selected commenters a week after this posts. So if you’re leaving a comment here, you might expect a copy of one of these wonderful books!

——-

Suzy Vitello Soule

Suzy Vitello Soule

About Suzy Vitello Soule: As a founding member of what the Oregonian has dubbed Portland’s “hottest writing group,” (whose members include Chuck Palahniuk, Chelsea Cain, Lidia Yuknavitch, Monica Drake and Cheryl Strayed), Suzy’s name has graced the acknowledgement pages of many a book. Her own award-winning writing has appeared in a bunch of journals and anthologies. THE MOMENT BEFORE is her debut novel. Suzy lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Kirk, and son, Carson.

Find out more about Suzy’s projects on www.suzyvitello.com, where you can also read the first chapter of The Moment Before.

Buy The Moment Before here, the linked page leads you to all sorts of places on the web the book is selling at, including Amazon.

Become her friend on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

——

Blurb of The Moment Before: “Don’t get me wrong. I loved my sister. I never, not once, wished her dead.”

Brady and Sabine Wilson are sisters born eleven months apart, but they couldn’t be more different. Popular Sabine, the head cheerleader dating the high school hunk, seems to have all the luck, while her younger, artsy sister “Brady Brooder” is a loner who prefers the sidelines to the limelight.

After Sabine dies in a horrific cheerleading accident, grief unravels Brady and her family. Once recognized for her artistic talent, 17-year-old Brady finds herself questioning the value of everything she once held dear. Her best friend betrays her. Her parents’ marriage is crumbling. And the boy everyone blames for the accident seems to be her only ally in the search for answers in the wake of her sister’s death. As an unlikely friendship emerges, Brady learns more about Sabine – and love – than she bargained for.

Would you read The Moment Before? Do you have raging questions related to creative writing or her book that you want to ask Suzy Vitello?

Do you warm up before you start on your #WIP ?


Today, I’m posting one of my warm-up sessions, unedited. Do you warm up before you start writing on your #WIP ?
———

When writing becomes second nature

Writing warm-ups

I write often at a food court in one of the shopping malls in the neighborhood. Today I have 600 words already under my belt when I set off, so I do not feel that fear which always accompanies an empty page. But I do have to start a chapter, and that is hard.

Sometimes the best way to write is just wait for it to come, and surround myself with the hum of conversation, with the clatter of cutlery thrown against ceramic plates, the muted screech of chairs drawn out from under the tables, the whir of the food processor as yet another milkshake is born.

At a table near me sit four Chinese women, animated over their cups of black coffee, all short-haired, middle-aged, frumpily dressed, with big smiles as they discuss some achievement or the other in Hokkien. Must be related to badminton practice, because I see pink and blue and red racquets poking out of each bag.

The Hong Kong Roast stall near which I’ve picked my table is the most eye-catching. Red-browned, glazed piglets, ducks and chicken hang motionless under yellow incandescent lighting, the queue is witness to the stall’s skill at cooking and the reasonable prices. A large portion of roast duck noodle sells at SGD 4.

They’re not shy of promoting their culinary efforts either—each plate of sliced roast pork comes with a pink or orange or yellow plastic rose and plastic green leaves, which later lie sad and abandoned on the plates amongst a pile of bones. The elderly cleaning lady (all cleaning staff at the food court is elderly, the young generation mans the sales counters), cleans off the plates with brattles of sound off stage behind a screen, and I think of the poor crushed petals of plastic roses lying under chewed-up bones.

I pick at the pile of pineapple slices on my plate with a toothpick the fruit-seller served them with. Why you eat so many fruit, ah? he asked me today, by way of conversation.

Rare in Singapore, to be addressed about anything other than your food when eating at food courts. But he has seen me off and on for weeks and months, and with no waiting queue behind me, threw me a question.

I smiled back. Love fruits leh, but too lazy to peel them one. I mangled my English on purpose. I knew I didn’t get the slang quite right, but they say, Ha? if I talk with all the conjunctions and prepositions I learned in school. The fruit-seller smiled back, Healthy one, ah, and handed me the change. I’ve used this sort of conversation in stories before, but my novel isn’t set in Singapore, so today’s exchange at the fruit counter isn’t helpful.

In all this time today, I’ve just sat and typed at random about where I am, about the Indian man gobbling up his chicken rice, dressed in striped shirt and office gear, a red backpack beside him, fake golden Rolex watch glinting under the light.

Or the elderly Chinese lady in glasses, coaxing strands of noodles on to her ceramic spoon, garnishing each mouthful with a slice of pickled chili, and popping the whole thing into her mouth while swaying with the music from her headphones.

Beside her sit two white women, one of them making inroads into her vegetable and rice with fork and spoon, the other making a mess of it with crossed chopsticks. The Chinese lady doesn’t look at them, not once.

Now that I have warmed up again, written my way through the Food court and waited, I’m hoping the Chapter will come to me. When I go home I’ll upload this on my blog, and tell you all about how I sat down today and waited to write.

—-

(P.S: I got in 1056 words after my warm-up, which, though not scintillating, is still much better than nothing)

What does it all mean?


What does it all mean?

What does it all mean?

When I write a story, (especially flash fiction like this one, that I wrote on the spur of the moment for the A to Z Challenge) I often wonder what it means—what I as the writer meant it to mean, and how does the reader take its meaning.

I’ve written stories which I thought were literary, were the subversion of a myth, and been congratulated on writing a fairy tale; I’ve written about a boy suffering abuse and have had folks root for the abuser; I’ve killed a character and then had the readers wonder what he would do next.

The problem, as I see it, can lie in two things:

I suck at writing: My craft could be undeveloped enough not to be able to support my muse—the story hovers inside me, a shiny hummingbird, comes out on the page a slimy, slow-moving slug.

Counter-argument: Some of the folks get exactly what I’m trying to say—how do they see the hummingbird instead of the slug?

Reading fiction on blogs demands too much attention: And some readers just can’t focus well enough to read the whole story. They comment on the few words they have read, move on.

Counter-argument: Doesn’t that show my weakness as a writer, because I wasn’t able to grab the reader, pin him or her down till my story was done?

This leaves a very confused writer. Do I suck at writing? Do I give up writing fiction on my blog?

Over the last weeks of writing a story a day, I have come to the following conclusion:

I will keep writing fiction on my blog, because it challenges me, and I enjoy it.

Yes, the writing process is never complete without the readers and their reactions– but there is something to be said for perseverance.

If my craft is lacking, practice would help. If blogs aren’t the best place for fiction, well, they’re still the best place to play around and experiment. Most of the stories I have written during the challenge are in genres I wouldn’t have written but for the prompts I was sent.

It is all good.

So has this happened to you?

As a reader, have you ever come across a meaning in a story which you discovered was different from anyone else? As a writer, have you had a reader give you back a meaning to your story that you never intended?

How To Adapt A Well Known Story For Fiction


Life has gotten in the way of blogging this last month. But a new year is here, and I’m making a new beginning. All the writing-related guest posts that got derailed (due to my blog and life problems) will now appear in January. First up is the excellent post by author Bryan Schmidt, where he talks about adapting a well known story for fiction. Take it away Bryan!!

———————–

It’s been done. All too many times, if you listen to some. The story is world famous, well known. Many know its details by heart. Yet it’s compelling and you have an idea you know is different—one no one’s done before. So how do you keep it fresh? Adapting a well-known story for fiction has many challenges, but above them all is the issue of freshness, avoiding predictability.

There are some techniques which work well to invigorate the retelling:

1)      Use the original story as character history/backstory so the parallels are interesting but you don’t have to follow it to the letter—In The Worker Prince, my debut novel, because my characters are colonists to space from Earth and Protestants, they share the religious history of Christianity so the Moses story, which inspired mine, is prehistory. Some parallels from that story occur, when a prince discovers he was born a slave and helps the slaves fight for freedom, for example. But having established that as prehistory, I was able to depart quite a bit from biblical elements like the plagues, miracles, and parting of the Red Sea to tell a different, although familiar story. The inspiration remains the same but the story takes new and interesting twists.

2)      Change the timeline (order)– What if the events are the same but they don’t happen in the same order? Sometimes the order of events is not vital to the story and you can make new twists and turns just be changing the order of events and, thus, how those various events affect each other. It can lead to new conflicts and new undercurrents which didn’t exist in the original story and make it more interesting for those familiar with the story on which yours is based.
3)      Identify the core elements and throw away less important ones—In The Worker Prince I did exactly this: keeping the idea of one people enslaving another under a ruthless dictator, a prince secretly adopted from slaves, ideological conflict, and injustice but dumping things like the Red Sea, years of exile in a desert, plagues, etc. It kept the story familiar and grounded in the tropes of the original while allowing me to take it in totally different and surprising directions. Some scenes and events are vital for the story to remain familiar. The same can be said of key characters. Others can be thrown away or reinvented to keep things original and unique in your telling.

4)      Reverse roles, species or genders of characters—What if your hero in the original story was male but in your story becomes female? What if a human character becomes alien or animal? What about a robot? What about other characters? Can your sidekick become the love interest? What if your antagonist becomes a relative instead of  a social acquaintance? What if the characters take on bigger roles and multiple functions they didn’t have in the original? The differences between genders, species, etc. can then be exploited for new aspects of your story and new twists and turns different from the original in fun ways.

5)      Change the setting—Setting your story in a culture and context far removed from the original can provide interesting opportunities. I set The Worker Prince in distant space far from Earth with different aliens and plant species, etc. It allowed me to have technology and related problems totally foreign to the original Moses story and made for a more fun and interesting telling for me as storyteller and for readers. The same can be true of resetting the story in a different decade or era from the one in which it originally occurred. Imagine, if you will, a steampunk Cinderella or Sherlock Holmes in the 24th Century. All kinds of possibilities present themselves.

All of these suggestions are about making the story your own. If you can find ways to do that, you can create a fresh experience and telling while utilizing powerful elements of the familiarity and themes of the original story. Grounding your story in a well-known tale, definitely has advantages.  But a little creative rethinking can make it even more powerful and draw in an audience of people it might not otherwise appeal to. It’s fun to work from a familiar foundation and structure. Especially if you love the story, it can stimulate the imagination. But if everyone knows the twists and turns and outcome of your story, why should they want to read it? I hope these suggestions give you ideas how the old can become  new and fresh in the retelling.

Bryan Schmidt

Bryan Schmidt

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

‎3 5-star & 8 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

The Best Advice on Writing I’ve Ever Received


Daily (w)rite went on an involuntary hibernation last week due to a WordPress Technical glitch. But thanks to the awesome staff at WordPress, it is back, and so is the Writers’ Guest Post Schedule for November.

Today we have amazing writer, and lovely blog-friend Corinne O’Flynn. She is here to talk to us about how writers ought to treat their writing, so without further ado, I hand over the post to Corinne:

—–

This might sound strange coming from someone who has yet to have her book published, but bear with me. There are ways to measure the quality of your writing before it is published.

There is so much advice out there about writing and paths to publication, much of it is right on. It runs the gamut from grammar, to character development, world building, and the practice of writing itself.  If you’re like me, a lot of this advice speaks to you relative to your own work.

The best advice I’ve ever read comes from Jane Friedman through an article that was printed in Writer’s Digest Magazine last July/August. For the writer who has publishing aspirations, this is important. You ready? Ok, here it is:

“You have to view your work not as something precious to you, but as a product to be positioned and sold.”  - Jane Friedman

The Best Writing Advice I've Ever Received

The Best Writing Advice I've Ever Received

I will remember forever being on a plane and reading those words. I had a gigantic “aha moment” and sadly was stuck in my seat, alone, with no one to share my epiphany. I must have read the article twenty more times while on that flight. Those words resonated with me and as soon as I could get back to my desk and my work, they found their way into my revisions.

The results were interesting. Once I took to revising my own writing with this outward-facing view in mind, I was able to see the things in my writing that were holding my work back—holding me back.

My ability to identify and therefore cut the junk and improve pacing became sharper. I could locate the places in my work where my own writer’s pride kept me from cutting something I thought was especially fabulous, even though it had no place in my work.

Did I instantly start getting nibbles from publishers and sell my books at auction? No, but responses to my work changed overnight. My critique partners didn’t know what I was doing differently, but they felt that something had changed and the quality of my work had improved. My entries into writing contests started getting positive attention. My confidence in my work skyrocketed.

Approaching your work as something you want to sell and not as a slice of your soul changes what you see when you’re reading it. For the better. The results can be the difference between writing that is genuinely good and writing that grabs hold of your reader and takes them for a ride.

Writer Corinne O'Flynn

Writer Corinne O'Flynn

Bio:
Corinne loves to write about fictional dark and fantastical things. You can find her on her blog and on twitter@CorinneOFlynn

——————

Thanks Corinne, for the wonderful post, and now I open the floor for questions and comments from readers!

Are You An Insecure Writer?


Passion is never enough; neither is skill. But try.

Passion is never enough; neither is skill. But try.

I could tell you I’m not insecure, but I guess I’d be lying.

Most writers, even successful, bestselling award-winning ones, have their insecurities….the difference is they’re not worried about their first publication, but whether their next novel would be better, more successful than the last.

Or at least I imagine they should, because after winning the Nobel prize for literature, this is what Toni Morrison had to say to writers, and to herself:

“Stop thinking about saving your face. Think of our lives and tell us your particularized world. Make up a story. Narrative is radical, creating us at the very moment it is being created. We will not blame you if your reach exceeds your grasp; if love so ignites your words they go down in flames and nothing is left but their scald. Or if, with the reticence of a surgeon’s hands, your words suture only the places where blood might flow. We know you can never do it properly – once and for all. Passion is never enough; neither is skill. But try.”

So, as a fledgling writer who has taken to the pen three years ago, I know my craft is not the best it can be, that I still have a million miles to cover before I can bring any mastery to my writing.

And as to life experience, the lifeblood of our writing—who can claim to understand life’s depth, its purpose, its reach? Life teaches us till our last breath. No writer can ever measure up to everything his life has taught him.

So yes, I wear my insecurities like a uniform, they give me purpose, and my place in this world. I wake up each morning terrified of not being able to write, I labor the day away and it disappears, and at night I go to bed dissatisfied with what I’ve written. Inside me I know that no matter how much I learn writing, there will still be that much more to learn—because one lifetime is not enough to learn all the craft, the discipline, the art, the artifice that goes into writing.

An editor told me last week she is including one of my stories for her anthology, which should be in print end of this year. It was a moment’s validation. But along with a pat on the back, it was also a kick on the butt: it reminded me I had to finish a collection of short stories and my novel, and how I still had a long way to go with both. Back to my insecurities, back to the grind.

So to echo Morrison, who in turn has echoed Browning( Ah, but man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?):

I’ll always be insecure, and I’ll always be reaching for perfection. If nothing else, it would make me a better writer than when I began.

———–

Insecure Writer's Support Group

Insecure Writers!

This was a post for Alex J Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support  Group. Click on the link to reach fellow insecure writers!

Inspiration Blogfest by Summer Ross


Inspiration Blogfest by Sumer Ross

Inspiration Blogfest at My Inner Fairy

Usually, I write pieces on this blog based on writing prompts. But thanks to Summer Ross and her Inspiration Blogfest, I’m going to set a writing prompt today and just leave it at that. Feel free to use it on your blog or anywhere else.

PROMPT: Write a letter to your favorite character in your own fiction, and another to a character you think is not convincing and needs more work. Compare the two, which should help you in fleshing out the second character better.

Look forward to reading the prompts from the participants of this blogfest, and if I’m feeling up to it, will post a few pieces in the coming days based on those.

Happy Writing!

A-Z: T is for Tell you what


Writing prompt: TELL YOU WHAT

Provided by: I’m not sure who gave me this one, but I loved it! If it was you, just give me a shout-out, and I’ll link to you.

————————-

Tell me a story, Ana says, like she says each night, tell me a story, Daddy.

Tell me that one about the squirrel and the tree, where the tree was not a tree, but a city where the squirrel became king. Or the time you met that black-maned lion on the way home, and got late for my swimming lesson.

I shake my head and smile, there isn’t enough time for stories.

There is all the family still to see her, each one to try and smile at that wee little face grown smaller in the last few months, the tubes and machines running through and into her tiny body. There is so little time.

I try to talk past the rock in my throat.

Then hold my hand and let’s travel, she says, and I remember her first injection last year. When she started crying , I said, “Ana-kins, hold my hand, and let’s travel. We’ll be off together on a plane to never-never land and that injection won’t touch you.”

I had lied, because today, her six-year-old hand is riddled with punctures, and a small needle still wages a losing battle.

I’ll get Mommy, I say.

Don’t go, Daddy, and don’t be afraid, just hold my hand and we’ll go to never-never land, okay?

Okay, I say, I’m right there with you.

Another lie. This time, when she’s really going,  I can’t take the plane with her.

Tell you what, my Ana-bel.

Yes, Daddy?

I feel a story coming on… I’m going to tell you a story.

—————

I’m tweeting A to Z posts at #atozchallenge  There is also the A to Z Challenge Daily with links to Tweeted A-Z posts over the last 24 hours.
Thanks and shout-outs to organisers Arlee Bird (Tossing It Out) , Jeffrey Beesler’s (World of the Scribe),  Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh) , Jen Daiker ( Unedited), Candace Ganger (The Misadventures in Candyland) , Karen J Gowen  (Coming Down the Mountain) , Talli Roland ,  Stephen Tremp (Breakthrough Blogs )

A-Z: R is for Revenge


Singing is the best revenge

Singing well is the best Revenge

Writing prompt: REVENGE

Provided by:  Baygirl, fellow participant of the A to Z challenge.Visit her! Please PLEASE leave me prompts if you haven’t already! :) Photo Credit: Sujatha

Genre: Fiction/Flash

—————–

Tonight they’ll sing of I know not what because I do not understand their language, but they have told me, by gestures and movements, that each will sing alone as well as in chorus, and that I’m expected to sing.

Singing is a frightening idea. I do not sing in the shower, never have, and even if I manage to break out of here and find my way back to that old life of showers, combs, comfortable beds and warm food, probably never will.

But singing in front of all those men and women takes frightening to a new level, because in the time spent here, I’ve seen what happens to those who are deemed embarrassing in front of the evening crowd.

Through the crack in my wooden prison wall, I can see a beehive of activity. Since the prison hut is just a few steps below the Chieftian’s, it is higher than the rest of the village. I watch the preparation for tonight’s singing under the moonlight, the painting of faces, the sharpening of knives and teeth, the polishing of drums and cymbals. But above this hum, a noise draws near, and one by one all heads rise towards the  source of the ruckus.

I cannot believe my eyes what my eyes see next, because into the clearing walks a child, a girl no older than ten or eleven, dark-skinned, with large silver anklets on her feet that plink and jangle with each step. She is not wearing much, not that I can see, only her hair, long, rough and cloud-like, that falls below her knees. The crowd around her is silent.

Someone has called the Chieftian–and this strikes me as odd, his walking into the clearing in daylight. All are summoned to his hut, this is the first time protocol has been reversed, for an admittedly strange, but nevertheless young girl.

A woman’s voice booms, but it has emerged from the lips of the dark little girl. It throws me, but it terrifies the Chieftian and his men. Women gather their children and back away towards their huts.

Rough hands grab me by the shoulders and stand me up, and I find myself being hurried out to the clearing. None of the usual shoves and cuffs, though.

When I reach, the Chieftian is on his knees, and though I do not understand his language, it is impossible to miss his air of supplication. His sweat reeks as much of his fear as his posture: here is a monster of a man begging for his life from a child.

I look at her staring the Chieftian down. She senses my gaze and looks up. In those eyes I see rivers of light. It is the gaze of a mare upon her foal, but there is also the adoration of a child towards its mother. Her eyes wash over my skin like a warm towel after a long, dusty journey– they touch my head, smooth my hair.

“Come, my child,” the voice purls up at me in clear, ringing English, “I have been a long time waiting.”

As I step towards her, the back of my naked legs are splattered with a warm liquid, all the way up to my buttocks. Without thinking, I look back, and down. It is the Chieftian’s blood. He lies in the dust, or what is left of him, because he has no head. My mouth opens in a wordless scream and I take a step back.

“A long time waiting, my son, this will be sweet revenge indeed. Let us sing.” The voice pours into my ears like viscous, warm honey before I pass out.

———

I’m tweeting A to Z posts at #atozchallenge  There is also the A to Z Challenge Daily with links to Tweeted A-Z posts over the last 24 hours.
Thanks and shout-outs to organisers Arlee Bird (Tossing It Out) , Jeffrey Beesler’s (World of the Scribe),  Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh) , Jen Daiker ( Unedited), Candace Ganger (The Misadventures in Candyland) , Karen J Gowen  (Coming Down the Mountain) , Talli Roland ,  Stephen Tremp (Breakthrough Blogs )