Friday, September 28, 2012

Razor's Edge: Where We Live


Today's prompt is a series of pictures. Found prompts from a recent walk. An intriguing place which sparked the creative fire and I want to know more.

Tell me the story. Who lives here? Or who died here? The history?

If you'd like, start with this ...

That morning, as the sun fell across her face, she knew ...


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Radical Writing Advice :Word Pairs - Sharing Time

Last week I sent a tweet into the world about a little run-in I had with Microsoft Word's spell checker. And it got me to thinking: I wonder what other little pet peeves writers have with Word. I know I've heard others grumble about what Word thinks is grammatically correct or not recognizing some words.

And Word certainly doesn't take kindly to creative license. It hates sentence fragments and, at least in my version of word, those get the squiggly red lines, reminiscent of the red pen marks of teachers in elementary school or middle school. Word insists on capitalizing words at the beginning of every line, even if it's poetry and I don't want that word capitalized.

Yet teachers and editors and agents still tend to advise: "Make sure you run spell checker on your document before turning it in - submitting." Like Word and its counterparts have the last word on all things creative.

I have known some people to even turn the spell checker off. I could do that. But once in a while it does catch a typo, an error. It lets more go than it catches, true, but it still has a place. Just don't depend on it to do all of the work for you.

This all started when I was editing a story for submission. (Yes, I did get it edited with feedback from a couple of years ago from my online writing group, and then additional feedback on an edited version from my new in-person writing group. Thank you everyone for your input. The story is in the 'zine's hands now.)

Where the issue came up is that, in the story, the protag is talking and says "...there is a character, who kills..." But Word marked it up and told me it should be "...there is a character, which kills ..."  I thought, No; no way. The character is a person so it should be who and not which. But then I started questioning myself as much as I questioned Word and soon, I found myself being able to justify it either way. I kept it with my original wording.

To be fair, I will say that the character the protag is talking about actually turns out to be a personification of the protag herself. Maybe that makes a difference and maybe not. But I will still stand behind my "character who" decision.

This discussion is not new. This same pair of words came up a couple of years ago in the online writing group. It was a great discussion and some helpful advice in choosing the appropriate word.

So when this situation came up with Word, I started thinking about other possible word pairs that sometimes trip writers up. Or at least make us pause and maybe even pull out our Strunk and White, or The Everyday Writer, or whatever your favorite online or in-print resource may be.

I'd love to hear from you.

What are the words which have (or maybe still do) cause you to doubt or pause the pace to make sure you have the correct usage?

What are a few tricks or hints you have to help make the better choice?

Here are a few which come to mind:
- which & that
- lay & lie
- drink, drank, drunk
- less & fewer.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Razor's Edge : Memories

Today's Razor's Edge is a the following video of a performance piece, "Cassette Memories." I recently saw a performance here in Portland which was curated by Aki Onda, as a part of the T:BA:12 series.

Watch his performance and take the perspective of the performer or of a performance viewer. There are some interesting characters who pass by in this video.

Or perhaps your story is of an outsider, who stumbles on this performance and maybe the story isn't about the performance, but about the experience of watching those who are watching the performance. Or not watching but wander by and wonder.

Let yourself sink into the video and then write. For 8-10 minutes.



Thursday, September 20, 2012

Radical Writing Advice: A Challenge

On Monday I was the new member in a writing group. There are four other women writers who've been meeting for ... a while. I realize I don't know how long they've been meeting and that isn't relevant, anyway.

An online writing friend - via Ariel Gore's Literary Kitchen - is becoming a 3-D writing friend since moving (back) to Portland. I mentioned her a couple of week's ago. She and I met for coffee - now a decaf soy latte for me -and talked about writing and getting to know each other in a bigger context.

And she asked me if I wanted to join this writing group, as they were wanting another member or two. She gave an online introduction and I answered the group questions and submitted a short piece, all as application to being a member of the group.

It seemed a good fit and now I've met everyone in person. And it still seems a good fit. Unfortunately I had to leave early to get to work; but I loved the pieces I heard and the sharing feedback style was great and is highly compatible.

One member was talking about writing and mentioned there were some good online resources for flash fiction. One of them stood out for me, probably because of her high recommendation and because it seems like an active and energetic group of people are attracted to this site.

The website has regular flash fiction challenges. There is one up right now which, ahem, closes tomorrow (9/21) at noon EST. Give it a try! Or wait until the next one.

Oh, and I do want to give you a heads up that there is profanity on the website. For those who are sensitive to, or don't like to see, profanity - best stay away. And if you don't mind, click on over to TerribleMinds.

Challenges can be good writing motivators. Block breakers. Or attic clearing devices. Challenges can help move stories through or get something out of the way or spark an idea you didn't know you had. I know they're not for everyone - but they can also be just plain fun.

Try TerribleMinds. Or check out WritersWeekly for their next 24-Hour Short Story (they just had one, so the next is probably winter). NaNoWriMo (write a 50k+ novel in 30 days) or NaPoWriMo (write a poem a day for 30 days). And more.

Know of other writing challenges online? In print? Do share *smile*.

Find a challenge which inspires you and give it a try.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Harper Voyager accepting manuscripts

Harper Voyager Guidelines for Digital Submission
 Accepting Manuscripts
from October 1st – October 14th, 2012!

Keen to become a Harper Voyager author? Here’s your chance to join the imprint that publishes some of the biggest names in fantastic fiction—George R. R. Martin, Kim Harrison, Raymond E. Feist, Robin Hobb, Richard Kadrey, Sara Douglass, Peter V. Brett and Kylie Chan—to name but a few.

For the first time in over a decade, Harper Voyager are opening the doors to unsolicited submissions in order to seek new authors with fresh voices, strong storytelling abilities, original ideas and compelling storylines. So, if you believe your manuscript has these qualities, then we want to read it!

We’re seeking all kinds of adult and young adult speculative fiction for digital publication, but particularly epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, dystopia and supernatural. For more idea of the type of books we love to read and publish, check out our authors and their titles at
Submissions for digital originals will be open for a limited two-week period from 1st to the 14th of October, 2012.

More information on their website.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Razor's Edge for 9/14/12

Today's prompt starts with a video of a Contact Improvisation dance. Watch and listen to the dance and then read the prompt below the video.

And, go!

Prompt: Think about the people you've been closest to in your life. Make a list of the top five to seven. Look at the list and let an event come to mind with each of them. Which event feels strongest or evokes the most vivid images? Choose that one.

Tell me about this person. Start with the image which came first to mind and write. Write for 10 minutes.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Who Are You, more

I've been thinking about the post earlier this week and I still stand by it. But I've also been thinking about it more.

One question raised is how to know when it's a being true to oneself change or if it's a not-in-the-writer's-best-interest change being considered? I didn't mean that change is bad. That we shouldn't work to improve and strengthen our skills and our persona and so on.

If that is our truth. Who we are and what we want to do.

And mimicking our writing heroes isn't bad or wrong, but we have to hold our own voice, too.

It's good to experiment.

It's good to try out, to learn, new skills. Because in that process we may find another part of ourselves we didn't know was there. We may discover that we're good at this other genre or style or maybe poetry when we thought we couldn't do it.

The key is to stay mindful of what we're doing and how it feels. To know first what we want and our intention and then check if the action fits with that vision.

This leaf, which I call my Autumn Ambassador, appeared on a walk recently; alone on the sidewalk, bright, calling. The rich colors surrounding the heart of green, wearing it's bloodlines - the veins - boldly and proudly. It is unique and yet it shares characteristics with other leaves from its home tree.

We are each unique and at the same time a part of the whole. Know your voice and be mindful of and true to your writer-self.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Radical Writing Advice: Who Are You?

There is much advice floating about for writers. So many conflicting viewpoints about the best way to publish, to write, to edit, to create your platform. To do just about anything related to authors and their work.

I'm not calling anyone out or setting up a gripe session about what is right or wrong. No, that's not what I do. Or try not to do.

I know there are confident people in all professions who have no doubts about who they are and what they want to be. Be now or when they grow up. They know this is the path to follow and some are sure that others should follow in their footprints. And they may be right. Or are right, for themselves and for others. And certainly we want to learn from those who have succeeded in what we want to do. Writing is no different in that way.

When I'm talking about writing, I mean all writers and authors, playwrights, poets, novelists, memoirists, and so on. I certainly have a pile, or several piles, of books about writing, on writing, on how to write, for writers and by writers. And many of them are very good. Lots of advice.

So, with all this advice, with people whom we admire suggesting different and sometimes opposing ideas. Sometimes, there might be a little confusion. Sometimes, while we might strive to be like a famous author or editor or blogger or comedian, we might also lose sight of ourselves. Maybe that's okay. No, what I mean is, that's okay if that's what you want to do.

I've been struggling in trying to follow the path of the "famous" or at least well-known in big-time writers and local writers, too. I've been looking at those who seem to know what to do, or at least that's the persona or the platform they've built and it seems to work for them.

But in this process of following advice, I've discovered that I've lost a bit of me. Have you done that, too? Maybe you haven't and that's awesome. Truly. But I have.

I appreciate the hard work and wise words of writers who are living that dream. Who are writing successfully and telling us how they did it. For the pioneers in social networking and blogging and platform building who give us advice. All worthy and to be noted. Yes.

And I appreciate that we are individuals and have our own ways.

What I'm proposing is that we look at who we are and decide how much of that we are willing to let go of in order to be like that writer we admire. Why are we letting go of that thing we do which is a little off the beaten track? Should we? And can we? What is the cost in the long term of undoing a part of who we are?

I'm not saying that sometimes it's not a good idea to alter or improve or put away a piece of us - if that thing is not working. If it's habit and not our truth. If it's not in our best interest and doesn't bring us abundance and joy and a sense of our place in the world.

This is sticky stuff to wade through.

But in the end, as writers, isn't it our voice we're promoting? Isn't it our words and our way of storytelling we're using to promote our craft, our characters, our novels?

So, back to the example of me: if I try to keep my blog "professional" and clean up what I'm saying - or only write things directly (read : blatantly) related to writing - then I'm leaving out where I came from on my blog. I'm leaving out important information about my writing process, which may or may not be relevant to other writers.

I feel like I'm talking in circles here a bit. But I also think this is important.

For some writers, having that platform *is* who they are. They want an angle, a perspective or genre with a slant to be known for; and that's good. Some writers want to be known for their author persona and that's good. I'm not saying it's not okay. But I am saying that we first have to know who we are and how we want to be known. Then seek out the advice and footsteps of those who fit our style.

Just like some people seem to be naturally born sales reps, some of us aren't. Some people are born with the ability to be a chameleon and morph to fit the current trends, some of us have a hard time masking who we are. And there are all of the in-betweens, of course.

I think what's important is to know who you are as a writer. What parts of you fit with that? What do you want to improve or lose or enhance? Then do that. I am not Denise Mina nor do I write like her. I am not Natalie Goldberg and don't strive to be her, though especially some of her earlier writing books were inspirational. Even my mentor and the excellent writer and faciliator and teacher, Ariel Gore - I am not her nor can I be.

Find what is true for you. Follow that.

That's what I'm hoping to do. And I'll start right here. I love doing the Razor's Edge prompts on Fridays and the Radical Writng Advice early in the week and will continue to do so. But I also miss writing about adventures and found prompts and walks and even the mundane at times. These all inform my stories.

Find you and write with her. Look inside and ask what your heart wants you to do; then do that.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Razor's Edge : Water Movement

Water is important; we all know that. But this week water has been a particularly commanding presence in my life. It started with the discovery of a soaked bathroom rug in the middle of the night, which led to shutting off water to the entire house, and calling a plumber.

All this on the day the Literary Kitchen started another round of Wayward Writers. And we had a date with the youngest member of our family to go to the Pirate Festival. Oh! And Pirates = water. Yet another connection.

The plumber came and went last Saturday and we had a new cold water connection, a new sink drain, and were told we needed to call our insurance. Which we did. And we waited.

For returned calls.

Which came. With anxiety producing predictions of the process. With threats that the potential damage may not be covered. With trying to schedule visits from a disaster recovery contractor and an insurance adjuster and then another visit from the contractor's office. With more promised appointments and visits to be made, with the potential of another team of workers if the samples taken today turn out to contain asbestos or lead paint (our house is over 100 years old; the chances are good).

All this while trying to work. To write a story. To prepare to interpret a wedding on Saturday. To rearrange the interpreter line-up for PCS because one person had to back out for the season.

This momentum, this movement in a new direction while holding our own in the stream of our lives, started with a burst water pipe under the sink and behind a drawer.

Stepping on a soaking wet mat on the way to the toilet in the middle of the night.

Water. Important. And powerful.

So, for you, today's prompt is water related.

This is a relaxing and attractive video of a river. Turn it up so you can hear the water. When you feel yourself letting go a little, feel the edge of tautness slipping away, read the prompt and write.

Or, read the prompt first and then turn on the video. It's 10 minutes in length; the amount of time I'd like you to write.


I looked into her eyes and knew ....


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Radical Writing Advice: hello?

I started a piece for this week. I like the topic. I want to write about it.

And we had one of those homeowner emergencies over the weekend. The process to deal with it is still continuing, so I'm letting this week's full post go.

I will return next week. But for now I'm cutting back on a few things to decrease my stress level right now.

It's been an interesting week, with great news on two fronts (interpreting and writing) and then the not so good news of a broken water pipe at home. The fall session of Ariel Gore's Literary Kitchen started this week. I was accepted into an in-person writing group. And more. Ups and downs, but holding it together.

So, this week no advice.

I will be back next week for sure. I have it partially written, but the situation at home has taken many hours in what was already a very full schedule.

See you next week! No, see you on Friday for the Razor's Edge prompt. That I will do in the late afternoon.