I’ve been working away on the novel this weekend, writing, but also organizing all the stuff I’ve accumulated over the past few years while I’ve been working on the manuscript off and on. There’s a good reason to work every day on a book until it’s done. Reacquainting yourself with the pieces of a big story, the lists and notes you’ve made, the hearts of those people you call characters, all that is time you could have been writing if you’d just stayed with it, stayed in your chair as Ron Carlson says. Do as I say—and Ron Carlson says—not as I do, if you can. Continue Reading »
This series is a little out of order, but this is about small changes that equal big impact.
January is often the month we draw the line in the sand. In years past it’s been about looking better in a bathing suit, but now, at 56, that line is more about avoiding diabetes, getting rid of high blood pressure and HBP meds, and sidestepping disability. I want to feel good and keep on feeling good. Of course, I’d still like to look nice in pretty clothes, see my neck again, and go sleeveless, but that will be the metaphorical gravy. Right now it’s about giving up gravy, getting off medicines, and showing my gratitude that I still get around pretty well, still breath pretty well, still see pretty well with my glasses on, and hear well enough to participate in a conversation, although the TV volume is loud and sometimes my husband and I have two conversations at once. Of cousre we don’t know it’s two different converasations at the time. Continue Reading »
Well, the Gorilla is back and we’re dancing! My two weeks off turned into a much longer break. But the urge to blog is back, and just in time to talk about summer homeschooling for the fiction writer. Someone once said that a writer has homework every day of his (or her) life. So, how do you study? Who do you study?
This summer I’m going to study the short story. Even though I’m working on a novel, I believe the short story, like poetry, has a lot to teach the novelist about attention and compression as a formula for tension at the local level, the level of sentence and paragraph,the level of the very words you choose or don’t choose.
To explore this relationship of language and pressure, I’m going to reread and reread several story collections published not so very long ago and a couple that have been around a bit longer. I’ll read straight through some and dip down into others. The key is a regular diet of short intense stories I wish I’d written:
Heads up people in Knoxville and Nashville. Poet, essayist, and now memoirist, Jim Minick, author of THE BLUEBERRY YEARS: A MEMOIR OF FARM AND FAMILY, is coming your way. Jim will be reading at Davis Kidd in Nashville’s Green Hills on Friday at 3:00 PM and at Carpe Librum in Knoxville on Saturday at 2:00 PM. Ron Rash eloquently states on the cover, “There is so much to praise in this beautifully written memoir, but what I admire most is Jim Minick’s utter lack of self-righteousness. In these pages we are given a wisdom that has, at its center, a quiet and abiding humility. What a fine, fine book THE BLUEBERRY YEARS is.” I second Ron Rash. Don’t miss a good reading from a great book! Mark your calendars. That’s:
Davis Kidd, Nashville, Friday, September 17 at 3:00 PM.
Carpe Librum, Knoxville, Saturday, September 18 at 2:00 PM.
Time to get back into the swing of things for fall. And time to get back to Five and Ten. I’ll be teaching creative nonfiction at Lincoln Memorial University this coming spring. My good buddy Jim Minick, who teaches at Radford University, sent me a list of fine books on writing creative nonfiction. I’ll share with you.
Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach, Story Press, 1998.
Creating Nonfiction by Becky Bradway and Doug Hesse, Bedford/St. Martins, 2009.
In Fact: Best of Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gukinds, WW Norton & Co., 2004.
Writing True by Sondra Perl and Mimi Schwartz, Wadsworth Publishing, 2006.
Tell it Slant by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola, McGraw-Hill, 2004.
Keep it Real: Everything You Need to Know about Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction, by Lee Gutkind, reprint edition, WW Norton & Co., 2009.
Best American Essays, edited by Robert Atwan, Houghton Mifflin Co., 2000.
Thanks, Jim. Don’t eat too much on book tour!!!
Hope to see you at Dancing with the Gorilla! Check out Tuesday’s first all time on DWTG guest blog by Jim Minick!
Today’s list comes from Tomi Wiley, current president of the Tennessee Writers Alliance and editor and publisher of TWA’s quarterly newsletter. Tomi is also a newspaper editor and journalist, writing for two newspapers: Wilson Living magazine and www.countrymusicpride.com. And I’m excited to say Tomi is expanding one of her published short stories into a novel to be published by Canonbridge in mid-2011.
If you think that makes Tomi sounds busy enough, well there’s more. She is also a freelance editor and writing coach, and writes the blog Media, Motherhood & Mayhem, which you’ll find at http://twiley3ms.blogspot.com.
Tomi is a single mother of a brilliant four-year-old boy who is learning to read, which means she can no longer S-P-E-L-L what she doesn’t want him to know about.
When does this woman find time to read? I don’t know. But she does. Tomi is a force of nature. And here’s her beautifully eclectic list of ten recommended reads:
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Witching Hour by Anne Rice
The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates
On Writing by Stephen King
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Packing Light by Marilyn Kallet
As a former TWA board member and a presenter at this year’s TWA WordFest at Cumberland University in Lebanon, TN on June 19th, I’m including a message from Tomi about WordFest with info about how you can participate.
I don’t know about you, but I am super excited about WordFest ’10, which is coming up June 19 – in just a few weeks! If you haven’t sent in your registration yet you have until June 1 to get the early discount. For your convenience, the registration for is on the TWA website at www.tn-writers.org. Visit this site for the downloadable form and more information.
Pleaes note the reception has been relocated to the Cumberland campus, which will be convenient and lovely. We look forward to some great workshops and networking opportunities, so send in your form soon and tell your friends! If you have any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to email me.
Also, the deadline for submissions to the summer 2010 edition of The Tennessee Writer is July 1. Please email me with your article ideas or suggestions, and if you’d like to review a book please let me know. Feel free to send in photos (as high res JPEG attachments) of your corner of Tennessee or something pertaining to your writing. Again, feel free to contact me with questions, comments or suggestions.
If anyone would like to contact Tomi about her writing, editing, TWA, The Tennessee Writer, or WordFest ‘10, Tomi’s email address is TnWriterEditor@gmail.com.
Lastly, it’s Memoiral Day Weekend. I hope you have a great one. While you are busy at a cookout, or swimming at the lake, or taking a trip on this long weekend to visit family or see the some natural wonder, remember that this holiday was instituted to honor our veterans. Please give these brave men and women a though and thanks in the midst of this busy weekend.
Change is always a shock at first. But change almost always brings opportunity. When we recognize that sizzle and spark of new energy, amazing things can happen.
Some of you know I’ve been on the Duke Writers Workshop faculty since the early 90s. I loved that workshop, it’s spirit, and the gifted teachers, students, and staff with whom I’ve had the good fortune to work. This year Duke University Contintuing Studies Program has decided to focus on professional certificate programs and cut it’s creative writing program. So there will not be a Duke Writers Workshop this fall. BUT NEVER FEAR! Our leader, long-time director Georgann Eubanks, has rallied and we are reinventing this workshop as TABLE ROCK WRITERS WORKSHOP, named for the striking geographical feature visible from Wildacres, the workshop’s retreat center home perched at the top of a mountain in the North Carolina highlands near Little Switzerland.
We’ll have the same great leadership, the same dynamic faculty, and lots of new energy sizzling around our new name and our rededication to making this workshop an outstanding week-long event that includes both nurture and challange for its participants. For more on this workshop, please read Georgann’s blog post at: http://tablerockwriters.wordpress.com/
That’s just one product of this new energy. We now have a blog!
Assignment: Look around for learning opportunities in the area of creative writing. Every writer needs to invest in his or her craft. Workshops are a great way for unpublished and published writers alike to push themselves to new levels of work. Do your reseaerch and come up with three writers workshops, festivals, or writing events that you’d like to participate in over the next two years. Then, make it happen.
I’m busy at work today cleaning and sorting and trying not to lose any ground with my anti-clutter campaign, which I began at the first of the year. I’ve just gone through the house dusting and tossing and putting things in their proper place. I’m referring here to areas I’ve already purged several times. I still have not cleaned off the top of the refrigerator or the upright freezer. I’m short. The tops of those appliances don’t bother me–if I don’t think about them or don’t need something that’s artfully stacked on top of them. After writing this post I’ll enter into the Twilght Zone, a.k.a my office, and see what’s hiding in there.
Sorting and purging can uncover things you love that you’ve forgotten about—out of sight, out of mind. The act of sorting and purging can also inspire. Ideas may begin to germinate as you find notes and articles you’ve forgotten about, books covered with dust. Maybe you made notes on a good idea and they are buried in the hurry and rush of everyday living and stacking, or maybe notes were tucked into the pages of a book you were reading at the time. Sometimes our best future emerges out of our rediscovered past. Continue Reading »
Today’s Five and Ten list comes from one of my favorite poets and a great friend, Michael Chitwood. Raised in Patrick County, Virginia, we hail from close the same stomping grounds, and met when we both lived in Chapel Hill, NC, where he and his family still reside. Chitwood received his BA from Emory and Henry and an MFA from University of Virginia, and claims George Wright as a major influence.
When I read Chitwood’s poetry, I hear the familiar sound, the intelligence, and the music of rural Virginia. Like novelist Larry Brown, Chitwood doesn’t not trade on stereotypes, but writes with respect about the lives of the working class. More recently his work has been more personal, as in my favorite of his collections, From Whence (LSU, 2007). His other collections include: Salt Works (1992), Whet (1995), The Weave Room (1998), Gospel Road Going (2002), and Spill (2007). He also has written two collections of essays: Hitting Below the Bible Belt (1998) and Finishing Touches (2006) Continue Reading »
As an award-winning poet, I never feel I know enough about poetry. I’m always trying to learn more, get a better purchase, push myself to new territory, try forms I’ve never tried before, or return to poetic forms to try again when success in that form has eluded me. I turn to other poets for their insights on poetry as well as the excellent modeling in their poems. Here are just three poets (in alphabetical order) whose commentary on poetry has directed my learning, spurred my deeper engagement with this genre, and urged me to consider poetry’s place in my work and in contemporary culture. Continue Reading »
Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions by Maurice Manning (Yale University Press, 2001) – These fine and wild poems took my breath away. I have a soft spot for first books anyway, but this remains my favorite Manning collection.
Love Song with Motor Vehicles by Alan Michael Parker (BOA Editions, 2003) – Alan’s grace with language, his smart and sensitive humor, his generosity (balanced with a gentle melancholy) and the risks he takes with these poems will make you want to carry this with you always.
Cooling Board: a Long Playing Poem by Mitchell L.H. Douglas (Red Hen Press, 2009) – Donnie Hathaway as you’ve never heard him and a collection of poems presented as a concept album, as Hathaway’s story, like all, has two sides. With alternate takes, guest vocals and a deeply spiritual understanding of the necessity and impact of music on the soul, Douglas singlehandedly reinvented rock & roll poetry with this volume. Continue Reading »