What makes a successful writer?

flowers.jpgIn this particular order….

1- Love of language

2 – Internal burning desire to write, write, write….no matter what’s going on in their lives

3 – Abiding curiosity (obsession!) for the human experience

4 – Significant body of work to draw from so there’s always something in circulation — plenty of pieces to submit and re-submit when the times are tough.

What do you think? Am I missing something? It’s entirely possible!

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Flash fiction takes a direct shot

“Going at such a pace as I do, I must make the most direct shots at my object…no more pause than is needed to put my pen in the ink.” ~ Virginia Woolfclassroomshot

The above quote, shared at my Central Carolina Community College workshop last Saturday, does more than express the intensity of flash fiction; it also illustrates how quickly the time passed!

Our Flash Fiction Bootcamp II did indeed end far too quickly! In fact, we were still writing when the security guard at Central Carolina Community College came around and politely tapped her watch. But me and the seven devotees (eight if you count my trusty assistant, husband Johnpaul) of creative writing could have kept writing for hours….

We opened with an inspirational reading of Liz Wride’s terrific flash, Painted, published April 11 on Milk Candy Review.  For our first prompt, we riffed on her evocative first line (“They passed a law that everyone had to…..”) as a spark for our own stories. The results were both pithy and magical, ranging from “be kind to each other” or “own a Komodo dragon.” So much fun! Thank you Liz!

Other prompts included writing a flash from a favorite pet’s point of view and taking a cue from the Twilight Zone. One of our students shared a link to the opening narration so you can try this prompt on your own. We also played around with the French technique known as “N + 7″ which involves writing a couple of sentences and substituting nouns with every seventh you find in the dictionary after the original. This mode is particularly helpful when you find yourself stuck in a rut on a story. A new world can be just one word away.

The comments I received were far more than I deserved but very welcome, and the students kindly gave permission for their inclusion on this blog. “This was my first writing class,” said Mary T. “The encouragement received from Ashley was priceless and spurred me to write even more.”

“Ashley Memory is a great teacher – positive, affirming, inspiring. Love the quotes, writing tips, book recommendations.” Jeannie D’Aurora

And from Anne K., a veteran of the program, who is working toward her certificate in Creative Writing, a unique offering of the college:  “Ashley’s classes always provide a terrific combination of practical information, positive encouragement and hands-on experiences. She is both a talented teacher and writer and students get the benefit of both in her classes.”

As a departure from the norm, for my next CCCC workshop, we’ll tackle a cousin of flash fiction. On Saturday, September 21, 2019 at 9 a.m., we’ll explore the exciting world of flash essays. We’ll also talk about ways to expand short memoir-style pieces into longer formats, taking cues from Susan Shapiro’s The Byline Bible.

Hope to see you in September, but in the meantime keep writing and delighting!

 

“Pfull” House at Pfeiffer and WOW!

phoenix2Last night I had the pleasure of reading my poem “I Like My Bagel Toasted” at the special launch celebration of The Phoenix at Pfeiffer University, and it was a blast. First off, it’s a rarity to see more than 20 people at a literary event but at this wonderful occasion, there was at least 100–a “pfull” house by anybody’s standards! And anytime I get to see my friend Ruth Moose (and Pfeiffer alumna!) is always a special occasion.

Wonderful food, a great mixture of art (poems, stories, essays and photography!) and fabulous music made for an entertaining evening. The editors, staff, and advisors did a terrific job of making all attendees and authors feel appreciated.

bagelHats off to the editors who read and considered the nearly 1,000 submissions they received for this issue! My “bagel” and I were indeed lucky to be included. It’s taken a lot of courage to write about my multiple sclerosis so this has been a big step for me.

All in all, the day itself couldn’t have been more perfect. The weather alone was magnificent, sunny and dry with a gentle breeze. Amazing. And not only did my little bare-rooted Mara des Bois strawberry plants arrive from the nursery, I found out I won first place in the WOW Q2 Essay Contest for “How to Chop an Onion Without Crying.”

Isn’t it funny how life turns out? We writers work so hard, day in, day out, and the rewards are mostly internal–the joy you get from finding just the right word, putting your words to paper and sharing what you write with family and friends. But once in a while, the world surprises you with a little recognition and how sweet it is!

Wishing you strawberries, onions, bagels (and more) as you plow ahead and make your own writing dreams come true.

 

Celebrating Poetry Month with a Bagel!

phoenixHow are you celebrating National Poetry Month? Right now I’m pondering poetic connections between the wet red mud and fledgling grass seed outside my window….and tonight I’ll be reading my poem “I Like My Bagel Toasted” at Pfeiffer University.

I’m honored to join other writers as we help launch the 60th issue of The Phoenix, Pfeiffer’s esteemed literary magazine.

What’s so cool is that the festivities will be livestreamed on Pfeiffer’s YouTube channel starting at 7 p.m. EST. So if you can’t make it, you can watch it from the comfort of your own home.

Is there a connection between grass seed and caraway seeds on a bagel? Maybe…..:)

Flash Fiction Bootcamp II Coming Soon!

IMG_20190402_121354815_HDRIt’s snowing in the Uwharries today, on the second day of April no less! Big sloppy flakes drifting down like tiny snow angels. Or, according to my husband, who sees “Dick Tracy snowflakes with big black lines around them.”

 

Whatever you see, these little bits of wintry precipitation (mixed with sleet) are a bit of a surprise this spring. They’re coating the surface of our bamboo like a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.  No yard work today after all. Instead, I’m dreaming ahead to Saturday, April 13, when I’ll lead round 2 of our Flash Fiction Bootcamp at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro.

I’m especially excited about this class because we’ll have a special guest! My son Dashiel, named for a writer himself (minus one “l” in the name) will be visiting from New York and sitting at the table with us. It will be fun to see what stories he conjures up, based on the singular experience of living in the “Big City.”

Our prompts this time will be brand new and guaranteed to fire your imagination. From writing from a dog’s (or cat, to be fair) point of view to using the innovative N + 7 French method of writing a couple of sentences and replacing every noun with the seventh in a dictionary, these story starters may just be the creative nudge you need for that latent story swimming around in your head. And as usual, I’ll also share a collection of my favorite litmags and contests so that those who wish to revise and see their work in print may pursue these avenues on their own.

For more information, and how to register, see below. In the meantime, cuddle up with a mug of hot chocolate, a good book, and a notebook of your own…..

Saturday, April 13 from 9.a.m – 3 p.m. – Flash Fiction Bootcamp II Workshop. Think you don’t have time to write? Anybody has time for flash fiction, and by the end of this workshop, you’ll have five finished stories. (This workshop is a continuation of the popular Flash Fiction Bootcamp I) but is open to new as well as returning students and features entirely new prompts and readings. Atten-hut! Central Carolina Community College Creative Writing Program in Pittsboro, N.C. Register here. or by calling (919) 545-8044.

 

Self-Portrait of a stunt woman

vivienWhat do you do when you find out you’ve got a little bit of Hollywood in the family? You write a poem about it!

By the picture you might think I’m suggesting I’m related to the talented and beautiful Vivien Leigh…..well, not quite! Through my beloved late grandmother, Wilma Dare Hash Thomas, I’m a distant cousin of Addie Hash Warp, the woman who doubled for Vivien Leigh in that famous staircase tumble in Gone with the Wind.

Unfortunately, I never met Addie (who passed away in 2008) but she was a renowned equestrienne who also doubled for Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet, among other movie roles. In Addie’s own words, “I was black and blue for a while. But I knew how to fall.”

In honor of Addie (and of course Vivien), I wrote a poem “Self-Portrait of Stunt Double for Vivien Leigh Falling Down the Stairs in Gone with the Wind” that appears in Turnpike Magazine, Issue No. 4.   Here I focus on the jitters I imagine must face all stunt people, no matter how experienced they are, when faced with the daunting task of falling down a long staircase AND filling in for a star. Can you imagine? As for me, I’m a chicken who’s only been on a horse once in her life.

Turnpike also kindly published my poem “Ode to the Goddess of Missing Tools,” which is a comic tribute to my husband and all the tools that mysteriously slip through the cracks of our house. There’s a little bit of magic at work here, I’m sure.

The fun of a “self-portrait” style poem is that you can imagine yourself as anyone, famous or not, and write from their point of view. It’s a terrific form of escapism and creativity. So….if you’ve always been fascinated by someone and would like to walk (or fall!) in their shoes, give this prompt a try today.