Tag Archives: creative writing

Fiction and Celebrity Sightings at CCCC

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Dahlias, Courtesy of Ruth Moose

 

Yesterday, a group of fiction devotees met at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro to delve further into a favorite topic: flash!

We talked about revision and the necessity of tantalizing titles and edgy diction (special thanks to Arthur Plotnik, author of Spunk & Bite). Then we covered publication opportunities, including contests, which are great avenues for beginning fiction writers offering prize money…. plus publication!

And of course, back by popular demand, we made time for new writing sessions.

Drawing from a favorite prompt in The Practice of Poetry, edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell (“Aunt Dottie Catches the Hankerchief Tossed by Elvis from the Stage of the Sands in Vegas”), we imagined an interaction between a relative and a celebrity and wrote a story about it. From a beloved uncle meeting St. Peter in heaven to a girlfriend running into a famous rock star at Linens N’ Things while buying a toaster, our writers truly soared with this prompt.

So…next time you’re in line at Harris Teeter, and you think the woman in the big sunglasses behind you looks a little like Ann-Margret, don’t waste the moment asking for an autograph. Get out a pen and make notes for a flash fiction instead!

Many thanks to the attendees of all three flash fiction workshops this year (spring and fall). I hope you had as much fun as I did! And whatever you do, be sure and stay posted to this blog for news of future workshops on the exciting and evolving topic of flash fiction.

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Join us on Saturday for Flash Fiction II!

desk.jpgFlash fiction is an exciting field, and for writers, there’s always something new to discover and learn. Fresh from a wonderful journey through the literary heart of our nation — the haunt of Melville and Twain, to name a couple of famous authors — I’m bursting with inspiration and ready to share.

During our first flash fiction workshop this fall at Central Carolina Community College, we settled down with pens and like Herman Melville (whose writing den is recreated here) we wrote to our hearts’ content. And now, we’re ready to polish and prepare our work to share with the world.
If your schedule permits, I hope to see you this Saturday, October 13, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. in Pittsboro at Central Carolina Community College for Flash Fiction II: Revision and Submission for Publication. And I’ve got some great news! In preparing for the class, I discovered a long list of contests and publications seeking flash fiction — with deadlines by the end of the year!

I’m also sharing examples of cover letters from my own files that worked for me. In addition, I’ll  share my own blunders and “dont-do’s” that might save you from the kind of mistakes I made. I’d love to share these and more with you on Saturday, and as always, I welcome your own contributions.

Register today by calling at 919.545.8044 or through the CCCC website.

A Day of Flash Fiction ….

at Central Carolina Community College yesterday whizzed by so quickly that I couldn’t believe my eyes when the clock read 3:45….gulp!

sept22 class.jpgFrom a contemporary re-telling of a beloved fairy tale through text messages (yes!) to a memorandum from the Goddess of Chaos (hilarious!) and so much more, the contributions of all nine students simply took my breath away. And the emotions expressed struck every note on the xylophone, from laughter to tears.

What a good flash ought to do, according to Vanessa Gebbie, is to “catch you as you turn away, hold you, and when you’re finished reading, it should echo and resonate.” As the workshop leader, I can truly say that yesterday’s stories will remain with me for a very long time. It was truly an honor to be there.

We had planned to plow through six exercises but sadly, we ran out of time after the fifth. The good news is that everyone left with “homework,” so they can complete the final exercise on their own. And I’ll share it with you, just in case you want to give flash fiction a try. 🙂

Exercise 6. In the News. Choose an actual news headline and write a fictional story. (200-500 words). For example, “Chatham County Sheriff’s Office Uses Facebook to Catch Thief” or “Spring Hope Man Grows a Whopper of a Cantaloupe” (both are real examples from local news sources.)

Hint: To see how another writer probably did this, read “Local Woman Gets a Jolt,” a masterful short fiction by Jennifer Pieroni (published  in New Micro: Exceptionally Short Stories, edited by James Thomas and Robert Scotellaro).

Want more? It’s not too late! Join us on Saturday, October 13, for the next installment: Flash Fiction: Revision and Publication. Now that you’ve written your flashes, you’re ready to show them off! Bring a story of your own and learn how to revise, prepare and submit it for publication in online or print magazines, and how later to create a book-length collection and find publishers.

Flash Fiction – Two Days Away! Atten-hut!

army dog_editedWhat could be better after a catastrophic hurricane than a daylong immersion in creative writing? Not much! If you agree, join us on Saturday, Sept. 22 at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro for a madcap adventure into the exciting world of flash fiction.

Yes, it’s a bootcamp, but it’s also going to be fun! Get ready for new prompts, new inspiration, and instant feedback. We have six fabulous exercises planned, from “Wacky Word Play” to “Coffee, Tea or Me” – a fictional restaurant review. (This little dog’s tongue is hanging out just thinking about it.) All prompts are designed to stimulate your imagination and bring to life six original short fictions you’ve written yourself!

We have just a few slots left so if you haven’t signed up yet, don’t delay. Sign up here and see you on Saturday. Atten-hut!

 

Tantalize with a title

chekhov2We discussed first lines already, but we ought to back up a wee bit. Let’s talk about story titles.

When you finally finish that first draft of a story, don’t slap a thoughtless title on top. You’ve worked hard already, so why not invest just a little more time to hook your reader from the very beginning with a tantalizing title?

Take a look at the titles of the books featured in the picture to the left. Don’t they tempt you to at least open up the books?

As a former judge (I judged a high school literary contest for three years) and as a writing instructor, I have seen far too many stories saddled with ho-hum titles. Such as “The Table”, “The Painting” or “My Family.” While not offensive, these titles suffer from an extreme case of “run-of-the-mill-itis.” They could be the title for hundreds of similar stories. They don’t make the reader want to read them.

In contrast, take a look at some titles below, all from recent stories, most of which are available online.

“Howard’s Girl” ~ Jane Zingale, New Flash Fiction
“When Gorillas Sleep” ~ Frankie McMillan, New Flash Fiction
“Mr. Switzerland” ~ Marguerite Floyd, New Flash Fiction
“Sleepwalking in Texas” ~ Nicholas Cook, New Flash Fiction
“All the Sea in the Fish” ~ Rob Bockman, Tin House
“My Co-Worker’s Obituary Photograph” ~ Annie Hartnett, Tin House
“Christmas Alligator” ~ Reiser Perkins, Tin House

All of the above titles immediately drew me into the stories. They took me from the world of the general to the specific. Not surprisingly, the stories themselves did not disappoint. Below is a story title for the record books, one of the longest titles and most intriguing stories I’ve ever read.

“A Perimenopausal Jacqueline Kennedy, Two Years After the Assassination, Aboard the M/Y Christina, off Euboea, Bound for the Island of Alonnisos, Devastated by a Recent Earthquake, Drinks Her Fourth Bloody Mary with Mrs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr.”
~ Michael Martone, Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction

A snazzy title is even more important for poetry and flash fiction, which are defined by brevity. Every single word must pull its own weight….and then some. And an exciting title is as inspirational to the writer as it is to the reader. A writer who can write a tantalizing title will undoubtedly work harder on that story, don’t you think?

 

Wrapping up the Story a Day challenge

I did it! Foblack raspberryr each day of May, I drafted a story every morning. This means I ended up with 31 rough drafts, more than enough to see me through a summer and fall of solid writing.

It wasn’t as easy as picking black raspberries, but I’m so glad I did it.  Most of the stories are still rough drafts but I now have at least 10 viable starts to longer pieces. And yes, looking back, there’s a little bit of “chaff” that may never see the light of day. Uh, what was I thinking?

So how did I do it? In the beginning, I leaned heavily on writing prompts from other sources. One of my more finished pieces is based on a mythological story–a love triangle resolved through clever debate (Thank you, Fred White, author of The Daily Reader.). Another one is based on a prompt from Story A Day, Write a Letter (Thank you, Julie Duffy).  I also pulled out a few latent ideas of my own that I’d been hoarding. Many ideas, however, seemed to just spawn themselves, a freaky synthesis of my own experience and writing mind, if that makes sense. One idea ended up yielding two separate stories!

Having worked on longer pieces for so long, I was a little out of the habit of generating new ideas. So I found the discipline of this effort extremely useful. As they say, we first make our habits, and then our habits make us. Not surprisingly, the more you write, the more ideas you get.

I also managed to make a little jam (strawberry and early peach). And yes, as another reward, I’ll  be treating myself to William Trevor’s collection of last stories very soon. And for now, I’ll be revising, revising, revising….

 

 

Another evening of story-telling…

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I’m reading “The Dave Department” — my short flash about waiting for a call-back from a service tech who seems to always be at lunch. (Photo credit: Anne Anthony)

Last night was rich with literary delights: writer-reader connections, stories galore, and scintillating conversation all within the charming Scuppernong Books in downtown Greensboro.

It was the final official leg of the book tour for The Collection: Flash Fiction for Flash Memory. I read two stories and we heard from six other authors, including our dynamic co-editor Anne Anthony. Each one of us had the opportunity to speak about what inspired our stories, which made the event particularly interesting. Want your own copy?  Order it here.

Interested in learning more about the exciting form of flash fiction? Sign up for one of two daylong workshops I’m leading this fall at Central Carolina Community College.

September 22, 2018: Flash Fiction Bootcamp. Think you don’t have time to write? Anybody has time for flash fiction, and by the end of this class, you’ll have five finished pieces. Bring your favorite writing gear (notebook and pen/pencil or laptop) and get ready for some prompts, new inspirations, and instant feedback. Atten-hut!

October 13, 2018: Flash Fiction: Revision and Publication. Now that you’ve written your first flash fictions, you’re ready to show them off! Bring a story of your own and learn how to revise, prepare and submit it for publication in online or print magazines, and how later to create a book-length collection and find publishers.

We’ll talk more about craft elements soon, such as the importance of a title…..