Tag Archives: essay

A pie chart just for the holidays….

pie chart

Percent of responses from an unofficial survey of unbiased dessert lovers…..

Now I love traditional pound cake as much as anybody, but for my last meal on this earth, it would have to be my beloved Grandma Wilma’s apple pie.

As a sweet treat to myself, this month I’ve been taking a Women on Writing online class, Humor Writing with Chelsey Clammer, and loving it. Among many other things, she’s inspired me to think of traditional graphs and charts in a new, twisted way. 🙂

At this point, I’m not smart enough to tackle anything more than a basic chart, but I’m hoping there’s a flowchart or a Venn diagram in my future….

 

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Confessions of a Cake Crumbler

Ccake.jpgOURT TRANSCRIPT: STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, RANDOLPH COUNTY. FILED 12 DEC 2018.

JUDGE: The defendant is charged with consuming half of a coconut vanilla pound cake within just two days of its baking. For the record, this charge has been reduced from a felony to a second-class misdemeanor. Ms. Memory, how do you plead?

ME (hangs head): Guilty.

JUDGE (bangs gavel): Duly recorded. I understand that you’ve conferred with your attorney and before sentencing, you wish to make a statement to the court.

ME: Thank you, your honor. I do. (Stands up and faces the judge.) While I’m certainly willing to take my share of the blame, at this time I would like to name my accomplice.

milk.jpg

Bored? Write about it….

snow.jpgAs we recover from the early December snowfall, trapped at home due to icy roads, it’s easy to feel bored.

There are only so many ways you can reorganize your pantry and entertain house-bound dogs, and yes, even watching movies gets old pretty quickly. And reading, while always stimulating, feels self-indulgent to me after days on end.

I need to be writing! New material, not just editing. As good as it feels to whittle and sculpt, there’s no substitute to the high you get by rolling out new pearls. So, on to new stuff….

When writing creative nonfiction, it’s easy to be intimidated by all the great prose out there. I recently read essays by a woman visited by the ghost of her mother, an environmentalist who protests exploitation of sea life by robbing coastal souvenir shops with his father, and a piece by George Orwell about a wild elephant on the rampage in Burma. Do you ever feel that your own experience, while certainly special to you, seems inferior when stacked up against that of others?

Don’t! Just because you haven’t survived a harrowing incident recently, been the victim of a crime (thank goodness), or saved a baby from drowning, you still have an extraordinary life, and I promise, you can find something inspirational to write about.

And on that subject, one of my favorite prompts came from a Women on Writing  newsletter. It goes like this: “Take a small, boring moment that happened and write as much as you can about it. Go overboard describing it, and make this boring moment exciting by describing it in intense detail with ecstatic prose.”

So while we all might not have an earth-shattering event at our fingertips, we all do have a seemingly boring incident to write about AND possibly elevate. You just have to be creative about it. Such an assignment might also be fun — at the very least, it’s certainly good practice to flex those creative muscles and push yourself in this way.

Humm…reorganizing my pantry is suddenly exciting again. And didn’t one of the dogs do something silly this afternoon on a walk through the neighborhood….

 

 

 

Treat your writing like fine cheese….

gruyere

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the best Gruyère cheese–the one earning the lofty “AOP” designation in Switzerland–merges both morning and evening milk.

The poet in me likes to think this means both the cow’s morning cheerfulness and her late afternoon pensiveness swirl into the same vat. It’s more likely that mixing last night’s milk into the morning batch gives a head start to the culturing process. The cheese is then aged five months up to a year, another step which lends Gruyère its trademark complexity–sweet, salty, and nutty.

William Trevor, one of my literary idols, was famous for penning a short story and putting it away for as much as six months before re-reading and revising. Now that takes discipline! It’s also a testament to his productivity. I’m sure he had so many pieces in various stages of production that it never bothered him to shelve something for a time.

Jane Austen is another writer known for her reflection. Pride and Prejudice took many years to write. And this delightful novel started out with the title of “First Impressions.” It was only after months of revision and consideration did she settle on the final name of the book that we all know and love so much today.

Both Trevor and Austen, although very different writers, made a name for themselves through complex characters and subtle humor, two elements that can only flourish with adequate rumination and revision.

The next time you finish a story, poem, or essay, try putting it away for a little while. At least give it a good night’s sleep. Fan those first flames of enthusiasm (morning milk) with a healthy dose of maturation (evening milk). I bet you’ll end up with a final product as nuanced and delicious as Gruyère! Bon AppĂ©tit!

Chicken Little’s rules for submission

chickenLiving in the country makes it easy to channel my inner chicken on the tricky topic of submission.

The sky is not falling. Worried? Don’t be. The world needs to hear from you, and you need to send your work out. The pluses of submission–meeting new people, discovering new markets, and growing as a writer–far outweigh the minuses. So do it. But do it thoughtfully.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Ninety-nine percent of all publications allow it, so do submit simultaneously (i.e., submit the same story to multiple places at the same time). Just be sure to inform the editors you haven’t heard from as soon as possible if it’s accepted somewhere. Recently, one of my short stories was selected by two publications, but as it turns out, one will print a longer version and the other will happily print the flash version. Another e-zine didn’t publish that particular story but kindly awarded me a $20 Amazon gift card for placing in their contest. One story gets traction in three ways.

Stuff as many eggs in that basket as you can. Don’t send one egg into the world without having at least ten in your basket. Make sure you have several pieces circulating in the world and several in varying stages of completion. How to build your basket? Branch an idea in multiple ways—turn a poem into a short story. Later, write a nonfiction essay about the same experience. Be a triple threat. 🙂

Ask a fellow chicken for help. When seeking new outlets, yes, do your research. But don’t hesitate to ask for help from a fellow writer. They are some of my best sources when it comes to finding new markets. I actually won a “submission consultation” from Chelsey Clammer, a respected writer and editor through Women on Writing and her excellent advice led to the acceptance of two stories in the July 2018 issue of The Birds We Piled Loosely.

The sky is not falling, again. Don’t despair. Ever. Period. Whatever happens, whether you’re accepted or rejected, return to the work that nurtures your spirit. Because this is what makes you happy.

We’ll talk more about submission in the workshops I’ll be leading this fall, so if you’re interested, sign up! In fact, the second-place winner in this year’s Carolina Woman Writing Contest, Anne Kissel, had this to say: “You mentioned the Carolina Woman contest in your class and that helped me take the plunge. Everyone in the fine tribe of CCCC writing folk has been so encouraging to newbies like me. ‘Agora’ — the winning story — was something I worked on in a couple of the classes.”

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 inspiration, 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.

 

 

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way….

to my mammogram! The surreal experience happened a couple of years ago, and eventually I wrote a humorous narrative essay (“I Know What She’s Thinking”) that was just named a Runner-Up in the WOW (Women on Writing) Quarterly Creative Nonfiction Contest.

If you can tell a story, consider penning a nonfiction piece. There are so many types, from narrative (like mine) to description (a piece describing your favorite beach house, for example) to one intended to argue and persuade (Swift’s Modest Proposal, for one). And the market is better than ever. Publications, print or online, yearn for your stories and unique spin on topics both familiar and unfamiliar. In fact, Carolina Country just accepted my husband Johnpaul’s “I Remember” submission for later this year.

Interested? For starters, read some of the other winners in the WOW contest. They will stoke your imagination, particularly “Let’s Kill Your Grandfather Together” by First Prize Winner Adriana Páramo. It simply held me spellbound, both the power of the language and the empathy of the narrator. I can’t quit thinking about it. Needless to say, I’m just honored to have my little piece among the final ten.

As a next step, consider joining the WOW community. The website is regularly named a top site by Writer’s Digest. I signed up for the free newsletter several years ago at the recommendation of a writer friend. And I’m so glad I did. The articles, blog, prompts, and classes offered have been incredibly inspiring, and recently led to an Honorable Mention in the Summer 2017 Flash Fiction Contest for my story “Party Etiquette for Insects Recently Transformed Into People.”

In the words of the ancient Chinese writer Lu Chi (250 A.D.): “The pleasure a writer knows is the pleasure all sages enjoy.  Out of non-being, being is born; out of silence, the writer produces a song.” May the world hear yours!