Tag Archives: essay

Cat in a Wheelbarrow! Interview on the Muffin

cat in a wheelbarrowToday I’m honored to be interviewed on “The Muffin,” the daily blog of the award-winning Women on Writing site.

Here I discuss the inspiration behind my “onion” essay, my forthcoming poetry collection (“Waiting for the Wood Thrush”) from Finishing Line Press, and my favorite writing tip.

For more and to find out the story behind the picture of the cat in a wheelbarrow, read it here.

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Enhance your writing with cherries

cherries.jpgJust today I learned that my flash fiction “Aunt Zelia’s Untested Wild Cherry Love Potion” earned honorable mention in the Fall 2018 Women on Writing Quarterly Flash Fiction Contest!

In this tale of “love gone wrong-maybe gone right-with a little magic”  I tried my best to infuse the language with highly sensuous details. It helps that the story includes cherries, my favorite fruit.

When you want to enhance your own writing with lush details from all five senses, try to include references to things that already inspire you. And when you need to add emotional tension, draw from circumstances that stir up your own angst. It’s easy for me to write about young love because I remember those times so vividly and it’s cathartic (at least now!) to return to that highly charged state of passion and bewilderment.

It’s a little early for fruit, but my fledgling cherry trees are getting ready to unfurl new leaves, which hopefully bodes well for this year’s crop. As they fortify themselves, I’ve been planning an exciting lineup of new workshops this spring and summer. With offerings from poetry to flash essays, I’m hoping you’ll find something to stoke your own imagination. Each workshop is designed to help you cull sensory details from your own lives.

Friday, March 15 from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Jumpstart Your Poetic Imagination at The Joyful Jewel in downtown Pittsboro, N.C. You can find inspiration for poetry everywhere—from the news to artwork to your daily life and memory. We’ll study sample poems and then participate in fun exercises meant to spark your own imagination. Not only will you end up with three new poems of your own, you’ll leave with an inventory of ideas for future works. You may even pen a poem inspired by the stimulating art work on display in The Joyful Jewel and participate in the Visions and Voices Reading on April 14! To register, call The Joyful Jewel, 833-2775, 10:30am-5:30pm Monday through Saturday or Sunday 12pm-4pm. Cost: $50.

Saturday, April 13 from 9.a.m – 3 p.m. – Flash Fiction Bootcamp II. 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. Cost $50.

Friday, July 12 from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Flash Fiction Bootcamp I. The Joyful Jewel in downtown Pittsboro, N.C. Think you don’t have time to write? Anybody has time for flash fiction, and by the end of this abbreviated workshop, you’ll have at least two finished stories. Bring your favorite writing gear (notebook and pen/pencil or laptop) and get ready for new prompts, new inspiration, and instant feedback. Atten-hut! To register, call The Joyful Jewel, 833-2775, 10:30am-5:30pm Monday through Saturday or Sunday 12pm-4pm. Cost: $50.

Friday, July 26 from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Flash Creative Nonfiction and Essay. The Joyful Jewel in downtown Pittsboro, N.C. Interested in turning your life experiences into flash memoirs or short essays? Explore this exciting  new creative form that brings your experiences to life in a variety of dynamic formats. By the end of this workshop, you’ll have two finished short essays. To register, call The Joyful Jewel, 833-2775, 10:30am-5:30pm Monday through Saturday or Sunday 12pm-4pm. Cost: $50.

Keep checking my events page as I add to this list throughout the season with even more workshops. In the meantime, surround yourself with the things that inspire you the most. Life is short so go ahead and pluck that cherry off the top of your sundae!

 

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….

 

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 Appétit!

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.