Tag Archives: golden Delicious

Bring on the Drama, Mama!

I don’t keep up with the news as much as I should but occasionally a little sound bite from the living room, where my husband watches TV, invades my study. The snippet “Less Drama, More Mama” recently made its way into my head, and as rhymes do, it lodged there.

Giving up the “drama” of politics makes sense for Kellyanne Conway, a mother of four, but the opposite is true for fiction writers. Our mantra should be “Bring on the Drama, Mama!”

When we pen short stories, drama is absolutely essential. It raises the stakes for our characters and magically captivates our readers. For example, if we’re writing a story about a young mother coping with a painful separation, we can’t make her circumstances too easy. Suppose she holds out hope that her husband will come back. The worst thing in the world would be for Sam to just walk back into the house with his suitcase and say: “Mary, I’m home!”

It’s not that we’re being cruel. It’s not that we want to watch Mary suffer. But we have to be realistic and understand that in real life these things don’t work out so perfectly. We want our reader to care about Mary and root for her. The best thing we can do for Mary is to increase the drama even more. We should have her discover that Sam has not only been cheating on her with his secretary, they’re now living together. And although Mary dreams of helping support her two kids by opening a bakery, her loan application gets turned down. To make matters worse, the bank repossesses her car! Poor Mary.

Not so fast. Because we’ve seen glimpses of Mary’s extraordinary baking talent and her compassion for making muffins for an elderly woman in the neighborhood, we don’t feel sorry for her. In fact, the reader has every reason to believe that Mary has it in her to survive these events. We like Mary and because Sam is a selfish lout, we believe she deserves a good life without him.

The fiction writer increases admiration for Mary by watching her react to events that might crush the average person. For example, when Sam refuses to co-sign a new loan, we show her react by baking more muffins. That’s when it dawns on Mary that due to the pandemic, a business in a public building would be a very bad idea right now. So she decides to start her bakery at home, and not only does she make enough money in one weekend to get back her car, she’s far too busy to miss Sam anymore.

For the writer, the act of adding more tension to our story makes it fun to write. We don’t have to worry about “blank-page-itis” anymore because we’re suddenly enthralled with helping Mary develop the qualities she needs to thrive. The reader gets to see a little of herself in Mary, and grow along with her. The world is suddenly a better place. So bring on the drama, Mama!

Drama is just one of the topics that we’ll cover in my upcoming Charlotte Lit online workshop: Let’s Write a Short Story: Studio. What makes this course different is that every student gets a special “Story Worksheet” created by me just for this course. As we go along, I’ll be helping students fill out the worksheet step-by-step. This will enable students to thoughtfully construct each of the five essential elements of the short story before writing it. That way, when students start writing, which is the next step, they’ll have all the elements in place to captivate their readers, page by page. And they’ll receive help from me every step of the way. These lessons will help students generate even more stories well beyond this course.

“Let’s Write a Short Story” Studio starts on Sunday, September 13 and runs through Saturday, October 10. Enrollment is limited to just twelve students, so sign up soon to reserve your spot. What are you doing this fall? Raking leaves or fretting about COVID? I hope you’ll be writing along with me.

Learn more and sign up here.

New Online Class on the Short Story Starting September 13!

Great news! For several weeks this summer, I’ve been at work with my friends at Charlotte Lit designing an exciting new online class–my first ever. This class is what we call a “Studio,” which means that it offers deeply engaging, content-rich online modules and a combination of pre-recorded and Zoom live course instruction through a really cool platform called Wet Ink. The course runs from Sept. 13 – October 10, which will give students the rare opportunity to draft a full-length short story AND receive detailed feedback from me. It’s unlike any course I have ever taught, so I am really excited!

Most short story workshops throw students into the open sea without a life ring. What makes this course different is that students have the benefit of using a “Story Worksheet” created by me just for this course. As we go along, I’ll be helping students fill out the worksheet step-by-step. This will enable students to thoughtfully construct each of the five essential elements of the short story before writing it. That way, when students actually start writing, which is the next step, they’ll have all the elements in place to captivate their readers, page by page. And they’ll receive help from me every step of the way. These lessons will help students generate even more stories well beyond this course.

During our time together, we’ll also study model stories by masters such as John Cheever, Shirley Jackson, and Alice Walker, but we’ll also cover excerpts by contemporary authors such as Tessa Hadley and Ralph Hart. I’ll also share how this same technique helped me write “Golden Delicious,” a short story which earned first prize last year in the Starving Writers Competition sponsored by the Franklin County Arts Council. Studying the work of other writers will give students the opportunity to learn how to read a short story like a writer, another exercise that will deliver practical dividends throughout their lives. Even better, the principles we learn can easily be applied to the novel as well!

“Let’s Write a Short Story” Studio starts on Sunday, September 13 and runs through Saturday, October 10. Enrollment is limited to just twelve students, so sign up soon to reserve your spot. What are you doing this fall? Raking leaves or fretting about COVID? I hope you’ll be writing along with me.

Learn more and sign up here.

Golden Delicious in Franklin County!

On SatuAshley-Franklin (2)rday, December 14, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of County Lines: A Literary Journal (Vol. 7).

I joined a number of talented writers who also had work published in County Lines. I was deeply honored to read my story, “Golden Delicious,” which was chosen by writer Nancy Peacock as the 1st Place winner in the Starving Writers Fiction Contest. I particularly enjoyed meeting Jackie Dove-Miller, Contest Chair and a celebrated poet in her own right.

A theme quickly emerged among the work read that day: the twin poles of grief and the joy that our loved ones bring us.

My own story was inspired by my sometimes disastrous pie-baking adventures  and girded by memories of my beloved grandmother Wilma. “Golden Delicious” was written in letter form, but follows a traditional short story structure that we’ll cover in my Central Carolina Community College workshop in the spring: DIY Kit: Write A Short Story in a Day. More to follow, but in the meantime, I hope that your holiday season is filled with your own favorite apples, whether that be cider, pie, jam, or more!

golden delicious

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short Stories at Pittsboro Writers’ Morning Out!

ashley at pmoOn Saturday, I had the pleasure of spending an hour with the distinguished writing group known as Pittsboro Writers’ Morning Out, (sponsored by our friends at the N.C. Writer’s Network) in Pittsboro. We met in the backroom of the Greek Kouzina restaurant and discussed the outlook for the modern short story in today’s literary landscape.

The good news is that the short story appears to be stronger than ever and with distinguished publishers such as W.W. Norton and the vibrant community of online lit magazines publishing more short stories than ever before, the time has never been better to write stories! Bolstered by the recent surge of flash fiction, new markets for short fiction appear every day.

We also awarded the WMO’s own “Ultra Flash Fiction Award” to the talented and distinguished writer Judith Stanton, and I was very happy to be the one to read it aloud. Her “Life is A Tale You Write As You Go,” was lyrical, evocative, and utterly spellbinding. My hour went by way too fast, but I did so enjoy spending time with both old friends and many new ones.

On our way home, we stopped by and visited our good friend Lee Calhoun, who is a national expert on the southern apple, and interestingly, is featured in the August-September issue of Local Palate Magazine.  Crazily, and doesn’t the short story show up in unexpected ways, but on the way home I learned that I won first place in the Starving Writers Contest sponsored by the Franklin County Arts Council for my own short story titled “Golden Delicious.” Talk about apples to apples! It will be published in County Lines magazine in November.

The good news for you is that there are many places to submit your own stories, from Women on Writing and Mental Paper Cuts (both with deadlines of Aug. 31) to Okay Donkey and The Disappointed Housewife, which accept stories on a rolling basis. These are a few of my favorites, and they are just the tip of the iceberg!

So keep sending your own “apples” out there! You never know just where they may end up.