Tag Archives: writing

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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How to behave at a holiday party

Ever go to a pabeerty and feel like you don’t quite belong? Not sure about where to sit? Is that a cheese ball or a centerpiece? Is it edible? And what do you talk about when you find yourself balancing a glass of punch with strangers?

Now, imagine that you used to be a a blue orchard bee….a praying mantis….or even a monarch butterfly.  It’s even more befuddling.

Holiday Party Etiquette for Insects Recently Transformed Into People,” a flash fiction up today at one of my favorite literary magazines, Okay Donkey, was inspired by my own shyness and angst at holiday parties. The story bloomed when I discovered a link on Reddit for a support group for former insects and an article on etiquette in Southern Living. I’m so honored that the donkey — himself a fan of “the odd, the off-kilter, and the just plain weird”– made a space for this little story.

Writers actually relish writing about things that make them feel uncomfortable. It’s cathartic and oddly, it can also be easier. Your emotions are already stirred up and accessible, ripe for the picking. For fun, try your hand at turning a real-life situation into speculative fiction. And if you were an insect, what kind would you be?

 

 

Fun with fleas

fleasIf you’ve ever skimmed through Living Social and chuckled at the ways people spend money online–such as flea control–you might like my new parody: “Living Social Shopping Cart of Your Vindictive Ex-Girlfriend.”

It’s up today at The Disappointed Housewife, an uber cool literary magazine showcasing idiosyncratic and offbeat writing.

And if you’re interested in reading and writing humor, you might also like my recent interview on the Women on Writing website (scroll to Tuesday, December 18, 2018). Here I discuss the inspiration behind my short story “Dear Derinda.”

When you think about humor, consider the words of George Saunders, a fearless yet compassionate humorist.  He said: “Humor is what happens when we’re told the truth much quicker and more directly than we’re used to.”

The lesson here? When writing humor, you can definitely exaggerate and use hyperbole, but you can also tell the truth!

 

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….

 

Life according to Winston Churchill . . .

winston.jpg“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by giving…” On this #Giving Tuesday, why not follow the timeless wisdom of this legendary statesman and make a life by giving to the causes that matter to you?

For me, charitable giving is about writing and animals, so I gave to the N.C. Writers’ Network and Saving Grace, two of my favorite nonprofits.

Now, as far as our “other” statesman, Winston Thomas, my nephew cat, it’s all about attack and destroy. Meet the Prime Minister of Male Beauty and Plastic Bags, what he likes to catch in the air like a balloon and pummel with his paws.

I’m not sure what Winston would say about my donating to an organization that rescues DOGS, but I do know that he does support the act of writing. Writing, we both believe, is the ultimate philanthropy, the gift that keeps on giving. By sharing your story, or immersing yourself in the world of another person, real or imaginary, we create instant community.

So, in addition to donating funds to the causes you support today, I challenge my writing friends to give of themselves. Not just today, but every day. Keep giving your stories to the world, keep finding words to express the beauty around you, and keep finding ways to give voices to  people who cannot speak for themselves. And I promise you, from one writer to another, it will all come back to you one day……

 

 

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!