One word for the New Year.

December 30, 2017 § 7 Comments

 

Growing up, New Year’s Eve meant eating chili on the couch, watching the ball drop, and each of us declaring to my mother (the family scribe) our New Year’s resolutions.

All were recorded in an innocuous notebook with a cover the color of dried peas.

If we didn’t make them for ourselves, she did. My father’s made-for-him resolution every year? Lose ten pounds.

Mine was usually to be less scatter-brained.

Looking at that book I see one made in high school, definitely by me: to sing as well as Judy Collins.

No one in the family lived up to those vows, no matter who had made them. From the get-go I knew this was a system that broke down somewhere between plan and execution.

But after leaving home I still made resolutions in a notebook of my own:

Write 25 songs, paint the living room, finish the novel.

The resolutions are numbered and everything.

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Morning pages.

June 24, 2016 § 6 Comments

IMG_0194Writers struggle with…well…writing.

Committing beliefs, dreams, and ideas to paper, making the word flesh, takes courage.

What will people think when they see, in black and white, what goes on inside your head?

That’ll keep you from writing. But to be a writer you have to put words on paper.

Begin by writing for nobody. Grab your pad and paper and write something, anything. Toss words like confetti!

Still can’t?

That is because your inner writer, that blind-wanderer, has a traveling companion, the critic within who whispers, “Everything you write sucks.”

When you write can make a difference. Try writing first thing in the morning. The inner critic armors-up as the day goes on, but as you leave sleep you are less guarded, less self-censoring.

Your inner-critic sleeps later than your imagination.

Wake up and write something every morning. Something that doesn’t matter.

IMG_2207_edited-1Make it a habit and pages will fill. You will also come to know yourself better as themes recur. I was unaware of how much I think about tomatoes, my messy house, aging…

I do this wandering form of writing every morning. It is nothing like the work I do later in the day when I continue the long march toward a finished novel.

My morning pages are a no-fault opportunity to try things out, to be foolish or serious, to stand up on the bicycle seat. « Read the rest of this entry »

The ripple and the rock.

September 27, 2015 § 5 Comments

IMG_9806

Ray waved me over to see this traveling circus of a vessel tied to the dock in Apalachicola.

In the company of this lavish floating box all the other boats were suddenly homogeneous, minor stabs at individuality like signs about Goin’ Fishin’ not withstanding.

Most of us want to express our individuality. But not too much. We value our membership in collectives where we unite around shared opinions, fads, social norms, disciplines, traditions.

These norms are around us all the time, traveling like ripples on water. Most of us ride those ripples.

Short skirts are in. We wear short skirts.

Everyone in our graduating class goes to college. We go to college. « Read the rest of this entry »

Delancy Brother’s comes to town!

March 8, 2015 § 5 Comments

Every time I lead the women’s writing retreat on St. George Island I create, for our last exercise, a fictional event, then each of us draws a character from the hat and tells the story of the event through the eyes of that character.

This year a down-and-out circus/carnival rolled into a small, failing town–we writers like to call that the “setting.”

Among the point of view characters on the folded slips of paper were: the kid just learning to read who sees the poster, the clown who dreams of getting off the road and settling down, the town’s evangelical minister who believes this sort of show is a sign the end is near.

My draw from the hat was Juno, the woman who runs the local, underfunded ASPCA. Here’s her story.

Dog in a kennel.

Juno slumped against the wall facing the row of cages and a chorus of yips and yaps with old Fred baying the low notes as if a full moon hung overhead, not a sixty watt bulb that barely lit the corners of the concrete box that was the Greensville ASPCA animal shelter.

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The secret life of the alphabet.

December 7, 2014 § 2 Comments

Alphabet

I spend most days creating characters out of words—which is pretty abstract.

Even more abstract are the words themselves, figments of the collective imagination of a set of symbols called the alphabet.

Each letter is translated to sound in the mind, but a letter also exists in its own right as a shape on the page, a shape with an attitude, a personality.

Take A for instance. A is confrontational. Note the wide stance, the arms crossed on the chest. A is adamant, stubborn and tough. Being a writer who struggles with confrontations I’d diffuse A’s anger by bringing B into the scene.

B is that bosomy older woman who will hug the mad right out of anyone, even a hot head like A.

C shows up in my stories a lot. Open, receptive, a good listener. Having C in a story allows the writer to turn exposition into dialogue making critics less likely to ding them for loading up on exposition and backstory.

D is that dandy who thinks he’s all-that—note the straight back and the thrown out chest. Writing D I’d like to give him a secret fear, something to make him, if not likable at least more human, but I have a hard time getting past the smell of his cologne. « Read the rest of this entry »

Gulliver in five minutes.

June 29, 2014 § 2 Comments

Gulliver's Travels.Thursday was the last day of my summer workshop for young writers.

Starting with props as varied as a pair of old shoes, an ancient Roman oil lamp, and a whale vertebra, we had already tackled the elements of fiction with three days of structured exercises.

It was time to turn the antic mind loose with some free writing.

“See that scrap of paper in front of you on the table? Write a noun on it and pass it to the person on your right.

“You have five minutes to put down any thoughts that word triggers.”

I scrawled “hamsters” on a yellow slip of paper and passed it to Grace.

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Write some. Live some.

June 7, 2014 § 11 Comments

Cass, peeking through the knothole in the fence in the stage version of "Crossing Jordan."

Cass, peeking through the knothole in the fence in the stage version of “Crossing Jordan.”

In 1998—a lifetime ago—I began writing a book called “Crossing Jordan.”

It was my third novel, and I was still finding my feet as a writer.

I am almost always spurred to write a story by some small, random incident that would otherwise be quickly forgotten.

 

In this case it was a conversation with the girl next door who said her family was about to move because there were getting to be too many black people in our neighborhood.

As soon as the door closed behind her, I sat down and began to write.

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