In the beginning…

July 24, 2011 § 12 Comments

Want to know how to start a story?

If you are a writer you are saying, dang! Start a story? Give me something I can use. Tell me how to middle a story.

Like a clothesline, the beginning and end of a story are firmly anchored. It’s the middle that usually sags.

I have only one potentially useful tip for those lost in the middle. Write an ending.

Start and finish (like Romeo and Juliet yearning for each other) will find a way to come together as swiftly as possible.

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The well.

June 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

My mother had a metaphor for how writers store and retrieve memory. She called it “the well.”

Every experience, whether good or bad, is thrown down into the well, and then, brought up again when it is needed to inform a story.

But memory is a great reviser of truth–especially a writer’s memory. So I’d say we toss memory into the ocean, where it is smoothed and polished and returned to us stripped of everything but what gives it meaning and significance.

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A dancing animal.

December 2, 2010 § 4 Comments

My father was having a hard time sitting.  Although he usually toughed pain out, it finally got so bad he took his sore butt to the doctor.

A desk bound chemical engineer, my Dad was suffering from “Weaver’s Bottom,” a painful and embarrassing condition was named for workers who sat for hours on a hard bench tossing a shuttle back and forth.

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The writer’s retreat.

November 19, 2010 § 16 Comments

Once a year we sequester ourselves in a house overlooking a white sand beach on the Gulf to peer uninterrupted through the windows of our stories-in-progress.

Because we are women,  we know we are stealing these days.  We justify our selfishness by staring without blinking at the page or screen in front of us.   The incoming tide and the day ablaze with a yellow fall sun will not distract us from our stories, stories, stories.

It is my job as writer in residence to be an objective reader and to help with the craft  of writing, but it is hard to remain detached as I am inhabited by the other womens’ stories.

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In love with words.

October 10, 2010 § 1 Comment

When I was young I kept a list of my favorite words.

Some, like shimmer, freckle, dazzle, thump, rustle, were there because of the way they turned on a quick visual image or made a sound.

Others made the list because I liked the way they felt in my mouth: trousers, hollyhock, drainpipe.

A few sounded like what they meant: bubble, wash.

Words remain my constant companions and friends.  They are my way out of my own head and into yours—and vice versa.

I still make word lists.  Sometimes I  collect words that come out of a particular profession.  The first book I ever wrote had a character who spent years with a small traveling circus, or what is known more descriptively in the business as, “a mud show.”

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