Archive for the ‘fiction’ Tag

When Your Fiction Hits Reality   Leave a comment

Bath_School_Disaster-east

 

Sometimes we have an idea for a story, and we research it, we outline it maybe, it’s a great idea. We get ready to write it, and then something happens in real life that gives us pause.

This happened to me within the last 6 months. When we moved to Michigan, I began learning all I could about the history of our newly adopted state. One event that really fascinated me was the Bath School Massacre, in which a local farmer and school board member blew up the school as well as his house. He then blew up his car, killing himself and the school principal in the process.

What drew me to this tragedy the most was the fact that I’d never heard of it before. In a world where Columbine and Virginia Tech have become bywords for senseless violence against students, why were commentators and historians not mentioning a school killing where over 40 people died?

There was also the question of the killer, Andrew Kehoe, who seemed to be very friendly with the children, and yet had no problem murdering them. There’s a disconnect between the act itself that has never been fully explained by any of the books or articles I’ve read on the subject.

So, I planned to write a story, both to bring attention to a disaster that deserves to be remembered, considering it’s the largest mass school killing in American history, and as a way for me to try and get into the mind of Kehoe.

Then, the day after I decided that I was done with the research and knew in which direction I wanted to take the story, Newtown happened.

For at least two days, I was physically ill about this latest senseless killing in a school. I’ve been to Newtown, I have friends in Newtown. The children murdered were the same age as my middle child. There wasn’t the distance of history to allow me, or anyone else, to absorb such an appalling act.

I shelved the Bath story. For months. My husband told me I should get back to it, that it might help me explore my own sorrow, as well as possibly help others. He himself had a story come out shortly thereafter that got people talking further about gun control. The interesting thing about his story, The Proper Name for Killing Birds, is that it was written at least a year before Newtown. The act of a six year old child pretending to shoot a gun in the backseat of a car was just something we’d seen children do for years. There was no hidden meaning, no foreshadowing that the child in the backseat might grow up to become a sociopath.

But that’s how, in a post Newtown America, many people chose to interpret it. They missed totally the theme of a father realizing his son knows more than he thinks he knows, that the child is no longer a baby.

I didn’t want something similar to happen to my story. I wanted people to acknowledge the Bath Disaster for what it was, and not use my story to bring further attention to Newtown, a community still raw in mourning.

I’ve finally written the story, four months after Newtown. While some of the members of my writers’ workshops think it’s brilliant as is, some don’t think I’ve gone far enough. That I could push further into the horror. But I don’t know if I can. I’ve submitted the story to a few places, and as of today I haven’t heard anything back. So, we’ll see.

The question is, when is it too soon to write or publish a work of fiction that mirrors in some way a national tragedy? Is it the right thing to do, or would you feel about such a story that it tries to take something away from those grieving in the wake of such a massacre?

To read Gav’s story The Proper Name for Killing Birds, click here:

http://www.everydayfiction.com/the-proper-name-for-killing-birds-by-gavin-broom/

Readers make Writers   Leave a comment

Paul Bunyan and his cradle.

Paul Bunyan and his cradle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

The first piece of advice I give any aspiring writer is to read. A lot. Every day. Read a variety of things, fiction, nonfiction, books, magazines, blogs, whatever you can get a hand on, for at least an hour a day.

 

Why? Because even if the writing isn’t very good, you can learn something from it and become inspired in your own writing. If the sentence structure is poor, if there are misspelt words, if the plot is lacking, you’ll probably sit there and say, “I can do better than that!” Hold on to that thought, and once the hour is done, go for it! Write on the same topic, make it better, make it yours.

 

When the writing is good, take notes. Ask questions of the piece. What makes you enjoy the writing? Try to mimic these techniques. Don’t plagiarize the content. Ever.  Play around with the style and themes, try to build on them and make them your own.

 

And, finally, it’s good to research and read on topics you’d love to write about. This is just as important in fiction and poetry as it is in nonfiction. For example, I never know when I’ll stumble across a new unique word that I can use as a poetry title. I’m currently reading Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter’s new novel, The Long Earth. In it, one of the characters uses the word tracklements, which are the accompanying foodstuffs used on or around the main course. It’s a fantastic word, and I wrote it down immediately on my vocabulary list.

 

I’m also reading up on the folklore of Michigan and the surrounding areas, especially the tall tales relating to Paul Bunyan. I have an idea of a story deconstructing Paul Bunyan’s myth in light of modern issues such as deforestation and global warming. I’m always looking for folktales I’ve never heard of before, or to learn something new about the ones I thought I knew, both for my own enjoyment and to use as springboards for new short stories.

 

What about you? What are you reading, and how does what you read affect what you write? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Fall Open Mic Night at the MSU Writing Center   Leave a comment

Microphones

The Mics are OPEN!!!!!

 

Last night I attended my first open mic reading with my husband since we moved to Michigan in September. It took place at the MSU Writing Center in Bessey Hall, on the Michigan State University campus.

 

We had been invited to attend by members of our writers’ workshop at the East Lansing Library. The group is also sponsored by the MSU Writing Center, and meets every other Thursday. We were happy to see that, as with the writers’ workshop, we weren’t the oldest people in the room at the Open Mic. The performers included several poets, some musicians, and a story teller or two. There was free pizza and drinks for everyone, and each person that got up to read received a t shirt. There was also a raffle drawing throughout the night. I won a 25 dollar gift card to Schuler Books in Okemos, which was a pleasant surprise.

 

The students were very open and welcoming to two old timers like us. There was a poet who went by the name Logic, about our age, who seemed to be a regular in local writing circles, who had a rapid fire delivery and had everyone laughing and shaking their heads at the way he would spin truth into poetry.

 

Overall, it was a good night out, and the perfect way to start November, fresh and inspired and ready to take on that novel I’ve been attempting to write for a year and a half. It’s been sitting dormant for about six months, so it’s time to get writing again!

 

How are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Any great open mics or writers’ workshops in your area? I’d love to hear about them!

 

The April 2012 Issue of Waterhouse Review is Finally Here!   Leave a comment

Bronze sculpture of Sancho Panza by Lorenzo Co...

Bronze sculpture of Sancho Panza by Lorenzo Coullaut Valera (1876–1932). Detail of the monument to Cervantes (1925–30, 1956–57) at the Plaza de España ("Spain Square") in Madrid. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The latest issue of The Waterhouse Review is up, and I have to say, since I accepted the invitation to become the first poetry editor, every issue seems to get better and better.

 

The current issue is no exception. The cool thing about being an editor is seeing how, even when you didn’t have a theme in mind, one seems to materialize as you begin to read through the latest batch of submissions. I don’t know how it works, but it does. It’s like literary magic, and it’s wonderful to see how an issue comes together, like a crazy waltz that started as the hustle.

 

April 2012 is no exception. Every piece deals in some way with relationships in some way. Whether it’s the humorous lack of communication between doctor, pharmacist, and patient in Jennifer McGowan’s poem Cough Syrup, the surreal maternal relationship between man and spider in MD Joyce’s story Sancho Panza –OR- Dads Are Just Jerks Who Divorce Your Mom, or a woman’s disconnection with everything in Rachel Cox’s Less Than Superhero, this issue has a little bit of something that everyone can identify with in some way, and I like that.

 

For me, the most personal of the bunch is Katie Moore’s poem My Little Runaway. I’ve been the little girl wanting to run away from the safe and the comfortable, not really knowing what I’m getting myself into. And I’ve been the mother who knows her children will never make it out of the yard before turning back.

 

I hope you’ll take a moment to read the latest issue of Waterhouse, see what else I do in my spare time. We are now reading for July, so if you’re a writer who thinks your work might be a good fit for us, please check out our guidelines page and send it along!

 

http://www.waterhousereview.co.uk/

What I’ve learned about novel writing, thus far   Leave a comment

A woman typing on a laptop

Image via Wikipedia

So, by working on it here and there, I’ve come up to about 16,000 words which, to me, is amazing and scary and just weird. I’ve never written this much in my life about one thing. Zombies. Who knew?

I’m not done by any means, but I’ve learned a thing or two thus far, and thought today I’d pass them along.

1. Outlining. It’s not for sissies.

I’ve always been a fly by the seat of her pants kind of girl, both in life and in writing. This works, sort of, for poems, flash fiction, and short stories. It doesn’t work at all in marriages, mortgages, and novel writing. Seat of my pants style, it was hard to get into any sort of routine going. If I wasn’t “Inspired”, or it had been a number of days, (weeks…months…) since I’d written, it was hard to get back into the flow of the story, I would spend all of my limited writing time trying to figure out where exactly I was going.

I don’t always stick to the outline, my writing still takes interesting turns on its own. Now, however, I can sit down, check on my outline where I left off and where I’d like to go, and actually spend my writing hour doing just that, writing.

2. Attempt to Set a Routine, but Accept that Life Happens

I have three children. Finding time to write where I’m not distracted is tough. In the summer, when I’m not working, it’s easier, I try to write during nap time. But we don’t always have nap time. Sometimes we’re at an event for the day, and no writing gets done. And that’s okay. Sometimes I need a break. Burning out is never good, for anyone.

Another great thing is using the gifts of time I sometimes get. Earlier this year, I had to attend a funeral sans children in another town. I brought my laptop and wrote in the hotel after attending the wake, and again in the morning before the funeral. This summer, I had the opportunity to use a friend’s cabin for a couple days, sans kids. Again, I took my laptop, and got a lot of work done. Speaking of laptops

3. Set aside an internet free computer/laptop just for writing.

It is hard, when the world is only a click away, to get any kind of work done, I don’t care what it is. I try to write on the main computer of the house, I get stuck digging for treasure, or chatting with friends, or refusing crap from Farmville. My laptop is ancient, it has very little battery life, and no built in modem. And that’s the way I like it. (OK, more battery life would be nice, but I digress.) If there’s something along the way I’d like to research, I make a note of it, or I grab my Droid real quick. Then I put the phone down and get back to work.

4. Love your characters. Even the unlovable ones.

This can be hard. In my novel, Divorcing the Corpse, there are some pretty ugly characters, and I’m not just talking about the zombies. You’ve got to find a way to like at least something about everyone you create. One thing I’ve done that has worked with the villain of the story, I asked a very “close personal friend” to help me name him. That way, when I write about the bad guy, I do it with a smile on my face, thinking of my “close personal friend”. The story gets written, someone gets added to the acknowledgments page, everyone’s happy.

5. Have Fun

No, writing a novel is not easy. No one is saying it is. It requires time, thought, and lots and lots of work. But if you don’t enjoy doing it, the work is going to suffer, and your story isn’t going to be as good. It’ll become as much of a drag for your readers as it has become for you. Put it aside, go write something else for awhile. Remember why you love to write in the first place.  Then come back to it. Maybe.

 

So ok, five things I’ve learned. I’m sure there’s many more, I’m sure I’ve got more to learn. But this is what I got so far, hopefully you can use a little bit of this in your own work. Feel free to share your own tips in the comments. Write on!

 

The Legendary 2011   Leave a comment

Coffee and Sunshine

Image by Frank Gruber via Flickr

The Legendary had a special Flash issue in March, and included two pieces of my flash fiction. I love being in the Legendary, because every issue is well put together, the stories and poems are always excellent, quality work. Katie and Jim have a good eye, a good ear. Thanks guys!

Male/Female is a flash about the maybes, the could have beens, that occur in our lives every day. A moment between coworkers allows a woman, trapped in an unhappy marriage, to imagine what life would be like with the IT guy. Personally, I’ve known some perfectly wonderful IT guys, and gals for that matter, but none I’d necessarily like to date. At least, not yet.

Hermit is a flash from the mind of someone terrified of the world. Written as stream of consciousness, they go to Dunkin Donuts for coffee, and survive the trip to tell the tale. Again, not necessarily a situation I’ve found myself in. I’ve been at parties where I’ve wanted to shrink into the wallpaper, but never while purchasing fast food.

It’s a fun challenge, writing from a perspective that isn’t exactly yours. Taking experiences, twisting them, expanding them in a way you’d never take them in your normal everyday life.  For example, in the novel I’m writing now, the protagonist is in the middle of a divorce from her husband, who happens to be a zombie. Divorce I’m all too familiar with, but I don’t know many zombies.

Today, try to write from a different point of view. Write from a different race, or gender, from your own. Take something you’ve experienced, and imagine how someone else might handle that same experience.

 

To read these stories, click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diddledog 2011   Leave a comment

Un otage nommé Bumpy

Image via Wikipedia

To read the flash fiction Feed Me, click here.

Everyone’s got a creepy monster in the closet/ under the bed story. The fact that, as children, we all see things that aren’t there going bump in the night speaks to me of subconscious, primal fears that have been passed on from generation to generation.

With this story, I wanted to harness that fear, but also throw a little humor into it, as well as more grown up fears, (dying alone, getting fat, remaining unloved) we all develop in one way or another over time. I wanted to present a creation story for my monster, give him a weakness, define him in a way that makes him not quite as scary anymore.

What is it you fear? Today, give those fears legs, a monstrous face. Teach that monster a lesson using storytelling to give your monsters a beginning, and an end.