Archive for the ‘flash fiction’ Tag

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!

 

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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!

 

Doorknobs and Bodypaint 2012   Leave a comment

 

Red Shoes

Red Shoes (Photo credit: garlandcannon (on hiatus))

 

Doorknobs and Bodypaint 2012

 

Doorknobs and Bodypaint is a great online flash journal, where for each issue the editors set up certain parameters that submissions need to match for each section. For example, there might be a word count limit, a line or phrase that must be used, or a certain setting.

 

For their most recent issue the guidelines for the Tapas section required a story be 250 words or less, have a subtheme of weariness, and include the phrase, “they’ll burn you”. They not only accepted my story, The Red Shoes, but gave it top billing!

 

The Red Shoes is an ancient fairy tale where the desire for material gain leads to the protagonist’s demise. She is doomed to dance in her ill-gotten red shoes endlessly until she is worn away to nothing.

 

In my modern take, the protagonist is seeking an end to an illness, and the red shoes in this case are the medications and subsequent side effects that keep them from rest. It is an internal dialogue jumping, skipping, and dancing between the origins of clichés, exhaustion, and the false promises of doctors.

 

I was able to draw from my own recent bout with a serious illness in writing the story. Some of the medications I was on would make me restless, unable to concentrate. Writing it out in a flash was pretty much the only thing I could do to gather my thoughts enough to voice my frustrations.

 

To read my story and to check out the next challenge set for by DK&BP, click here:
http://www.iceflow.com/doorknobs/DOORBODY2.html

 

Jmww 2012   Leave a comment

 

To read Jack and Jill Get a Mortgage, click here: http://jmww.150m.com/PetersonH.html

Jack and Jill (nursery rhyme)

Jack and Jill (nursery rhyme) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I was thrilled, after two years of trying, to finally have a story accepted into jmww this past year. Jack and Jill Get a Mortgage, published in the Winter 2012 issue, is a modern take on the old nursery rhyme, imagining how Jack and Jill might have grown up.

 

I wrote this flash during Hurricane Irene, while I myself was brewing tea with FEMA water and cooking sausages out on the grill. Besides cooking and eating al fresco, there wasn’t much else to do but write while the light was good. I was also in the middle of writing a collection of short stories and poetry based upon nursery rhymes and fairy tales. During a trip to town hall to charge my cell phone, catch up on town news, and fetch a pail of water, it occurred to me that Jack and Jill would be a perfect fit for the situation my family and I were currently in.

 

Rewriting and retelling fairy tales seem to be all the rage these days, look how there’s been two Snow White movies this year. I try to be a little different with mine, find stories and rhymes that may get overlooked by more mainstream writers, and taking the characters and putting them in situations they’d never find themselves in the original stories. It’s great fun to research folktales and legends. You learn more about how we’ve come to think about life, where the tales got their start; it’s interesting to see how these cautionary tales can still be applied to life today, when there are still wolves to avoid and hills to tumble down.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bartleby Snopes   Leave a comment

Amy, singer of the spanish punk-rock band Sickno

Image via Wikipedia

http://www.bartlebysnopes.com/querrie.htm

This story came from a flash writing prompt on the online writers’ workshop I belong to, Scrawl. One of the prompts was ‘Fifth Column‘, and one was quisling. Of course that lead to a story about a rebellious teenage rock band, just the way my mind works.

Fifth Column really is an all girl punk band from Canada, contrary to this story, they’re not all that bad.