Tuesdays With Story
WRITER’S MAIL for October 18, 2012
“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” ― Agatha Christie
First-and-third assembled again at Ye Olde B&N Book Shoppe . . .
(courtesy Jerry Peterson)
Seven regulars and guest Susanne Fortunato gathered around the tables up in the bargain books section of B&N Westside, Tuesday evening, to consider the offerings of four writers:
– Lisa McDougal, chapter 7 of Follow the Yellow . . . A lot of discussion for guest Susanne’s benefit of the characters Ben and Krista and why their relationship is as it is. Jen Wilcher said Ben has to react when Harold first orders him to step out onto the porch for a talk. Harold is gruff and that’s not his nature. Jerry Peterson suggested Krista has to react when Ben gets into a heated phone conversation with his buddy and the foul language flies. Pat Edwards said nothing really happens between Ben and Krista in this chapter. “Everything is nice,” she said. “There has to be conflict of some kind to keep readers reading.”
– Millie Mader, poem “Our Sighting of the Highwayman” . . . This started as a narrative for the Fifth Tuesday writing challenge. Several asked Millie to rewrite the narrative as a story poem to better tie together the front piece and end piece excepts from the epic poem “The Highwayman”. After Millie read it, Pat suggested Millie’s section needed something to establish that her part of the story poem takes place today – Millie’s group is getting out of a car, for example – to contrast it with the epic poem which takes place several hundred years ago in England. Rebecca offered compliments for the meter and rhyme that Millie maintained in her portion of the poem.
– Pat Edwards, book of the soul . . . Pat writes of her exploration of the concept of the soul as she tries to understand her inner anger that on occasion boils to the surface. “I don’t like the you I’m reading about in these pages,” Rebecca said. “I have to like you if I’m to care for you.” It was a jarring read, but Pat’s judicious use of quotes from philosophers and others provided insights at moments in which they were needed. “You don’t know how I saved these quotes up for precisely this book,” Pat said.
– Jerry Peterson, chapters 21-23 of Rage . . . Millie felt the chapters show how crafty defense lawyer AJ Garrison is when she gets into a courtroom. “You’ve got that Southern voice right,” she said of the speech patterns of several of the characters. Pat called for less tell and more show of the discomfort some of the prospective jurors are feeling.
B&N left a note for the group, telling them they have to move out for December, the big sales month for the store. Millie Mader has reserved the Alicia Ashman Branch Library’s community room for the group’s use on December 5 (a Wednesday evening) and December 18 (a Tuesday evening).
Who’s up next . . .
October 23: Terry Hoffman (chapter, The Great Tome), Rebecca Rettenmund (chapter, The Cheese Logue), and Jack Freiburger (???). *Slots open. To claim one, email Carol Hornung at email@example.com
October 30: Fifth Tuesday! Second-and-fourth hosts at Rebecca Rettenmund’s mom’s house, 702 Emerson Street, Madison.
November 6: Lisa McDougal (chapter 8, Follow the Yellow), Bob Kralapp (???), Pat Edwards (???), Rebecca Rettenmund (chapter 14, The Cheese Logue), Aaron Boehm (film script, part 4, “Stealing from Yourself”), and Jerry Peterson (chapter 24-25, Rage).
November 20: Rebecca Rettenmund (chapter 15, The Cheese Logue), Amber Boudreau (chapter 11, Noble), Millie Mader (chapter 39, Life on Hold), Pat Edwards (???), Aaron Boehm (film script, part 5, “Stealing from Yourself”), and Jerry Peterson (chapter 26-28, Rage).
Susan Parsons gets a book contract . . .
TWS alumnae Susan Parsons, writing as Susan Gloss, got a two-book deal from William Morrow, a HarperCollins imprint. Here’s how she announced it on her blog last week:
Waiting to announce a book deal reminds me of the initial weeks of pregnancy, when you’re waiting until a certain time to share your good news. Perhaps it’s out of caution – maybe it hasn’t been an easy road and you want to wait until something “official” – a doctor’s visit, maybe, or the end of the first trimester. All the while, you’re glowing, dizzy, maybe even nauseous.
Well, it’s official, as far as my books go! I’m thrilled to announce that my debut novel, Vintage, will be published by the William Morrow imprint of HarperCollins in 2014, to be followed by a second book in 2015. Here’s the official deal announcement, from Publishers Marketplace:
“Debut author Susan Gloss’s Vintage, set in a Madison, WI, vintage dress shop, where every garment has a story, just like the women who meet there – a pregnant teenager, a disgraced Indian housewife, and a divorcee looking for love – who over the course of a few months come to transform the store and each other.”
I am beyond excited about this news. The William Morrow imprint has been around for 80 years and has published Neil Gaiman, Meg Cabot, Marisa de los Santos, Dennis Lehane, Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury, and the Freakonomics books by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, just to name a few.
I would not be making this announcement if it weren’t for my amazing agent, Christina Hogrebe, not to mention my husband for putting up with my countless revisions and general neuroses, my parents and my mother- and father-in-law for their hours upon hours of childcare, and my writers’ groups here in Madison… but I’ll save all that for the acknowledgment sections of the books! For now, I’m just grinning.
Fifth Tuesday . . .
October 30 at Rebecca Rettenmund’s mother’s house, 702 Emerson Street in Madison. That’s on the southeast side of town. It’s potluck, so bring good food to share. Do this now . . . email Carol Hornung, firstname.lastname@example.org , and (1) tell her you’re coming, (2) who you’re bringing as a guest – guests are always welcome – and (3) what you’re bringing for the food table. We have a lot of desserts at this point – salads, sides, appetizers are needed!
Here’s the writing challenge for Fifth Tuesday: Write a Halloween story, poem, essay, or short film script featuring a ghost, vampire, ghoul, or some other supernatural creature. 250 words max. Three stories are already in. Send yours to Jerry Peterson. Deadline for that is October 26.
Wise Words On Writing
(courtesy Brandy Larson)
On Writing: “Keep a diary, but don’t just list all the things you did during the day. Pick one incident and write it up as a brief vignette. Give it color, include quotes and dialogue, shape it like a story with a beginning, middle and end—as if it were a short story or an episode in a novel. It’s great practice. Do this while figuring out what you want to write a book about. The book may even emerge from within this running diary.” — John Berendt
A Short Defense of Literary Excess
By BEN MASTERS (courtesy Brandy Larson)
Draft is a series about the art and craft of writing.
The novelists I find myself attracted to are those who cannot resist the extra adjective, the additional image, the scale-tipping clause. It feels necessary to assert and celebrate this, for we are living in puritanical times. The contemporary preference seems to be for the economical, the efficient, for simple precision (though there is of course such a thing as complex precision). Books, it appears, should be neat and streamlined. Language shouldn’t be allowed to obscure a good story. There is a craving for easily relatable and sympathetic characters. Among critics and reviewers, the plain style is more likely to be praised than the elaborate or sprawling. Embellished prose is treated with suspicion, if not dismissed outright as overwritten, pretentious or self-indulgent. Drab prose is everywhere.
For the rest of the article, click here:
Writer’s Mail: Duty Roster
We need an editor for November – it’s easy, just takes a little time each week, and you can even put it on your resume! Sign up today:
• November – found — name withheld to protect privacy
• December – Clayton
• January – Start the new year with a new resolution – be the TWS newsletter editor for a month!
Join up with an e-mail to Carol.
Great words . . .
From Word Spy Paul McFedries . . .
table writing: noun, the creation of scripts, jokes, and stories by a committee of writers.
In addition, [Larry] Gelbart argues, TV writing has grown more solipsistic: whereas television once attracted people trained in radio, film and theater, it’s now the province of lifelong couch potatoes with a fondness for inside jokes. And on sitcoms, those jokes are increasingly crafted by committees. “There’s a custom out here now called table writing,” he says. “A draft will be prepared by one or two writers, and the staff will sit around a table and try to get in as many new lines as possible.”
– Michiko Kakutani, “Master of His Domain,” The New York Times, February 1, 1998
To circumvent Writers Guild of America rules discouraging “table writing” (a group effort common in TV which has resulted in lawsuits over credits when practiced on feature films), the brainstormers were required to sign waivers.
– Rex Weiner and Adam Dawtrey, “New Bond issue may rattle lion’s cage,” Variety, December 9, 1996
Writing as catharsis . . .
From blogger and Young Adult author Nathan Bransford:
A writer wrote to me recently with a really great question. She wants to write a story that draws from a difficult chapter in her life, but wonders if the possible closure is worth the tough memories and negative emotions it will stir up.
In her own words: “I have an idea for a story that I would like to write. However, the story draws on my experiences from a rough time in my past, and I anticipate it could be emotionally draining for me to write this story. But I also feel and perhaps hope that writing about this could help me find some closure for some stuff. Do you advise writing a story that would unleash some tough memories and negative emotions if the end product could be a great novel?”
I’ve made no secret about the fact that I wrote the latter part of Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe and all of Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp while going through the most difficult period of my life. I’ve blogged previously about how to keep writing when the s*** hits the fan, but there’s another component to powering through too, about leaning into those difficult feelings and channeling them into your work.
Naturally, twelve-year-old Jacob Wonderbar does not go through a divorce or anything remotely comparable to anything I experienced considering he hasn’t even had his first kiss yet, and he doesn’t become a depressed malcontent (nor, thankfully did I). But as I was writing I nevertheless poured many of the emotions I was feeling into the novel in ways where only I really know they’re there. (Well. You know too now that you’re reading this).
There’s a moment in Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp where Jacob goes back in time and sees himself, two years younger, just after his father had moved away from home never to be seen again. Twelve-year-old Jacob is struck by how incredibly sad his younger self looks, and he wants to go reassure him that things will get better and that he has a lot to look forward to.
There was a lot of me in that scene. Even in the course of writing a wacky space adventure, I was still channeling myself into the novel. We all do, whether we’re writing precisely about what we’ve gone through or not.
I think there is incredible power in revisiting the painful moments in our past and getting them onto paper, some way, somehow. When I was going through my divorce everyone under the sun encouraged me to keep a journal to get my thoughts out, and I resisted for the longest time. I was spending all of my free time writing Jacob Wonderbar, the last thing I wanted to do was write still more on top of that.
But when I finally took it up for a brief time I was struck by how powerful it is. There’s just something about getting those thoughts out of your head and onto a piece of paper that clarifies, expels, soothes, and calms.
There’s some science to this too. There are scientists out there who see some benefit in the painful bout of mind-spinning that can follow a traumatic event:
Andrews and Thomson see depression as a way of bolstering our feeble analytical skills, making it easier to pay continuous attention to a difficult dilemma. The downcast mood and activation of the VLPFC are part of a “coordinated system” that, Andrews and Thomson say, exists “for the specific purpose of effectively analyzing the complex life problem that triggered the depression.” If depression didn’t exist — if we didn’t react to stress and trauma with endless ruminations — then we would be less likely to solve our predicaments. Wisdom isn’t cheap, and we pay for it with pain.
Writing is a way of channeling and focusing this rumination in the way that organizes your complex thoughts and channels them into order and a narrative. By taking these feelings and forcing them to make sense on the page, we are also identifying, describing, and understanding the things that are causing us pain.
Now, that’s not to say that diving into a dark pool doesn’t have its consequences, and if you feel yourself getting pulled under you absolutely need to reach for a life preserver or get out of the pool.
But I tend to think that this is one of the most important reasons to write. No matter what genre we’re writing in, whether we’re writing raw memoir or wacky kids adventures, we’re ultimately trying to make sense of the world and of ourselves.
The Last Word
“It has often been said
there’s so much to be read,
you never can cram
all those words in your head.
So the writer who breeds
more words than he needs
is making a chore
for the reader who reads.
That’s why my belief is
the briefer the brief is,
the greater the sigh
of the reader’s relief is.
And that’s why your books
have such power and strength.
You publish with shorth!
(Shorth is better than length.)”
― Dr. Seuss