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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays With Story Newsletter

July 6. 2021

The First Word

“. . . the correct intention, which is to provide the reader with an experience that is superior to the experiences the reader encounters in daily life.” From Stein on Writing

Here’s who presented Tuesday evening

Kashmira Sheth (chapter 9, Nina Soni, Snow Spy) – Kashmira submitted chapter 9 of Nina Soni, Snow Spy. Most of the comments were positive. One thing that several people pointed out that the ending was ho-hum. There were some suggestions to change the chapter ending to make it more exciting. 

Larry Sommers (three poems) – My three poems were met with genial puzzlement. The most puzzling was “I came to a corner that did not bend,” based on the central metaphor of a long-obsolete cash transfer mechanism in old department stores. Jack suggested a lot of words could be cut in all three poems. Jerry disputed the final assertion from ” In the land of my boyhood” that I never became one of the giants (adults). I thought it was a matter of viewpoint. Maybe objectively I joined the adult world but inwardly remained a kid. Thanks for all your comments and suggestions.

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story

June 15, 2021

The first word…

“Character is the very life of fiction. Setting exists so that the character has someplace to stand. Plot exists so that the character can discover what he is really like, forcing the character to choice and action. And theme exists only to make the character stand up and be somebody.”

-John Gardner

Tuesday evening at Larry Sommers’s place…

Ten writers attended, six by way of Zoom link. Five writers presented work.

Mike Austin

Dumpster Fire (Work in progress)

“Dumpster Fire,” the first part of a short story work in progress, met with somewhat mixed but mostly favorable reviews. Jerry needed more of a reason to care about either character, while Amber thought that there’s room for redemption with one or both of them. And sowing that seed of doubt about who actually started the dumpster fire is a distraction, unless that’s part of the story. Which it ain’t. Also, the opening sentence has to go somewhere else. Or just go. I did lapse into first person narrative at least once. Whoops. I also need to use the “find” tool to avoid the repetition with some words. Thanks for all of the tips and encouragement!

Larry Sommers

One More Outlaw, an Izzy Mahler short story

Jerry and others pointed out many missed opportunities for plot excitement foregone in my quest to be faithful to true life experience. Jamie suggested Donny Bill might attempt to inveigle Izzy into a life of crime. Jack thought I could maintain the integrity of my “affective” approach (i.e., vignette style) but add meaning by explaining more of the social and economic context. Thanks, everybody. Points to ponder.

Amber Boudreau

The Dragoneer 2, Chapters 18-20

Amber read from the beginning of chapter 18 of her sequel to The Dragoneer. Jamie and others enjoyed the sequence with the goblins. Larry had a suggestion about the former occupants of their armor being ‘wearers’ instead of ‘owners’. Mike enjoyed the mentorship aspect of the later chapters while John suggested there might be a few places to reduce the amount of dialogue.

John Schneller

Precious Daughter, Chapter 14

Jerry found better wording for clarity in the opening of the chapter. Jamie asked if DinShaw is a redeemable character. He will eventually show his love as a father, but not for a while. Work is needed to show him as an honorable soldier, stressed and failing by present circumstances. Thanks for the suggestions.

Jerry Peterson

Escape to the Conch Republic, Chapter 9

The chapter stirred a world of conversation on how to improve it, ranging from Paf probing Thompson for a better explanation for how he chose to get involved in treasure hunting, to Paf accepting Thompson’s offer of a half share in the venture, to Thompson paying Gunn $500 for an introduction to the man who really has the treasure map—$500 for a treasure map is just too cheap, Jack and Larry said—to better lines about Shelby being drunk.

Fifth Tuesday

Yes, June 29. Larry and Jo Sommers will host us at their home in Madison. PLEASE LET US KNOW IF YOU ARE COMING. Larry and Jo will provide plates, cups, plastic utensils, and napkins. Pulled pork sandwiches will be served. Drinks will include iced tea, red and white wine, and two kinds of beer. Please bring a salad, dessert, or other dish to pass. Feel free to bring your own preferred beverage.

Per the usual, we do have a writing challenge. The prompt: Cemetery rules! Keep your mini-masterpiece to 500 or fewer words and email it to Jerry Peterson, with a copy to Larry, by Monday evening, June 28. Two stories are already in.

On the schedule for July 6…

Amit Trivedi (???)

Jaime Nelson Noven (Outsleep, chapter 14, part 2)

Paul Wagner (???)

Amber Boudreau (Dragoneer 2, chapter 21-23)

Mike Austin (short story, “Dumpster Fire”, part 2)

John Schneller (Precious Daughter, chapter 15)

Our July 6 meeting will be at Jack’s house in Fitchburg. Those who can’t make it can join via Zoom link, as usual.

Our editors…

Bob Kralapp edited this issue of Writer’s Mail. Next month—July—John Schneller takes on the assignment.

From Jerry…

Words in our state

That thing where we get a drink of water, in southern and eastern Wisconsin we call it a bubbler, not a drinking fountain. The State Historical Society teed off on this bit of language trivia with the t-shirt here that it sells. The back of the shirt reads ‘Fountains are where you throw coins.’

If you want to order an ‘It’s a Bubbler’ t-shirt, here’s the link: https://shop.wisconsinhistory.org/bubbler-tshirt

The last word…

“Be daring, take on anything. Don’t labor over little cameo works in which every word is to be perfect. Technique holds a reader from sentence to sentence, but only content will stay in his mind.” – Joyce Carol Oates

Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story

June 1, 2021

The first word…

“I have written somewhere that there is only one story, but there are many stories in the one, and I like that idea.”

– N. Scott Momaday

Tuesday evening at Jack Frieburger’s place…

Eight writers attended, including Jerry and Kashmira via Zoom link. Five writers presented work. Jamie’s brother, visiting from the Washington D.C. area, sat in on the group.

Jaime Nelson Noven

Outsleep, Ch. 14 part 1

This week, we looked at the disorienting effect of telling a story out of its chronology, the shifting of the tone, and sugar highs. I will be looking at characterizing the security guard more as being small in stature, as I now see that him being wrestled by the doctor is a weird image if it’s assumed he’s intimidating in size. Thanks, all. It was so nice to see so many of you in person.

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story

May 18, 2021

The first word…

“Begin to think of settings as characters in your story. A character plays against other characters, increasing tension, creating drama, and advancing the plot. A story about a man in a hurricane is about two characters. A story about a stepfather and a boy and a toy store is about three characters.”—Jerome Stern, Making Shapely Fiction.

Tuesday evening on Zoom

Seven writers attended, four writers presented work, three writers, myself included, were occupied with hosting guests, which is a thing again.

Jaime Nelson Noven

Outsleep, Ch. 13 & Ch. 2 insert

We talked mostly about setting the scene in the outsleep unit by moving some of the description earlier, looking at what the objective description’s tone should be, and amping up the contrast between the plastic nature of the room and the freshly cut flowers. There was also a good suggestion of the patients (or their locations) having numbers in such a vast space. Thanks, all!

Jaime

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story

May 4, 2021

The first word…

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”—Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt.

Tuesday evening on Zoom

Eight writers gathered around the glow of their screens this past Tuesday evening to share their work and thoughts.

Jerry Peterson

Escape to the Conch, chapters 7-8

Shorten things and punch up the copy with jokes, particularly chapter 7, Jack said. Both John and Jack wanted the scene leading up to Paf taking after the seller of the fake chart to have a better build—Shelby giving a longer speech about the fake chart—so Ange charging after the seller becomes more believable. Kashmira asked for some chemistry between Shelby and Paf. Jack suggested a way to do that, by having Paf “get in touch” with Shelby by putting his arm around her shoulders during the ferry trips to and from the surfside restaurant.

Larry Summers

Freedom’s Purchace, chapters 9-10

The story of Daniel’s travails with the maroons is well told, but several people desired more depth in the characters, especially Daniel and Luc, and more feeling of background as exemplified by sounds, etc. Betsey’s instant willingness to go with Daniel needs a bit more context, and the vegetative screening of the new maroon camp ought to be mentioned. Thanks, everybody.

Amber Boudreau

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Tuesdays with Story
April 26, 2021

The first word . . .

“Imagine a reader you can trust.” –Verlyn Klinkenborg

Tuesday evening on Zoom . . .

Eight TWS writers came together this week. Here’s what was said.

John Schneller (chapter 8, Precious Daughter) . . . Kashmira suggested ending the second scene earlier. Larry pointed out the 1st and 3rd scenes could be combined. Jaime initiated the thought of paying attention to the gender of the reader. Would a young male reader need a little less fashion discussion? I promise that fashion will be intertwined with blood and bruises and dark escapades very soon. Thanks for all the comments!

Mike Austin (“Dog People,” short story) . . . I received some excellent feedback and suggestions for “Dog People.” There were suggestions that there would not be the hiss of tires on wet pavement so soon after the melon was run over. There could be more indication of the narrator having an interest in being a mechanic, or at least a history of it somewhere. And perhaps the story could come full circle, with Darlene looking past Ralph to Charley. Jerry, had some; input for me. Regarding proper punctuation. Also!!!! I use too many exclamation points. What?!?!? I have to admit, it’s true. Thanks everyone! 

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story
April 12, 2021

The first word . . .

Research is a wonderful word for writers. It serves as excuse for EVERYTHING.” –Rayne Hall

Tuesday evening on Zoom . . .

Six TWS writers came together this week, with a couple bow-outs for health reasons or heat reasons, one notably to “cool the dog,” which, we decided, would be a great name for a story. Here’s what was said.

— Amber Boudreau (chapters 9-10, Dragoneer, Book 2). . . Amber chose not to read from the massive number of pages she sent, setting the tone for the evening. Jerry questioned where she chose to end one chapter in particular: the middle of a scene. Amber struggled with how to add more of a pivot or change to the chapter ending and Kashmira suggested highlighting the main character’s emotional response at that moment might help. Larry brought up a good point about the description of the tyrant and where it fell in the ms. John wanted a little more description of the rat golem. Jerry enjoyed the way Amber reintroduced the book and the Librarian back into the story at the end of the chapters sent. 

Kashmira Sheth (chapter 2, Nina Soni, Snow Spy) . . . Kashmira submitted 2nd chapter of her Nina Soni, Snow Spy. Jaime and Larry thought it was age appropriate and true to Nina’s character. Amber suggest to bring in Jay to the keep that thread going.

Jaime Nelson Noven (chapters 10-11, Outsleep) . . . Jaime started with a question about the temporary shift in tone, and it was generally agreed that the shift wasn’t too jarring. We discussed how funny Rice’s comedy act should be, given her internal monologue is funnier, that she’s not a very successful comedian, and that her focus has been shifting from telling jokes to politics. We also talked about Rice needing an emotional thought toward the end of ch. 11, since this is the first time she’s seen anyone in this “dead” state. And we pontificated on society’s motivation for supporting the outsleep program. Thanks, all!

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story
March 28, 2021

The first word . . .

“Fiction is not life, It needs to reflect life if it is to be believable, but virtually all readers unconsciously seek out novels for an experience of human life that is admirable, amusing, hopeful, perseverant, positive, inspiring, and that ultimately makes us feel whole.”  ~ Donald Maass, Writing the Breakout Novel.

Tuesday evening on Zoom . . .  

Amber Boudreau (Dragoneer 2, Chs. 6-8)

Amber did not read from the massive amount of pages she sent but jumped straight into comments. Jerry liked the witty banter between two characters at the start of chapter six. Jaime wondered if Moira might not offer Urion a ride on Zephyr if they have very far to go. Answer: Urion is a halfling and does quite well on his own. He can find his own dragon if he wants a ride. John brought up a good question about Zephyr’s scales being overlapping and how Moira might have found a toe-hold on his back. Bob and Amit were looking for more in at least a few spots. 

Jack Freiburger (Poem: “Halloween Fire”)

I send in Halloween Fire, a found poem that I apparently wrote sometime in the past and filed in the  “to be forgotten” file.  It’s a slight effort but some found some value in it while I felt more like a reader than the author

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story
March 8, 2021

The first word . . .

“Good fiction’s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”  ~ David Foster Wallace

From Jerry

A thank you . . .

The second food gift from TWS—a box of premium oranges, apples, and pears—arrived safely on Jerry and Marge Peterson’s front porch. Say both Marge and Jerry, “TWS friends and colleagues, thank you so much for your kindness.”

Tuesday evening on Zoom . . .  Six writes shared their works. From picture book to short story to synopsis to couple of chapters from the next best sellers.

Kashmira Sheth (Go to sleep)

 Kashmira submitted her picture book, Go to Sleep. Jerry had comments about the logic of the story and a few suggestions to improve it. Amber also offered a few tweaks. Larry thought that the illustrations were easy to visualize. Thank you.

Jack Freiburger (Synopsis)

Multiple comments on synopsis needing serious revision and discussion of rewriting firs three chapters into one, as the chapters are very short and publishers ask for a first rather than a sample.

— John Schneller (Chapters 1 and 2, Book 2)

More work needed to orient the reader in the first chapter. This became obvious with many thoughts about where the action started. Word choices also played a deceptive role. Alley indicated a more urban scene. Nia’s motivation needs to come through early enough for the reader to like her. Chapter 2 was more favorably received as the relationship and personalities emerged (again, Nia’s motivation for stealing needs to be revealed). Great suggestions. Quite a bit of work to do!

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Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story
February 16, 2021

The first word . . .

Whatever you’re writing today do it with the confidence of a four year old in a batman T-shirt. 

Tuesday’s With Parkas . . .

Some members of our group proved they are mere mortals this week, succumbing to illness or household calamities. Subzero weather outdoors, Covid lurking in nooks and crannies, the rest of us gathered via zoom. Here is some of what was said:

Kashmira Sheth   Kashmira will present her chapters next week as she got knocked down by her Covid vaccine booster. Fortunately she reported doing considerably better on Wednesday.

— Amit Trivedi (Poem: When I Think of You Now I Smile) . . . Poem received mixed reviews. Jack felt it did not make much sense whereas Larry felt it was simple but complex. John and Jerry mentioned a few words changes and suggested rewriting a sentence. 

Bob Kralap (Poem: Everbearing) . . . The poem “Everbearing” got a mixed reception. Jerry liked it, especially the line about a morning that hums with bees. Although Larry liked its rhythm and sensibility, he was uncertain, because of details relating to weather, whether it was set in early summer or late. Jack focused on line breaks, as well as the imagery used. 

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